Frog in the Morning on the earthwork, October 2010We knew, when we saw a frog looking out from under a stack of roofing tiles, that we had done the right thing giving up snail pellets years ago. What a special guest in a small city garden!

Where had this frog come from? Do any neighbours have a pond? The nearest known ponds are in Gillespie Park, 5 minutes’ walk away. The tiles were destined for the Recycle Centre, so we had to find some shelter for our frog. We got a wooden Frog/Toad house. It was on show in the Ecology Centre; when it later appeared in a Garden Bird Supplies catalogue, we ordered it.

Wood used in its construction is from forestry protected sources. It has two entrances, one with a wooden floor, one open to the soil with no floor. There is a terracotta tile in the roof. The instructions were to keep the tile moist by watering the roof when there is no rain.

Over this Des Res and its pond (a green casserole dish kept topped up with water) is a barrier of canes & branches to deter cats & foxes. We are training climbers up this framework. Frog access to the Earthwork, their happy hunting ground, is only a few hops away.

Frog or Toad House b

Secret Frog, 13 April 2013

Secret Frog, 13 April 2013

We have spotted green frogs in Baytree Corner by the blue egg water feature, on the earthwork, in the water of the casserole dish on a hot day & on the bank under cover of the Persian Ivy. In the northwestern corner by the house, under the shade of the white table and hidden by pots, a larger orange frog was seen, possibly a female. The frogs are silent, & a rare glimpse of one of them is always a treat. As we keep much of the garden leafy & overgrown, there are many places for frogs to keep cool & hide under vegetation.

Frog Hiding under Lamium leaves, Feb 13th, 2015

Frog hiding under Lamium leaves, 13 Feb 2015

NOTE TO SELF – When weather is hot and dry, don’t forget to water the frogs!

Frog on the earthwork 3 May 2015

Frog on the earthwork, 3 May 2015

Frog surprised in the morning

Frog in the morning

One morning as I stood on the path watering the earthwork, a frog landed on my foot. It carried on hopping, probably as surprised as I was.

I have only heard them once. On a still, quiet day in the garden with no birdsong and little street noise, I was watering the earthwork when a sudden deep, bass note rose from the Hardy Geraniums round the frog enclosure. It was a sound of only one syllable, that was… primordial. Something like ‘woarg!’ It was answered, half a moment later, by another ‘woarg!’ from the fern bed. I never did see either frog.


The terracotta pot was turned, moving the shady side into the sun & surprising the secret frog. All the while, it had been hiding under the Betony, enjoying the shade. Sunshine on its skin was most unwelcome, and it hopped off. But not before the interfering human with the vidcam got a shaky memento of the occasion.



Anne’s garden in Wimbledon is half the size of ours. She has no idea where the nearest pond to her house might be, but her pondless garden has had resident frogs for years. They have adapted to her many garden changes, camouflaged and staying moist behind pots, plastic bags & cuttings.

As her assistant gardener, I would occasionally shift a pot or sack of something & a frog, sitting motionless, would be exposed. ‘Just look away’… said Anne. ‘When you look back, it will have disappeared.’ And this is what always happened. The frog made its getaway in total silence. It was as though an invisibility cloak had been flung over it.


Our garden may be small. But if you are the size of a frog, it is a territory where you can make a living. As for those human giants that move through it, you have only to be still and wait until they move on. This next video, made by hopping the vidcam slowly up the crazy paving, is meant to show what a frog’s-eye view might be. If you are thinking of having frogs in your garden, be encouraged. In at least two small, pondless London gardens whose humans were not too tidy & used no pesticides, frogs have made a life for themselves.




See Jurassic Highbury and Highbury in the Cretaceous Era for some answers…

Frogs were so plentiful, in Islington and elsewhere round the country, that the marshy, boggy land they lived in might be named Frog Street or Frog Lane. Throughout the Middle Ages, London’s Frog Lane was the direct route from Clerkenwell to Highbury.


 The Peasant’s Revolt, 1381

In HISTORY of HIGHBURY Keith Sugden traces the old FROG LANE, giving us present-day names of those streets which now cover it. In 1381, after protestors had set fire to St John’s Priory Clerkenwell, this would have been their direct back route to Sir John Hales’ Manor House in Highbury.  (See Medieval Highbury page for more about the Peasants’ Revolt.)

Frogs & Mud

Frog Lane in the Middle Ages: what would it have been like? Damp, soggy & squelchy, with mist rising from saturated ground & puddles to splash through… plantlife along the lane would have offered good cover for frogs as they sat, hidden & still, watching for worms, slugs, snails & insects.

Frog and Creeping Buttercup

Some wildflowers, such as Creeping Buttercup, Purple Loosestrife & Ragged Robin would have flourished in the moist conditions along Frog Lane. Humans trudging along it might not see or hear a frog at all for most of the year.

But in spring, at mating time, the lane would have thrummed with booming croaks as a RISING of frogs emerged from cover, a mass exodus of frogdom, returning to the pond of its birth.


Horses, cows, carts & carriages would have used Frog Lane. On 14th July 1381, there would have been, as well, thousands of peasants squelching through the mud, slogging their way from the burning Priory at Clerkenwell to the Manor House at Highbury.

Years passed. By 1735, Frog Lane was said to have three inns – The Chequer, The Flower Pot & The Fox and Cub. Between 1735 & 1746, there was also a Frog Hall (‘may have been a local nickname’); on its inn sign was a plough being drawn by frogs (!) By 1765, Frog Lane inns were The Rose, Barley Mow, Plough & Angel (Angler).

ParishRegister UK Parish Records Online A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 8, Islington and Stoke Newington Parishes, T F T Baker, C R Elrington (eds.), A P Baggs, Diane K. Bolton, Patricia E C Croot (1985)


Frog Lane’s surface was eventually changed. Boggy land was drained, houses were built, streets were laid out & covered with cobblestones, setts, macadam, tarmac. London’s Frog Lane was divided into segments, each of which got a new name. Whatever became of all the homeless frogs?

Other Frog Lanes

Frog in puddleA number of cities, towns & villages across England had a ‘Frog Street’ or ‘Frog Lane’, including London, Sheffield, Trowbridge, Lichfield, Worcester, Bristol, Swansea, Minehead, Cannington & the Devon market town of Tiverton. In many instances streets or lanes were located close to water – mill ponds, rivers or lakes…


The earliest names (Froge mere St, Throgmorton St, Throgge Lane, Froggmorton Lane) incorporate the Middle~English words for frog and for marsh or mere and suggest an area of waterlogged land.

British History Online, on Lichfield’s Frog Lane



Frog Street (Exeter) was located very close to the medieval bridge that once spanned the river Exe & surrounding marshes. During the Middle Ages the marshy ground was gradually reclaimed & became known as Exe Island… As Hoskins says, “before that (Frog Street) was simply the swampy bank of the wider River Exe, frequented by frogs which gave their name to the new medieval street.” ‘