Happy Newt Year! Restoring historic ponds at Stoke Park Estate

Today’s blog is from Councillor Ellie King,
Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health and Labour Councillor for Hillfields

Work will soon begin at Stoke Park Estate to restore three historic ponds so they can once again provide a wonderful wetland home for a variety of wildlife species.

Ponds of any size are havens for a wide variety of freshwater species such as amphibians, aquatic plants, and invertebrates. Unfortunately, ponds are under increasing threat nationally, with one estimate putting the loss of ponds over the last century in the UK at 50 per cent.

Over the years the ponds at Stoke Park Estate have become over-grown with vegetation and silted up. However, these three ponds will soon become thriving oases for wildlife in Bristol once again. The wonderful array of wildlife that depends on pond ecosystems includes frogs, beetles, dragonflies, water fleas, shrimp, and aquatic snails. The beautiful great crested newt, which has suffered a decline in population, has also been seen in the ponds and surrounding landscape of Stoke Park Estate. 

One of Stoke Parks three points, slightly frosted over.

Ponds are an important breeding habitat for this species, that is protected by European law, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the newts, (who are currently hibernating within surrounding land) back to their restored ponds in time for spring frolics! Care will be taken to avoid disturbing these hibernation habitats during the works, and ponds will be permanently fenced to avoid disturbance from dogs and livestock.

When we declared an Ecological Emergency in 2020, we committed to doing as much as we could to bring back lost wildlife to communities in Bristol. Through investment in projects such as this and more recently the restoration and improvements of St George Park Lake, we aim to provide more habitats for animal and plant life to flourish in the city and help the population of the great crested newt recover.

A photo of a great crested Newt siting in the mud.

Part of the funding for the restoration of these ponds has been awarded by Natural England from their District Level Licensing scheme for great crested newts. Works will be overseen by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), who hold the necessary licence for great crested newts. Additional money has also been awarded by the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership. This was a funding bid led by the Stoke Park Community Group volunteers and will enable the group to provide equipment, materials, tools and training for local volunteers to carry out some of the restoration work themselves. We want to thank the funders and the volunteers for their commitment and passion towards the estate and its wildlife.

Two of the ponds are dew ponds, cobble-lined ponds which were historically built as a source of drinking water for livestock: providing another fascinating glimpse into the history of the estate. We have consulted with Historic England, who support the work, and one of the dew ponds, which was part of landscaper Thomas Wright’s original park design in the 1750s, is believed to have a spiderweb pattern in its cobble lining. I am excited to find out more as the cobbles are uncovered!

Stoke Park pond, one of three in the park.

To read more about how we are managing more of our hundreds of parks and green spaces for the benefit of wildlife, visit the council’s website.

To keep up to date with the progress of the works on the ponds on Stoke Park Estate or find out more about volunteering visit our Stoke Park Restoration webpages.

You can also find out what the volunteers are up to, with videos and updates of the work being carried out on the Stoke Park Community Group website.