Appearances can be deceptive. At this time of year, a compost heap might resemble a sludgy, smelly pile of vegetation slowly rotting at the bottom of the garden, but it’s actually an oasis of sweet life. It was time to turn the heap to aid the breakdown process. No sooner had my fork dug into the stack of decomposing plants, than I’d met some of the compost’s inhabitants – a wriggle of red worms. These were brandling worms, a species adapted to live in decaying organic material. Just a minute or so later of careful digging, and I’d unearthed the first hibernating toad: I was to find five in an hour.