THE British Army has made a splash with the discovery of a rare and endangered snail.

Omphiscola glabra, a scarce and endangered burrowing mud snail, has been discovered at Catterick Garrison, near Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Both the snail and the internationally threatened tiny bog-loving fern, Pillwort, are on Natural England’s Priority List – and both are thriving metres from a busy Army training area. Population numbers of the snail across Europe crashed 50 years ago.

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Garrison commander Colonel Stephen Padgett could not be happier with the double discovery, which follows the clearing away of a forest of coarse rushes on the camp’s Foxglove Covert nature reserve, by a dedicated ‘army’ of civilian volunteers, first begun in the winter of 2008.

Foxglove has now been officially placed in the UK’s top 100 pond systems for biodiversity, largely as a result of the discovery of the snail and Pillwort.

Col Padgett said Foxglove had long been an outstanding centre of excellence as a local nature reserve and provided an oasis of rare wildlife and birdlife.

He added: “The announcement that the ponds have been recognised as one of the top 100 pond systems throughout the country is tremendous news.

"This results from the many hours of dedicated service the staff and volunteers put in.

“It is even more remarkable when one realises that the redevelopment programme at the pond only began six years ago. This recognition will add further inspiration to continuing efforts to sustain and enhance this wonderful feature on part of the Ministry of Defence’s estate.”

An equally delighted Lord Zetland, the reserve’s patron, said: “This is a wonderful achievement and further proof - if one was needed - of the special place Foxglove Covert represents for both wildlife and nature lovers alike.

"I am delighted, as reserve patron, that this is now recognised at national level with Foxglove judged to have some of the best diverse pond systems in the British Isles.”

Reserve chairwoman Sophie Rainer said: “This project highlights the high value of Foxglove's ponds for wildlife and will enable us to better protect and monitor this vital habitat. Our involvement will also raise awareness of the reserve’s importance at both local and regional level.”

Foxglove is already the UK’s premier site for providing scientists with vital data on fluctuating bird populations and numbers.