Great Crested Newts, otherwise known as Northern Crested Newts, are a type of aquatic amphibian found across Europe and parts of Asia. In England, Wales and Scotland they are a protected species.
Above: A male Great Crested Newt (source)
Although primarily land dwellers, these newts breed in water (mainly ponds and pools), where the female lays her eggs on sub-aquatic plants. Due to their vulnerability to fish predation, great crested newts tend to steer clear of areas of water in which fishes dwell, hence there preference for smaller inland pools and ponds.
Above: A great crested newt egg on the leaf of a sub-aquatic plant (source)
In this respect, the boating lake in Northstead Manor Gardens, Scarborough, has traditionally provided an ideal breeding ground for the great crested newts, in spite of the fact that it is man-made. The frequent draining of the lake – an important part of its upkeep over the years – has maintained a safe and relatively fish free environment for newt reproduction.
Above: Northstead Manor Gardens Boating Lake – in the background (source)
The boating lake has long been a fixture in Northstead Manor Gardens, formerly known as the Pleasure Park, and is an artificial feature created specially for the area in the 1930s, along with a miniature railway, water chute and open air theatre. The park was completed in 1935.
Above: Old postcard showing the boating lake (source)
Going back to the great crested newts…
From the 1940s onwards, loss of natural habitat (along with other factors) severely curtailed numbers of this amphibian species, and the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act pledged to protect them; requiring their preservation by law.
Above: A page from the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 (source)
Due to this obligation to protect the newts, they were moved to specially prepared locations for safety. One of these was the popular children’s adventure playground – Kinderland, a company that took over the operation of the nearby boating lake and water chute in 1984.
Above: Reproduction of the sign from the newts’ area at Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)
Some of the newts travelled to Marvel’s instead – the amusement park on the other side of the boating lake, formerly known as Scarborough Zoo. It has been difficult to establish whether this occurred before or after the site closed to the public in 2002.
According to the Yorkshire Post, the newts at Marvel’s occupied an area close to the former chairlift route, their presence leaving developers unable to fully dismantle cabling after the theme park’s closure in 2002. When Kinderland closed several years later in 2007, similar problems emerged. Obliged by law to ensure the continued survival of the newts, both developers and Scarborough Council (owners of the lease for both sites) were faced with finding and preparing new habitats.
This challenge was further complicated by the hibernation cycle of the newts – all had to be captured prior to their winter retreat.
Above: The former Marvel’s site – now derelict (source)
According to the Scarborough News, the remaining newts were rehoused in specially designed habitats – including one located in the Northstead Manor Gardens, and another at the North Cliff Golf Club.
Above: North Cliff Golf Course – a picturesque setting for a new habitat? (source)
As for the boating lake – where the story began – this is now owned by North Bay Railway, and is due to re-open in May 2014. Like the water chute, it has survived long before and after its affiliation with Kinderland. Hopefully the great crested newts also will remain an enduring part of the natural landscape.
Any nature experts out there? Are there any mistakes in this post – if so please leave a comment. The same applies if you know anything about the newts and their Scarborough story – information seems to be rather sporadic and difficult to verify. Alternatively you can also comment via the Facebook Page.