Newts' new pads
A new scheme has been launched in the South Midlands region which enables development to take place, while creating better habitats for newts and other freshwater wildlife to flourish.
New ponds – currently around 35, but with many more in the pipeline – are being dug across the South Midlands as part of a new scheme launched to mitigate developers’ great crested newt obligations – while ensuring longer term conservation benefits for the newts and other freshwater plants and animals.
Under the Great Crested Newt District Licence scheme, for every viable pond lost to development, at least four new ones are created, away from the development site, in optimum locations – so, in essence, prime real estate for newts.
So what constitutes the perfect pad for a great crested newt? Mike Bull, the South Midlands Project Officer for NatureSpace Limited, who are working on the new scheme, for the top ten points on a great crested newt’s Location, Location, Location hit list:
The pond itself should:
Be medium to large, and fish-free
With unpolluted water that is pH neutral, and has quite a slow flow rate
Have a nice, sunny aspect, with areas of open water for courtship dances
Have no noisy neighbours and, ideally, dry every few years to remove any fish who may have moved in
Have soft, malleable submerged leaves the females can fold around their eggs – water mint (Mentha aquatica) and water forget-me-not are particular favourites
Be located within a network of ponds which are connected by quality terrestrial habitat
The new pond’s back garden and surrounding neighbourhood needs to have:
Areas with lots of soft bodied invertebrates to feed on such as earthworms
Plenty of dense vegetation that can provide cover from predators
Hibernation spots – dark, damp places such as cracks in the ground or mouse burrows, decaying logs, rubble piles or other fallen debris with a loose structure
No risk of flooding over the winter months while they are hibernating – as the newt would drown
The new ponds will, of course, provide an excellent address for other native amphibians, dragonflies, damselflies, water beetles and aquatic plants to flourish. Targeted planting of the surrounding habitat will also benefit butterflies and moths. Bats will also use the new ponds for feeding and drinking. Areas of unproductive farmland and areas of wasteland will be returned to nature, which can only have positive benefits for wildlife.
For even more ponds to be created, developers seeking planning permission in Aylesbury Vale, Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Oxford City, South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse District Councils need to sign up to the scheme.
Visit www.naturespaceuk.com for more information and an application form.