Reed Bed System

We installed a reedbed water treatment system to treat all wastewater from the venue, cottages and farm buildings. It operates entirely naturally – no chemicals or machinery. Instead it relies entirely on gravity to create a flow of water through a series of different ecological habitats, which also support enormous biodiversity.

The waste water flows, in order, through:

  • a vertical flow reedbed
  • a deep settling pond
  • a cascade of oxygenating flow forms
  • a horizontal flow reedbed
  • a wildlife pond
  • a lake
  • a willow bed
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reed bed system

How Does It Work?

As the water flows through the different stages of the reedbed system the nutrients contained in the waste are converted by microbes and consumed by plants. This process means that pollutants and any harmful bacteria are reduced to safe levels.

The first reedbed is a very active ecosystem. It destroys bad bacteria and also converts ammonia into nitrate which is a much safer compound that plants and algae can use.

Moving downstream, as the water arrives at the settling pond, naturally occurring bacteria take up the nitrates and release harmless nitrogen into the air, reducing the pollution in the water.

Air mixes with the water as it splashes around the aerating flowforms and enters a stream. The water flows down stream to the second reedbed and then a wildlife pond. Here, a long standing time kills off germs.

The wildlife pond flows into our beautiful lake and the lake overflows to a willow plantation, before soaking back to the aquifer from which the farm abstracts. The whole system supports a significant population of birds, fish and invertebrates.

fish in water

Habitat Creation

The reedbed system was created in spring 2002, but despite its relative infancy, our new wetland habitats proved a magnet for wildlife.

The common frog found our wildlife pond in spring 2002 and was closely followed by the common toad. By 2006 we also had smooth newt tadpoles growing up in the wildlife pond and hibernating at Nut Wood. By 2015 the pond was home to frogs, toads, newts, rudd and perch, along with freshwater shrimp and a plethora of other insect larvae.

Carp, waterfowl and pondlife thrive in the tranquil clean and clear water of the long lake – it actually meets European bathing standards! We have nesting pairs of reed bunting, sedge warbler, wren, moorhen, mallard and coot. Grey heron and lapwing are welcome visitors too.

The diversity of aquatic invertebrates expanded rapidly, with winged wonders including the great diving beetle arriving during the system’s first summer, and now we have a whole host of mayflies, caddisflies, and those delicate devils: the damselflies and dragonflies.

For the final stage of its journey from waste to pristine, the fresh water from the lake overflows into the willow bed where it is released here and to seep down back into the chalk in a virtuous circle.