Conserving Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds

January 2020 – project update

National Lottery funding to restore and explore
Herefordshire’s Ice Age kettle hole ponds

15 projects across the UK have been awarded a share of £7.4million from National Lottery to take action for nature including a project in north west Herefordshire developed by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Herefordshire Amphibian and Reptile Team and Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust.

 

Species and habitats on the verge of extinction have been handed a lifeline as The National Lottery Heritage Fund announces £7.3million to take action for nature across the UK. The Conserving Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds project in Herefordshire has been awarded £252,600 to protect remaining kettle hole ponds in the county which provide a unique and rare habitat for wildlife.

The project will officially start in the next couple of months and will open with the launch of the Ice Age Herefordshire exhibition at Hereford Museum on 4 April 2020. The Ice Age Ponds project will have a big section in the exhibition.  (Hereford Museum opening times etc. here)

Herefordshire’s Ice Age ponds, often referred to as kettle-hole ponds, were created around 20,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, when woolly mammoths were still roaming the area. Herefordshire’s Ice Age Ponds are particularly special, as they can hold an undisturbed record of our climate and wildlife since the time when the glaciers retreated. They are also extremely important today as habitats for some of the county’s most precious pond species, including the highly protected great crested newt, the rare and mysterious medicinal leech and an extremely rare water beetle (Graphoderus cinereus).

Sadly, these nationally rare and important ponds are still being damaged and destroyed, thereby losing some of our most irreplaceable natural heritage.

Initial National Lottery funding enabled a development phase to take place last year when ponds were mapped and surveyed, allowing the project team to see exactly what was needed to go ahead with restoration. The development phase also provided an opportunity to engage with local communities and an army of enthusiastic volunteers were trained in pond survey techniques, supported by  visits to local schools and other community events.

Senior Conservation Manager at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, Andrew Nixon said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to restore ponds which have been key features of Herefordshire’s landscapes for literally thousands of years. Over this time, the ponds have formed an important network across the countryside which many species of wildlife relied upon. Over recent decades, as ponds have ceased to be needed on farms or in villages, ponds have been filled in, or simply become overgrown, and the wildlife associated with this habit is being lost.”

Dr Angela Julian, Coordinator of Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK said, “As well as preserving our precious local biodiversity, this exciting new project is an important step to prevent us from losing these unique and ancient ponds from our landscape, and by engaging communities in their restoration will ensure that they will persist for future generations to enjoy”.

As the ponds are restored, interpretation will also be created to explain the importance of the ponds. This will include signs and walking and cycling routes but also digital interpretation allowing people a glimpse into the pre-historic past through their smart phones!

Since 1994, the National Lottery has invested £829million into nature and wildlife projects.

Drew Bennellick, Head of Land and Nature Policy at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Urgent action is needed to help nature recover. National Lottery funding is creating incredible opportunities for people to take such action for species under threat and, crucially, equipping a new generation with the skills and passions to make a real difference for the future of our natural world.”

November 2019 Project update +

November 2019 – project update

The first part (the Development Phase) of our project was completed on August 20th when we submitted the application to Heritage Lottery for the second stage (Delivery Phase). It was a hectic time completing all the paperwork for this and we hope the application will be successful to gain the £250,000 or so funding we need.

In the Delivery Phase, we will undertake conservation management on 15 of the ice age ponds surveyed this year (coppicing back overhanging trees, very selective and careful clearing of some excess weed and leaf litter and sediment, and fencing to protect from stock damage), and survey up to 100 more ponds. We will also be producing interpretation and information about the ponds in the form of leaflets, display boards, and walking, cycling and car trails. In addition, we will produce apps for mobiles and tablets to provide some graphical background on how the ponds and landscape might have looked like at the end of the ice age 20,000 years ago.

Totally coincidently, but with perfect timing, Hereford Museum are running an Ice Age Exhibition (last year this exhibition was in Worcester Museum) from April to June 2020 and we have been invited to put on an Ice Age Ponds project display, and provide various activities to engage children  and adults in learning about the ice age and its impacts here in Herefordshire.

The project this year has been a great success. Over 60 volunteers have been involved one way or another, many of them having come on the 4 training days and subsequent field trips to survey the ponds. The training days had some excellent presentations on the geology and wildlife of our ice age ponds (Kettle Hole ponds), helping us to appreciate the special nature of the ponds and the landscape they are found in. This landscape is called ’hummocky moraine’, found in places where glaciers ended and then retreated northwards. Herefordshire is one of only a few counties in England where that landscape exists. We’ve seen a variety of lovely ponds, dug holes in the mud (coring) to see how it is composed, and netted the ponds to see the many creatures that live there. 41 ponds were surveyed which was 30% more than we’d planned when the project started – a great achievement.  A “Kettle hole ponds survey method manual” was created for the project and given to all survey volunteers.

Based on the survey data collected, we now have comprehensive management plans for 15 of the ponds which would benefit most from conservation work, put together by Will Watson and Giles King-Salter.

