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  • Julie Muller

LYPPARD GRANGE - Newts at home

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

(Nearest post code - WR4 0ND)

Explored by Zak and Shep

Our walk today was quite different to our normal walks because today we ventured into the middle of suburbia. It seemed strange for Julie to park the car in the middle of a superstore car park and we started our walk dodging cars, supermarket trollies and lots and lots of people all intent on getting their weekly shop. Where on earth was Julie taking us?

Two sheep dogs stand by the green vegetated banks of Lyppard Grange ponds in Worcester , Worcestershire
Zak and Shep survey Lyppard Grange ponds

Having crossed the car park, we headed up a ramp that zig zagged up a path and led us up to Lyppard Grange Local Nature Reserve. Close to the entrance of the reserve there was a pond. Three young men sat on the wooden staging in front of it and Julie ushered us past so that we didn’t disturb them. Once in the reserve we were aware of another pond on our left. The edges of the pond were vegetated with reeds and rush. An island in the middle acted as a safe refuge for 5 sleeping ducks, their heads tucked under their wings. They were so still and quiet that Shep didn’t even notice them.

The other pond was bigger. As we looked into the clear water, a dragon fly whizzed past my nose and a flurry of autumn leaves fluttered into the pond. A supermarket basket peeked out of the pond weed and a coca cola bottle was lodged in the reeds whilst a corps of insects danced across the water - a reminder of how close we are to human habitation here. All of a sudden Shep leapt into the air, charged forward, stopped and frantically bit his right hind leg. Julie rushed to help him, and a sleepy wasp dropped out of his coat and lazily buzzed away. It looked as if Shep had been ‘nipped’ by it although Julie could see no signs of a sting.

Watchful of Shep, we carried on looking around the nature reserve. It seemed to be surrounded by hard paths which served as cycle tracks and footpaths and these connected the housing estates with the local amenities. Shep and I had to be very careful. There were quite a few cyclists, shoppers, and dog walkers about this morning.

The Nature Reserve is not very big. We headed back into it. The ground was soft and muddy to our paws. Poor Shep didn’t seem very happy. He hobbled along on three paws. Julie spoke to our vet who suggested that she give him antihistamines when we get home. Rather him than me. I hate taking tablets at the best of times!

We trotted across the rough ground. The trees were laden with berries and seeds. The hedgerows were heavy with rose hips and a huge wellingtonia tree dominated the skyline along with other pine trees. There was a bench conveniently close by.

I was bemused as to why we can come to a nature reserve on the outskirts of Worcester. The riddle was solved when Julie looked at the interpretation boards at the entrance to the reserve.

Although we did not see them today, the ponds are populated with a large number of great crested newts. These amphibians spend most of their time on land hiding in piles of logs and scrubby vegetation and feeding on worms, spiders, slugs and snails. Lyppard Grange Nature Reserve is the perfect place for them. During the winter months the newts hibernate re- emerging when the temperature is consistently above 5oC at which time they all make their way to the ponds to breed.

An elaborate courtship ensues in the clear shallow water at the edges of the pond. The female painstakingly wraps groups of two or three of the resultant eggs in leaves at the edge of the pond. These develop into tadpoles and then into young newts. Both adults and juvenile newts will have left the pond by the end of the summer. So, today on a grey October morning, the pond will be empty of all newts.

These two small ponds in the middle of a little nature reserve flanked on all sides by houses and within spitting distance of a huge superstore are home to one of the largest known breeding population of great crested newts in the whole of the UK.

And so, the riddle of Lyppard Grange SSSI is explained. Lyppard Grange ponds is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and A Special Area of Conservation because of their amphibian dependents.

Of course, being so close to human habitation presents many challenges. This place is a wonderful place for us to run free and enjoy the wide-open spaces, but we dogs are a bit of a problem if our humans don’t pick up our poo after us. Lyppards Grange is only a tiny nature reserve and home to many animals and plants and we could easily disturb them if we are not careful. A big ‘no-no’ is jumping in the ponds ,especially during the newts’ breeding season, for obvious reasons.

But our humans need to be respectful too. Sometimes they are tempted to dump their rubbish here where no one can see them and that is not good news for wildlife or for us canines. It was sad to see the shopping basket and the plastic bottle in one of the ponds today. Most of our humans are really caring and some of them bring their children to feed the ducks. It is a lovely thing to do. Like the ducks, I, myself am particularly fond of bread!!

The ducks love it because it makes life so easy for them. However, too much bread will make the birds fat and lazy and the resulting duck poo is not always very good for all of the animals that live in the pond.

By the time we had reached the end of our walk, Shep seemed to be feeling better. Julie re- examined his leg . She found no sign of a sting or a bite, but she decided to give him an antihistamine tablet anyway – just to be on the safe side. Shep wasn’t impressed.

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