Philip Parker is a writer, editor and researcher/project manager. He commenced his career in book publishing, worked in the charitable sector and is currently in the corporate. Twitter - @parkerpj01

26 Wild is a wonderful writing project in praise of some of our most endangered wildlife. The writers’ group 26, in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts, commissioned 56 writers to create written pieces and essays, each on a different species. The creative writing is in the form of a centena – each is exactly 100 words long, and the first three words are repeated at the very end. These are being published daily.

The species allotted to me was the sand lizard.

I knew ARC’s Jim Foster from a couple of years previously when, by happy coincidence, I was involved in devising the Royal Mail stamp of a sand lizard for a set celebrating Reintroduced Species.

And a similar happy coincidence occurred on my first foray during lockdown in April on the ARC reserve at Witley Common when I came across Ralph Connolly and Bryony Davison. They spotted me searching among the heather and called out if I was looking for lizards. When I later spotted them by their Land Rover, I realised who they must be and introduced myself. Ralph later helpfully provided info and a map of Surrey’s Crooksbury Common and tips on where to see these (as I discovered, elusive) reptiles.

Several morning visits to this hidden heathland oasis followed, some in the baking heat of May and into June. It’s a paradise for birds like woodlarks and tree pipits, and I found slow worms, and looked out for the natterjack toads which have been reintroduced. But no lizards.

With each visit I slowed my pace, and in my imagination started to match the metabolism of the lizards, as I realised this was a game of patience. Lying flat and getting a lizard’s eye view of the terrain I got the idea of this majestic creature as something of a regal figure; perhaps thinking the Sun rose for him to give him his green flanks. And I developed the idea that the lizard is the centre of his own universe. In my research I also became fascinated by the presence of lizards in folk lore and religions, from Tahiti to the Amazon (where the lizard is a manifestation of the Lord of Animals), from the ancient Romans who associated them with death and rebirth, to North American First Peoples where lizards can play a large, symbolic role in myth and life. I worked some of these influences into the piece.

And yes, I did finally spot some sand lizards – a superb male literally walked under my feet, soon followed by a female. An unforgettable experience. And ARC’s work here and in dozens of other locations will enable future generations to marvel at these rather perfect creatures. And reflect on why we have lost such a vast amount of their precious habitat, and support the work to conserve and recreate it.

Thank you to Jim, Ralph and Bryony for their insight.

The centena, essay and all the other pieces are online at or search #26Wild on Facebook or Twitter

The (Sand) Lizard King

I Am King,

Lacerta – true lizard; Lord of Animals.


Sun King. The star worships me:

          submits its shafts to stoke my blood;

          burnish my robes this dignified emerald.


Jade Warrior. A gem that glints in the dunes.

         My tongue flicks to caress

          the grasshopper’s scent. Insect sacrifice.


Sand Shaman. I discard my whiplash tail;

          summon another to sprout.

          I’m healer, diviner, sorcerer, creator.


Great Pharoah. I dismiss the sun; shrink the days;

          venture to the underworld

           to slink into your dreams and fantasies.


Lord of Light and Shadow. Every autumn entombed;

           every spring my resurrection.

           Incandescent. Immortal.

I Am King.