Tuesday 17 April 2012

Toads talk transport - 2012

During the last 8 weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time helping toads to dodge the traffic in order to get to their breeding ponds and I’m pleased to say that this year in Norfolk, more people helped more toads, in more places than ever before and over 17,000 toads were saved from a premature end, under a car tyre. Toad patrol involves a lot of time spent walking up and down roads in the dark and usually alone – though another patroller will be close at hand, if needed.

After a while in the dark by yourself, you become more in tune with the toads than you are with the humans whizzing past in their cars, like aliens in space craft, and your mind begins to contemplate strange things. One night out in the rain, I was pleased to find that my friend from last year had survived into her 21st year and once again we fell into conversation as I carried her to the pond in my bucket.“What do you think of this drought? Do you think humans are responsible for changing the climate?” I asked her. (We have had 3 years with very dry springs and this year, many of the breeding ponds were completely dry – something no humans could remember but my friend’s family has lived in the village since the last ice age and toads have a different perspective on things.) The toad snorted at this question and said that there was always some species getting above itself and messing with the climate – too much algae – too many flatulent dinosaurs – too many humans. The toads have seen it all before and she was confident that there will still be toads once the humans have burnt all the oil and gone back to their caves. She just hoped that no volcanoes are going to erupt this year because the dust makes slugs taste awful for years afterwards.

The toad reminded me that Chaucer had written ‘Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote’ – so perhaps it is not so unusual to have a very dry March. The toad then remarked , with a cynical tone, that the recent fuel shortages had not persuaded many people to get on their bicycles and she asked whether I had made any progress with getting people to swap cars for bikes, so that they are better prepared for the real shortages that are coming.

As we paused to help a passing newt, I explained that the County Council has responded to suggestions and has pencilled in a path to connect the village to the Research Park. I am urging everyone to attend the exhibition of Research Park expansion plans, next week and demand that a cycle path connection to Hethersett is included (the first phase of the expansion includes parking for over 2000 cars, but no joined up cycle path plans!). As I helped the toad into the shallow puddle, where there should have been 2m of water, she thanked me politely but it was clear that she was deeply upset by the ever increasing car traffic that kills so many of her family and friends and pollutes the atmosphere for all species on the planet.


  1. Literary toads, and why not! Love it, thanks John.

  2. Everybody should read Toads Talk Transport and listen to what these amazing before-ice-age-old fellow denizens of the planet have to say.

    Excellent John.

  3. Jenny Gladstone22 April 2012 at 10:38

    Toads Talk Transport is beautiful. I had never understood how erudite toads were. Brilliant.

  4. Thank you Jenny! Toads and Newts have had a poor image ever since Shakespeare included them in the recipe for witches' brew (which has been read to generations of school children) but spend some time with toads and they are quite sweet - well I think so.