20th anniversary of the world's first ever toad saving road closure

Tim Sexton

Tradition has it that the 1st of the month should be hailed with a cry of ‘white rabbits’ but after 20 years of action to save toads crossing a particular stretch of road in Nottinghamshire a case could be made to change this cry to ‘Oxton Toads’ – for the month of March at least!

Since 1999 March the 1st has been a very special day in terms of toad conservation as marks the first day of the official closure of Beanford Lane in Oxton. Back in 1999 the closure was hailed as a world first, and celebrated as far afield as Japan & Canada but the closure is now very much a fixture on the Nottinghamshire wildlife conservation calendar thanks to the efforts of one woman – Margaret Cooper.

Toad crossing sign

Nadia Ming

Margaret’s campaign to get the road closed was driven by concern that her trusty band of ‘toad crossing’ volunteers couldn’t cope with covering two ancient toad migration points in the village. In 1998 Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust backed her campaign and the following year Nottinghamshire County Council became the first Highways Authority in the work to close a public highway to protect toads.

Despite her success, the road closure doesn’t mean Margaret has been able to put her feet up and leave the toads to go about their business each breeding season. For the past twenty years Margaret, backed by the Wildlife Trust has continued to raise funds to pay for the costs of signage and fencing required to close the road safely and along with her toad patrol volunteers they have dutifully helped toads across the road on the other side of the village.

Common toad (Bufo bufo) on log

Tom Marshall

Speaking on the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the road closure, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Head of Communications & Marketing Erin McDaid said: “The toad crossing on Beanford Lane is part of a very important ancient migration route across the Dover Beck and Margaret’s efforts over the past two decades have been remarkable. Here tenacity and powers of persuasion are legendary locally and the fact that she secured a world first is proof of her powers. I have been privilege to work with Margaret since the first year, promoting the crossing and helping to raise funds for the closure, and we hope that lots of toads take advantage of the mild weather and cross the road safely this month.”

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust needs to secure donations of around £600 each year to cover the cost of the road closure and anyone wishing to donate £5 can text TOAD to 70085

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Keren Young