Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Common frog by Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Charlotte Karmali brings the latest news from the volunteers at Finemere Wood

Ponds are great for wildlife and can be incredibly diverse. Dig a hole in the ground and then sit back and watch nature take its remarkable course.

Once rainwater and groundwater begin pooling in this hollow, amphibians and invertebrates rapidly move in to breed, birds come to bathe and feed, grass snakes to hunt and over time, through natural colonisation, vegetation appears. 

Venture out onto the meadows at Finemere Wood and you will see this in action.

In June of this year, three ponds were carved out on the edge of the meadow by the South Midlands Newt conservation partnership. They should provide a really excellent habitat, in the coming years, for many creatures and in particular for the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus).


Clearing blackthorn next to a pond at Finemere Wood by Charlotte Karmali

But unmaintained, a pond gradually fills with silt, trees and scrub grow tall blocking out the sun, and it becomes a far less desirable home for wildlife.

This is where the volunteers come in, as I set them to work around a well-established pond along the woodland edge. Untouched by human hands for many years: a mass of mature blackthorn and large willow trees have taken over the banks of this pond and it has become a dark and gloomy place. The banks are steep and slippery; the vegetation dense and thorny and the task is to lay the blackthorn along the south side of the pond.

Some volunteers dive straight into the sloping, prickly thicket and on hands and knees begin to carve into thick stems of Prunus spinosa (blackthorn). Others hang back muttering about creaking, stiff joints. Yet others declare this work is not for them and I deploy them elsewhere on other vital missions.

It takes all sorts to create a volunteering group, no one job suits all, but here in this special place there is something for everyone.

We leave weary at the end of the day. Sun can reach the waters again, enabling plants to produce oxygen, and this will keep the pond a healthy place for all. Blackthorn is laid in a tangle on the banks, new shoots will grow from the cut stems and a dense hedge will develop providing an ideal place for hibernation and feeding.

A brilliant day's work, and it will be fascinating to watch the course this pond now takes. 

Come and join the Finemere Wood volunteers. Everyone's welcome and no experience is necessary!

Email Charlotte for more information

Next Work Party Dates: Thursday 22 November; Thursday 13 December; Thursday 10 January. All 9.30am-3pm

Great crested newt

Great crested newt

The great crested newt: a species protected by law and threatened by habitat loss; breeds in ponds; feeds and hibernates in surrounding covered land; the UK’s largest newt, growing to 16cm long; almost black with a warty skin and an eye-catching orange belly, the males displaying a wavy crest along the length of their body and tail during breeding season. Triturus cristatus is a truly beautiful creature.