Full marks to Hampshire County Council and the Highways Authority for constructing a Toad Tunnel on Cufaude Lane in Bramley. It’s not just for Common Toads of course and all amphibians are welcome to use it. This ambitious project comprises guiding barriers (piping cut in half lengthways) that in theory corral amphibians into using a tunnel that runs under the road.

Above: The annual amphibian migration on Cufaude Lane has begun. The maps show where most animals have been recorded and the tables are patrol data for the last few days.

Gaps have been left in the guiding barriers, apparently for the passage of Great Crested Newts although that is only hearsay. It is noteworthy perhaps that Toad Patroller records over the years indicate the species does not regularly use this stretch of Cufaude Lane for migration. Of course, the gaps allow other similarly-sized amphibians, including Common Toads to squeeze through and on to the road, some might say defeating the object of the exercise.

Stepping back for a moment, the underlying logic is a bit puzzling. In theory a well-constructed tunnel would be used by Great Cresteds along with other amphibians. Looking at it another way, if the strategic gaps really allowed just Great Cresteds alone to pass through, is it OK for them to get squashed on the road, and not toads?

The principle of the idea is good. However, looking at it from the perspective of a toad it needs a few tweaks and finishing touches:

  • The east-side entrance to the tunnel stands proud of the guiding barriers and it seems unlikely that toads, frogs and newts would find it at any time, let alone in the dark.
  • The concept of ‘gaps’ in the guiding barriers need to be re-thought.
  • For some reason additional barriers have been installed between Zone C and the Toad Tunnel, a section of Cufaude Lane that is also an important zone for Toad migration. There are no obvious connections to the Toad Tunnel, and no obvious means of escape aside from the structural gaps designed supposedly for Great Crested Newts alone to pass through. It’s hard to imagine what the fate will be for amphibians that are unable to squeeze through the gaps.
Above: The installation of the Cufaude Lane Toad Tunnel. The project is in its infancy and undoubtedly a great idea. However, there are questions about how successful it will be in practise until it has been refined.

It’s a pity the Cufaude Lane Toad Patrollers weren’t consulted during the construction phase of the Toad Tunnel. But it’s not too late to remedy the situation and it’s a ‘work in progress’ so the patrollers have been told…

Cufaude Lane’s Toad Tunnel will undoubtedly save amphibian lives at one of the most important migration hotspots on the highway. However, amphibians cross the road on a broad front and so the likelihood is that, short of affording it ‘restricted access’ status or it becoming a ‘No Through Road’, Toad Patrollers will always have a role to play. These days, I am taking my permitted daily exercise at dusk, wearing my trusty Hi-Viz jacket of course.