We've enlisted the help of 30 students from Gloucestershire College to create new habitat for the great crested newt.
Their work to dig out seven tonnes of earth and landscape a pond, at Saul Junction on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, reached a key stage when it was filled with 12,500 litres (or nearly 1,000 buckets full) of water this week (11 December).
Since September the students from the Cheltenham and Forest of Dean campuses of Gloucestershire College have been working with us on a ‘build a pond’ project, through support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The students from Foundation Studies, who have mild learning difficulties, have been involved in a wide range of activities including: clearing the site, fence-building, digging out the pond and preparing it for filling with water. They will also be planting wildflowers on the surrounding bunds.
Laura Mullholland ecologist for the Trust explains: "Great crested newts are a protected species and we know they are in the local area. They cannot survive in the canal alone so, by creating this pond specifically for them, we hope they will take up residence. We’ve tailored it for them, including having plants with large leaves in which they like to wrap their eggs. Whilst we wait for the newts to get settled-in, we can look forward to dragonflies and damselflies making the pond home and we’re excited to see what other exciting creatures are attracted.
Building employability skills
All the tasks have given the young people invaluable experience of volunteering within their community, as well as building employability skills. Madeleine Burgess, employability development coordinator at the college describes what the experience means: "Through this challenging pond project, the students have had to listen and follow instructions to work as a team. Without working together, the project could not have been completed. They have had to build up their resilience, as the task at times was really difficult when it rained continuously.