A public meeting in December 2008 at the White Horse PH. Ashwellthorpe, changed all that, with John Heaser of https://www.toadwatch.org/ talking about the successful toad rescue patrols he had been organising in Great and Little Melton for several years. The idea is to take toads across the road and place them as close to the pond as was possible. The pond, until recently, has been on private land so the toad patrollers could not go very close to it. Enough volunteers came forward to undertake Ashwellthorpe's renewed toad patrols from February/March 2009. The volunteers patrol an area from the Lower Wood car park entrance (near Greenwood Close) to the field gate into Street Meadow, along The Street and also rescue Common Frogs, Smooth Newts and Great Crested Newts which also make their way to the pond.
A rota is organised each year for two-person patrols to spot and carry toads (and frogs or newts) across the road, from dusk until about 8.45 p.m. every day once the migration begins, when the weather is right - mild, at least 5o C, and damp. This period of about 2 - 3 hours covers the main traffic movements along The Street of the homeward commute and the evening outings. Sometimes we have been alerted by https://www.toadwatch.org that toads are on the move as early as late-February but, more often than not, it is the middle of March before much action is seen. The road signs are opened, the toad patrol warning boards are set out, the neighbours are alerted and the volunteers start their patrols. Numbers and species of the toads, frogs and newts are recorded and sent to https://www.froglife.org for analysis.
The past few years' weather has not been perfect for toad migration, either being too dry or too cold day after day, and it is not practical for the present volunteers to patrol along The Street all night as Mrs. Tilbrook did from her home, to save so many toads.. The numbers carried to safety here since 2009 are low compared with our numbers back in the 1990s, and compared with other places in Norfolk, e.g. Cockley Cley and Selbrigg as can be seen from the "previous years" numbers on https://toadwatch.org/records.But in the migration of 2018, 119 rescued toads made it the highest number saved since the 1990s.
The toad pond itself had a transformation during 2019/20 when it was dug out to make a deeper and larger pond to become part of the new sustainable urban drainage system for a new housing estate. This created a couple of years' disruption for the toads and then the COVID pandemic affected the volunteers' ability to patrol in Spring 2020 and Spring 2021.
But the Ashwellthorpe Toad rescuers have been and are doing their best to help the toads recover their numbers and hope to continue. The pond is deeper, bigger and has much more plantlife in and on the surface than before. It should be ideal for toads to return to their spawning pond.
2022 migration saw twenty-four volunteers rescuing very few toads, rather more frogs and a large amount of newts and great crested newts. If you live locally and would like to join the Toad Patrols of Ashwellthorpe, please make CONTACT