Though ponds are a neglected historic feature of the national landscape, they once formed an integral part of the farming system. Thornbury’s medieval fishponds were constructed in the thirteenth century and form part of Thornbury’s largest artificial wetland. In 2011 English Heritage announced that the Park Farm Medieval Fishponds were to be scheduled a “historic monument”. The ponds are located on clay beds and fed by natural springs, and are an important habitat for local wildlife, including kingfishers.
Some of the worst jobs in British history involved ponds: consider the poor leech collector, who had to use himself as a human trap, wading through ponds, bogs, and marshes to collect these blood-sucking worms for use in medicine. Ponds were also used to farm fish, ret cloth (the process of soaking hemp, flax, or other materials in water to soften and expose the fibres) and provide water for livestock and draft animals. Nowadays ponds are crucial for biodiversity – they support a huge diversity of life, including dragon flies, aquatic beetles, may flies, caddisflies and other endangered amphibians such as the great crested newt.