Toad Patrol

Welcome to Great Massingham Toad Patrol.

We have a fairly wide area to cover. The village has five main road-side ponds, but we can only cover three of them, patrolling a radiating triangle of roads on the northern edge of the village and the airfield track. Rush hour is busy, with through traffic coming in from all directions at speed.

We erect our hand-made signs every year as soon as the first Toad is spotted. Like other patrols, we aim to go out in pairs and operate a rota system when possible. Even an hour of your time is immensely valuable. Experienced toaders will provide personal instruction, a daytime walk around and advise on safety and equipment.

Our toad populations have fluctuated but generally declined over the years, with the change of land use leading to loss of habitat, and increased road traffic apparently the main causes. So any help we can provide will make a marked difference. All volunteers welcome

We are supported by Toadwatch. We also work closely with a national charity, and Great Massingham’s amphibian crossings are registered with the Department of Transport.

Toad Patrol 2017 Report

Toads Saved: 3009 / Toads Lost: 373 / Frogs Saved: 5  / Frogs Lost: 0  / Common Newts Saved: 45 /  Common Newts Lost:0

Great Crested Newts Saved: 8

Greater Crested Newts!

The GCN is distinguished by its black ‘warty’ skin.  It has an orange underbelly with black blotches, which is distinctly different to other British newts in that it does not extend to under the chin.  It also has horizontal stripes on its feet.  Look closely and all these features are evident in the photos, with one picture showing a Palmate newt, which is much smaller.

Gender identification is difficult; the males are the ones with the crest, but in their terrestrial phase (which we assume they were in transition from) they have the tendency to lose their crest.  All the ones found were ‘crest-fallen’ so to speak eg no crest.

I found 8 in total, all in very close proximity to the ponds down Weasenham Road; 5 at the Malthouse Pond; 2 at the Weasenham Road Pond and 1 at Parsley Pond.

Witnesses and photos supported the finds and Norfolk Wildlife Trust has now taken up the initiative to proceed with further protection measures e.g, pond analysis and possible licensing of newt handlers as they are a highly protected species.



By Steve Baker

Toad Patrol 2016 Report

We are delighted to report that Great Massingham bucked the general trend throughout Norfolk this year in terms of numbers of toads rescued. While numbers dropped 40% elsewhere, Great Massingham numbers rose from 362 live toads rescued in 2015 to 477 this year. We know this is just a snapshot of the total toad population but it is encouraging to see what may be a recovery from last year.

More cover was provided this year, albeit irregularly, along Station Road from the corner of Lynn Lane to the Village Hall driveway and along Walcups Lane from Station Road to Mad Dog Lane. There was no sign of a revival in the Rougham Road or airfield areas but Weasenham Road did show a modest rise.

This year’s headline has to be that 67 live common newts were rescued, as opposed to 11 last year, heading for the hidden, overgrown pond on Rougham Road. To the toad patrollers’ credit they turned out for a very split season spanning from 29th January to 13th April.

We are really grateful for all that the patrollers do. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact: Charlotte (co-ordinator) 07780 956264 Email: or


The 2016 season saw a rise in numbers, due to the dedication of the toad patrollers. 477 toads were successfully rescued (362 in 2015), 2 frogs and 67 common newts. Unfortunately, 147 toads (100 in 2015), 2 frogs and 15 newts were killed by traffic on the roads.


 toad                       Toad Pic 18 March Little Mass

 The Great Massingham Toadwatch patrol will be operating again during 2017  and please contact Charlotte Martin if you would like to help a patrol ( contact information at bottom of page)

People that help on patrols should complete a Froglife insurance form and return it to the patrol coordinator.  Each patrol will provide training but the notes below apply to most patrols.

What you need  – warm clothes, torch (good for 2 hours), bucket (clean with a little water in the bottom), hi viz jacket. Toads are harmless but you may want to bring gloves.   Some patrols recommend bringing a whistle to attract attention from other patrollers when help with lots of toads is needed.

When do toads move – The toads wait until it is dark and they think that they can’t be seen before they move into the open.  Generally they move at dusk which is about 30 mins after sunset (see Met for times and temperature forecast).  (In a few places where there are lots of trees near the road  the toads move earlier – each patrol gets to know the habits of their local toads).

Toads can’t generate their own body heat so they need the temperature to be at least 5c – they are more likely to move if it has been warm (above 10c) during the day.   Toads do not like to move in dry conditions so the wetter and more humid then the more likely they are to move.

Most of the patrols operate a rota system so that people work in pairs and are out for about an hour and a half on evenings to suit them.   There are relatively few evenings in March when it is both warm enough and wet enough to sure that the toads will be out.  Often it can be warm enough at dusk but the sky clears and the temperature drops quickly and the toads stop moving.  Occasionally we get warm, wet rain from the South West and the toads will continue to move all night.

Counting Toads – we keep counts of the toads, frogs and newts that we move from the road – both dead and alive.  We try to remove dead toads from the road so that they are not counted twice and to make it easier for drivers to see any live toads.  The counts are reported to Froglife and to the County Amphibian Recorder.   We count the toads that we don’t save so that we have total figures for the toads arriving at the crossing and so that we can compare the ratio of animals saved to lost.   At some crossings, the traffic is so continuous that it is difficult to remove the dead toads from the road.

Safety – Be aware of traffic at all times.   Don’t risk your life to save a toad – if you shine your torch on the toad then most drivers will stop for you.  Cover any cuts because of the small risk of soil-borne diseases such as Tetanus.  There is a remote risk of infection with Lyme disease from deer ticks, tuck long trousers into socks and check for ticks afterwards (the disease starts like the flu).  Be polite to car drivers; do not shine your torch in their eyes.   Take a mobile phone with you and make sure that someone knows where you are and when you should be back home.  Please tell the leader or another volunteer when you leave so that no one starts a search for you.

Children –  because we are patrolling on busy roads and in the dark we have to ask that anyone under 16 is accompanied by an adult who takes full responsibility for the child’s safety.   If you are over 16 but under 18 please ask a parent/guardian to write on your insurance form that they are aware that you will be responsible for your own safety.

Contact Charlotte on 07780 956264



Lord Sugar's tweet (1)


Lord Sugar tweeted as above!

We have cards and postcards of Tony Halls cartoon available to purchase at the Village Stores in Great Massingham and Artfellows in Fakenham.  Sold in aid of


Toadwatch was started in 2004 – initially to help amphibians in Bowthorpe and Little Melton to the west of Norwich in the United Kingdom.  These were both important breeding sites and are registered with Froglife, unfortunately the growth in housing has led to the demise of the Bowthorpe toads and there is no longer a patrol there.  Since 2004 we have helped many other people to set up patrols to save their local toads.  Please see the contacts page if you would like help to set up a new patrol.

During the migration season – which takes place on warm, wet evenings between February and April – volunteers carry toads, newts and frogs across the road in buckets.  Many thousands of animals are saved each year – without this help the local toad populations could become extinct.

Volunteers are given basic safety instructions and asked to wear a Hi Viz vest or jacket when working in the road.  The work is too dangerous for young children, as volunteers have to be responsible for their own safety  whilst they are helping the animals.

Why we do toad patrol

Toad facts

Toad Patrol in Norfolk

We are lucky to have so many ponds in Norfolk – so we have a lot of toads!  There are 18 patrols working together as Toadwatch and last year they saved over 33,000 toads – which is nearly half the toads saved in the whole country.   There are around 150 patrols in the UK that report numbers to Froglife.   We know that there are many toads being lost at crossings that have no patrol and would like to a lot more patrols.

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