Magpie 27 – Abbey Villa

Magpie 27 abbey villa

Kelly, U. (1993) Abbey Villa: Pond with a Future? Magpie 27, pp17-18.

Abbey Villa Pond With a Future?? by Unity Kelly

This little pond, on the edge of Hulme, tucked between the Victorian Old Abbey Inn and the Greenheys Business Centre and surrounded by Lego lookalike Science Park units, has had a chequered history. Once upon a time most of south Manchester was a productive bog – Moss Side, Rusholme, Withington. Brooks and ponds abounded. Farming and industry cleared and drained most of the boggy bits. The water table dropped and housing filled in most of the open spaces; streams were 

culverted. Then, about 20 years ago, a water pipe burst and a pond was formed in a marshy hollow. In the Greater Manchester Council era of conservation and habitat creation the pond was given a plastic liner and the pipe allowed to continue its supply work. 

The surrounding meadow was planted with wildflowers but, unfortunately, is now mowed to within an inch of its life, but some flowers struggle to survive. There seems nothing much to tempt amphibian and aquatic life: but wait! The pond is teeming with newts; frogs breed, birds come to bathe and drink and, this year 6, yes 6, species of dragonfly have been seen, all are certainly or probably breeding. Ask any of the local children who now regularly visit the pond and they will describe, in their own words, the behaviour of the newts, the different dragonflies including “the bright blue one with a body as big as my finger,” (a 9 year old); Libellula depressa the Broad-bodied Chaser. This species is widespread (but declining) in the south and midlands and in “good years” will extend its range colonising, for preference, young ponds. It may be resident or just drop in casual-like but, after a few years, disappear as suddenly as it appeared. This seems to be the first record for Manchester and must have come in from sites to the south – Etherow Valley and Middlewood Way ponds perhaps. 

What an asset for inner city Manchester! I have met keen and observant children from 6 local primary schools (in Hulme and Moss Side) at the pond. This is what environmental awareness is all about. Ian discovered that the UDP had plans for this pond (LWT decided, back in 1990, not to use an EN grant on this site for this reason) – you’ve got it; pull the plug on the pond and build more Science Park units. There is plenty of unused land and unlet Science Park development – so why fill in this little patch? It is possible that, through MW’s evidence and Ian’s representations at the UDP inquiry, there might be a reprieve for the pond. We are prepared to make a fuss about this one and will gladly offer to do the necessary work to maintain and improve the area and, most importantly, persuade the Council to implement a wildlife friendly mowing regime. 

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