ARC's Snakes in the Heather Public Engagement and Education Officer, Owain, shares a family's excitement of hunting for reclusive reptiles in a sea of purple heather.   

At Amphibian and Reptile Conservation we run a large number of events every year to inform, interest and involve the next generation in conservation of wildlife.

A couple of weeks ago the Snakes in the Heather project led its last ‘Dragon Finding Quest’ of this summer. This was a guided walk in one of our nature reserves with a mission to spot as many reptiles as possible, all the while making sure we did not disturb them.

The group consisted of the walk leader, me, and 6 others, 2 parents with their children aged 16, 14 and 9 and 5 respectively. (This was before the change is social distancing rules that reduces group size to six). We set off through some beautiful mature woodland and walked out onto one of ARC’s heathland nature reserves. Once we had reached a pretty patch of purple we spent a few minutes talking about heather flowers and what makes heathland nature reserves so special. We walked a little off the path and into the heather to cover top tips for locating lizards and searching out snakes!

We moved deeper into the reserve, climbing higher and higher up a bank. The weather was cool but comfortable; clouds with patchy sunlight. It took quite some patience; we saw butterflies, bees, caterpillars, spiders, rabbits and even a froglet, but reptiles evaded us.

Reptiles are secretive by nature, moving away when disturbed. I was able to persuade the excitable rabble that silence and careful movement was key! We moved to a footpath with a high sided bank that was facing the sunlight. It wasn’t long before one of the group glimpsed a scaly tail as it dashed into the heather and bracken undergrowth. With renewed focus we moved along the path and soon saw a sand lizard. We were thrilled. We kept going, slowly, and saw another, and another, and another, males and females. Everyone in the group saw at least one lizard, with those who had a knack for it seeing a half dozen. We were delighted as it is often tricky to spot reptiles, due not just to their secretive behaviour, but also their amazing camouflage. However, on this day the conditions were just right. This was a day of screen-free enjoyment, the only exception being taking a few photos. We concluded the walk with everyone highlighting new things they had learned.

It is now getting chilly and most of our reptiles are becoming more dormant and will soon be going into hibernation. However, although we won’t see any reptiles, the Snakes in the Heather project is still running events for families who want some time in nature this winter. We have adapted our usual programme to run Nature Nurture Days. Nature Nurture Days are running on Sundays and have been planned for families/bubbles with social distancing in mind. We will meet you on a local nature reserve, invite you to get stuck in with practical tasks that keep heathland healthy, teach you about amazing wildlife, and play some fun games in the great outdoors.

Nurture Nature Sundays are beginning to fill. Let your friends know!

For details of other events see our events section and if you would like to book a bespoke event as part of the Snakes in the Heather project, including guided walks or talks that can be booked on weekdays or weekends, visit our Snakes in the Heather project page.