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£1 million bid launched to return historical dew ponds to South Downs

South Downs National Park Ranger Sophie Brown next to a restored dew pond near Arundel (Jeff Travis/SDNPA/PA Wire)
Ben Mitchell, PA

A £1 million fundraising campaign has been launched to bring “amazing” dew ponds back to the South Downs landscape to create breeding grounds for frogs, toads, newts.

The national park authority is planning to restore 100 of the ponds across Hampshire and Sussex during the next decade.

The ponds were historically dug by farmers as watering holes for livestock, with some dating back several hundred years.

A recent survey found that almost 70% of ponds in the national park are in poor condition or disappeared completely compared to the 1,000 dew ponds that once existed in the area.

Nationally, a third of all ponds of all types have been lost in the past 50 years.

Restored dew pond near Arundel in the South Downs National Park (Jeff Travis/SDNPA/PA)

A park spokesman said: “These pretty ponds are also havens for all manner of species – supporting around 70 per cent of all freshwater species found in lowland landscapes in the UK.

“However, over many decades and due to changes in farming practices, dozens of these wildlife oases have fallen into disrepair or been lost completely.

“With climate change bringing hotter, drier summers, ponds have an increasingly critical role to play in providing habitat and sources of water for wildlife.

“Pounds for Ponds aims to reverse this decline by providing vital funding to transform derelict ponds and create some new ones.”

A recent wildlife survey at a pond at Seaford Haven that was previously restored recorded more than 200 species.

This included the rare lesser emperor dragonfly nymph, which is the first UK record of its breeding.

the rare lesser emperor dragonfly nymph
The rare lesser emperor dragonfly nymph was spotted at a previously restored pond (PA)

Jan Knowlson, biodiversity officer for the South Downs National Park, said: “Dew ponds are amazing, but sadly so many have been lost from the South Downs landscape over the past century.

“These freshwater habitats are oases for wildlife, providing drinking and bathing water for birds, and a home for dragonflies and other aquatic invertebrates.

“They also make good breeding sites for frogs, toads and newts.

“The wildlife value of ponds is also considerably enhanced where you have a network of them, making it easier for species to move between them, meaning populations are more resilient to climate change.

“Every pound donated will make a big difference and will help wildlife flourish.”

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