Our Special Wildlife
Being a low-lying community, there are several ponds and streams, ideal for breeding amphibians. Four species live in our community: the Smooth Newt, the protected Great Crested Newt, the Common Frog and the Common Toad. Throughout England, and, indeed, the rest of the world, amphibians are having a tough time surviving. Not only are natural ponds being filled in, or drying up, but the increasing use of pesticides and fertilisers is destroying habitats through pollution. It is therefore important, at the end of the millennium, to protect the population that we have.
After one night of dreadful carnage in 1985, when 531 corpses (all toads) were counted early the next morning, it was obvious that action was needed to protect our decimated population. While other conservationists were organising crossing patrols with buckets, on Berrick's dangerous roads we preferred to educate the motorist to recognise toads in headlights. We needed some posh signs. It is an unfortunate fact that toads breed at the end of the financial year when there is no money left in the local highways budget, but the project was sufficiently "wacky" to interest the council in providing some left-over blank reflective triangles and a paper template for the official Ministry of Transport-approved toad. Black enamel paint did the rest, and we were so proud of our new signs!
Toads are not confined to Berrick Prior; there is a large population in Rokemarsh as well. With more people building ponds, there is a good chance that our population will diversify its breeding territory, spending the rest of the year as “gardeners’ friends” by eating slugs and other pests in the garden. I hope that our amphibian species survive the next millennium, but it will take the concerted efforts of the community to achieve this.
Berrick Prior Toad Warden