Henley Toad Patrol Celebrates 25 Years of Helping Toads Cross the Road

Henley Toad Patrol marked a significant milestone on Saturday (16 March) as they celebrated 25 years of helping toads to cross the road!

Founded in 1999 by Alan Parfitt and Professor John Sumpter, Henley Toad Patrol has been instrumental in ensuring the safe migration of toads and other amphibians across the busy A4155 from The Culden Faw Estate (by the entrance to Henley Business School).

Angelina Jones, coordinator of the Toad Patrol, reflected on the evolution of the patrol’s operations, from manual data collection to modern, technology-driven strategies. She explained, “When we first started, we were still writing things down with pen and paper and ringing up at night to give our data to John Sumpter and Alan Parfitt. Nowadays we are doing it all electronically online. Today is just a chance for us all to get together during the light, because we do Toad Patrol at night because the amphibians are nocturnal. It’s a chance to say thank you to everybody and all hail the amphibians!”

The event, attended by about 50 Toad Patrol volunteers, featured a delicious buffet. The River and Rowing Museum provided use of their venue free of charge for the occasion.

Alan Parfitt, co-founder of the Toad Patrol, praised Angelina for her instrumental role in the patrol’s growth. “The credit for how it has grown must go to Angelina. I managed to get together a number of helpers, but nothing on this scale really,” he acknowledged.

Recounting what motivated him to start Toad Patrol, Alan recalled, “I remember coming through there in the evening rush hour and seeing the absolute slaughter of the poor toads trying to get across the road. Their migration will have gone back probably hundreds of years, but as the traffic builds up they were getting absolutely massacred, so I thought we should do something about this. A couple from a nearby farm – the Harmans – had been doing a bit, but I took it on with a colleague and developed it further. We started to get quite big numbers, in the thousands, crossing.”

Alan also highlighted the success of recent efforts to create alternative habitats for the toads, reducing their need to cross the road. He explained, “We got a grant a number of years ago, with the agreement of the estate, to put ponds in so that the toads didn’t have to cross the road. This year, those are really coming into their own; the problem is, toads are completely tied to the water they were born in, so it’s very difficult to get them to relocate! It’s taken a few years for the ponds to get going, but this year they have.”

This year has seen a record number of toads assisted by Henley Toad Patrol. As of Saturday, the total stood at 11,600 as of Saturday – nearly double the annual average of 5,500. The previous highest year was 2010, when 10,000 toads were recorded. The greatest number to cross in just one night was Valentines Day this year, when 3,000 were recorded!

The 25th anniversary celebration was a tribute and a thank you to the many dedicated volunteers who keep Henley Toad Patrol running, and a celebration of the thousands of toads and other amphibians saved by their efforts over the past two and a half decades.

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