Should you be at a loose end one day, and looking for somewhere to take the kids, why not take a trip down to Frog-a-Rama. Littlehampton's most popular nature reserve. There you can pass an entertaining afternoon dressed in wet weather clothing pushing frogs out of trees with a long stick. This exciting pastime has been in operation for a few years now, but the story of how it came to be is a curious one.
It started when Beryl Harris of the local wildlife protection society was collecting fox droppings in Littlehampton woods. It started to rain and she took shelter under a tree only to be surprised a few minutes later when she felt the unmistakable sensation of a frog falling on her head. She looked up and saw that the tree was infested with dancing frogs. The overwhelming sense of joy she felt as she was battered into unconsciousness by plummeting frogs can easily be imagined.
A study was made of the frogs, and it was found that they lived in two adjacent trees, all the male frogs living in one and the female frogs in the other. When it rained all of the frogs would become agitated and begin to leap up and down. As the branches became wetter the occasional frog would miss its footing and fall to the floor.-The unlucky ones hitting a few branches on the way down.
When on the floor, the two genders would have a chance to meet and breed. A short film was made of the spectacle a few years ago and broadcast at 4 a.m. one Wednesday morning. You may have seen it.
During the great drought of 2004 it was feared that the frogs might die out as breeding was not taking place, and the wildlife group finally decided that in order to help the frogs a road would be laid through the woods and a fire engine brought to the colony to provide water. Unfortunately once it was completed, when water was sprayed into the trees all of the frogs refused to move. Jets of water were then directed onto the frogs themselves. This had the effect of blasting the frogs from the trees but once on the woodland floor they hid behind the trunks. There was good reason for this: If you recall that the last time you were blown out of a tree by a water cannon, the last thing on your mind when you hit the ground was romance.
What had not been realized at the time was that the Littlehampton tree frogs danced due to a partial diet of the extremely rare West Sussex woodland ant which carried an acid in its body which when ingested caused the frogs to leap up and down when they came into contact with water. As the ant hills were now buried under the newly laid road it was unsurprising that the frogs no longer danced.
The wildlife group realized that they could not blast the frogs from the trees but would have to direct a fine spray instead, but as the frogs still refused to dance they had to be gently helped on their way. The best way to achieve this was by pushing them out of the branches using a long stick with a soft tennis ball on the end.
In order to recoup the cost of the road and the fire engine the site was opened up to the public as Frog-a-Rama.
Today you can not only push frogs out of trees while getting soaking wet in the process, but you can also buy postcards and cuddly toy frogs at the gift shop and have your photograph taken while holding a long stick with a tennis ball on the end of it.
Frog-a-Rama is just off the B2140 and is open all year round.
Well worth a visit.