Herefordshire Amphibian & Reptile Team

Herefordshire Ponds and Newts Project

2003 - 2006

Male Great Crested newt (N Hand)The aim of the project was to assess the health of the ponds in Herefordshire, and the distribution of the great crested newt and other amphibians in the county. As the great crested newt is a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species we had the opportunity to apply for funds for the work.

The Herefordshire Rivers Leader+ programme funded a substantial percentage of the project, which was therefore restricted to the parts of Herefordshire for which Leader+ funds could be used, namely the 96 parishes that bordered or included the four main Herefordshire rivers: the Wye, Lugg, Frome and Arrow. The LEADER+ area covers 880 square kilometres, roughly a third of the county.

Over 250 ponds in this area were surveyed, generating an excellent record base for the county. The funding also allowed us to provide pond and amphibian training for well over 100 people, thus expanding the availability of these skills in the county.

Great Crested Newt distribution in Herefordshire before the start of the project

57 great crested newt sites had been identified within Herefordshire. Their distribution is shown on the map: some of the dots may represent several ponds. 40 of those sites occur within the Herefordshire Rivers area, shown in blue.

Great Crested newt distribution map (before project)
Herefordshire Council Crown Copyright LA 09069L (2003)

For larger map click here.

Great Crested Newt distribution in Herefordshire in 2006 at the end of the project

Great Crested newt distribution map 2006
© Crown Copyright and/or database right. All rights reserved. License number 100046026

The Project Finishes Successfully!

The project has finished! So firstly some thanks:

To our funders: the Herefordshire Rivers LEADER+ Programme, who provided the bulk of the money for the project, and continual encouragement and support as the project progressed. Also the SEED programme (was part of the National Lottery), the Environment Agency (Wales) and the Herefordshire Biodiversity Partnership. We also received support from Froglife and the HCT.

To the many pond owners who gave us permission to come on their land and survey the ponds.

To the key staff on the project: Project Consultant Will Watson and Survey Team Coordinators Jules Agate, Angela Charlton and Lydia Robbins.

To the volunteers:  We owe a big debt of gratitude to all the volunteers who worked so hard in many ways for the project – surveying, data entry at the HBRC, accounts, administration, training and project support and so on. Over 2000 hours were logged on the timesheets, with a value to the project of around £20,000, allowing us to claim £13,500 in real funds to held pay for the project. We stopped using timesheets in September 2005 because we had reached the budget limit on volunteer time payments, but we know a lot more volunteer hours were worked after that, not least by the authors of the atlas: Amphibians and Reptiles of Herefordshire.

The Atlas costs £6.99 and can be purchased from HART committee members, at HART meetings, from local bookshops, from the NHBS on the internet;  or from the Herefordshire Biological Records Centre, Tel: 01432 261538 E-mail: hbrc@herefordshire.gov.uk. Since the launch in December 2006 we have sold around 600 copies and the feedback we have had from people who have bought or seen it is how good it is with some fantastic photographs which clearly illustrate the text and aid identification.

Final Report and Ponds Assessment 

The end project report can be downloaded in full as a pdf: Ponds and Newts Project Final Report.

We are indebted to Stephen West who used our pond survey data as a basis for his MSc thesis about assessing pond suitability for great crested newt presence using a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) calculation (see below). The final results are based on the analysis Stephen has done.

The surveys have shown that 46% of all ponds have great crested newts, and 48% have smooth newts, but only 29% have palmate newts. 11% have all three, which is quite a high proportion by UK standards. So, in Herefordshire, while the great crested newt is the protected one, the palmate is the least common.

Pond occupancy of amphibians

The Quality Assessment of Ponds bar chart shows that only around 40% of ponds were found to be of good or excellent quality. The theory suggests that great crested newts prefer good quality ponds, and results shown in the chart just about corroborate this, notably that very few ponds with great cresteds were rated Poor, while a significantly higher proportion of ponds without them were Poor. But there were almost as many excellent ponds without them as with. Great crested newts were found in 40% of poor and below average ponds which could suggest that these are populations hanging on in ponds of declining quality, which would benefit from restoration before the population dies out.

Quality assessment

Habitat Suitability Index (HSI):

This index is based on 10 criteria including surrounding terrestrial habitat, pond size, pond quality/clarity, plant cover, tree cover, presence of fish and waterfowl, and so on, which were all recorded in the surveys for each pond. From the HSI values, the ponds are graded as poor, below average, average, good, excellent. This data assessment can help us to identify which ponds in which areas would most benefit from restoration and improvement work so that the great crested newt can thrive and expand its range.

Project links:

The Herefordshire Pond and Newts Project has been part funded by the European Union (EAGGF) and DEFRA through the Herefordshire Rivers LEADER+ programme.

The project has also been part Lottery funded by the £15.3 million Social, Economic and Environmental Development (SEED) Programme. The SEED Programme, managed by the Royal Society for Nature Conservation (RSNC) and 11 consortium partners, distributes National Lottery money on behalf of the New Opportunities Fund, under its Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities funding programme.

Further funds have been received from English Nature and the Environment Agency, Wales.

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