Historic dew pond brought back to life

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An historic South Downs dew pond painted by a famous artist in the 1930s is being restored to its former glory.

Work began to restore the pond in September by South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), but the team received further inspiration when the Amberley Society discovered a painting of the pond from the 1930s by Felicia Lieven-Bauwens.

Along with Castle Farm Partnership and the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service, SDNPA and the team dug out the area and re-lined it with clay.

Simon Mockford, South Downs National Park ranger, said: “The pond at Amberley Mount is one of a number of dew ponds located high on the South Downs that would once have been used to water sheep out on the dry chalky hills.

“But changes in farming practices together with an increased ability to use cattle troughs and piped water have led to their decline.”

It is believed that the Amberley dew pond was last used for watering sheep in 1952.

The idea to restore the dew pond came from Paul Strudwick whose family have farmed the area since 1903 and is keen to encourage wildlife on his farm.

“South Downs Volunteer Rangers will complete the finishing touches which will include installation of a post and rail fence around the pond.

“Although dry at the moment and bare of vegetation following the restoration work over the winter months it will fill up with rain water and soon become a little wetland haven for wildlife, providing drinking and bathing water for birds, and a home for dragonflies, damselflies and other aquatic invertebrates.”

Grahame Joseph, chairman of the Amberley Society, said: “Amberley Mount pond’s exact origin is lost in history but it was probably created during the 17th or 18th centuries when the South Downs was the main sheep-producing region in the country.

“What has made this work so special is that, thanks to Felicia’s painting, we know that the Amberley Mount pond will be returning to its former glory.”

The Royal Academy-trained artist lived in Amberley during the 1930s before moving to East Harting, but died at the end of 2012 at the age of 104.

There will be an opportunity to find out more about the work of Felicia Lieven-Bauwens at a special talk by her daughter, organised by the Amberley Society, on Friday October 18. Her work will be available to view the following day in Amberley Church Hall. For details call 01798 839 366.