Margaret Cooper recognised for her work protecting toads

For 25 years, Margaret Cooper has campaigned for the annual closure of a Nottinghamshire road to allow for the safe crossing of toads during breeding season.

Margaret Cooper at toad crossing in Nottingham
credit: Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

Margaret Cooper started campaigning in 1999, when she noted that disastrous difficulties faced by toads to cross the busy road. Working with Nottinghamshire County Council Highways, the Wildlife Trust and the AA Signs, Cooper and fellow volunteers, patrol every evening highlighting the plight of local and nationwide toad populations.

Speaking to a local newspaper Cooper recalled the inspiration for her 25 years of campaigning. “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. The funds for the closure is generated from Cooper’s annual fund raising activities for the toad crossing.

According to the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, the reasons for the fall in the number of toads, reflected across the UK, is similar to those causing problems for other species; habitat loss and the fragmentation of habitat areas, climate change and pollution. A report by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) revealed that almost one third of Great Britain’s amphibian and reptile species are threatened with risk of extinction. The ARC is a UK-based wildlife charity dedicated to the conservation of these two important groups of animals.

As a result of Cooper’s work, Beanford Lane in Oxton, Nottinghamshire, closes in March every year to allow toads to cross safely during migration. The road closure, helps not only toads but reportedly, other wildlife has also been able to flourish. Deer, hares and kingfishers, and other wildlife not usually seen, has been spotted in the area.

Cooper was presented with a personalised sign by the AA to mark 25 years of the closure. As reported by the BBC, on receiving the commemorative sign, Cooper said: “It’s marvellous, I’m really, really thrilled. It’s really kind, it really is.

BBC Radio reporter, Emily Anderson went to meet her – you can listen to the interview here.