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28th January 2024

Digging for victory in fight for nature

Five new ponds have been dug on the Englefield Estate to provide vital new habitats for threatened species, including invertebrates and amphibians vulnerable to climate change.

The work, on an area known as The Flats at Mayridge Farm, near Englefield, will benefit newts, frogs, toads, bats damselflies and dragonflies and support birds including the turtle dove, yellowhammer, lapwing and grey partridge.

Dr Liz Mattison, Englefield Estate’s Education and Environment Officer, has overseen the project, which was granted planning consent by West Berkshire District Council.

She said: “On the farm we are balancing food production, nature conservation and preservation of the historic landscape. The planning application, and the guidance that came with it, considered each factor carefully.

“50% of farm ponds have been lost in the UK since the 1970s and we’re trying to redress that.  The area of The Flats is a part of the Kennet Valley that would once have been very wet.  The Kennet and Avon Canal, the railway and the A4 road have all affected the hydrology of the area. As a result of those changes, ponds and wetlands dried up.

“We are creating buffer zones around the ponds to protect them from nutrient run-off and increase the wildlife area. They are also positioned to support species’ ecological needs. For example, one is by a ground nesting bird area used by lapwing and skylark while others are adjacent to hedgerows, which help amphibians and reptiles move across the landscape.”

Dr Mattison said the changing seasons will affect the ponds, which should fill to the brim after winter rains and partially dry out in summer. As the water recedes mud will be revealed, providing another habitat for insects and birds that thrive in those conditions.

The area is part of the North Wessex Downs National Landscape and funding to create the ponds has come from the Farming in a Protected Landscape programme.