So 2020 was an interesting year for many, whilst a lot of the country was working from home we spent some of the year busy creating new homes for wildlife throughout the farm. Like previous years we have continued with habitat creation in our woodlands, wildlife friendly hedge maintenance and minor management of habitat in our beautiful Lenta Brook but we also took on a slightly bigger project as well.
In mid-late 2020 we were able to confirm funding for the creation of four wonderful new ponds around the farm – specifically to be created with great crested newts in mind. This wonderful little amphibian was listed as a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and funding pools have been made available as part of Natural England’s District Level Licensing. The main aim here is to mitigate against the loss of GCN habitat, as a result of development, by providing and creating additional suitable habitat elsewhere.
To make sure the funding is not wasted there are multiple criteria to be met – it’s not quite as simple as just digging a hole and the newts appear. We worked closely with the team at FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) SouthWest over several site visits to establish the best locations on the farm for our new tenants and put a plan in place. Initially we have settled on four ponds over two sites – one in the wonderful Marral woodland and three in our wildlife haven, Botswicky. Once we had the locations in mind we had to plan out the ponds themselves based on several criteria;
- A surface area between 100m² and 1000m²
- A max depth of 1-3.5m
- Range of depths through the pond
- Variable bank gradients 1:10, or ideally 1:20
- 3m buffer zones around the ponds
- And the list goes on….
As well as this we also had to create a hibernaculum to provide refuge for the amphibians, particularly through the winter months. Put together with a base of logs / rubble and mud and grass over the top these provide an essential warm habitat for all kinds of creatures – not just the newts we are hoping to attract!
With written plans in place we submitted for planning application and set about organising the machinery and team required to dig. The digs themselves took place over about two weeks with multiple machines involved to carve through the heavy clay soil and shift it around the sites. The ponds themselves filled up very quickly, thankfully the clay in the soil has been enough to seal them and hold water – so no liners or additional substrate required – and within a few rain falls we could see this wouldn’t be an issue. Once the ponds were built we set about building the hibernaculum(s) at each site, these used materials from around the farm as a base and then soil and turf we had just removed for the pond on top. With wet weather setting in we had to leave some of the spoil from the digs to be moved in the drier months of 2021 so there’s still work to do!
For now though we wait – the ponds are full, very full after the last few weeks of rain, and now being monitored for life and fingers crossed we can give you an update in the near future when our first tenants arrive! We’re also looking at a few more sites for potential further ponds this year – we’ll be the place to be for any newts looking for a home!