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Or so the saying goes. But in the case of the Savill Garden's Upper and Lower Ponds it's not money you will find, but a different kind of 'gold' - carp, to be precise!
How many of you have stood on the pathway crossing the culvert joining the two ponds and watched a shoal of those scaly, golden torpedoes slowly gliding along through the often-cloudy water, mouths extended like some form of aquatic Hoover, seeking out various tasty morsels from the surface scum?
Originating from ancient Europe and Asia, and not quite as pretty as the fancy goldfish one sees in the pet shop, (but from the same Cyprinidae family nonetheless), these hardy creatures have a history in the UK that goes right back to the 13th Century.
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), such as we have in the two Ponds, were introduced into UK waters by European monks, who brought them from the Continent, and were adept at farming them as a readily available and 'religion-required' food source ('fish on Fridays' - yes?). There are many examples of ancient monasteries and abbeys which have their associated fishponds, although usually now surviving and visible as just shallow, dry depressions in the grass lawns. Nature being the great leveller it is, it wasn't long before these early stocks found their way out of captivity and into the wider watery landscape, where our more temperate conditions were much to their liking
These fish are very hardy and resilient, and will tolerate conditions that will see off other, weaker species in short order. A pond can be accidentally drained right down to the thick mud and silt, and yet you will still find carp alive in the muddy morass (don't try this at home, mind!). Carp still form an important part of Continental diets - for instance, it is customary for the people of Poland to eat carp on Christmas Eve as part of their celebrations.
The old adage 'you are what you eat' springs to mind here, and if I tell you that UK fishermen often refer to the carp as a 'silt pig', then you can see where I'm going with this - proper culinary preparation of the fish is key if you're not just going to sample the aroma and taste of the bottom of the local pond when you dish it up!
The carp in the two Savill Garden ponds have little by way of known history to call upon, as do the indigenous fish stocks of virtually all of the Estate lakes and ponds. They are also long-lived, with known fish surviving for upwards of 60 years in the right conditions. The ancestors of these fish may well have been brought in from the neighbouring Cow Pond right back at the time of the formation of the Garden in the 1930s - there's certainly an abundance of them in there.
A 331b common carp caught in Obelisk Pond by Mike Harris.
Compared to their neighbours over in Obelisk Pond, the Upper and Lower Pond fish are somewhat stunted in size, growing only to a maximum proportion which is set by the size and depth of the pond, the available food sources, and the sheer number of fish in residence. The largest ones here will weigh only a few pounds, whereas the ones 'over the road' with fewer fish and a much larger home to live in, have been caught by our Syndicate anglers at weights in excess of 30 pounds! Even larger specimens topping 40lbs in weight can be found further down the watercourse in Virginia Water.
It is in the nature of all garden features, ponds included, that time will take its toll, and some form of essential maintenance or restoration will be required. I am sure the same will apply to the Upper and Lower Ponds, and the Garden Staff will ably deal with the task when the time comes.
I also hope that, in the sparkling clean waters of the rejuvenated Ponds, there will still be a place for the common carp - a hardy and undemanding creature, with the power to fascinate the young just by swimming around, and to make grown men cry when that 'fish of a lifetime' slips the hook (no, don't ask - been there, done that!).
So, the next time you're feeding the brightly-clad ducks on the Upper and Lower Ponds, please spare a thought for the poor old common carp that will be sitting patiently right underneath their webbed feet. Get the kids to throw a handful of duck food just to the side of the feathered meleé, and enjoy the look of surprise and delight on the childrens' faces when the carp come out to play!
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