Wildlife ponds

How to build a pond

Wildlife ponds

A wildlife pond is one of the single best features for attracting new wildlife to the garden and it is thought that some amphibians, such as frogs, are now more common in garden ponds than in the countryside. You can build a pond any time during the year, but start in late winter and it will establish quicker. Use our illustrated guide to get you started.

You will need:

  • Pond liner - we would recommend a liner made of butyl rubber, which is durable, flexible, moderately cheap and easy to work with.
  • Spade
  • Insulation - Sand, old carpet or newspapers
  • Spirit level
  • Scissors
Tees Valley Wildlife Trust Growing Wild Schools Garden pond

©Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

How to build your pond:

  1. Mark out your pond on the ground with a rope or hosepipe first
  2. Get digging! Dig the hole, ensuring the sides are level with a spirit level on a plank spanning the pond
  3. Dig an extra 25cm depth to accommodate the liner ’under-cushion’ (see below) and height of the flagstones at the pond edge
  4. Finally, dig a trench around the perimeter of the pond for the overhanging pond liner to drop into
  5. Remove any sharp stones or other objects from the bottom of the hole and first put down a 5cm+ layer of sand, old carpet or newspapers (or try loft insulation material!)
  6. Unroll the butyl liner over the top with the over hanging edges falling into the trench. Any extra excess liner can be snipped off with scissors
  7. You will need to add a substrate for plants and animals. Sand is excellent because it is sterile and will not harbour any undesirable seeds or microbes. Spread a thin layer over the bottom of the pond


A well designed pond can play a big part in providing a home to wildlife as well as being an attractive garden feature

Filling your pond:

  1. Fill with water! If possible, use collected rainwater to fill your pond; for most people however, filling from the tap with a hose is usually the most practical method. To stop the sand substrate dispersing, rest the nozzle on a plastic bag to absorb some of the energy
  2. Filling may take much longer than you think so now is the time to put the kettle on for a well deserved cup of tea
  3. Back fill the trench with soil; as the pond fills up, the liner will stretch. As the pond is filling, place turf, soil or flagstones over the exposed liner at the pond edges. Butyl liner degrades in sunlight so try not to leave areas of uncovered liner exposed for too long

Making the most of your habitat:

  1. It is better for wildlife if you put the pond in a warm area, tadpoles, dragon flies and plants with thrive in these conditions
  2. Place stones, logs and plants around the edges to create some habitats for all those future pond visiting creatures.
  3. Plants can be introduced to your pond approximately 1-2 weeks after the initial filling with water, when tap water nutrients such as chlorine and fluoride have evaporated. Carefully selected native species will support your local wildlife
  4. If plants are well chosen and the pond is kept in a relatively balanced ecological state, it shouldn’t need very much maintenance at all. However, do keep an eye out for a build up of dead organic matter and encroaching vegetation.

Ensure you include a ramp using a plank of wood, or rocks, to allow any creatures that fall in to climb back out again!