Creating Cart Pond
Following the success of renovating Stemps Pond some five or six years earlier, it was decided by the Bognor Club Committee to embark on creating another pond at Stemps Wood Copse.
Gaining permission from the Landowners and the relevant authorities was the first hurdle to overcome. When we created Stemps Pond the necessary consents were relatively easy to obtain because there had been an ancient pond on the site for centuries, although it was silted right up and very overgrown when initially discovered by our then Secretary Ray Huskisson whilst out walking.
Everyone involved in giving us the consent for Stemps was so impressed with the results that it soon became apparent that they were as keen as us to see the new project commencing. There was also a certain amount of water located in the general area of where we wanted to put the pond as well which also went in our favour. It was left to Ray again to sort out all the associated administration, the forms, letters, telephone calls etc.
Once we had all the necessary paperwork sorted and permissions granted the first task was to remove all the trees that had come down in the great storm of 1987 along with decades of undergrowth and accumulated debris. Though our membership had increased substantially thanks to a great extent by the acquisition of Stemps Pond, by today’s standards we were still a relatively small club, with fewer than a hundred adult members. However getting volunteers to assist with the clearing of the site and further work later on was not a problem at all. We had a veritable small army every weekend for quite some time such was the desire to see another water at Stemps Wood.
With the area cleared and the outline shape of the pond determined it was time to bring in the machinery to do the excavating. Luckily for us we had a very experienced guy on the Committee in the shape of Dale ‘Mac’ McCavish our then Chairman. Mac was not only knowledgeable about landscaping he also had the contacts to get the work done at an affordable price. Bernie the driver of the tracked excavator had also worked on Stemps Pond so had a good idea of what we were looking to achieve. It was whilst carrying out the first few tentative probes that Bernie unearthed an old farm cart which gave rise to the name of the finished pond.
Our biggest problem during the excavation work was keeping the pumps going to enable Bernie to see what and where he was digging. If the pumps were shut down for more than a couple of hours the excavations were flooded. Back then we very rarely had any loss of water levels in Stemps even in the height of the summer, not the case today I’m afraid.
The problem we had with the water added extra time and expense to the project but we did manage to complete within our budget. We perhaps didn’t do as much to the surrounding area as initially planned but we had ourselves another pond. Not yet fishable of course, we had some soft landscaping and swims to build whilst the pond itself settled down and matured ready to take some fish. I remember seeing a lot of grass snakes in and around the pond when it was lying dormant that first summer.
Apart from relieving some of the pressure from a very popular Stemps Pond we had decided that Cart would be an asset to our match anglers also, that is why it resembles a circular canal. The premise being that the island could be reached from most swims with a pole. Due to being overzealous at the time and erosion since it’s only possible these days with a very long pole in some swims.
The initial stocking of fish was done the following spring of ’93 and included Roach, Chub and a few stillwater Barbel, resourced from a respectable fish farm. We were also able to acquire some other fish including Skimmers from other waters within the Hants and Sussex Alliance who we were associated with at the time. Although the Barbel didn’t settle into Cart and disappeared after a few seasons the Chub certainly did and they did very well for many years, up until quite recently really, attaining weights in excess of four pounds. Although the original stock of Chub have probably all reached the end of their natural by now, we still get the occasional report that someone has caught a small Chub in one or other of the ponds at Stemps Wood. Whether it is a case of mistaken identity or maybe the Chub managed to breed, I don’t know, it would be nice to think it was the latter.
There have been further stockings of fish and we’ve had several major work parties over the years since to enhance the ponds but for many years now we have been fortunate to have Pond Warden Nelson and his small team of assistants do most, if not all of the maintenance. Many thanks to them and to Mac who supplied most of the photos for this article, it illustrates just what can be achieved if we get enough support from Members. Please look out for work party dates throughout the year and please attend if you are able.