Ali's Pond
Local Nature Reserve
 

Ali's Pond Local Nature Reserve


Ali's Pond in Winter
Photograph courtesy of Alastair Driver
Aliís Pond Local Nature Reserve was established by Sonning Parish Council in March 1997, following an ecological survey of Sonning parish [Welsh 1995], which confirmed that, apart from the River Thames, the village had very few areas of high conservation value with easy public access. Since then, various activities have been implemented to enhance the area and increase community involvement in its management and use, including pond creation, hedgerow and tree planting, wildflower planting, bird and bat box installation and erection of information boards. These works have been funded by a variety of sources, including Sonning Parish Council, who own the land, Rural Action, Wokingham District Council, The Environmental Trust for Berkshire and English Nature Wildspace.

Following the discovery of breeding Great Crested Newts during the Millenium Festival pond-dipping sessions in the summer of 2000, the Parish Council, with Wokingham District Council support, decided to apply to English Nature for Local Nature Reserve status for the site. The first site management plan was produced in September 2000 and the site was officially declared Aliís Pond LNR in April 2001, making Sonning Parish Council only the third parish council in the country to declare an LNR.

The project was conceived, designed and managed by village resident Alastair Driver, working in collaboration with the Parish Council and other interested parishioners. The nature area has been created and managed for the use and enjoyment of all sections of the local community, as well as for visitors to the village. If properly managed it will be a valuable resource for many generations to come. Key UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and Local BAP species which have colonized the site include Great-crested Newt, Harvest Mouse, Stag Beetle, Song Thrush, Pipistrelle Bat and Ragged Robin.

18 species of dragonfly and over 40 species of aquatic/wetland plants have been recorded at the site since itís establishment in 1997.

The site provides a unique amenity with easy public access within the heart of the village. Located in an area surrounded by large private gardens and deserts of recreation fields, this wildlife oasis has proved incredibly popular with young and old alike. People walk their dogs there on a regular basis, the elderly can stroll around the site comfortably using the strimmed paths, and youngsters from the local primary school, cubs, brownies, etc. use it as an outdoor classroom for minibeast hunting, pond dipping etc. In addition to the wholly informal use of the site, a Friends of Aliís Pond (FAP) Group has been set up which now has over 100 members, most of whom live within a couple of miles of the site. Members of this group participate in volunteer management activities such as tree planting, hay-making and wildflower planting and attend moth and amphibian surveys led by Alastair Driver, who acts as a voluntary warden. These activities have not been confined solely to the reserve Ė conservation work has also been carried out in other nearby locations to provide complementary habitat and amenity to that found in the reserve. Anyone can join this group, of which membership is free, by e-mailing Alastair Driver: ali@sonningdrivers.plus.com