Hanley Swan Village Pond

A focal point of Hanley Swan is the village pond and green. Before the Hanley Castle Enclosure Act of 1797, there used to be a pound behind the pond where stray cows and sheep would be held. Over the years the state of the pond has been a regular cause of concern. In 1900 it was in such a polluted state that the parish council wrote to the owners of St Gabriel’s Terrace (a row of cottages across the road from the pond) asking them “to disconnect the overflow from their cesspits from running into the Swan Pool”. Thereafter it was cleaned out every decade or so.

In the very cold winters of 1940 and 1947, the pond froze completely and people skated on it. Summer droughts have often caused it to dry up, and in 1990 a major restoration took place when local builder Brian Robinson introduced a water feed pipe running from nearby Coverdale Farm. He also added the willow tree with duck landing stage and nesting box in the middle of the pond and installed memorial benches around it. But by 2009 the duck platform had disintegrated, so the village café & market provided funds for three new floating duck houses, which were designed and installed by Russell Farraday.

For a short period the pond supported a pair of swans, but it is more suitable for smaller waterfowl. Numbers have fluctuated over the years, reaching a peak in the summer of 2006, when over 100 ducks and half a dozen geese were using the pond. This caused serious problems of pollution and erosion, since vegetation had little chance to get established before being eaten. To make matters worse, many visitors cannot resist feeding the ducks, mainly with bread much of which falls to the bottom of the pond and rots, making the water slimy and unable to sustain plants, such as water lilies which used to cover the surface.

To help the pond recover its picturesque appearance, the geese were removed, the number of ducks reduced and volunteers made willow revetments to stabilise the banks. But the pond really needed someone to look after it on a regular basis and in September 2009 a volunteer stepped forward – pond warden Neil Verlander. He and his partner Gigi Field organised ‘pond posses’, helped by farmer Francis Harcombe and his heavy equipment, to clear the wood behind the pond. Through the Malvern Gazette, Neil made an appeal for Malvern stone to build a permanent bank around the pond and within a week he had 30 tons of stone ready for collection.

Willow revetments

Russell Farraday installs the duck houses

Francis Harcombe clears the wood

Young helpers

A finished section of the stone bank

The Community Pay back Scheme provided the necessary labour and a programme of planting was introduced for the woodland area. With the help of donations, picnic tables and litter bins have been installed and Neil is now dredging to help oxygenate the water. Thanks to his efforts, the pond is now looking better than it ever has.

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