This page will include information about wildlife locally as well as what you are likely to see during the year.


See what you should be looking for through the year….in our Parish and around the Country

For information on Toad Patrol click Gen Wildlife Info below and then click Toads

Mid January 2011 and we have already seen Hares acting mad and chasing around on the fields. Snowdrops in our garden are almost out. Blackbirds, skylarks, dunnocks, robins, great tits etc are all singing away.


The Toad watch patrols along The Street in Ashwellthorpe started on 14 February 2017. Each year the toads make their way from Ashwellthorpe Wood to their breeding pond on the west side of The Street and there are now about 27 volunteers who will patrol the toad crossing area and help them to cross the road. This avoids many toad (frog and newt) roadkill casualties. At present the patrols work from 6.00 to 8.15 p.m. whenever the temperature is above 5 C and, preferably for the toads, also damp as well. Up to 25 February 2017, 4 toads, 16 frogs and 6 common newts have been carried to safety with, unfortunately, 5 roadkill frog casualties.


As part of the Toadwatch patrols between 25 January and 7 April 2016, the volunteers also carried frogs to safety across The Street, Ashwellthorpe. An interesting phenomenon this year was the fact that we helped some 489 frogs across the road to and from the pond on Wood Farm land when the numbers between 2010 and last year ranged between 4 and 24 each year. The patrollers had, of course, noticed this abundance of frogs when, on some evenings 71, 66, 34 etc. frogs in some 45-minute sessions had kept them on their toes, but it was also noted by John Heaser, the initiator and co-ordinator of Norfolk Toadwatch. On 28 March, he commented “Has Ashwellthorpe had a plague of frogs? 24 last year and 431 this year! Where have they all come from?”

I replied that we’d all been wondering about this too as, on some evenings, two patrollers had found it almost impossible to gather all the frogs safely. I wondered whether a nearby small pond which was home to resident frogs had become congested and many moved to the next nearest stretch of water to breed. My understanding had been that frogs can live in small, shallower pieces of water, e.g. garden ponds, but toads like the deeper, still,  larger ponds as well as, of course, their native breeding pond. I also wondered whether our mass frog movement to the toads’ breeding pond  would interfere with the toads themselves. John’s understanding was that frogs, too, stay close to their breeding ponds and supposed that in Ashwellthorpe many of them are able to live in the Wood too, and that their numbers have increased. He also added re. the toads’ breeding pond on Wood Farm land that “hopefully the pond there is big enough for them to coexist with the toads”. He referred our e-mail correspondence to Dr Silviu Petrovan, Conservation Co-ordinator of the Froglife charity and Honorary Research Associate in the Faculty of Science at the University of Hull, and to Dr. Anne Edwards, Chair of the Wymondham Branch of Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Scientist of the John Innes Centre. Dr. Petrovan commented:

“Well, this is a really interesting question and one that does not have a simple answer. You’re both correct in your comments. Frogs can breed in very small bodies of water and sometimes stay close to them. Also, they often hibernate in the pond itself in good numbers. That means in general in ToR sites there are only frogs compared to toads. However……this is not always the case and, for instance, in other countries such as Switzerland, volunteers rescue similar toads and frog numbers overall as some sites have huge numbers of frogs (several thousand each) which cross the roads. Also we’ve been monitoring some tunnels in the UK where again, there are very large frog numbers crossing (under) the road. As such, it is basically a site by site situation. If thee are several available ponds, including very small ones, in good terrestrial habitat, frogs will stay close to the ponds, but in other situations (single large pond or lake or separation between aquatic and good terrestrial habitat) they can make substantial migrations towards a water body, just like toads do.

Also, there is no direct evidence of competition between frogs and toads either on land or in the pond. There is however, between common toads and natterjack toads in ponds.

Hope this helps”                                             Dr Silviu Petrovan

So, there we have an expert answer to our puzzle.

Jennifer Robbie                                                                      9 April 2016




The area covered by Ashwellthorpe’s Toadwatch Patrollers covers about 200 metres east/west along The Street, Ashwellthorpe, from approximately the entrance to Rosemary’s Meadow carpark for Lower Wood, down to the field gate on to Street Meadow. This is the area where the toads which live in Lower Wood (about a quarter-mile north of The Street) cross The Street to reach their breeding pond on Wood Farm land on the south side. The toads will move during their breeding migration from dusk onwards, when the climate is damp/wet and the temperature 5 to 7C and higher.

