As a frequent visitor to Palheiro, I have always been fascinated by the numerous ponds. Starting with big one on top above the gardens' car park lies the golf reservoir completed in 1993. I'm told that it holds some 220,000 m.3 of water and when full, allows the course to be watered daily during the hot summer months.
The area is out of bounds for visitors , but if you want to visit please check with Security at the Gardens office. I once counted 7 herons perched on one side hoping for a meal. Next to it is "The Round Pond", a ferro concrete structure built around 1900 now used for the Gardens and Florialis growing of orchids and proteas. To confuse matters, the pond is not round and the name refers to an earlier pond which was round built by the Conde de Carvalhal to store water brought down by levada (which he also built) all the way from just below Pico Arieiro. Anyway , this pond or dam if you prefer , was once carefully measured and holds exactly 21,359 m3. of water.. On the southern side there is a curious small round water measuring tank connected under ground to the "Round Pond".
I gather that in the early 1900s water was piped down to a turbine powering the sawmill, feeding a well where deer used to drink and then on to a series of 5 small lakes running through the middle of the gardens. You can see the well by the old sawmill though I advise care as the tin roof next door is in danger of falling down and tractors manoevre cut logs for sale as firewood....
The third small lake by the entrance to the gardens has a small ledge used by birds for bathing and I have frequently seen Madeira firecrests ( Bis Bis ) and chaffinches enjoying a bath blissfully unaware of passing visitors.. Recognise the firecrest by its yellow/orange crest and high pitched, repetitive call.
Close by in the Main Garden, the Sunken Garden has a small pond flanked by 2 Tudor Rose stones from the war damaged Houses of Parlament, bought at a charity auction in London and brought out to Madeira. Goldfish have not survived thanks to herons but Trocaz pigeons nesting at Palheiro drink there in the evenings. There is another small pond at the bottom end of the main garden,
- nothing much to see but I guess it counts as a pond and is another home for frogs .
Then to the Lower Garden or Jardim da Senhora as it used to be known in the old Count´s time; past the Long Border, there is a tiny pond inhabited by the smallest (Japanese) water lilies in the world or so I am told...... Counting from the top, that's 10 ponds so far. Below by the tea house are two long ponds with pink water lilies which open during the day and close at night ; more often than not frogs sunbathe on the fronds and pose for passing garden visitors.
Continuing towards the Casa Velha Hotel , there is large pond with goldfish and Koi carp which enjoy sheltering below islands of papyrus. Herons used to fly over to scoup up fish so that now nylon lines have been extended over the pond to protect them. Above this pond there used to be 2 more ponds , the top one being used as a swimming pool during Summer months. They were however filled in during construction of the Casa Velha and one is now the croquet lawn.
So that's a total of 13 ponds without counting the Casa Velha swimming pool........
Kois at Casa Velha Hotel
Frogs and goldfish no longer have the exclusive right to live in the large pond below the croquet lawn in front of the hotel. Koi carp were introduced there some 15 years ago, - red, white ,blue , yellow and orange colours; five originallycame a gift from Rui Meneses and since then others were purchased including a blue one and added to the collection. They clearly enjoyed their environment protected against marauding herons by fishing line stretched across the pond and hotel vigilantes . More recently Ernesto, the enterprising head of hotel maintenance installed a pump and fountain which may have helped them to multiply at an astonishing rate. Today we calculate there must be at least a 1,000 baby carp in the one pond. The colour mix is amazing.