Conservationists transform rubbish heap in West Hampstead into a pond with newts and frogs

Toads, frogs and newts being released into the new wildlife pond at Mill Lane Open Space by Noel Bro

Toads, frogs and newts being released into the new wildlife pond at Mill Lane Open Space by Noel Brock. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A rubbish heap in a public park has been transformed into a pond with newts and frogs and a dipping platform for children.

On Thursday, Noel Brock, 58, and friends released amphibians into the remodelled pond in Mill Lane Open Space in West Hampstead, which was once part of a farm hundreds of years ago.

Mr Brock, who owns a landscaping company in Hampstead, designed the pond five years ago and recently secured the contract to build it from charity Froglife.

“Historically there was a pond there many years ago,” explained Mr Brock, who owns Frognal Gardens landscapers.

“In the past it had lots of wildlife but it had become depleted over the years because of rubbish dumping and mistreatment.

“For a long time it has just been an abandoned wet patch. So we thought ‘why don’t we get funding to restore it and return it to how it was?’”

Froglife is running a London-wide project called Dragon Finder to help young people spot amphibians in City spaces and improve ponds, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Biffa Award and Cory Environmental Trust.

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The finished pond in West Hampstead is now in its own fenced-off enclosure and is home to four toads, half a dozen newts and more than 13 frogs.

It includes a dipping platform with full disabled access that allows children to cast their nets through the water.

Students at neighbouring Emmanuel School will have access to the pond and Froglife has organised sessions for children to look at the wildlife and hear a short talk about amphibians.

“The park is very small and it wasn’t very well known for years,” explained Mr Brock. “But then they built a kids’ playground and our pond is part of that.

“I’m a landscaper and I’ve always liked wildlife and been interested in conservation and the idea of this is to educate children.”

Vanessa Barber, who will be running activities at the pond for the Froglife Dragon Finder project, said: “Dragon Finder will help people to develop knowledge and appreciation of the amphibian and reptile species that they share their capital with.

“One great way to do that is by providing really fun and memorable events.”