FEATURED | Funding to restore and explore Herefordshire’s Ice Age kettle hole ponds confirmed

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.

Group of people in grassy, wooded area, taking notes
Volunteers learning survey techniques in the field (Andrew Nixon)

Volunteers learning survey techniques in the field

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.

“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.” Andrew Nixon

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.”