Domesday pond faces parched end

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ALTHOUGH it once offered a tranquil aquatic setting for Viking chieftains and a pleasant waterside respite for medieval pilgrims travelling through Kent, Tonge Pond has not fared so well in the modern era.

Local anxiety has grown steadily over the past three years as the pond, which features in the Domesday Book, has disappeared leaving a parched base. Concern has reached a new pitch following the failure of a rescue plan devised by the National Rivers Authority to replenish it with water from a nearby borehole.

Ernie Madgwick, 72, was born in the village of Teynham, a mile away from the pond, and is leading the campaign to save it. 'A thousand years of history has just been allowed to trickle away,' he said.

'Millions of gallons of water have been wasted trying to refill the pond, but its not going to work until they realise they've got to seal the pond bed so that once the water's in, it stays there.'

Mr Madgwick, a Swale borough councillor, worked at the traditional Kentish mill, now lying idle beside the pond, in the 1930s. At that time there was plenty of water and the pond was a haven for wildlife and leisure activities such as boating and fishing. 'It was a beautiful setting, with seats, grassed areas and little copses dotted around. It was an ideal place for courting couples.'

The pond also provides a rich historical legacy. It lies adjacent to the site of Tonge Castle which furnished a base for Viking leaders such as Hengist in the fifth century. The pond is fed by a spring where Thomas a Becket baptised pilgrims following him to Canterbury.

Mr Madgwick believes one strategy to restore the pond would be to line it with blue clay - the method used to seal leaky canals.

But the National Rivers Authority is not convinced and would need permission from the owner.