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Streams and Ponds

Water is one of the most valuable play environments, and running water adds an extra dimension and challenge as anyone who has played in a stream or on the beach will know.

How to build

For play

  • Building weirs creates cascades and rock pools.
  • Adding boulders, stones, pebbles and clay allows children to create their own dams and pools.
  • Cut away a bank to create flooded beaches or terrace a bank with logs for seating. 
  • Consult with the Environment Agency for any work to be undertaken on stream or river banks. Contact Jason Maclean with reference to his experience at Rosliston Farm in the West Midlands.

For wildlife

  • Ponds and streams are likely to become home to tadpoles, frogs, toads, newts, damselflies and other water loving insects like pond skaters. Ponds should have shallow edges with plants along at least one side and have a section of deeper water (min 600 mm).

Plants suitable for the waters edge

  • Marsh marigold Caltha palustris
  • Yellow flag Iris pseudacorus
  • Water mint Mentha aquatica
  • Water forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides


Open water is low risk where banks are stable, gently sloping and the risks apparent to the user. A separate risk assessment may be needed for larger bodies of water.

Last updated: 8th March 2016

England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.