Building a Hibernaculum
What you will need – spades and forks for digging and lots of material to put in the hibernaculum such as logs, bricks, bits of builders rubble, branches and lots of leaf litter.
A hibernaculum is a place of refuge for all manner of different creatures but more importantly it is intended to be a safe place for reptiles and amphibians to take shelter and hibernate during the cold winter months. It might be surprising to many people, but amphibians actually spend most of their lives not in water, but on land and use ponds and watercourses mainly to breed and as a place for their young to grow and mature.
During the onset of cold weather and freezing temperatures in autumn and winter, amphibians and reptiles seek a safe place to hide away, choosing to go under rocks, boulders, logs and cracks and crevices in the ground. By constructing a hibernaculum, we are recreating these favoured conditions. A hibernaculum is essentially a large, deep hole dug into the ground. It is recommended that the area of the hole be at least 2m2 and 60cm deep.
Once you have excavated the soil, put it to one side, ready to be put back in mixed with all the extra material you have brought along. Start placing your logs, rocks and bricks in the hole and lay on some earth on top. Have logs and branches laid at a variety of different angles i.e. not all neatly arranged. Keep building up layers of soil on wood, rock and rubble until you have used up all the material and capped off your structure. As you are building these layers up, you might also give some thought to how the animals may use and move around the shelter and create entry points into the structure which, once you are finished, will probably be starting to develop a domed top.
Over time, conditions in the hibernaculum will only improve for wildlife as the woody content starts to rot and degrade, leaving spaces and voids for animals to crawl into.
If you have the chance, why not go and see our hibernaculum at Fishers Field? It’s very near to the pond, but you’ll have to look carefully as it blends in well with the land around it and most of the material is buried underground. You will notice that we left some of the pieces of wood and branches partially breaking the surface and these will help to guide the animals in.
You should be quiet too, as there may be some creatures sleeping in their right now………………