South Downs dew ponds are lovely! You can find them wherever sheep and cattle traditionally went for summer grazing. Surviving ponds probably number at least 500 across England. Today they are often overgrown with their banks badly trampled by livestock. They have become picturesque havens for butterflies and romantic spots for ramblers enjoying a picnic.
They still have a magical and highly significant property.
‘People have noticed that they rarely run dry, even in the hottest summer, and it is apparent that, during the night, they receive a supply of water sufficient to counter-balance the great drags that are made upon them by cattle and evaporation,’ notes Edward Martin, in his research paper: Dew Ponds: History, Observation and Experiment.
The great mystery is where the water that fills them up at night can come from. These ponds – also known as ‘mist ponds’ or ‘fog ponds’ lie on the downs far above the level at which streams begin to form, nor does any piped-water supply reach them. The name ‘dew pond’ is the clue. According to folklore, it is the overnight dew itself, that keeps them full, whatever the weather …
South Downs Dew Ponds in Sussex
You are likely to come across several dew ponds if you start exploring the Downs in Sussex. You will pass the one in the photo if you walk from the Jack and Jill Windmills towards Ditchling. A walk I recommend with fantastic views!
Read more about the South Downs