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Orchids discovered at unlikely wildlife haven

An electricity substation in Suffolk has become an unlikely wildlife haven for orchids and protected newts.

From Press releases - 3 April 2014 12:00 AM

UKPN Heather Patrick-27 (2).jpg

An electricity substation in Suffolk has become an unlikely wildlife haven for orchids and protected newts.

UK Power Networks is working with wildlife experts to survey key sites in the county for conservation through its partnership with Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

The energy firm delivers electricity to eight million customers across East Anglia, London and the South East through its vast infrastructure of overhead power lines, underground cables and substations.

During a survey at a substation in Halesworth, the ancient orchid twayblade was spotted along with the bee and southern marsh orchid species, which are in decline in Britain, and great crested newts.

Heather Patrick, environment advisor at UK Power Networks, said: “UK Power Networks has been a corporate member of Suffolk Wildlife Trust - and the other eight wildlife trusts in its patch – since 2011 but the partnership goes well beyond simple membership.

“We have called on their expertise to ensure that wherever possible, the maintenance of our sites enhances the local environment, not destroys it.

“As the public are strictly prohibited from entering our substations on safety grounds, this allows wildlife habitats to thrive relatively untouched by modern-day life.”

Once the sites have been surveyed, habitat management plans are drawn up to protect any rare plant or animal life found there.

The information and expertise provided by the Trusts supports UK Power Networks’ Work Green programme, which is an environmental training course that has been rolled out to all field staff, designers and engineers.

Dr Simone Bullion, senior conservation adviser who directed the survey for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “There is a hectare of very nice habitat at the electricity substation in Halesworth.

“As there is another grassland County Wildlife Site close by, the substation contributes to the habitat in the area, making it valuable on a landscape scale.

“We look forward to helping advise on further management to ensure wildlife continues to thrive on this site.”

The habitat management plans for UK Power Network’ substations include:

• mowing timed to allow wildflowers to seed
• vegetation diversity encouraged to provide nectar for bees and other vital pollinators
• hedges cut in rotation to provide shelter, food and nesting opportunities for birds
• log piles and compost heaps created to provide shelter and food for invertebrates and reptiles
• ponds managed to maintain favourable conditions for Great Crested Newts to breed.