Figure of eight pond after

Pond Restoration 2024

We are continuing to undertake pond restoration and creation across the Estate to provide a range of ponds throughout the landscape. Here we describe some of the work we have been doing recently.

Great Crested Newts (GCN) are a European Protected Species fully protected in the UK. Whilst, in the right habitat, GCN can be locally common they are actually quite rare and declining. The UK has one of the largest populations in the whole of its range, which is restricted to Europe.

GCN’s need, like most species, different habitats for different parts of their lifecycle. Clean water ponds which don’t have much shading and contain dense aquatic vegetation are required for their breeding ponds.

During the summer of 2023 I worked with Jordan from Wildscapes CIC Ltd to assess the ponds we have across the Estate for the potential to restore some for Great Crested Newts.

Using previous pond surveys and our own site visits and observations we selected three old ponds (at least 170 years old) for restoration. The ponds are all in wooded settings and for large parts of the year are dry due to years of sediment building up in them.

In November 2023 Wildscapes and their local contractor undertook the restoration work which included removal of shading trees and shrubs on the south side of the ponds, removal of silt and regrading of the banks. Cut material and silt were used to make additional habitat areas, called hibernacula, close to each of the ponds.

Woodland pond restoration Woodland pond restoration

The full cost of the restoration work and the ongoing management and monitoring for 25 years has been paid for by Natural England using a District Level Licensing scheme which helps to mitigate development impacts elsewhere in the district.

The ponds will start to recover very quickly and be colonized by aquatic vegetation over the next 2 or 3 years and hopefully Great Crested Newts shortly after. Monitoring will record the changes and using environmental DNA (eDNA) tests we will be able to identify when GCN’s have returned to the ponds.

Previous work on the Estate in 2021/22 with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust saw 5 new ponds dug to enhance the Great Crested Newt network, again as part of a District Level License. Ongoing monitoring using eDNA has shown the presence of Great Crested Newt in one of the ponds. The ponds are young and some of them are only just starting to be naturally colonized by aquatic plants.

Further pond restoration will take place this year aimed at creating a landscape scale network of ponds which will provide a wide range of wildlife with the resources to thrive. We already have nationally important ponds and ‘Flagship ponds’, designated by the Freshwater Habitats Trust, on the Estate and we aim to ensure that our ponds become as rich and diverse as they possibly can be.

Mark Hewitt, Conservation Lead

Woodland pond after restoration Woodland pond after resoration
Figure of eight pond before Figure of eight pond before
Figure of eight pond after Figure of eight pond after
E DNA testing for newts E DNA testing for newts
A newly dug pond A newly dug pond
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