A pond-collector's paradise: Country diary, 4 December 1970

KENT: Along the green track, the puddles reached over our boots and the riverside trees grew straight out of the water joining their own reflection in an unbroken pattern. Standing water lay in hollows in the saturated pastures and that rich, clay lowland around Smarden became a pond-collector’s paradise. There were round ones, square ones, elongated ones often traceable in rows marching across the landscape from pasture to woodland. The odd thing about many of them was their occurrence on high ground with no stream feeding into them or flowing from them. One or two were easily identifiable as the traditional farm pond with a few ducks happily plunging about in sight of the farmhouse. The largest one, behind Potkin Farm, was so impressive that it almost qualified as a lake.

A local countryman told one that this had been a clay-pit supplying one of the few potteries on the county which had operated on this site until the early years of this century. I noticed in his garden path and the lovely slabs of smooth marble by the gate, polished by many feet to reveal small white rings in the grey surface. This was the Bethersden marble which is found in many Kentish churches, used for decorative work in tombs and fonts. The rings were formed by the shells of the freshwater snails that were the origin of the limestone. Many of the paths in the area were constructed from the slabs of marble which was quarried in shallow pits. Small wonder, then, that we found so many ponds in unusual places. The most impressive pathway is at Biddenden where it lines the entire length of the main street leading to the church where we had the pleasure of picking up 100,000,000-year-old snails which had weathered out of the stone.

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