Saturday, 5 May 2012


This is a great moment for me, albeit not a mothy one. Ever since we came here in 1987, I have longed to share our home with a newt. We have a pond and many, many frogs; and I know that newts exist nearby. We used to catch them when I was a boy at Tile Lane ponds in Adel, where Prince Kropotkin taught Arthur Ransome to skate.

Great anarchist, great children's writer (and Guardian journalist); I'm sure they probably went newt-hunting too. Kropotkin used to stay with the very advanced socialists, the Miss Fords of Adel Grange, and Ransome's father was a prof at the fledgling Leeds university.

Anyway, I was altering the foundations of our done-in-a-day, Challenge Anneka, duck house (not claimed on expenses), when I saw what looked like a very small dragon. Strictly speaking, I think it's an eft, a very good Scrabble word which means young newt. It's my newt. Get it? I think it may be a Great Crested, judging by the leopardskin patterning on its belly and along its flanks.

My younger sister Tessa, very eagle-eyed, spotted this worm - right, detail from the second picture above - in the same chunk of soil which I carefully lifted on a trowel to ferry to my camera. Do newts eat worms? I will Google. I put it back carefully under a pile of stones by the pond, and the worm too. When I went and had a peep an hour so so later, both had gone. To a new sanctuary of their own choice, I hope.

I'm always forgetful about providing something for scale to help you to see how big or small the moths are - or the efts. This one is about two inches from head to the curl in its tail. Maybe the trowel, one of the narrow ones, gives the idea.


Jane said...

congratulations on your eft!

MartinWainwright said...

Thank you!

I only came across the word 'eft' at the end of last year when I was reading a Victorian natural history book for children.

It's got a very interesting derivayion: from the Old English ewt or evt, maning what we now call a newt. we call it that because 'an ewt' gradually changed to the easier 'a newt'.

So my dictionary says, anyway.

All warm wishes