We’ve been very well supported by local landowners and conservation organisations (such as the National Trust, Natural England, Duchy of Cornwall, Bulmers), and more ponds have been identified to be surveyed in the next stage of the project.

With the support and funding of the Kingspan Trust the project has run events at 5 schools in the northwest of Herefordshire to raise awareness and interest in ice age ponds, and these have been done by Dave Hutton and the excellent Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) Wildplay team.

Dave Hutton, our Project Manager, having completed this stage of the project left the HWT on 31st August. We hope he will be available to come back for the second phase which if approved will start in January or February 2020. He has done a great job in a very short time to get everything  done to meet the August deadline. He writes (to the volunteers): The Development Stage for the Ice Age Ponds Project has now come to an end, thank you all for your help and support over the last few months. It’s been great working with you and the rest of the team to get this part of the project to where it is now.’ Our project contact at the HWT from now on will be Andrew Nixon until we can re-recruit the Project manager at the start of the next phase.

Beth Andrews, our Project Officer for the geological aspects, and based at the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust (HWEHT), will continue on a day a week basis till November so will be working further with the volunteer team. She writes (to the volunteers): ‘I want to say a huge “Thank you” to everyone who has been involved so far. We have collected a huge amount of data in a very short time, often in less than ideal weather on many less than ideal sites. We couldn’t have done it without you, so thank you. We couldn’t have done all this wonderful work without the amazing people who gave their time to survey ponds, let us visit their ponds and helped us find new ponds, research history and connect with landowners.  We look forward to seeing you again soon.’

She arranged a visit with some experts to take more core samples at a few of our sites. These were longer (could be over 8m of sediment) cores than those taken by the volunteers (only about ½ to 3/4m deep) and will give us a lot more data about the geology, vegetation and fauna present in the more distant past. For her comments on the results see below.

Beth will be creating displays to show some of the vast amount of data that has been collected and to highlight our plans for the next stage.

The members of our small Steering Group have also contributed a huge amount of expertise and effort: Ian Fairchild (HWEHT), Andrew Nixon (HWT), and Angie Julian (ARG UK) who has travelled  from Oxford to support us. And, of course, Dave and Beth. A big thank you to them all.

Some members of the Steering Group visited the Norfolk Wildlife Trust in June to meet the team who have been doing a similar project with their ice age ponds (Pingos). Pingos are similar to our Kettle Hole Ponds but formed in a slightly different way: ice blocks left under the permafrost surface slowly melted,  and the surface eventually collapsed into the hole creating the pond.  Their project started several years ago, and Heritage Lottery encouraged us to go and learn from their experience and knowledge. We visited several Pingos and discussed the issues of management and how best to engage with the public.

This project was originally devised and promoted by Will Watson and HART, eventually enthusing HWEHT and HWT to join us as a partnership. The partnership has been hugely productive and successful, with great contacts and relationships made. We look forward to continuing the partnerships well into the future. 

August 2019 Project update +

August 2019 – Project update

With the project now approaching the end of its Development Stage and with the application for the next stage (Delivery Stage) due in by 20th August, it is time to thank all those who have been spending time carrying out surveys with our Survey Team: Beth, Will and Giles, and everyone else for supporting the project in so many ways.

(For further update information, please see the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust website pages.)

Achievements this year

One of our main achievements this year was to involve 57 people in Training Courses held on four dates at two venues. These provided an excellent introduction to the origins and ecology of kettle hole ponds in the county, and many came away with an enhanced knowledge and enthusiasm for finding out more about these amazing features. The feedback forms were very positive.

So far, over 30 volunteers have come out on further survey days and are providing really useful information that will add to our knowledge about these ponds and become part of our application for further funding from the Lottery.

During the Development Stage, we have contacted landowners and managers of ponds that have been identified as potential Kettle Hole Ponds (KHPs) through previous surveys and through various public engagement events. We have over 30 ponds lined up for initial surveys and 15 of these will be the subject of more detailed surveys and management plans.

Mapping data from LiDar, current and historic Ordnance Survey maps, and aerial photographs have been incorporated into a GIS dataset and is now accessible for interrogation in order to confirm the geological and landform origins of the ponds.

As a result of this work, we have produced a ‘user friendly’ map, clearly showing the distribution of Kettle Hole moraine in the county. The map included in this document also has the location of those we are surveying this year.

