A HARD-WORKING springer spaniel, called Freya, has been sniffing out newts to enable the construction of a new sewer pipeline just north of Chippenham.

Wessex Water is the first utility company in the UK to have an in-house great crested newt detection dog, owned and trained by ecologist Nikki Glover.

Freya has been trained to spot the nocturnal amphibians, with UK and European legislation making it an offence to damage or destroy their environment without a licence from Natural England.

Part of the new pipeline will be located within 250m of a great crested newt pond, so Freya has been helping the water company spot the protected species in Sutton Benger before the construction phase of work.

Nikki said: “At this time of year, great crested newts emerge from the ponds and go underground or seek refuge in the grassland. Freya’s job is to help us locate them so they can be moved out of harm’s way.

"When Freya detects a great crested newt, she lies down displaying a non-invasive indication to show me where to find it. I can then uncover the newts and move them into a receptor site, away from the construction area.

“Freya loves her job and it’s really important for environmental checks like this to be carried out to ensure no harm comes to protected species and habitats.” The 3.5km sewer will run from Sutton Benger Water Recycling Centre to new commercial developments near junction 17 of the M4.

With most of the pipeline running through fields, other ecological and archaeological surveys have also been carried out to ensure the environment is protected during the £2.8 million scheme.