Catching “taddies” in Pontypool

I’ve been living in my house at The Moorings, Newport for over 46 years. The name suggests some boating connection and, on the original plan for the houses, the open drainage ditch – called in South Wales a reen – in the field just outside my back gate was scheduled to be widened to make room for a landing stage with access to the River Usk which is just 600 yards away. Alas, all this never happened and the reen remained in its original state.

There must be about 10 acres of fields between the bottom of my garden and the river and until about 10 years ago, we were accustomed to seeing the farmer making hay, and various animals such as sheep, cows and horses roaming there from time to time. The Caerleon valley and the distant hills made it a very rural setting. It was a genuine “panoramic view”. The trains passing by some half a mile away looked like toys.


The view from my roof garden today. The houses below cover the
fields
 and obliterate both the railway line and the River Usk. 

The fields in question were a flood plain and, from time to time, with the spring tides and a following wind, the fields were flooded. This fact didn’t cause us any concern as the fields were some 20 feet or more below the level of the house. About ten years ago approximately 100 houses were built in the fields and as a result I noticed the build up of water right at the bottom of my garden. I’d always wanted a garden pond so I just dug a large hole and let nature do the rest. As a result I now have a fair sized natural pond on the left side of the garden stocked with goldfish and other varieties all living happily together. On the right is a shallower pond which is the home of many frogs and toads.

A week ago I looked out of my lounge window and noticed that the second pond looked as though it was boiling. I went down and, yes, there they were, the usual large collection of frogs jumping and swimming about and making huge clumps of frog-pawn. It’s a sort of annual frogs’ convention and I have no idea where they all come from, unless they spend the rest of their time well hidden in my garden. I counted 62 frogs and there were probably a similar number hidden in the reeds or below the water. One small area of the pond was so full of frogs that it looked like a rugby scrum so I took a photograph which I show below.


Part of the “frogs’ convention”

All this reminded me of the times when, at this time of year a few of my friends and I would take our jam jars with string tied around the tops and our fishing nets, and go on a trip to hunt “taddies” and usually to collect some spawn as well. We had several favourite places to do this. One of the most popular was Pontypool Park lake. It was very large and we were certain to find tadpoles and spawn within easy reach of the pathway skirting the pond.

Another favourite spot was the canal basin. The water was fairly wide at that point and a good haul of “taddies” was assured together with huge clumps of spawn.

The Fish Ponds just off the Crumlin Road was another haunt of ours. These offered plenty of water but access to them from a convenient spot on the banks was not as convenient because in some places the banks were steep and were overgrown with ferns.

Sometimes we would return home with some jam jars containing frog spawn and some containing tadpoles, together with a few bits of pond plants as food for our captives. We would then have a good look at them every day to watch their progress. Some of the spawn hatched out into “taddies” and a few of the tadpoles started to grow legs and turn into frogs which caused us a great deal of satisfaction.

On some occasions we had lessons in school about frogs to which we always gave our undivided attention. However, none of us had a garden pond in which to place our frogs and “taddies” se we usually ended up returning the survivors to the place where we found them.

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One Response to “Catching “taddies” in Pontypool”

  1. Audrey Ross Says:

    The Mill pond near Osborne cottage on Mill road was another fantastic haunt for wildlife. The newts were plentiful but the pond was drained for the Riverside housing development. The swans could be seen on the pond as one travelled down Osborne road on the bus to Pontypool.

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