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U3A Writing: Newt Pond

…One of our great sources of pleasure was the newt pond. This was known to fewer than a dozen of us. It was in a field beyond a dead end lane. It was about 30 feet across and saucer shaped. We kept it a secret because it was our own very special discovery….

Ruth Beever shares some of her vivid childhood memories.

Living in the village of Ferriby on Humberside in the ’20s and ’30s,we children could wander in safety in the countryside. The river is tidal at this point and many kinds of treasure we found on the beach - from dead dogs to pretty stones and shells. Then home we came through woods and fields.
One of our great sources of pleasure was the newt pond. This was known to fewer than a dozen of us. It was in a field beyond a dead end lane. It was about 30 feet across and saucer shaped. We kept it a secret because it was our own very special discovery.

You had only to sit or lie down for a minute near the edge and you could see the faces of newts coming up for air. It was easy enough to pick them out of the water, and they were safe enough so long as their skins didn't dry out. The green newts were common enough. We knew them by their markings. If we set them racing against each other, they always headed back for the pond and disappeared beneath. The next size up was a brownish newt about six inches long. They would come up to grab at water boatmen and other flies.

If you have never believed in dragons, you have never seen a salamander newt. These had great jagged crests which stuck up straight at mating time. These were the prized ones. We would bring them out and watch them open their great pink mouths. It was long enough before we realized that these were the 'male of the species' to the brown newts!
In spring there were masses of frogspawn around the edge of the pond. They really flooded the market! Toad spawn was laid in strips between pieces of weed. We hardly ever saw newt spawn as it was laid in the deepest water - each egg being wrapped round by a leaf.

In the mud at the bottom endless creatures hibernated and preyed on one another. Water boatmen skidded about on top and in May time mayflies and dragonflies appeared from the water, climbed up a convenient grass or stalk (which we had ready for them!) and waited for the sun to dry out their wings. Beautiful they were with their flashes of blue. We never tried to catch them - they had too short a life left to lay their eggs and start a new cycle.

My father never minded us bringing newts, frogs, toads, etc. home for the day. We had a little shallow tank outside which we called our specimen tank. What my father really wanted were some very big water snails and water weed to keep his bigger tanks clean. The snails would 'quarter' the glass sides between them. You could see their feet (or mouths) opening and shutting.

In wartime I was stationed near there and went over for a visit. Alas, our secret place was given over to housing. In one garden though, there was a pond. Could it be that some of those creatures were still living? I dared to hope so.

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