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Visit to Nevendon Washland Nature Reserve, Wickford

20 July 2017, Wickford

On the morning of 20 July a small but fairly diverse group of us parked up on Old Nevenden Road, Wickford, to be met by our host for the day: the ever enthusiastic Jon Cranfield (Principal Ecologist at Herpetologic Ltd), and his equally enthusiastic dog.  We were there to learn about how the creation, enhancement and management of habitats at the Nevendon Washland Nature Reserve (as part of great crested newt mitigation) has led to significant biodiversity gains across a range of flora and fauna.

Jon gave us the ‘warts and all’ account of how this previously farmland site had been transformed into the haven for wildlife it is today.  It was a mammoth effort, involving the major re-profiling of the site; the translocation of washland and other habitats (on the back of a flatbed!), from the donor site on the far side of the A127; and the translocation of around two thousand great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) and two thousand slow-worms (Anguis fragilis).  The site is being sensitively managed by Herpetologic Ltd and feels very much like a living laboratory for what does and doesn’t work when it comes to habitat creation and management, and population monitoring.  I couldn’t help feel a pang of jealousy.  After all, what ecologist doesn’t dream of having such an opportunity?

Amphibians and reptiles were incredibly abundant on-site, with great crested newt efts clearly visible swimming at the surface of many of the ponds and slow-worms under almost every refuge we lifted.  Alongside these species, we were treated to myriad dragonflies and damselflies, a wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi), smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris), common lizards (Zootoca vivipara), juvenile grass snakes (Natrix natrix or should that be helvetica?), a water stick insect (Ranatra linearis) and several beautiful adders (Vipera berus).  There were some interesting plants for the botanically minded too, although we sadly missed the orchids.

In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to look at various types of aquatic funnel trap that Jon has been trialling at the site for monitoring great crested newts.  The results spoke for themselves: adults and efts were caught in all of the trap types demonstrated, in the middle of the day, and in the space of a couple of hours.  Food for thought.

It goes without saying that a great day was had by all and we can’t thank Jon (and Ray) Cranfield enough for being such entertaining and informative hosts. 


Author and Photos: Martin Brammah MCIEEM, East of England Section Convenor

Nevendon Wash NNR adder

Adder (Vipera berus)

Nevendon Wash NNR pond

Participants checking out the pond

Nevendon Wash NNR trap

A successful great crested newt trapping session

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