Project aims achieved so far (thanks to the help and support of volunteers and staff from HWT, HART and HWEHT):

  • we have delivered four talks to local groups on the origins and wildlife of KHPs
  • led kettle hole pond themed guided walks (more are planned)
  • We have attended seven public or community events and distributed KHP information and leaflets
  • We held a stakeholder engagement meeting at Weobley on 20th June
  • We have delivered talks to representatives of four parish councils
  • We met with representatives from Herefordshire Council regarding our HLF application and our taking part in a planned ‘Ice Age Hereford’ exhibition at Hereford Museum early next year
  • We received expressions of interest from 72 people wanting to come on the first four of our formal training courses
  • We have trained 57 people to undertake KHP pond surveys. To date, over 30 of these have come out on survey training days (more are due to come out in June and July) to hone their survey skills and gain confidence in filling in the form and in recognising KHPs, their geomorphological characteristics, their flora and fauna.
  • We have surveyed over half of our target 30 Kettle Hole ponds
  • We have contacted landowners and managers of ponds throughout NW Herefordshire to seek permission to survey their ponds
  • We have created a Conservation Plan and Strategy
  • We have carried out five Ice Age Pond-themed school visits including Assembly and HWT Wildplay activities
  • We have shortlisted 15 ponds for survey and management
  • We created a bespoke survey form for KHPs
  • The Steering Group and Survey team travelled to Norfolk for a fact-finding visit on pingos (ice age ponds in Norfolk)
  • We have started the detailed surveys of 15 ponds and writing management plans and costing management operations during the development stage.

There is still plenty to do in addition to carrying out the surveys. The following list details the areas where additional volunteer help would be invaluable.

  • Help staff the Ice Age Pond Gazebo, talk to people and share your knowledge. Sites will include Queenswood Country Park, dates to be arranged in July
  • Help to distribute leaflets at local libraries or parish notice boards.
  • Help the survey team to carry out pond surveys.
  • Check your local area for likely Ice Age Ponds – we are still looking for ponds to survey next year if we are successful in getting funding. We are particularly looking for sites in the Weobley and Orleton area: see the map below (where there are no red stars!)

There will be a thank you get together for all volunteers on a date to be arranged shortly in August.

If you are interested in helping with any of the above please contact Dave Hutton.
email:  d.hutton@herefordshirewt.co.uk
tel:       01432 356872 /07494 045012
further project details at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust here

Thank you to Dave and all the team for everything they’ve achieved this year.

And a big thank you to all those people who buy lottery tickets! 

 

February 2019 Project update +
February 2019

David Hutton, Project Manager  d.hutton@herefordshirewt.co.uk

Our new Heritage Lottery and Kingspan funded project in partnership with the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) and the Herefordshire & Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust (EHT) has started its Development Stage. During this stage preliminary surveys, consultations with public and private landowners together with further prioritisation and selection of ponds will take place. Successful completion of this by August 2019 is necessary in order to secure funding for a further two-year Delivery Stage.

Project Manager David Hutton has been appointed (from end November 2018) and Beth Andrews, the Project Officer for the geology aspects, has been appointed by EHT. David will have overall responsibility for the project, based at the HWT in Queenswood, reporting to Andrew Nixon. Ecology Consultants have also been appointed: HART’s Will Watson and Giles King-Salter.

If you are interested in joining the project, either with an ecology or a geology interest, or both, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities, and training courses will be provided from March onwards. We will be surveying ponds along both sides of the River Wye west of Hereford (around Madley, Moccas, Credenhill and Letton) where many ponds were created at the end of the last Ice Age (approximately 20,000 years ago). Another area is in north-west Herefordshire (around Kington, Pembridge and Shobdon) where there is a lot of hummocky moraine left at the end of the Ice Age where ponds could have formed.

Not all the ponds in these areas are kettle holes – one of the main aims of the surveying will be to use geological techniques to analyse the sediments around and within the ponds to inform us about their origin. We will also be aiming to identify much of the wildlife species found in the ponds, some of which are now increasingly rare and endangered.

Project Training days and a call for potential volunteer trainees

A chance to learn about the fascinating world of Ice Age Ponds, how they were formed, their wildlife and geological origins, and how we can help to conserve them for future generations.
Learn why they are so special and how to identify the wildlife that can be found.

Project Training Days will be held on:

Thursday 28th March        Credenhill Community Centre

Friday 29th March              Pembridge Village Hall

Sunday 14rd April              Credenhill Community Centre

Saturday 11th May            Pembridge Village Hall

Morning Indoor Session

  • Introduction to the Ice Age in Herefordshire and the landforms it left behind
  • Introduction to Pond Ecology
  • Introduction to field survey techniques for Ecology and Geology

Afternoon Session

  • Field visit to a local kettle hole pond site
  • Practical demonstration of geological recording techniques. We will be taking soil core samples using augers, using GPS to record water levels and using meters and test kits to measure the water quality.
  • Practical demonstration of ecological recording techniques, with an emphasis on evaluating habitat quality.
  • Pond dipping to look for amphibians, invertebrates and other pondlife.
  • Training in the use of GPS, Water quality meters etc will be given.

Training will last from 10:00 am – 4.00 pm. All equipment, plus hot drinks and biscuits will be provided. You will need to bring suitable outdoor clothing, Wellington boots and a packed lunch.

These training sessions are free but places are limited and booking is essential. To book your place or find out further details please contact David Hutton on 01432 356872 or email d.hutton@herefordshirewt.co.uk