Protecting our rare amphibians as we take first step towards Gateway

The Earth Trust Farm is home to one of the largest populations of great crested newts in the country. Nationally rare, this amazing amphibian is the reason why parts of the farm are designated not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but also a Special Area of Conservation, reflecting this location’s importance at a European scale. The ponds in Little Wittenham Wood and the surrounding woodland and grassland habitats are all designated for the newt’s protection.

We know also from our monitoring of the ponds at the Earth Trust Centre that newts inhabit these ponds, although in low numbers. With changes on the horizon at the Earth Trust Centre, we are working to ensure these special animals come to no harm.

Our first priority is to protect these newts whilst work begins on our Gateway project, starting with archaeological investigations in November. At the same time we want to understand these satellite populations more, and in the future create and manage habitats so that their numbers increase. With all this in mind, an amphibian fence has been installed around a farm track that runs behind the ponds, to create a temporary newt-free enclosure. Less than a metre high, this fencing will stop newts and other animals from getting inside the area where the archaeologists will work; any newts that are currently inside the fence will be carefully trapped by experts and relocated to surrounding habitats before work starts.

We will keep you posted with newt news, archaeological updates and more over the coming weeks and months!