Thursday, April 18, 2024

Toad in the hole has a whole new meaning during underground water mains renewal work

CONSTRUCTION workers getting ready to do water mains renewal work were surprised by a toad found hibernating during a hand search by conservationists.

The work by Essex & Suffolk Water was taking place at Middlemead, which is near the fishing car park at Hanningfield Reservoir in Essex. During the environmental screening process for the project the possible presence of protected species was identified, including great crested newts, dormice and reptiles.

There was a 200m stretch of land which had to be cleared of dense grass before work could begin to replace the existing water mains pipework, as part of Essex & Suffolk Water’s ongoing investment into making sure their customers have a reliable water supply.  

The hand search was carried out by the conservation team on 31 January,

Ashley Pinnock, Conservation Specialist for Essex & Suffolk Water, said: “Nine times out of ten we don’t find anything, but this was a perfect example of why we do these searches.

“Yes, they take a little bit of extra time, but it’s worth it for the ongoing protection of our local nature and wildlife. And while toads do not have the same level of protection, its welfare is still important so we want to do what we can to prevent any harm to wildlife species due to our work.

“During the initial hand search, I didn’t find anything but I could see there were cracks in the mud underneath, but I couldn’t see well enough to be sure there wasn’t anything hidden inside. So, we carried out a destructive hand search, where the digger carefully removed the top layer of grass and soil. And that’s where I found the toad, in the hole.”

The little toad, which had been hibernating in the crack in the mud, was particularly vulnerable as during hibernation animals don’t have the energy or the level of alertness to react as they would normally to danger or threats.

Ashley moved the toad to an alternative place nearby but out of the way of the work taking place, where he would be safe and warm, and be able to continue to safely hibernate.

You can read more about the work Essex & Suffolk Water are doing with environments and habitats in their Environmental Strategy for Northumbrian Water Group, here: www.nwg.co.uk/responsibility/environment

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