We started 2023 with a sunny session at Cornmill Gardens, where we cut back any branches overhanging the river and clearing all the twigs that had collected on the bank from the recent rains. We don’t remove any of the deadwood from the site, but rather move it further up the bank to create habitat piles that won’t get washed downstream.
Next up we visited the River Quaggy, at Chinbrook Meadows, where we de-silted the secondary channel that feeds into the pond and wetland area. Also that afternoon, our diligent volunteers scraped the leaf litter from the boardwalks to make them easier and safer to walk on.
After a wet December where we couldn’t get easy access to the Ladywell Field backwater channel, we returned to finish the de-silting here. The heavy digging work certainly lent itself to an extra biscuit with our tea afterwards!
Our last session of the month was in the north of the borough at Brookmill Park, where we completed our bank work to allow any pedestrians a sight line down onto the river. As an added bonus we came across a common frog, Rana temporaria, and two common toads, Bufo bufo, which is one of Lewisham’s priority action species.
An excerpt from Lewisham Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan ‘A Natural Renaissance for Lewisham (2021-2026)’
Amphibian species populations are declining at an alarming rate globally and despite its
name and that it is found throughout Britain the Common Toad is not so common anymore. A study in 2016 found a significant decline (68%) of the species in the UK since 1980s with an even steeper decline in South East England (www.froglife.org)
Common Toads breed in ponds but spend most of their lives on land away from water, walking (and not hopping) around at night looking for slugs, snails, spiders and other invertebrates. They spend winter buried under log piles, stones, leaf litter or compost heaps. Adult toads usually migrate back to their birth pond to breed which is becoming
more and more difficult with fences and busy roads blocking their way in urban areas. The disappearance of ponds in gardens and open spaces and two amphibian diseases (Ranavirus and Chytridiomycosis) pose further threats to toads. The Common Toad is protected from trade and sale under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and was identified as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan in 2007.
– Volunteer Conservation Action Data Reveals Large-Scale and Long-Term Negative Population
Trends of a Widespread Amphibian, the Common Toad (Bufo bufo); Petrovan SO, Schmidt BR
(2016) Volunteer Conservation Action Data Reveals Large-Scale and Long-Term Negative
Population Trends of a Widespread Amphibian, the Common Toad (Bufo bufo). PLOS ONE