Our Pond - a Haven for Wildlife
Welcome to the Slipper Mill Pond Preservation Association. We are a registered charity which exists to preserve and protect the Slipper Mill Pond in East Emsworth. Made up of volunteers, Members and Friends of the Association are responsible for the Pond's day to day management and maintenance.
The Pond is a saline lagoon, a very rare wildlife habitat, both in the UK and Europe. The combination of sea and fresh water provides a unique brackish water environment which has been recognised as a 'Site of Nature Conservation Importance' and home to many special species. It is inside the Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is part of the Strategic Wildlife Corridor from Hermitage to Westbourne.
It supports a rich invertebrate fauna including two protected species - the Tentacled Lagoon Worm and Starlet Sea Anemone. It also has an interesting species of tube worm, which leaves tube-like casts, along with over 40 bird and 160 plant species, and several fish, particularly the grey mullet, which can be present in large numbers.
The pond covers an area of around 7 acres (3 hectares) and was built in the 1760s to provide power to drive the Slipper Mill, one of four working mills in Emsworth supplying meal for the Navy in Portsmouth. The tidal gates are pushed open as the sea breaks over the gates, and close as the tide turns, holding back the sea water which, in the past, powered the Mill.
The mill was in constant use until the 1960s when it was sold. The Pond itself was bought by 33 local residents in 1980 off the then owners Slipper House, in order to prevent the Pond from being developed. The SMPPA Manages the Pond on behalf of the owners.
Bird Rafts and the Great Black-Backed Gulls
A pair of Great Black-Backed Gulls ("GBBGs") has been nesting on one of the Pond rafts since 2012, producing 2-3 chicks a year. This year there have been at least 5 GBBGs regularly visiting the Pond. This has caused great concern as they are predators at the head of the food chain and, year after year, we have watched them devour any young birds and eggs as they arrive during the spring breeding season. It is believed that the presence of these birds has also reduced the number of other birds visiting the pond.
At the 2012 SMPPA AGM it was agreed to attempt to deter them by installing wires and canes on the rafts, but this was unsuccessful for 3 years and therefore the wires and canes were removed. Last year, as a result of strong feedback from members, at the 2020 AGM it was again voted by a considerable majority to have another attempt (rather than remove the rafts altogether). We consulted with the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS), who were sympathetic to our situation, citing a similar problem at Needs Ore where the GBBGs have wiped out the local Avocet population. They advised us against netting as this can cause issues with entanglement and may do more harm than good, so we proposed an open mesh wire fence construction as likely to both deter the GBBGs, while still allowing other smaller birds to nest on the rafts.
Frames and netting have now been installed on all 3 rafts. Smaller birds such as Ducks and Coots are frequently accessing the rafts and bird boxes and at least one nest box has duck eggs in it. Other birds are still able to perch on the rafts and on the new perches that we have erected instead of the old signs.
The latest news is that the GBBGs have managed to get under the netting on the central raft and can now be seen on it daily. We will not be able to do anything more to the rafts until the autumn as we must not disturb the wildlife during the breeding season, but will continue to monitor the situation, in consultation with wildlife organisations and our Members. More information can be found on our birds page.
Tidal Gate Opening Dates - Pond Draining
Next date: September 2021
The tidal gates were last opened 11th-18th January, probably for the last time this year until late September. While the Pond was drained, we are took the opportunity to inspect the new Sluice Gate and the heavy wooden beam that sits above the tidal gates.
The Tidal Gates and Sluice Gate were previously opened on 12th November for a month, in order to facilitate the repair works to the small sluice gate. The work was carried out by Nick Gates from Gates & Co based at Emsworth Marina.
The Pond is drained from time to time during the winter months (late September-January inclusive) to help get rid of any silt, enable up-stream valves to be serviced, and allow inspection of the sluice and gates. It is also a good opportunity to pick litter and carry out repairs (eg to boxing round the west bank reeds) on the water's edge.We try to avoid opening it in other months due to the need to protect the wildlife in and around the Pond during the breeding season.
New Sluice Gate
The Pond was drained for a month in November-December, to enable the replacement of the tired 80 year old Sluice Gate which had been leaking badly. Nick Gates, a timber boat builder based at Emsworth Marina, has used local English oak, and refurbished the original ironwork - the structure should now last another 100 years.
We have drawn on our reserves to pay for this, assisted by some very generous bequests. Sadly the Sluice concrete outfall to the south is in a parlous state and will also require costly repair requiring specialist help (and external funding) in the near future.
More photos on Nick Gates Facebook page.
Old Sluice gate
New Sluice gate
Nick Gates and his Team
View through the Sluice Gate
Some of the Jobs we do
We have removed the old warning signs from the water as they were becoming outdated and unsightly. We have replaced them with perching poles for the birds.
We have cut back two sections of the common reeds at the north of Slipper Road, as part of our strategy to reduce their spread. We have sown some wildflower seeds on the Pond banks.
During the winter, we have been cutting back and removing non-indigenous plants and garden "escapees" and are developing a planting plan.
Another recent task included filling in a large hole in the west bank footpath, which was collapsing, possibly aggravated by rats burrowing. Social distancing was obviously observed!
New Information Sign Boards
We have recently refreshed the two information boards, one in the water at the northern end next to the A259 bridge and the other on the wall of the old Slipper Mill.
This was done at minimal cost due to the hard work of our volunteers restoring the woodwork and metalwork.
Dolphin Quay Footpath
We were recently very fortunate to be gifted land on the West side of Dolphin Creek by Mr and Mrs Wardle, committed Pond supporters (facilitated by their two daughters), in order to ensure that the area is not developed. More details can be found here.
Youths Jumping from Footbridge
This was more problematic than usual in 2020. Following consultation with PCSO Baylee-Reed of Sussex Police, he has asked that we call 101 if large groups gather on the bridge blocking the footpath or causing a disturbance, and if there is any abuse (verbal or physical) to call 999. In this way he can build up a picture of the problem and get regular patrols to visit the area instead of just driving past Slipper Road. This will also apply after COVID-19. If you do ring please quote his name.
Dogs on Leads - 1st April - 31st August
When wildfowl are breeding around the edge of the Pond, signs are erected on the main paths requesting that dog walkers keep their dogs on leads. This is for your dog's safety too as adult swans can get very aggressive during the breeding/ nesting season.
Sadly we have no events planned at the moment - these include the Spring Talk, Summer Garden Party and Annual Dinner.
The AGM on Friday 30th October 2020 went ahead as a paper/email vote.
More details on future events and dates can be found on our events page.
Other Newsletters are available on our newsletters page.
In addition we have wildlife books, notelets and postcards available to purchase here.
The SMPPA Sponsored Broomfield Schools Photographic Competition did not take place in 2020 as the Emsworth Arts Trail was cancelled. At the moment it is very unlikely to go ahead in 2021.
The competition is usually launched during February/March with presentations to the six participating schools. The private prize giving ceremony is then held in the Community Centre and the winning photos displayed during Emsworth Arts Trail and afterwards at the Emsworth Co-op.
Volunteers and friends are always welcome....
If you would like to support the work done by the SMPPA in preserving the Slipper Mill Pond, why not become a Member? Full Membership (for households close to the Pond) is £15 per annum, and Friends / Well wishers £8.
More information on our Membership page.