What is an Ice Age Pond?

Ice Age Pond

Example of an Ice Age Pond (also known as a Kettle Hole pond) at Moccas Park in Herefordshire.

During the last Ice Age around 25,000 years ago western Herefordshire lay under a thick ice sheet that had advanced eastwards from Wales. The edge of the ice lay just just to the west of where Hereford City stands today, running along a line roughly corresponsding with the path of the A49.

Back in the Ice Age walking west from today’s Hereford would have brought you to a scene like that depicted in the reconstruction. A wall of ice, possibly as high as 50 metres – taller than Hereford Cathedral tower!

Front of the Ice

Around 22.000 years ago the ice was retreating as the climate slowly warmed.

The melting glaciers left behind vast quantities of mud, sand and boulders. Large blocks of ice became stuck in these sediments, marking the location of possible future ice age ponds.

The debris left behind by glaciers is called glacial till. In places this can form large mounds called moraines.

Ice retreating

As the blocks of ice very slowly melt away, shallow ponds are left dotted over the terrain, over which tundra vegetation is establishing.

The vegetation attracts animals like mammoths that graze on the plants, along with carnivores like packs of hyena.

The ponds you can now visit in western Herefordshire may once have seen mammoth and other now extinct creatures bathing in their water.

Ponds forming

Ice Age Ponds are now a wonderful place for wildlife. Walk through the rough grass and a small frog may jump out, or perhaps you’ll hear the warning chirp of a Moorhen hidden in the undergrowth. Watch the calming reflections of clouds and trees rippling in the water and peer curiously down into a fascinating underwater world where strange creatures lurk. 

Maybe 10,000 years ago a mammoth stood within that pond.

Life in an Ice pond

Teams of volunteers working on the Conserving Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds Project have identified hundreds of Ice Age ponds and examined the species living in them,

Coring pond sediment
Pond exploration
Pond sampling

 As part of the Ice Age Ponds Project specialist Drone operators from the University of Worcestershire flew drones over the trail routes of Birches Farm Nature Reserve and the Sturts Nature Reserve.

Click here for a preview of a 360 degree panorama over Birches Farm Reserve, showing one of the Ice Age ponds.
If you click and drag in the preview you can see the surrounding landscape typical of the ‘hummocky moraine’ where most of the Ice Age ponds are to be found.

Drone filming at Birches
Birches High Resolution