The strange case of the Midwife Toad

An invader from Yorkshire via the Continent

By R B Parish

Several accounts in the early 2000s record the finding of an unusual toad, smaller than our usual toad as well as reports of a strange bell like sound, a sound unfamiliar in our Isles, suggested something unusual was living in an obscure part of the county. In particular, the sightings and sounds have been recorded around Worksop such as along Owdy Road, Carlton In Lindrick, where squashed toads on the road were finally indentified as the species

The origin of these alien can be traced to either 1878 or 1898, when a nursery firm Horton and Smart accidently introduced the species to their Bedford site as eggs on aquatic plants from France. They would have remained there and subsequently die out in 1922 when the pool they had colonised was filled in by Bedfordshire County Council, if it were not for a WS Brocklehurst collecting a dozen for his private pond. From this colony, his son Robert Brocklehurst brought five toads and a dozen tadpoles from his father’s garden to his house at Woodsetts near Worksop.

Notes on his introduction were made in 1950 by Paul Batty, from a Herpetological Journal, directly from the introducer Robert Brocklehurst stated that in the autumn of 1946 he constructed a concrete pond was built in the gravel-covered yard beside the house. Notes record that:

“It measures approximately 15 feet by 15 feet and is 2 feet 6 inches in depth at its deepest part. The bed of the pond has some 6 to 8 inches of soil and the water level is maintained by rainwater collected from the roof of an outbuilding dose at hand. A stone wall extends along two sides of the pond; on the other two is a low rockery made of stones and earth.”

 In the spring of 1947 Mr. Brocklehurst brought plants from his father's pond at Bedford, and then in August he introduced five toads. He states that:

“Nothing more was heard or seen of them that year. In the spring of 1948 the toads were heard croaking and they continued to call all through the summer. In August about twenty tadpoles from Bedford were introduced. Most of them were well-advanced in growth and it is believed that they underwent metamorphosis that year. On April 15, 1949, a toad was heard croaking, not at the pond site but from a large rockery built by a former owner of the house and standing in another part of the garden some 95 yards away from the pond. Croaking continued throughout the summer, both from the pond site and from the other rockery.”

A mild February in 1950 meant that two toads were heard calling although he noted they were not usually active until late April and May. What is well known to naturalists is the toad’s unusual breeding where after normal copulation the male takes the string of eggs around his legs and carries them with him until they hatch, although strangely they do not always live near water and can be found anything up to 25 yards from any water.

A Paul Batty on a herpetological website notes that no one knows how many colonies there are, but is clear they are spreading and establishing more in both Woodsetts and into Nottinghamshire. As an introduced species of course they receive no protection and understandably some people may be reluctant to reveal the survival of the species. However, soon the bell like sound of this rather amiable alien may be more familiar in the county.

For more information on the Midwife Toad, click HERE

This page was added by R B Parish on 21/03/2013.
Comments about this page

You have a gift for adding inappropriate photos to your articles! Surely it is not in good taste for the record nor even amusing to have an unconnected pic of Miranda here?

By M Ruff
On 26/09/2013

Thank you for contacting OurNotts. We have amended the pages you suggest, and hope that you will continue to use (and keep a watchful eye) on the site.

By Website Administrator
On 26/09/2013

I'm a wildlife photographer based in Nottinghamshire and trying to pin point a location to photograph and film these toads in worksop but so far drawn a blank could you help?

By Jack
On 03/02/2014

Hi, I am the current owner of the property in woodsetts and would be happy to help.

By Tom Clark
On 22/04/2014

Hello Tony,

Yes that would be fanstastic if you could, my email is




By Jack Perks
On 26/04/2014

Strange animals in NottinghamshireMidwife toadsBy Richard Muirhead

Please can anyone tell me of any sightings of strange animals in Nottinghamshire,past or present?


Has any more been heard of the Notts midwife toads?


Richard Muirhead

By Richard Muirhead
On 28/06/2016

We dug a pond in our Shireoaks garden (next village to Woodsetts). About ten years ago, as well as a large amount of frogspawn and tadpoles I noticed some unusually large tadpoles in there, which subsequently over-wintered and later the pond. I later realised what they were. The parent toad lived in our rockery (we thought an adjacent building site had a smoke alarm or similar beeping until I realised what we had). He returned the following year

Unfortunately I've not heard or seen any midwife toads since.


By Paul Wheatley
On 23/03/2020

Strangely enough, having submitted the above, for the first time in some years, there are some large tadpoles in the same pond again, weeks after the earlier frog tadpoles have left. I'm sure they must be toads. Time will tell if they are Common, or the Midwife variety. The Midwife toads have vertical pupils, Common toads horizontal ones so if possible I'll try to find out; I'll have to wait until they begin to change into toads.

By Paul Wheatley
On 08/06/2020

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