January 2011. Deep winter is not good for the psyche of a pond builder. The cabin fever sets in right quick. Deep winter serves a purpose for the pond builder of the northern climes though; it gives us some down time to recharge, rethink, and plan. During this time of year I like to get out and attend some industry related events to keep up with this industry’s on goings, and to meet new and greet old friends. Wasn’t I glad to see that Mr. Anthony Archer-Wills, world renowned first class pond builder, was giving a presentation in my general area!
My “general area” to see someone I really want to see is about a 4 hour drive. Mr. Archer-Wills was exactly that far away in Boylston, MA a quick 4 hour drive away in dead winter coming out of the blizzard of 2010, the snow storm of 2011, and the first blizzard of 2011 it seemed like the ideal time to take a road trip (oh the patience my wife has!), to see a guy I’ve been trying to see for a few years now.
The venue was the Tower Hills Botanical Garden ( featuring world class garden displays. The host was the Garden Design School (; a school with a fun and intensive program that has 2 locations in the UK and its first US location working out of the botanical garden itself. Founded by Robin Templar Williams and Moira Farnham, the school offers professional and inspirational training in all major creative and technical aspects of garden and landscape design. Anthony Archer-Wills was a guest speaker for the school’s enrolled students, which I would consider a very special guest speaker.
Now, I am not enrolled in the Garden Design School however with some strategic whining and a motivation to be there on my part, the gracious Lauren Miklavic from the Garden Design School arranged for me to be able to attend this event. All I had to do was sneak in through the kitchen, and hide under a food cart while she wheeled me into the presentation room. Actually, the truth is, I was allowed in the front door and everyone at the event was friendly and so nice to meet.
Anthony Archer-Wills seemed to have a presentation that was geared directly at what I was hoping to hear that day. I am sure I was not in mind when he created this presentation filled with inspirational and beautiful images, tales of world travel, a venture into pond building history dipping back to the glacial age, and suggestions about the art of formal and naturalistic pond building; all of this based upon some good solid pond construction principles. All the concepts very nicely balanced with none of them over or under done.
Mr. Archer-Wills discussed several of his projects; and included failures and successes in pond building. He made suggestions of places to visit of inspirational and historical water shapes. He gave brief discussion on aquatic plant design principles and uses. Techniques for small water features as well as large scale water shapes that include boulders weighing in at astonishing tonnage, were demystified by Mr. Archer-Wills during this engaging day long presentation. Anthony stayed after class and continued to answer questions in small groups and eventually one to one. I believe Mr. Archer-Wills was the very last one to leave the room that day because as I looked over my shoulder to say goodbye, it was just him left.
Did the lecture leave me wanting for more? Well yes, but any excellent presentation should have you going out that door hoping for more. I felt that my road trip up into the New England area of the US under less than ideal travel conditions was rewarded and justified, and I’d do it again!
Anthony Archer-Wills is an award winning water garden and pond designer with 40+ years of experience. He is the author of several pond related books and a frequent contributing writer to industry magazines such as WaterShapes magazine. His services are in demand around the world. Mr. Archer-Wills resides now in the United States. His website is and his upcoming events can be found there.

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