Last month Rangers Nicola and Anna - along with a small group of volunteers - set about creating a new habitat for wildlife in the form of three new hibernacula at our Wood End Thrift site near Marston Moretaine.

Hibernacula are chambers that amphibians and reptiles use throughout the winter for shelter. Typically they are underground however, in areas like Wood End where the soils are not permeable, hibernacula are built above ground to prevent the chambers from flooding.

Amphibians and reptiles are ectothermic, meaning they rely on the surrounding temperature for their body heat, so during the colder winter months they need to find somewhere to shelter and keep themselves warm. They don’t hibernate as such, and will often take advantage of milder weather to forage for food through the winter months. This means the location of the hibernacula is very important. It needs to be close to the pond, but also near areas of scrub and rough grassland where the newts will go to look for food.

Our hibernacula are located in carefully chosen sites close to scrub or hedgerows, allowing extra cover for reptiles and amphibians. - hedgerows also create wildlife corridors which newts use to move between ponds in relative safety from predators.

The construction stages of our hibernacula - images: Martin Rogers

To build the hibernacula, we removed turf from the chosen areas and piled logs of varying sizes, rubble, bricks and mulch in a purposefully haphazard way: too neat and there wouldn’t be enough crevices making the hibernacula desirable to reptiles and amphibians, too messy and the crevices would potentially be too big to not stay warm enough in the winter. Once assembled we piled up the turf which was removed at the start and placed it back on the hibernacula to help camouflage it.

It's important that this habitat is not disrupted, so as not to disturb any wildlife - we ask that anyone visiting Wood End Thrift please be careful around the hibernacula area (particularly with any off-lead dogs) and admire our new addition from afar!

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