Toads leap forth at St Crispin’s once more

Fire, droughts, groundworks, new builds, being flattened – one of the largest communities of Toads in
Northamptonshire have been facing a real threat of extinction, until now!
For over 120 years an important population of toads have been migrating back to breed at a large
reservoir on the former site of an old pioneering psychiatric hospital at St Crispins (formerly known as
Berrywood) in Northamptonshire – with a nearby wood which provided the perfect habitat for
hibernation and foraging. But soon after it was closed in 1995 its extensive grounds, were sold for
housing and their pond/reservoir was filled in. A fire in the main house followed and despite the toads
finding an area of nearby water elsewhere on the site, the toads have still been having to navigate a
busy road with kerbs and drains to get there with many not surviving the journey. Now however, after
the intervention of local residents including Anissa Beale and David Baker (one spring rescuing 640
toads) together with the UK amphibian charity Froglife, the toads have been reprieved and now have
a new home!
Anissa Beale, a frog and toad lover from an early age and already a volunteer Froglife Toad Patroller
at St Crispin was responsible for introducing David Baker to the charity, and he, in turn approached
the Parish Council, discovering, that developers had given them money to build a new pond when
they filled in their old one in 1995 but nothing had happened. Working closely with both the local
community and the council, Froglife proposed the creation of a new breeding site within their existing
hibernation area. A suitable site was found and a 15m x10m pond dug – of sufficient size to support
this Toad population – and it was finally completed in January/February 2020 just before lockdown
and the traditional toad migration/ breeding season. However, not quite ‘out of the woods’ yet, with
water levels needing to rise naturally to suitable levels, some toads, already finding the new pond to
their liking, had already laid spawn in these dangerously low levels. Once again David some of the
other patrollers stepped in to rescue the new toadspawn from drying out and have been hand rearing
the toadlets ever since before releasing them back near the site in batches over the past few weeks.

David and his partner Karen, have already successfully released 160 toadlets from the containers
they’ve been keeping in their bath and have just 10 now to go! David admits it’s been quite stressful
being responsible for their welfare and upkeep, but really worthwhile and expects when the bath is
empty it will leave a gaping hole in the families lives….
“It’s been a big effort over the last 18-20 months to get the new pond built, and then to
hand raise so many toadlets at home when the water levels had dropped perilously
low – but soon we can use our bath again!

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Hopefully this project has generated interest in the importance of the wildlife that is
right on our doorstep and it will encourage people – young and old – to get involved
in wildlife conservation.”

Froglife have put in stock fencing to ensure amphibians access but keep out animals which can
stir up the water and stop aquatic plant development and have put in a hedgerow to act as a
buffer but will begin a native mix of planting around the pond perimeter, attracting invertebrates
once there’s more water in the pond. An interpretation panel is also due to be installed and whilst
Froglife staff will revisit the site regularly over the next 10 years to carry out monitoring surveys,
the local residents and volunteers will be provided with training on amphibian survey techniques
and managing the habitat to enable them to manage and monitor the site in the future.

“As you can see, its taken over 7 years to finally get the toads their pond, which should have
been provided back in 1995 when their original breeding site was filled in to make way for
housing,“ said Anissa Beale. “The number of toads have dropped significantly over the years but
we’re hopeful that now, with this new pond, they should start to recover.”

James McAdie, Froglife Operations manager said “This has been a fantastic collaborative project
that has succeeded in its aim to save the Toads of St Crispin with the creation of a new breeding
pond and enhanced terrestrial habitat.  Thanks to the perseverance of Anissa, David and other
members of the local community and our partnership with Northampton council, Froglife have
created a pond that has seen Toads successfully breeding in its first year!  We look forward to
seeing this vital wildlife pond develop over future years and maintaining our relationship with all
who have taken part.”