On Tuesday, 18th February at precisely 2.41pm, under a bright blue sky and a warming sun following a heavy shower, I heard frogs.

As you know this thrills my soul after their obvious silence during their winter hibernation.  As I am well aware, following last year’s fiasco of a similar occasion on 26th February, sadly this does not herald the start of Spring. We have to wait for the toads to tell us exactly when we can start vernal celebrations proper.

But it is the start of activity in the garden for 2014. A few lone bees have been buzzing around over the last couple of weeks and the birds have been feeding and singing, despite the horrendous winds and torrential rains. But frogs mean something different. A new noise, a new activity in the garden that at least indicates the beginning of the end of Winter?

On hearing their songs, I rushed to the pond, camera in hand and found six, two of whom were already mating – or at least starting the close-coupled, piggyback, wooing preliminaries because there is no spawn yet. I’ve tried to record one for the video but I doubt you can hear it above the noise of the stream, the aeroplanes and the birds. I turned the pond pump off but they seem to stop croaking when I do this which is very unhelpful because frogs are not happy to be miked up individually.

It’s pretty mixed in the garden just now. It still looks very bare as most of the deciduous trees and shrubs are still leafless but this moment in the year seems to combine past, present and future more than any other time in the garden. Some plants have continued to flower from Autumn through ‘til now such as the odd rose, Cobea scandens, Abutilon 'Kentish Belle', and the daisy. Those that should be flowering at this time like Daphne bholua, Sarcoccoca, Chaenomeles, Mahonia, hellebores and snowdrops are doing it exhuberantly, and those that herald the start of Spring, like daffodils, are opening, the tulips are just pushing up, the Camelias are in good bud or springing into glorious flower and even lots of mid season Clematis are in bud.

And I have more fish than I thought which is great news. I knew Big Yellow was still in there but there were no signs of any others until yesterday. The fish at least have decided it’s the beginning of Spring and come up from the murky depths of the pond to feed. So I discovered I still have at least six. Silver Rocket, the shabunkins and some goldfish have survived the winter and the heron. 

So now I shall keep my eyes peeled for the toads. We could do with an early Spring this year after the prolonged misery of last year’s Winter and this year’s rains and floods.

I use this opportunity to express my sincere sympathies with those across the country whose land, gardens and homes have been flooded this Winter. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see a beloved garden submerged but even worse to have one’s farmlands and home invaded by water, and dirty water at that, with all it means for lack of income, future home saleability, impossible insurances and asset devaluation. My thoughts are with you.

We are lucky here. In Clapham we are high above the Thames though the ‘Honey Brook’ which goes to the River Wandle, runs under my street. The floods have shown up in my cellar in the form of rising water table but I am prepared for that and it is only a few inches of water. The cellar floor is six feet below anything important so I have not been affected like many of you outside London.

I fear we have to be prepared for more similar weather over winters to come but, for me, a tiny consolation and ray of hope has come from this year’s first appearance of the frogs in the pond.


It's all in the short video (3 minutes) and I am interested to see whether this frustrates you or not. If you want text too please comment.

I suppose an apology is in order – from me and the frogs.

As I write it is snowing in South West London – in April?. It is miserable, cold and windy. Spring has not sprung – the frogs didn't know what they are singing about. Their spawn is all over the pond, now frozen and snow covered. Let's hope some of them make it.

Interestingly the toads are still nowhere to be seen. They are still in hibernation. They obviously have a better sense of the weather than the frogs.

I am desperate to get into the garden, turn the heating down or off and generally feel the sun again. The plants seem to feel the same. They are waiting, mostly in bud, for a change in the weather. Everything is very late and we are counting the days.

But I have learned a lesson - ignore the frogs. I am now waiting for the toads and expect they will be wiser.


Sometime between 10.30 pm and 11.30 pm tonight, as I was weeping my way through a replay of Sunday’s “Call the midwife” on BBC’s i-player, Spring started in London. I can tell you this authoritively because I heard it. Wiping the tears from my cheeks at the end of the programme I needed air. I stepped outside onto my terrace to be greeted by a sound I haven’t heard for very many months – a serenade of frogs.

They weren’t there earlier tonight at 10.30pm but they were singing at 11.30pm. It has lifted my soul. Spring is here - for definite. If the frogs are back in my pond then there is little doubt. They have made a couple of mistakes in the past – but not many in ten years

It has been a cold, cold winter. I have been chilled to the bone. The dog walks have almost become chores rather than pleasures as the soles of my feet have become numb through my wellies and my fingers have chilled picking up the string of Pickle’s ball countless times as he returns it religiously to my toes in the freezing mud for yet another throw.

Now it is all worth it. The seedlings in my heated greenhouse started to sprout last week but it all felt false – heaters, propagators, bubble-wrapped comfort etc.. But now that the frogs are singing, all is right with the world. We can sing again too and celebrate the dawn of a new season.