VOLUNTEERS are helping toads cross a Chalford road safely as they come out of hibernation and head to their breeding grounds.

Hundreds of toads are crossing each night from their woodland habitat, to their spawning sites on the other side of the road.

Toad crossing co-organiser and volunteer, ecologist Carolyn Billingsley said: "After spending much of the year discreetly hidden away under stones and logs in the woods around Chalford the toads begin their annual migration as soon as the temperature begins to rise above five degrees.

"Following a chemical scent, possibly omitted from aquatic plants, they begin their nocturnal march towards their spawning sites.

"Unfortunately for them their age old journey now coincides with another more recent migration – humans in cars returning home, going to and from the pub or just taking a short cut through Chalford Vale, and the result - toad carnage on the roads.

"Toads which have an endearing but catastrophic habitat of freezing in the head lights of a car as it approaches end up squished under the car wheels."

Hundreds of toads cross the road that extends from Chalford park to the viaduct and every year huge numbers of them die before they manage to reach their breeding habitat – this is where the Chalford Toad Patrol comes in.

Set up over five years ago, with support from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and FrogLife, the patrol consists of a number of enthusiastic nocturnal volunteers, old and young who, armed only with a bucket and a torch, rescue large numbers of toads and move them to safety.

"The valiant efforts of the patrollers ensure that most of Chalford’s toads will make it back to the water to breed," said Carolyn.

"Participating in the toad patrol is a wonderful way to help wildlife. Knowing you’ve done your bit to help toads negotiate their way back to their breeding sites, despite all the anthropogenic obstacles, reinforces a connection to the natural world.

"Nothing quite beats the beauty of a moonlit woodland walk accompanied by the hooting of Tawny owls and the sonorous cacophony of 50 toads coming from your bucket.

"What better way is there of spending the night, especially when all the pubs are closed."