We are leading a partnership to protect and expand ancient landscapes in the Brecks to enhance the habitat of the rare northern pool frog.
Thanks to funding from Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme, we will work alongside the Woodland Trust and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) to make more space for wildlife across connected landscapes. Work will focus on the restoration of ice age ponds, known as ghost pingos – which form ideal conditions for pool frogs.
The northern pool frog, England’s rarest amphibian, was successfully reintroduced to Thompson Common in Norfolk in 2021– reversing its disappearance from there in the 1990s.
On newly acquired land surrounding Thompson Common, Pool frogs and Pingos will create a tapestry of wildlife habitats to allow the existing pool frog population to spread out and expand.
Found at a time when woolly mammoths roamed the land, pingos are shallow, fluctuating pools created by small hillocks of ice melting and making depressions in the soil. Pingos harbour a variety of interesting flora and fauna, however as agricultural practices intensified, the ponds were frequently filled in and these vital wildlife-friendly features were lost from the landscape. The layer of black peat which is found when excavating indicates the original base of the pond and contains seeds and organic matter that can be used to regenerate the pingos for wildlife.
We are excavating pingos across arable fields on Mere Farm, a 130-acre site that borders Thompson Common. Just over the fence at Green Farm, the Woodland Trust aims to create semi-natural habitat over 300 acres including a native wood and, with the help of the Species Recovery Programme Capital Grant Scheme, also restore a series of ghost pingos. ARC will lend their expertise to ensure all the pingos are at peak condition for pool frogs, as well as monitoring the ponds for evidence of the species once established.
Jonathan Preston, our Nature Conservation Manager, said: “What’s so brilliant about this partnership is that it enables us to work at a massive landscape scale. Potentially restoring 32 pingos and creating four new ponds across over 700 acres of wildlife- focused habitat allowing the pool frog to move and grow in population – and create even more space for other Brecks wildlife.
“It takes a great deal of detective work to establish the locations of the ghost pingos, so there is a lot of excitement as we dig down into the earth, knowing we’re reaching far back into history to support wildlife into the future. The next excitement will be when the pingos fill with water – and its then a case of waiting and watching for residents to arrive.”
Ian Froggatt, Estate Manager at Woodland Trust, said ‘We’re excited to be part of a partnership that will be working to safeguard the future of the unique pingo habitats and the rare pool frogs that depend on them. Our ghost pingo restoration work will be one of the first major steps we take in establishing our acquisition at Green Farm as a haven for wildlife. As part of our wider work, we’re also planning to create areas of native broadleaf woodland, wood pasture and species-rich grassland – to be able to do this in the context of a wider, landscape scale initiative mean the benefits for nature and people will only be amplified.’
John Baker from ARC, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the recovery of the northern pool frog. Thompson Common is the last site at which the species was found before it disappeared entirely from this country. Working with many partners, including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, we have brought the northern pool back here using stock originating from Sweden. The Pool Frogs and Pingos project will allow the newly reintroduced frogs to spread naturally and develop a resilient network of linked populations.”