There were THIRTY volunteers from Ashwellthorpe, Fundenhall and Wymondham, including six children to call on this year to patrol in pairs, in forty-five minute sessions, from dusk for a few hours to cover the return commute and evening-out traffic.

The first patrols were on Monday 25 January from 5.15 to 6.30 p.m. and continued intermittently because of the fluctuating temperature, until Saturday 6 February – newts were the only amphibians around at this time. Then the patrols stopped until Friday 19 February and continued until 22nd after which it became too cold again – a few toads, frogs and newts were helped in this period. Again, the weather was too cold between 23 and 29 February but on Tuesday 1 March when it was very wet, the first of the mass frog movements took place – 48 between 6 and 8.15 p.m. With cold weather breaks on 2nd, 4th to 8th, 17th and 19th March, the patrols continued daily from 6.00 to 8.15 p.m. and then, as daylight lengthened, the starting time got later and the patrols finished later, with the las few patrols in this year’s season – which ended on Thursday 7 April – being from 8.15 to 9.45 p.m. Ashwellthorpe’s Toadwatch thus lasted for 74 days, with 38 of those days having full patrol cover, and several other days having a “reconnoitring sortie” to see whether there was any movement. You can see the overall picture from Norfolk’s 18 sites on www.toadwatch.org/Migration/MigrationNow

The pattern of amphibious movement in Ashwellthorpe this year:

TOADS – there was no mass movement of our toad colony, with a maximum of 9 on 1 March but otherwise in ones or twos, making a total of 63 safely moved (towards or returning from the Wood Farm pond) compared with the record number of 89 last year. This year there were only 2 roadkill toads compared with 5 last year. We are not the only place where toad numbers have been down on last year. The two most prolific sites in Norfolk are Selbrigg near High Kelling which, up until 7 April 2016, had “saved” 5,472 compared with 11,536 last year and Cranwich, near Northwold in south-west Norfolk which, up until 29 March, had ferried 4,001 toads compared with 8,223 last year. Over all the 18 Toadwatch sites in Norfolk, the total of toads “saved” are 19,804 (with a few numbers to be recorded) compared with 33,336 last year.

FROGS – this was a phenomenal year for frog movement in Ashwellthorpe and there are a few paragraphs below covering a discussion on the matter. In the years since the start of our Toadwatch in 2010, our frog numbers had varied between 4 and 24 . This year’s total was 489, plus roadkill of 37 – in the latter days of this year’s campaign, many were returning to the north side of the road. On three wet/very wet days many frogs were carried to safety – Tuesday 1 March, 48 frogs between 6.00 and 8.15 p.m.; Thursday 24 March, 89 between 6.30 and 9.00 p.m. and on Saturday 26 March, 141 between 6.30 and 9.15 p.m. One frog even laid its spawn in a puddle in the gutter which was moved to deeper water in the ditch. It was very difficult for the two patrollers on duty at any one time to cope with the large numbers and to prevent any from getting on to the road at all. At least a frog can get across the road very quickly, in just a few jumps, except for the omnipresent car which crosses its path! It seemed that the frogs were lining up in the hedgerow and grass verge almost waiting their turn to be taken across!

NEWTS – There were 42 common newts moved to safety this year with 7 roadkill, compared with 6 and 3 roadkill last year. Most of the newts were found on the pavement or in the road, rather dry and slow moving, so were unlikely to have made it over to any body of water.

Lastly, a big THANKS to all you thirty volunteers who were out in the dark, sometimes cold, damp/wet and very wet weather and on call over a long period of time this year.

Jennifer Robbie                                                                                              9 April 2016


Report – 9 February 2016

Because of the very mild and damp winter, the toads’ migration to their breeding ponds started very early in January this year in some parts of Norfolk, rather than the end of February. The patrols in Ashwellthorpe started on 25 January and have continued intermittently until Saturday 6 February. The weather is now too cold for the migration to continue, so the human crossing patrols won’t be on duty again for at least another six days. There are now 29 volunteers here to help the toads in their annual migration.



