ARC volunteer Ben tells us why he chose to walk the Gower coast to raise much needed funds for adder conservation.

I’d like to thank everybody who contributed to the fundraising and allowed me to reach the target goal that will go toward funding adder conservation.

A little about me

I have been fascinated by reptiles ever since I was a child. At around five years old I dreamed about becoming an explorer, trekking the amazon, swimming with anacondas and discovering new species. Of cause this wasn’t really possible for a young child living in South Wales and because of this, I’d have to find other ways to indulge in my obsession. A few years later I’d found and picked up my first grass snake, learning first-hand about their self defence mechanism which involves a pungent musk secreted from their anal glands (much to the “delight” of my parents). A year or two later my curiosity continued to stress out my mother, when I was found scaling a large coliseum with a disposable camera in one hand, after spotting a lizard whilst on holiday in Italy.

Although this passion has followed me into adulthood, I no longer disturb animals minding their own business if I don’t have to, and I do a much better job of not endangering my life for curiosity.

However, a life time interest has made me quite adept at spotting reptiles and amphibians, and I now volunteer when I can surveying and updating our native (or alien) species distribution data.

Why I wanted to support the adder

Regardless of my love of all things herpetological, what drove me to do this walk for Vipera Berus; the common European Viper, the adder or Mr zig-zags (a name used by absolutely no-one), was the amount of misrepresentation I’ve seen them receive online lately.

To me, adders are amongst the most beautiful of creatures we have on this island. They are an important part of a complex and delicate ecosystem, continuously challenged by human involvement.

When a paper such as (I’ll use a fake name as to not seem bias) “the circadian letter”, has a head line that states, “KILLER POISONOUS SNAKES ARE INVADING BRITISH SHORES” whilst using the fist picture of a snake they found on Google (and on more than one occasion the wrong species); they are not only portraying a wrong and sinister image of an animal, they are also potentially being dangerous.

Adders, as well as all wild animals should be treated with respect, and, if admired, should be done so; at a distance which is not going to disturb them. It is not them in our territory, it is us in theirs. Although they are venomous, cows kill an average of 4 times more people than adders do in the UK each year. That average being based on cows being involved in 80 deaths over the last 20 years and adders being involved in 0 over that same time period.

Walking the Gower Coast in a day and a half

For the walk I’d left my house in the early hours and got to the starting point outside of Whiteford Gower; carrying with me around 10kg of supplies (6 kg of that being water) and heading onto the beach. Being the only person in my field of vision for miles really helped to observe the beauty of our vast coastline. At times it felt romanticised, like how our ancestors would have marched over rough terrain before the convenience of flattened paths or roads. Naturally I made the walk harder for myself by sticking to the coastal edge rather than using all of the sign posted routes, occasionally having to resort to scrambling up rocks but taking in as much of the scenery as possible.

It wasn’t long before I’d come across a dozen or so common lizards within the dunes, and a large adder that had recently fed. Majestic, and with its striking red eyes, I could almost pretend that it gave me a nod of approval in acknowledgment to what I was doing before I moved on. Llangennith to Rossili was an impressive stretch, hosting five of the six species of jelly fish routinely found in UK waters.

From Mewslade onwards, the sun was getting to its peak. Without shade and around 15 miles to where I’d decided to camp for the night, this was a a bit of an endurance challenge. Luckily for me I’d gone a little sun crazy by this point and enjoyed the seals egging me on from the sea beneath the cliffs.

After almost 30 miles of straight walking it was time to set up camp. The spot I had chosen was quiet and void of life bah the moths flying into my night light and the bats taking advantage of the moths well documented love of lamp. By midnight the sea was just a few meters from the tent entrance. The Milky Way visible, and no sound but the crashing of the waves. this was how rest was meant to be.

The next morning started as you’d expect. After a spray of aftersun at the rice cracker that used to be my face, A seagull had seemingly mistaken my noggin for a rock and attempted to drop a hermit crab on it. Luckily for the crab, it missed and so, I took him to a nearby rock pool where he peered out from him mobile home to give me one of those pincery waves. The rest of the journey was a bit of a blur, as the temperature seemed to start in the mid 20s that day, I was down to my last bottle of water and already anthropomorphising crustaceans.

On completion of the challenge I celebrated by binning my socks which had become a biohazard and introduced a bottle of cider to the bath where there was much rejoicing.

Everyone at ARC would like to say huge thank you and congratulations to Ben for his amazing efforts, raising over £500 to support our adder conservation work. If you would like to donate to Ben’s fundraiser you can still do so at 

Further information

Adders are peaceful shy snakes and if disturbed their first line of defence is to move into nearby cover and hide.

Adders are protected by law in Britain and it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or trade them

For more information take a look at ARC’S Adder Guide - narrated by Chris Packham and Iolo Williams.

If you would also like to support adder conservation or our other reptiles, amphibians and their habitats, you can become an ARC Member or create your own fundraising page!