Above: A female with a smaller male clamped firmly on her back attempts the dangerous journey across Old Goyt’s Lane.

Above: Some of the many toads collected during last night’s patrol. They make a surprisingly soothing chirping sound!

Anyone driving down from Long Hill into the valley over the last few weeks will have seen the ‘Toads crossing’ warnings. They appear every year from the start of March through to the end of April to warn motorists to look out for these small amphibians.

They typically emerge after sunset on nights when the temperature rises above seven degrees. The small pond half way down Old Goyt’s Lane is a favourite spawning ground. But crossing the lane from their habitat on one side of the road to the pond on the other can be a hazardous journey as they move very slowly.

I only recently read about a small team of volunteers dedicated to helping them survive the crossing on the Goyt Valley Facebook Group. It was started by Mark Chuwen some seven years ago. He’d previously been involved in a similar rescue project in Furness Vale for about 10 years.

Above: Some of last night’s Toad Patrol just after meeting up at the small car park beside the pond (from left to right): Chris, Jackie, Kath and Gill.

I popped down to see the patrol in action last night. Mark wasn’t there but the group was being led by Chris Hallam who has a keen interest in amphibians and nature conservation.

I only lasted just over an hour before the rain and cold got into my bones and I headed home, but Chris and his team were made of sterner stuff. Chris often comes down more than once a night – and often stays until the early hours.

Chris explained: “On a normal night when conditions are right we maybe collect 200-400 toads, as well as a few frogs. They’re either heading to the pond to spawn or find a mate, or on their way back to the moorland on the other side of the lane. On one night last week we counted 700, and sadly another 30 lying squashed on the road.”

I must admit that I didn’t always find it easy to work out which way they were heading – to or from the pond. So I hope I didn’t send too many back in the wrong direction!

The males are smaller than the females. And there were a few riding tandem – like the pair in the top photo – so were heading to spawn in the pond. The bulkier females would also have been going to lay their eggs in the water. And the slimmer ones would probably be returning after spawning.

Join the Toad Patrol

Mark and Chris say they’re always looking for volunteers, and add that children often find it fascinating. To get in touch with them, simply send your details using the comment page and I’ll forward them on.

Or simply turn up at the small car park beside the pond as it starts to get dark. And don’t forget to bring a torch to make it easy to spot the toads in the dark, plus a bucket to collect them in.

An ode to toads

Page update; 31st March 2023: Many thanks to Peter for forwarding this wonderful little song which he says was very popular in folk clubs in the 1970s:

When you can only hop
People in their great big cars
They never swerve or stop
We help our little feathered friend
With mouldy crusts and old tab ends
So to toads let’s make amends
And do this little thing for me.

See a toad across the road
And make yourself a friend
See a toad across the road
It will help you in the end
I know how ugly a toad may be
But it’s got parents like you and me
So see a toad across the road
And make yourself a friend.

Boy scouts help old ladies
The lollipop man your child
But what protection is there?
For that creature green and wild
You don’t need a magic wand
To help him safely to his pond
Just pretend that you’re James Bond
And do this little thing for me.

2024 update…

12.3.24: Mark has just posted this on the Goyt Valley Facebook Group:

We’ve now finished the Toad Patrol season at Goyts Pond – and what a year it’s been. 2,843 toads moved from the road to the pond and a similar number moving away (we don’t count those moving away). This beats our previous best recorded total of 1,926 by 917. It’s either a sign that our hard work is paying off or last year was a great year for breeding/survival (it may well be that it was a combination of a good year for them and our work paying off).

We have also moved a lot of frogs and even a few newts across the road. Many thanks to all those who have helped; especially Chris Hallam, Jackie Redfern, Cath Forder, Clare Griffin, Helen, and to everybody who helped for the odd night here and there. And a massive big “F off” to the idiots who every year speed down there and even sometimes abuse us. Countless are killed every year by careless, inconsiderate or even cruel drivers.

Topic tags (click for similar posts): Wildlife