Meet the woman who got Nottinghamshire road to close once a year for toad crossings

A woman who fought for the annual closure of a Nottinghamshire road to allow for the safe crossing of toads said the situation has become “desperate” as none have been seen this year. Beanford Lane in Oxton is shut for the entirety of March every year in order to help with the safe passage of toads during breeding season.

However, Margaret Cooper, who campaigned for its first closure in 1999, said not a single toad had been seen crossing the road so far this year. Speaking to Nottinghamshire Live on Friday, March 25, she said the month has been “disastrous”.

“There’s been a real absence of toads, we haven’t seen any so far,” said Margaret, who joins other volunteers at the crossings every evening. “At night the temperature drops dramatically and it’s too low for them. It’s very specific conditions which they need. It’s very worrying, the plight of toads, it’s not just Oxton but nationwide.”

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She said that the creature’s absence could be down to a number of factors, including disease and dry weather. “Over the years the numbers have dropped so this is really a bit desperate. At the moment this lovely, dry weather is not what we want. I’m just praying we are going to get some rain before the end of March.”

Margaret, who used to coordinate a volunteer crossing patrol in the area during the late 1990s, teamed up with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust to convince Nottinghamshire County Council to first implement a closure in 1999. It is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Recalling the moment that sparked her passion for the safety of the amphibians, she said: “We were cycling down the road, my husband and I, and we saw all these dead toads had been squashed. I thought we have to shut the roads to save these poor toads, not thinking that it would happen. People were calling from Toronto and Japan in support, I suppose it’s a whacky subject but also serious.

“Toads are not like frogs, they just wobble along the road – not hopping. They like to sit in the middle of the road where it’s nice and warm.” The closure, which costs £1,000, is designed to allow the toads to migrate safely through an area of wetland known as Oxton Bogs, with patrols also present on Blind Lane.

A toad crosses the road in Oxton
A toad crosses the road in Oxton

Whilst so far unsuccessful for toads this year, Margaret said other wildlife has still been able to flourish. She said deer, hares and kingfishers, all things “you don’t see” had been spotted in the area.

“For one month it’s reclaimed by wildlife. It’s a magical place to be. There are sounds of birds that you don’t usually hear.”

Erin McDaid, of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, said that the fall in the number of toads “very much reflects the UK trend”. “Reasons for the drop in toad numbers are similar to those causing problems for other species and include habitat loss and the fragmentation of habitat areas, climate change and pollution,” he said. “This is why the efforts of people like Margaret are so important.”

Mr McDaid pointed towards a major report by Froglife in 2016 that found toad numbers had declined by 68 per cent in the previous 30 years – equating to an annual decline of more than two per cent per year.

“We’re delighted to be supporting Margaret and her team again this year,” he continued. “As we face up to the climate and ecological crises we need more people like Margaret and the good folk of Oxton taking action for nature. If we all do our bit we can help put nature into recovery.”