Freshwater Habitats Trust and Nidderdale AONB are working with volunteers to identify priority ponds - and create new habitats - in this Important Freshwater Area in North Yorkshire.

Situated in the Yorkshire Dales and stretching from the eastern flanks of the Yorkshire Pennines to the high moorland of Great Whernside and the edge of the Vale of York, Nidderdale AONB provides a diverse mix of habitats for wildlife, including 1,194 known ponds.

Through this project, we’re surveying and mapping the AONB’s network of ponds – and restoring and creating new ones. We also got local communities involved through school visits and public events.

Volunteers have been a key part of the project and, through, citizen science initiatives, local people have helped us gather important data. This included using rapid water quality test kits to understand the true extent of nutrient pollution, and identify clean water habitats in the AONB. We’ve also conducted surveys to identify key species present in ponds across the landscape.

Landscape showing open countryside and fields with a sunny sky.

- Washburn Valley, Nidderdale AONB ©John-Flinn

Phase 1: finding priority ponds

Volunteers tested 124 countryside ponds for pollution levels and found that 84% had clean water. This means water with a chemistry and biology, which would be normal for the area without any human disturbance. Tests carried out by volunteers in Nidderdale AONB’s garden ponds showed that 81% had clean water.

The volunteers also carried out amphibian surveys in more than 100 ponds, doubling the number of known sites for the ‘at risk’ Common Toad in Nidderdale AONB.

Through a combination of clean water testing and species survey, this phase of the project increased the number of ponds in Nidderdale AONB that are classified as ‘priority ponds’ from 38 to 97. Priority ponds are waterbodies that are recognised nationally as priority habitats, and are given a level of protection, because of their high conservation value. While around 20% of England’s ponds are priority ponds, these findings suggest that two-thirds of ponds in Nidderdale AONB could be priority ponds.

Priority ponds
Woman crouching by pond, taking a water sample.

- Nidderdale AONB volunteer Nicola Mercer

Phase 2: creating and restoring wetland habitat in Nidderdale

Freshwater Habitats Trust is working with Nidderdale AONB to improve wetland habitat – The results of the first phase of the project, will be used alongside Habitat Opportunity Mapping for Nature Recovery to strategically create new breeding ponds and foraging across the landscape.

Nidderdale AONB is in an Important Freshwater Landscape so will be a focus for our Freshwater Network. Through this project, we’ll be protecting the best freshwater habitats and building out from these to bring more clean water back to the landscape.

The Freshwater Network
Toad's eyes peeping out from above the water.

- Common Toad. Photo: Barry Carter