Toadally Amazing Toad Party

Smallbrook Toad Patrol, which is part of Sustainable Warminster, threw a Toad Party on 17th February 2024 at the Civic Centre.  “This was held to raise awareness of toads, newts and frogs, especially their plight around Smallbrook Road” said Clare, a toad patrol member.

The patrollers go out around the Smallbrook area from dusk on damp mild nights in February and March, collecting vulnerable amphibians from the road, and putting them to safety so they reach the breeding ponds in Smallbrook Nature Reserve.  Sadly hundreds are squashed by vehicles when the toads are making their way to mate.

“It is absolutely devastating to see so many of these precious creatures being mown down.” said Clare   “By daylight, the crows have removed all the carcases off Smallbrook Road so people tend not to see this carnage.  It is shocking at times and deeply upsetting.  Toads are now declining nationally”.

The group were completely amazed that 465 people attended the two-hour party.  Visitors were queuing out of the door, some waiting patiently for half an hour to enter!   Next time, the group will hire a much bigger space.  They apologised to people who had to wait to get in.

Whole families arrived and delighted in seeing some live toads, frogs, newts, plus toad and frog spawn.  Ecologist Iain Perkins kept people fascinated with his knowledge and enthusiasm.  All the specimens were unharmed and returned safely to their homes after the event.  People of all ages came and were hugely supportive and appreciative of what the patrollers do, and they left having been given a lot of information.

There was a cake stall laden with home made cakes for sale made by members, plus a very generous donation of cakes from Warminster’s Co-Op.   Toad and frog fairy cakes and biscuits were for sale too, and all the goodies had nearly sold out by the end.

James from Wiltshire Wildlife Trust had a stall and he was kept busy promoting the great work they do for nature conservation.

Children’s tables with little green chairs kindly lent by Warminster School, were very quickly filled with enthusiastic children drawing and colouring in amphibian pictures.  Many happy little ones left proudly wearing the frog mask they had coloured in.  The children’s activities tables were filled all afternoon.  Many enjoyed hop scotch and a ‘feed the frog’ game. Member Jennie entertained with a mystic toad game she had made.

Austin and William, best friends aged 10, are young toad enthusiasts and toad patrollers who are passionate about toads.  They gave two brilliant power point presentations which were very warmly received.  They implored drivers that during the breeding season in Spring, they please avoid driving along Smallbrook Road after dusk and overnight.  They said toads play an important part in our environment. Adult toads eat unwanted guests in our gardens and tadpoles are a great source of food for the fish.  Showing a graph, they explained how the toad migration numbers have decreased significantly here over the last four years, the decline on the graph was shocking to see.  Meanwhile the graph decline gets steeper.  These stats indicate that our children, already born, will be the last generation to see toads in the UK– how heartbreaking!!  The lads also proved to be great experts on the live amphibian table – top marks chaps! The boys encouraged the audience to join the toad patrol.  Quite a few took forms to join.  We’ve had 16 new toad patrol members this year, totalling 78 patrollers including 13 children.

The toad party was very busy and a huge success.  The patrollers would like to thank the 14 volunteers, dressed in high viz jackets (as worn on patrols), and all the supporters and visitors who came. 

“Next time we will make it an even bigger and better event.” said Clare “We all need to look after our precious wildlife.”

At their meeting on 25th March 2024 the Town Council will decide whether to support the toad patrol’s request to close Smallbrook Road for a month every Spring starting in 2025 to help save the toads.

Councils all over the UK are closing roads for toad migrations, so why can’t we for just a month?  Two barriers – at the Thatched Cottage at Henford Marsh and by Smallbrook Reserve car park would be the simplest and most efficient way to temporarily close the road.