The importance of Edge

edge nature permaculture family ponds Sara Steeles

Reflections from Mount Pleasant Farm

Sara Steeles

In Permaculture, great importance is given to "Edge". Edge is where it ALL happens; A bit like a ring doughnut, all the great sugary sweetness is on the edge, then there is the soft yielding dough, and in the middle – not a lot.

I have been thinking about edge a lot recently, especially as our physical interactions are reduced and we are more isolated. It is not easy to read body language on screen, and the nuances of a physical discussion are lost. All that edge between people is missing.

As a family we have really been enjoying our pond. It is a great space to socialise, or to just sit and ponder. Many hours have been spent watching the water and the life it holds. The kids have enjoyed pond dipping, and are greatly enjoying the alien like qualities of dragonfly larvae; this pond dipping has raised many questions.

  • Why do water beetles and their larvae breathe through their bums?
  • Why do back-swimmers swim on their backs?
  • Why do Whirligig beetles go round and round and do they ever get dizzy?
  • If I stuck my foot in, how many leeches could I catch?
  • What creatures blood are the leeches sucking?
  • Is frogspawn a delicacy in any country and does it taste like jelly?
Pond 2 Beetle
Our pond             Diving beetle

Sitting by our pond, having a cheeky G&T, contemplating life and watching the bum breathing beetles, I saw the perfect example of how the greater amount of edge is reflected in the greater amount of diversity.

We had the pond dug two years ago, and it was quickly colonised by an array of life which was great. However, the edges of the pond were smooth, just the liner meeting the water. Slowly, this year I have been lining the edges with rocks, creating all sorts of nooks and crannies.

Pond 2 Pond
Liner and water – minimal edge            Rocks create multiple edges

Watching the life in these rocks is as dramatic as a David Attenborough documentary. Diving beetle and dragonfly larvae patrol the crevices hunting unsuspecting tadpoles; Tadpoles swim speedily away from backswimmers patrolling the surface; Newts lurk like minature dragons in their lairs. Frog and toadlets are starting to climb from their watery homes. Dragonflies and Damselflies sun themselves on the warm rocks.

Meanwhile, on the areas without rocks, I spot the odd tadpole, and the odd larvae crawls along, but they are few and far between.

This stark difference really brought home to be why edge is so important. I am now on a mission to maximise edge, wherever I can, whether is is on the land or on a personal level. Edge is where it’s at.

The edge between my feet and the leeches however, is not one I am keen to explore .

Sara's article, together with further reflective delights , is published at the Mount Pleasant farm website