As members of the HMPA we’re sending you an overview about the Men’s pond’s wildlife and ecology. Suggesting how our pond might look like in the future it also reveals some of the remarkable creatures we swim alongside. Back in July this year Adrian Brooker, ecologist at the open spaces department at the City of London, met with four members of the HMPA; Jeremy Watson, Mike Smith, Geoff Goss and Chris Piesold.  

The guided tour covered 3 areas; the South, and East banks and then the Bird Sanctuary Pond just below the ladies ponds.


Adrian pointed out that the landscape around the Men’s pond has never been static. Even relatively recently, at the beginning of the 20th century, much of the edges of the ponds were very sparse. 

Shrubs and particularly trees, are still far from mature and so in the near future in certain areas, we should expect a steady increase of  tree growth, increasing shade with the possible continuing loss of particular edges of the pond due to fallen timber.   

Men’s Pond

The present habitats of the Men’s ponds can be understood as separated in three main areas.  Consisting of overhanging trees on both East and West, with reed beds at the southern end and a clear bank of grass at the North end. Many of the tree and shrub species we see along the east edge are not indigenous. Over the last few hundred years they’ve been steadily become a part of our countryside. As relative newcomers they do not generally support indigenous wildlife.  These include birds such as thrush, wren, blackbird and jay, and insects such as moths and beetles. Wherever possible the Corporation’s policy is to improve biodiversity. There is an on-going policy of encouraging indigenous species of trees and wildlife around Highgate Ponds. This can sometimes be achieved through the gradual replacement of non-indigenous species such as sycamores and laurel with indigenous species such as alder and willow. 

Geoff Goss with Adrian Brooker, ecologist at Open spaces Department at the City of London.
Geoff Goss with Adrian Brooker, ecologist at Open spaces Department at the City of London.

These indigenous tree species as well as supporting a greater range of fauna, can have thinner canopy's which may allow a greater variety of native shrubs to grow. Management of pond edge trees can also expose these areas to more natural light, which, in turn, would encourage the introduction of more emergent (wetland) planting. A similar policy has been successfully been introduced at the mixed ponds. 

Compare this managed ecosystem to the wooded area on the east bank of the Men’s Ponds. Tree canopy is so dense and heavily shaded in this area that little grows. A richer ground flora is prevented from developing. With the introduction of careful, long term tree management this area could be managed to be richer in biodiversity.  


However, some overhanging trees provide a safe place for nesting, for example providing breeding cover for the grebes. A careful balance is therefore required.  

Reed beds

Many of you may have noticed the very successful planting of reed beds on the south side of the Men’s pond. Supported by a man-made base they are also protected by fencing. In some places this has been removed to allow wildlife access.  

The corporation monitor these areas to check if any deterioration occurs. Gaps in the reeds also benefit the anglers who can access the pond. Reed beds offer breeding grounds to a variety of species, such as dragonfly, toads, frogs and newts. Some of these species are presently in decline.  

Bird sanctuary pond (between Ladies pond and Boating Pond)

This tour offered an insight into how our pond might be encouraged to look like in the future. Rather than the sparse undergrowth we presently have around the east side of the Men’s Ponds this pond shows the benefits of having native tree species and allowing light to penetrate in certain areas. Flowers, reeds and plants grow up to the edge of the pond. The facilitation of this meadow and or wood environment involves careful management but the results are clearly beneficial for wildlife habitat as well as swimmers. 

Between the trees there is a meadow with a number of different flower species, supporting wildlife such as grass snakes.   

There are also three or four small ponds in that area, which provide a haven for many diverse insects and amphibians. 

The main objective of this tour was to educate Men’s Pond swimmers about some of the many factors the corporation consider when managing the environment of the Highgate ponds. We support the corporation in continuing to manage and encourage the flourishing biodiversity we all too easily take for granted.

If you would like to know more about the ecology of the Heath or even get involved there are a number of initiatives listed below.

You can monitor a species or the environment over the seasons, this initiative is supported by the London wildlife fund, Gigl, (Green space information for Greater London) and the Corporation of London. It would involve you updating an online spreadsheet which can be found here (PROVIDE LINK). Please email us at highgatemenspond@hotmail.com if you're interested and we will enable editing permissions on the document. 

All contributions will be updated on one document and can be used to get an annual overview of wildlife activity on the Men’s Pond.

To check to see the species you have seen on the ponds use the London Wildlife website below. 


To find your GPS point on the pond for where you see this species, use the link below.