The AONB does not have a wealth of wetland habitats, however all five of the widespread British amphibian species can be found across the AONB area. This includes; Common Frog (Rana temporana), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Palmate Newt (Triturus helveticus), Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) and Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris).
In a few waterbodies all five species can be present (such as at Gadr Farm in Monmouthshire) but this is unusual. Most sites support a few species at most and they are thinly spread compared to their historic distribution.
Toads - These can be found throughout the AONB although it is only near Fownhope that they occur in such numbers that 'toad patrols' have been required, where volunteers have worked into the dark to ensure that the toads, returning to their breeding ponds, cross the roads in safety.
Great Crested Newts - suffer significantly from predation by fish and so fish free ponds are their preferred habitat. Typically this would have consisted of small, semi-permanent waterbodies - a habitat that has declined significantly with the infilling of farm ponds. Declines in all amphibians have occurred since the 1960's due to changes in agricultural practices. Despite this common frog, palmate newt and smooth newt are still widespread (albeit in significantly lower numbers) and have benfitted in part from the increasing popularity of garden ponds. Great crested Newts will also do well in garden ponds provided no fish are present.
Of these species the Great Crested Newt is protected under both national and international law being listed under the EC Habitats Directive and under schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This protects great crested newts from trade, transport, possession, capture, injury, killing or disturbance. Their habitat also receives legal protection from disturbance.
If you are 14-18 years old and love exploring the countryside of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, then the Wye Valley AONB Youth Ranger programme is looking for you! Come along to our Taster Day on September 30th.
The provisional programme for the mindSCAPE conference is here. Book now to save your place