We have just become an approved contractor for an exciting scheme to preserve the habitat of newts, particularly the threatened Great Crested variety.
Ecosol Turfcare has dug two new ponds for Wiltshire smallholders anxious to encourage habitats for this protected species. The Natural England scheme, administered throughout the South West by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group(FWAG), the government is refunding costs for landowners who want to install or restore a pond suitable for newts.
“I was thrilled that we were able to do these jobs,” said Bretton King, Ecosolve MD, “ not only because the groundworks involved are well within our competence but also because, a conservation scheme involving the countryside and improvement of conditions for wildlife, is very close to the heart of a rural business such as ours.”
The scheme involved very strict guidelines from FWAG. Surface area of the pond could be between 100sq m and 1000sqm according to the landowners’ wishes and the area could not be shaded on the south side, near a road or be an existing habitat for fish, waterfowl, protected species or invasive non-native plants or trees.
We initially used a 13t 360 digger which excavated the land to provide a maximum central pond depth of 1-3.5m and then landscaped the spoil around the site.
The ponds had to have variable bank gradients of 1:10 or 1:20 and a range of depths across them, with open water and a 3m buffer zone around the edges. In line with FWAG inspections, fine tuning was carried out with a 3.5t digger, the banks rolled and raked, then finally seeded with Barenbrug’s Wetland and Water Edge Grass/Wildflower 80:20 mix seed.
Existing ponds, even if dried up, can be eligible for the scheme if they are close to a suitable habitat and not fed by ditches that drain sports or arable fields or abundant with protected or non- native invasive species. They would need to be assessed by FWAG before we moved in to dig them out, but you would be able to reclaim contractor costs if the criteria were met.