At one time, ponds were very important for owners of livestock as sources of drinking water and ponds were maintained on the Green for this purpose. Today, they are valued for their aesthetic and conservation value. Flaxton residents need to maintain this conservation value by their own actions and passing the message to others who may not realise that they are endangering the ecology of ponds in the village.
Why are the ponds on the Green so valuable?
As a refuge for uncommon native species
Amphibians, such as frogs, toads and newts, are becoming increasingly rare in this country. They are great allies of gardeners by eating a range of garden pests, including slugs.
Two of the three native species of newt, the smooth and great-crested, breed in the village ponds. There is a ‘Newt Stone’ next to the first pond on the left as you enter Flaxton from the A64, dedicated to them. The declining great-crested species is closely associated with old field ponds, especially in small fields with hedgerows, rough vegetation or scrub nearby. Areas where clusters of such ponds survive, such as in the vicinity of Flaxton village, are particularly important.
Great-crested newts are recognised as an endangered species by designations under the European Habitats Directive, as a Biodiversity Action Plan species and special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. You need a licence to handle them and it is illegal to disturb their habitat if you know that they are present. They are frequently found away from the ponds in damp places, such as in rubble walls, under stones or even in water stopcock chambers. Any building development may disturb their habitat and may need a survey and a statement of measures to be taken to avoid their damage during construction in order to gain planning permission.
A number of rare beetles were identified in the pond on the Keld, so the pond was carefully dredged to keep the marshy habitat they need. Part of the grant for Environmental Stewardship awarded to the Green Gait owners relates to the ponds.
As a teaching resource
Geoff Oxford of York University and his wife collect biological samples from ponds on the Green to use as teaching aids in primary schools and at the University, and also for research projects. They are also used as examples of nature conservation for visiting school parties.
What is their natural ecology and how can you help maintain it?
The ponds in Flaxton are mostly shallow excavations, with extensive marginal areas. Since they have little open water and are not open to the road, they have few waterfowl and little to pollute them. In dry summers, some may dry out, but this is part of their natural ecology and helps to maintain populations of animals and plants that can survive in such conditions and do not like competition from open water species, such as fish and some pond weeds.
You can help maintain their valuable ecology by not introducing plants and animals. Non-native species are a particular threat and can easily be introduced accidentally along with others. If you are clearing out your garden pond, please do not transfer plants and animals into our ponds on the Green. Rare native pond plants in our ponds are already threatened by the presence of New Zealand swamp stonecrop and newts are threatened by the presence of carp and goldfish. It is illegal to introduce fish into open waters without permission. Signal crayfish in a pond on adjoining land could threaten local populations of native white-clawed crayfish by acting as carriers of crayfish plague.