Flagship Focus: Little Wittenham

The People, Ponds and Water project may be over, but our passion for Flagship Ponds continues. Here’s an introduction to Little Wittenham Flagship Pond site, a special place in Oxfordshire for Great Crested Newts

SACs supporting Great Crested Newts including Little Wittenham

Little Wittenham Wood is part of a protected area managed by Oxfordshire charity Earth Trust. The ponds and woodland are a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as they support an important large population of Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus). Although Great Crested Newts are found all across the Thames region, the population at Little Wittenham was at one time one of the largest in the area. Ongoing research and monitoring into the Great Crested Newt population here at Little Wittenham also make this site special at a national and international level.

We ran the Flagship Pond Project between 2015 and 2017 to help support the long-term sustainability of important pond sites like Little Wittenham. The aim was to work on a bespoke basis, to support site managers and volunteer groups to best ensure site quality and key species can be maintained and enhanced. At Little Wittenham, that meant helping Earth Trust with funding and expertise to tackle a fishy problem.

The pond was drained down to allow all fish to be removed

One of the ponds within Little Wittenham Wood, a key pond for the newts, was historically stocked with fish. The fish were really limiting the breeding success of the newts. We were able to help Earth Trust arrange specialist contractors and volunteers to drain down the pond and remove then rehome the fish, most of which were non-native carp. The fish-free pond will now provide a lovely breeding habitat for this protected species.  

We held PondNet training events at Little Wittenham, providing local volunteers with the skills to undertake their own surveys for frogs, toads and newts. The People Ponds and Water project also funded equipment for Earth Trust – nets, trays and ID guides will be useful for volunteers when monitoring this important site into the future.

But that’s not the end of our work with Little Wittenham and its community. Creating new ponds is a powerful and effective way of supporting pond wildlife, and that’s what we’ll be looking at next. Watch this space!

Find out more

26th April 2018

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