We were in Great Crested Newt territory; fortunately, the newts weren’t. We did come across a frog or possibly three, but it’s difficult to know when you only see them one at a time. Common frogs often find their way back to water as early as February, but great crested newts sensibly stay on their winter break until April or May; it’s cold in there. The great crested newt is a protected species so, if there were any about, we would have been prevented from doing our job.
|Overgrown Pond in The Walled Garden|
We were clearing the Walled Garden Pond. “This is the hardest job we’ve ever done,” said Mike, the most energetic of us. In the last couple of years, vegetation – especially horsetails and sedges – had taken over, leaving no open water and even becoming solid enough in places to form an island. There’s open water now, but only over a third of the surface area so as to minimize disruption of the resident wildlife. And by leaving the dumped mud and plants by the side of the pond for a week, invertebrates were given the chance of finding their way back to their much improved home. Carting the waste to the far reaches of the West Wood to dispose of it was another strenuous job.
|Les Hard at Work|
|Mike upto his knees in mud|
Gibside staff have benefitted from home improvements as well recently, with their offices being stripped back to the bare walls and clad with two inch thick insulation. This could be an example of the National Trust caring for the environment by saving energy though, as householders know too well, cost-benefits are always questionable. Or perhaps it’s the National Trust doing a fine job in looking after another rare species.
|Furniture Removal - another of our many talents!|
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne