Creatures from the Black Lagoon, Malham Tarn

by Martin (Our limnology correspondent), August 2006

‘You’d better bring a change of clothes’ said Linda ominously, when I rang to add my name to her list of volunteers for the task at Malham on 20th August 2006. ‘Tony wants us to clear out a pond’. I laughed nervously and made a flippant comment about us now being regarded as pond life, but couldn’t think of a valid excuse to change my mind!

Sunday the 20th was dry but overcast, and it had rained quite heavily during the week. I therefore went prepared for all eventualities, with full waterproofs, spare clothes, a towel and (crucially it turned out) my wellingtons.


The nature reserve at Malham is an SSSI, where a variety of rare and interesting species can be found. Warden Tony told us that our particular mission was to protect the pond habitat of Agrypnia crassicornis (pictured left), a flightless caddis found nowhere else in Great Britain. These ponds had again become choked by reed and sedge since they were last cleared about ten years ago (no, I’m afraid I don’t know the difference between reed and sedge either!).

Group looking at uncleared pond
It doesn’t look that deep!
Members clearing pond

The small ponds could be dealt with from the banks, but the big one needed some intrepid volunteers to wade in up to waist deep (and a bit beyond for some sorry, Sue). Roger at 67 years young was first in, and the black lagoon was soon full of very muddy creatures. Clear stretches of water soon started to appear, and judging by the hoots of laughter the entertainment level was also quite high.

As the pictures show, the emerging adventurers quite literally needed to be hosed down. Had Stuart really been wearing a white tee shirt when he went in? I certainly couldn’t tell. And the spectacle of Steve hosing down the inside of his waterproof trousers - whilst he was still wearing them - was not to be missed. (Sadly we don’t have any pictures of this - Ed). Fortunately, there was also a hot shower for the mudlarks to have a proper clean-up, and everyone went home in a reasonably reputable state.

Pond cleared
Caddis fly heaven - once Roger was removed.
Hosing down Stuart

And me? Well, I’m ashamed to say that I only got muddy on the outside. The wellingtons were fortuitously impractical for wading into the big pond. So I spent the day trundling barrow loads of sodden reed and sedge along the boardwalk for disposal. Well, someone had to do it!

Photos by Geoff and Pete

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