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The Bard of Ely's Nature Conservation Site Part 2: How to Catch a Great Crested Newt

Updated on May 4, 2013

This being the second part of the story, The Bard of Ely's Nature Conservation Site.

Read the first part here:

To recap:

The Bard of Ely and I are in Tenerife , where he is showing me his prospective Nature Conservation Site.

Now read on.......

A Ringed Plover

Books by the Bard of Ely

I have nothing against Ringed Plovers. I'm sure the Ringer Plover is a very nice bird. The one I saw seemed perfectly decent to me, hopping along by the stagnant pool, pecking amongst the pebbles, looking for grubs. And I'm glad for all the Ringed Plover in the world that there ARE still places where they can grub about in, as it were, grubbing up the grubs to get their daily grub.

The problem I had was in trying to imagine this as a Nature Conservation Site.

It was far too grubby for that, by which I don't mean there were grubs to be found.

Steve - also known as the Bard of Ely - and I are standing by a stagnant pool in Tenerife, which Steve reckons should be a Nature Conservation site.

Steve said, "See? You can put benches there," waving his arm in the direction of a pile of pebbles, "and then a little wall around it," he said, indicating with a broad sweep the extent of his vision. "You need to put a little wall around it so that people think that's it's somewhere special."

I was just looking at that filthy plastic mattress and the buggy wheels sticking out of the mud, the broken bottles and the rich and varied concentration of cigarette butts strewn all over the place.

Maybe it could be a cigarette butt conservation site too, at the same time, I thought, a place where broken bottles are a protected species.

"You'd need to clean it up first, Steve," I said.

"I don't believe in cleaning things up," said Steve.

And he told me this story.

He said when he was young he was always rooting around in ponds looking for pond life of various sorts. Indeed he still is rooting around in ponds looking for pond life. But this was back in his teenage years. There was one pond in a park in Cardiff (where he was born) known as the Dell which had Great Crested Newt in it.

The Great Crested Newt is a rare and protected species.

So Steve wrote to the Cardiff Naturalists Society to tell them about the Great Crested Newt in this particular pond.

And the Naturalist people wrote back to say that, no, they had done a provisional survey and there were definitely no Great Crested Newts in this pond.

Steve wrote back to say that, regardless of their provisional survey, there were, in fact Great Crested Newts in this pond, and if they didn't believe him then he could show them.

So the man from the Naturalist Society agreed to meet Steve at his Mum and Dad's house so that he could show him the Great Crested Newts he claimed were resident in this obscure and neglected pond hidden in a park in the great industrial City of Cardiff.

They turned up at his door, the so-called expert and his wife, replete with nets and containers and various fiendishly contrived implements for catching rare species like the Great Crested Newt, and they all traipsed off to the pond together.

The pond was in a proper park, but whereas the grass in the park was mown, the pond itself was full of tall reeds and clumps of grass and willow bushes and had more weeds and nettles and suchlike around the edges.

Cardiff is damp and overcast most of the time, by the way, being in Wales, on the Western coast of the British Isles, a generally sodden and dismal region. I only add this detail so you can picture the contrasts in the story, between what we were talking about, and the place we were talking about it in.

Las Galletas, on the other hand, where we were now standing, is on the south coast of Tenerife just a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa and the Sahara desert and is in a hot, dry region, even now, in this early part of the year, transcendentally hot.

So you can try to imagine it if you like, in our heads we are in the middle of a damp, cool Cardiff morning, by a pond, while in our bodies we are being transmogrified in the heat beneath the raging furnace of the Tenerife Sky. I was being mummified in that heat, my precious vital fluids boiling up on my insides and coming out of my ears in plumes of steam.

The Dell, Cardiff

But back to the story.

So there they were by the pond, the Naturalist with all his gizmos, his scientific equipment, special gloves and his notebooks and pens; and Steve with no more than a bucket and a pair of wellies.

"There are no Great Crested Newts in this pond," said the expert.

"Yes there are," said Steve, who was already becoming sceptical of other people's supposed expertise.

And he waded into the water in his wellies, lifted up a frond of weeds, saw a Great Crested Newt, and with a sudden dart of his hand and a flick of his wrist had caught the newt and with a flop - slip, slop, plop - dropped it into the bucket of water.

"Oh my," said the expert, nonplussed. "My, my. Yes. Hmm. Yes. That um, er, yes, that does certainly appear to be a Great Crested Newt all right. Yes."

But Steve wasn't listening. He was catching Great Crested Newts in the place where Great Crested Newts weren't supposed to be. Head down, alert, peering over his glasses. Lift, dart, flick, flop, slip, slop, plop: one newt in the bucket. Wading in the water, oblivious to anything else. Lift, dart, flick, flop, slip, slop, plop: two newts in the bucket. Completely emersed in his watery, weedy, green world of wonder. Lift, dart, flick, flop, slip, slop, plop: three newts in the bucket. And on. Four newts and then five newts in the bucket. Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop.

"Um, ok Steve, thank you for that, I think we have enough newts now," said the man from the Cardiff Naturalists Society.

So after this the little pond in the Dell became listed as a place where you could find Great Crested Newts and consequently protected, and afterwards cleaned up. They pulled out all the grass and a lot of the reeds and weeds and they tidied up all the growth on the edges, and they made expanses of clear water by pulling out weeds and eventually they built a landing stage of wooden planks so you could stand on it and look at the Great Crested Newts. They planted water lilies in the centre in the cleared part, and the whole thing looked as pretty as a picture.

The trouble is all of this was done with human beings in mind and had nothing to do with Great Crested Newts, who happen to like weeds and reeds and clogged up places. The Great Crested Newts subsequently upped and left, and were never seen in that park again.

"That's why I don't believe in cleaning things up," said Steve. "You see, it was my fault that the Great Crested Newt disappeared from the Dell, and I vowed that if I ever saw anything like that again I wouldn't tell anyone about it.."


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    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Yes, it's badly titled I know. Maybe I should try to fix that. What would you recommend?

    • profile image

      Dave Armitage 6 years ago

      Wow great story. And I was originally searching for some advice on catching news.

    • profile image

      Tame Lizard 7 years ago

      Great videos--really liked seeing the newts in nature.

    • packerpack profile image

      Om Prakash Singh 8 years ago from India, Calcutta

      Followed the link to this Hub from Facebook. All thanks to Bard of Ely who posted the link there! Good one, I liked reading it!

    • profile image

      Free online newsletters 9 years ago

      sounds like a great place

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Yes, I'm against garbage, both in writing and in real life.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 9 years ago from Northern California

      Wonderful writing. Yay for standing up against garbage in a prospective conservation site :)

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Who is Gussy Finknottle? I think we should be told.

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 9 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Descrendo, there's a pizza restaurant on the front known as the Euro. That was ok. I was too hot to notice. The beer was very nice though, and went down a treat.

    • Hope Alexander profile image

      Hope Alexander 9 years ago

      Gussy Finknottle would approve greatly of this hub.

    • Decrescendo profile image

      Decrescendo 9 years ago

      What are some good places to eat here?

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Hahaha - your writings always make me laugh, Chris, but yes, that's about the sum of it! And I love those photos and the new cleaned up Dell does look like that with clear water and ducks and yellow flag irises that they planted - I forgot those - but nowhere near as many of the warer creatures and newts that used to live there!