Looking back – Pond restoration at Dering Wood
Thinking back to Autumn and it seems so long ago already. Winter has made its mark and grey days will soon make way for spring. Obviously, lockdown has happened and things have largely come to a halt in the woods but we still have updates from times where teamwork made way for nature. Here is one such piece of news from Dering Wood, Kent…
Now has never been more important to help the environment and enhance the natural landscape, especially for our native wildlife, and Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership (KSCP) based in Ashford, Kent has been doing just that for one of our most threatened native amphibians – the Great Crested Newt (GCN). Since 2018 the partnership has been restoring or creating large ponds as part of a 100% funded Natural England District Level Licensing Scheme for this European Protected Species, with the aim of connecting GCN populations and enhancing suitable habitat.
The Woodland Trust’s Dering Wood near Pluckley is situated close to a core area for GCN and after a year and a half of planning, the site was earmarked for two 100m2 pond creations utilising the natural clay substrate and the restoration of a large and historic pond, not documented on any map. This shallow and boggy pond of approximately 950-1000m2 had never been desilted and invasive non-native rhododendron had taken hold, creating a central island along with silver birch! Pre-works, the Woodland Trust felled trees on the southern bank to allow light in and encourage water plants to grow once the pond had been restored.
The two pond creation sites were carefully chosen off a woodland ride, south of the restoration pond where only bracken and bramble would be disturbed. On the day of the dig, Dr Paul Wilkinson from SWAT Archaeology checked two test trenches for historical artifacts, but nothing was found. The large bog pond however did reveal some secrets! On excavating the silt, specialist local contractors FGS Pilcher discovered three original square pits and corresponding waybars – possibly dug by the Victorians to excavate clay – which can now be seen clearly. These ‘pits’ currently look like three adjacent ponds while we wait for the winter rains to fill them up. This wildlife pond – and the two others – are a huge asset to Dering Wood and will sustain not only the local amphibian population, but will benefit so many other species including dragonflies and bird life for hopefully centuries to come. The Woodland Trust plan to fence in the ponds to protect them from human and 4-legged friend disturbance.
Sarah Harrington-James from KSCP who is leading the project for the GCN pond scheme is optimistic at finding newts come springtime. She says: “It is very rewarding seeing habitats being transformed by pond works. We know there are GCNs nearby to Dering so we are keeping our fingers crossed that they will find and colonise these ponds quickly as they have done at other local pond sites. KSCP will return in 3 months’ time to check on the ponds and then regularly monitor them for the foreseeable future.”
It will be amazing to see how this project welcomes in wildlife at this wonderful site. We will bring you further news when we have it. Thank you to the team that made this happen and of course to all individual volunteers across the South East who continue to keep woods safe during the current lockdown.
Thank you to Grace Davis and Clive Steward for their help with this article and Sarah Harrington-James for the photographs and further information.
Words: Anna Claxton, Volunteer Development Officer (SE)