What do Great Crested Newts, Willow Tits and Harvest Mice have in common? They are part of a ground-breaking project developed by Froglife and the Sheffield City Council Ecology Team, who have linked their once fragmented habitats into an interconnected wildlife corridor stretching over 4km, North to South from Woodhouse Washlands to Holbrook Marsh and Heath on the outskirts of Sheffield.
The project, running from 2018-2020, created 43 breeding ponds and made numerous wildlife scrapes, hibernation spaces for reptiles and amphibians and provided foraging habitats and breeding areas for Willow Tits and Harvest Mice. It also ‘linked’ local and national businesses, encouraged collaborative partnerships with conservation bodies, land-owners and charities, and involved skill-sharing and education with local schools and the community on the importance of wildlife corridors and those species mentioned.
Only finishing in late February/early March 2020, the project came to fruition when around five thousand young whips were provided by the Environment Agency with the aim of ensuring that the Great Crested Newts and Harvest Mice were able to travel along the wetland corridor via trees, shrubs and hedgerows. Many were planted by school children, including 25 of the UK’s rarest hardwood trees, the Black Poplar and other varieties such as Silver Birch, Elder, Hawthorn, Hazel, Blackthorn, Grey Willow and Alder Buckthorn. Numerous Willow Tit nest boxes were put up and areas of Philaris grass were planted to encourage Harvest Mouse nesting.
Although it’s early days, already Sheffield Council Biodiversity Officer, Angus Hunter has announced the project, “A resounding success, with endangered Great Crested Newts recorded breeding in many of the new ponds as well as the critically endangered Willow Tit being confirmed as establishing at least one territory within the project area for the first time. Further Surveys for Harvest Mice will be carried out over the summer to see if they are moving into the landscape scale wildlife corridor that is benefitting a huge number of other species including Grass snake, Frogs and Toads.”
James McAdie, Operations Manager for Froglife agreed, “Good quality aquatic ecosystems are intrinsically biodiverse and the creation of a pond network was intended to have knock on benefits to many other priority species found in the local area. The Sheffield Wetland Corridor project through joint partnership working, skill sharing, species expertise, flexibility, hard work and a common objective to improve the landscape for wildlife and people has been a tremendous success and will be even more measurable in future years as the monitoring of the corridor continues.”
There are now plans between Froglife and the Sheffield Council Ecology Team to look for further funding to extend the wetland corridor up through the four eastern Sheffield waterways (Shirtcliffe Brook, Shire Brook, Ochre Dyke and Short Brook) and to incorporate offshoot breeding ponds and wetland habitat as part of the cities Natural Flood Management Defence System.