Ponds For Wildlife

In April 2012 work began to create three new ponds at Little Wittenham Woods funded by RWE npower and Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment (TOE), with funding made available from Grundon Waste Management, Viridor and Waste Recycling Group. The work was finished in time for World Earth Day (22nd April), a day celebrated in 175 countries worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment.

Two of the ponds were dug in the middle of Little Wittenham Woods and the third is an extension of Poplar Pools. The ponds now provide a perfect breeding habitat for the endangered great crested newt.

Find out more about how the work progressed…

Week One

The site was cleared of any trees that would be standing in the new pond and all the logs and branches are retained. Checks were carried out for great crested newts whilst the work was going on (middle left photo). Active at night, by day they hide in piles of mud and under logs so it’s important we checked for animals before moving anything.

The pink rings in the photo (middle right) show coppiced hazel which was moved from the site and was replanted elsewhere. The pond need to be cool in parts and warm in others and too much hazel near the site would create too much shade and would prevent the pond warming up.

The diggers cleared the ponds down to a depth of 1.6m and also came in handy for strapping dead wood: standing dead wood is a rare commodity in well managed woodlands. The bottom photo shows an oak trunk being propped against a live tree to provide standing living and dead wood. It will provide rot holes and crevices to house wildlife that appreciates a niche habitat, such as bats, and rare insects that live in dead wood.

Some of the retained logs and branches have been kept at the site to provide habitats for newts and other amphibians and wildlife. The rest of the dead wood has been added to the pond and will be under, on and above the water line.

Week Two

We were playing catch up in week two as rain and a puncture had delayed things. To do this, the lower pond was excavated with the tractor and trailer, whilst the two dumper trucks worked on the upper pond at the same time with.

Lloyd the contractor (top left photo), also started to work on the drop board sluice in the upper pond. The sluice will enable us to take the water level down if we have to do any maintenance of the pond. The bottom photo shows volunteers working on the sluice.

Some plants that were growing, such as greater bittercress, Cardamine amara (middle right photo), are scarce wet woodland plants so these that were dug up and replanted in the same place once the work was complete; bittercress is important as it’s the plant that the orange tip butterfly uses to lay its eggs on. Bluebells (top right photo), water figwort, and sedges were also transplanted.

Week Three

This was the week for finishing the sluice and laying dead wood in the ponds, to provide a variety of habitats, water depth and temperature. Wood standing proud of the water is used by dragonfly nymphs to climb out of the ponds.

The ponds slowly started filling with water thanks to heavy rain and were almost immediately started to be used by great crested newts and other amphibians. They will take a time to mature and take on the appearance of the existing ponds in Little Wittenham Woods.

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