After a few short preliminary patrols towards the end of February 2015, this year’s Toad Watch patrols started in earnest on Friday 6 March and finally finished on Saturday 11 April, with twenty-four volunteers coming forward to ferry toads across the main road through Ashwellthorpe. The toads migrate from their year-round habitat in Ashwellthorpe Upper Wood to their breeding pond on the other side of The Street, near the end of Greenwood Close. The patrols consist of two people armed with hi-vis jackets, torches and buckets to put the toads (frogs and newts) in, to take them to safety across the road to avoid the amphibians becoming a roadkill statistic.

The number of toads (89) was a 67% increase over last year (53); this year’s frog count was 24 – a 100% increase over the 12 ferried in 2014 and 6 newts were helped this year compared with zero last year. There were, unfortunately, 5 toads and 3 frogs as roadkill this year along with 3 unknown, compared with 9 toads and 3 frogs last year. The first year the “new” patrols started in 2010, 11 toads and 4 frogs were helped, so it is good news that the Ashwellthorpe Toad patrollers have helped so many more across the road this year.

Once again this year, the weather was not quite right for the toads to want to move all the way from the wood to their breeding pond with the weather being often too dry when warm enough and too cold when damp enough! Patrols were arranged slightly differently this year, paying heed to the BBC Norwich 5 day weather forecast and not arranging patrols when the temperature was going to be below 5C at the time of the first patrol of the evening. At the beginning of the patrol period, the start for the volunteers is at 6.30 p.m. through to 8.30 p.m. and, gradually as the daylight hours increase, start later so that by the end of the toads’ breeding period, the times are 7.45 p.m. through to about 9.00 p.m.

Thanks to all twenty-four patrollers which included six children this year.

Jennifer Robbie





The report on the success (although low numbers involved) of the Toadwatch patrols in February and March 2014 are now posted and can be seen by clicking below..


TOADWATCH 2014 – PROGRESS REPORT on Saturday 15 March 204

As mentioned in previous years, the Ashwellthorpe colony of toads spends most of the year in Ashwellthorpe Wood but, in February/March each year, toads return to their breeding pond, which is on the other side of the main street through Ashwellthorpe. Concern grew at the number of toads which were being killed by traffic on the Street and volunteer patrollers have helped them across the road (by lifting them and placing in a bucket) each February and March since 2010.

This year’s first TOADWATCH patrols started on  Tuesday 25 February and are continuing. There have been several evenings when the weather has been too cold for toads to move around – toads will move on damp evenings with the temperature above 7 C – but, overall, this breeding season has been much warmer and damper than the last two years, although it is getting rather dry now. The volunteers patrol between 18.00 and 20.15 at the start of the season; then, when daylight hours increase, from c. 18.45 to 20.45 until the end of the period.

It is worrying this year that the numbers of “rescued” toads are lower than in previous years (apart from 2010) although there may well be another two weeks of migration to occur. Up to and including Friday 14 March, the numbers are: 22 TOADS, 6 FROGS; with 7 amphibians killed on the road.


Julie and Matthew Bruton-Seal have been lucky enough to have seen some more unusual creatures over the last few weeks.

May 2012 – Another toad was seen, this time inside the house opposite the toad’s breeding pond along The Street, Ashwellthorpe. This is a long time after the Toad Watch ended in the village but the colder temperatures from February to beginning April this year were not ideal for toad movement. It had hopped into the kitchen and made its way through to another room of the house! It was taken out to the new wildlife pond in the house garden where Matthew and Julie hope it will remain until it migrates back to the wood. Also, there are now  three frogs in residence in the same small pond so perhaps another toad/frog settlement will take place here rather than across the main road in the other breeding pond. We shall see what happens in 2013.

7 May 2012 – On the road bridge over the old railway along Blacksmith’s Lane in Ashwellthorpe on a rainy afternoon Matthew spotted a “snake in the grass” – an adder. It was probably about 2 ft. (60cms) long and very still; a close inspection was not taken, just in case, so it was not known whether the adder was still alive or not. But it was chilly and damp, the sort of weather when adders are not particularly mobile.

22 May 2012 – not quite in Ashwellthorpe but on the Wattlefield Road where it joins the Wymondham Road, Matthew spotted a Grass Snake. A positive identification as he had so recently seen the Adder.


The Ashwellthorpe Toadwatch campaign still continues with volunteers helping the toads (and frogs and newts) across the road from the north side to the south side where their breeding pond is situated. The Patrols are in action at the moment between 6.45 p.m. and 8.15 p.m. Once the clocks change on Saturday 24 March 2012, there will be one patrol from 7.30 to 8.15 p.m.