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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pond puts nature on the timetable

WORK is underway to create an outdoor area for Ponteland school pupils to learn about the wonderful world of wildlife.
And an important discovery by one of them has led to plans by a county wildlife organisation to make the mini reserve in Callerton Lane, next to Ponteland High and Middle Schools, a haven to be enjoyed by residents as well. It has existed for more than 20 years but it had become overgrown and started attracting litter so staff and pupils began to clean and tidy up the area, which includes a pond, as well as prune some of the trees.
Then keen nature watcher Hannah Patterson, a Year 8 pupil at Ponteland Middle School, spotted a newt which looked different to ones she had seen before.
The Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) was called in and together with Hannah they saw folded leaves and eggs to confirm the presence of great-crested newts — a rare and fully protected species.
Now the NWT is working with the schools to make the area a designated reserve with a pond dipping platform, seats, explanation signs and fencing to help prevent litter building up again.
Head of Conservation Steve Lowe said: "After the area was assessed we decided to work together to ensure the great-crested newts are protected and making a nature reserve will benefit all of the wildlife there as well as becoming an important resource for the schools and the local community.
"A clean-up day was held to clear debris and litter from the site and the attitude of the students and staff was fantastic as they were happy to get mucky.
"This is a beautiful area and a range of birds such as the blue tit, bullfinch and goldfinch can be seen along with the frogs and newts."
Funding is being sought for the works, which also include creating clear paths to the site, and pupils will help to manage it.
Ponteland Middle School Head Teacher Caroline Pryer said: "The children absolutely adore it and we are very proud of Hannah, whose discovery was even mentioned in the Cambridge Primary Review.
"It would be great to have a nature reserve next to the school where our pupils can see a lot of wildlife up close and help to feed the birds."
Gordon Baldwin, Business Manager of Ponteland High School, said that the project was fully supported by the Prudhoe and Ponteland Local Multi-Agency Problem Solving (LMAPS) group, which includes police and council representatives.
"It's gone well so far and it will certainly be a worthwhile venture once everything is in place, but it is still a work in progress," he added.
"Hopefully we will get the funding we need, particularly for the fencing to help keep the area secure."
A £250 donation towards the project has been awarded by Ponteland Town Council.
To help it find grants, contact Mr Baldwin on 01661 824711.