River of Life: Spring has sprung as new Sheffield Wetland Corridor already sees results!

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.

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