One time Mayor of London and former MP Ken Livingstone – who appeared at Wimborne Literary Festival a few years ago – is famously obsessive about newts, but he isn’t the only one who cares about their welfare.
The Knoll Gardens Foundation (KGF) – which is based in Stapehill Road, Hampreston – has teamed up with Amphibians and Reptiles Conservation (ARC) on ‘Project Newt’ to make the Garden’s iconic Dragon Pond and Mill Pond more accessible for these elusive creatures.
For phase one of the project a working party of both KGF and ARC volunteers built an impressive ‘rockery ramp’ leading from the top of the pond down into the garden, which they hope will be used next year during the breeding season. Special netting was also added over the top of the pond wall, and then anchored on the inside of the pond with rocks. The netting will act as a ladder for the newts, allowing them to easily scale the inside wall.
Volunteer Mitch Perkins, KGF’s survey coordinator said: “The naturalistic planting and habitats at Knoll Gardens support a rich diversity of wildlife. A recent survey by our volunteers found young newts in all the ponds except the Dragon Pond. The vertical sides and lip of the retaining wall at the Dragon Pond made it tricky for the newts to gain access to breed – a bit like scaling the north face of the Eiger. Working together with the ARC volunteers we have been able to create a ramp which not only improves access to the Dragon Pond for newts, but also has plenty of nooks and crannies, providing shelter outside of the breeding season.”
Project Newt was hatched during KGF’s recent Wildlife Discovery Day, at which ARC played a key role, when the need for further survey work and pond maintenance became apparent.
Speaking on behalf of ARC, volunteer coordinator Richard Sharp said: “This project was interesting as the Dragon Pond is a formal raised pond, and we had to use the Gully Pot Ladder developed by The British Herpetological Society to help our amphibian friends access the pond safely.
“We hope projects like this will encourage people to add wildlife friendly ponds to their own gardens. Autumn is a great time to add a new pond or to do pond maintenance as most young amphibians will have left the pond in search of food, fattening up ready for hibernation and the wetter weather will help ponds fill naturally.
“If you want to create a wildlife pond, ensure it has gently sloping sides for easy access and add plenty of native vegetation such as forget-me-not and starwort to provide egg-laying sites and curled pondweed and hornwort for underwater cover. Although a two metre by two metre pond with a deeper part of around 60 centimetres is ideal, any pond is a huge benefit for wildlife.”
In October the focus will turn to Phase 2 of Project Newt when clearance work will be undertaken in Mill Pond to create an open area where newts can display to attract a mate. KGF hopes that when they re-survey in 2022 they will find newts and newt larvae in all of Knoll Garden’s ponds.
To learn more about helping these shy amphibians in your own garden visit https://www.arc-trust.org/help-amphibians
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