ARC's Connecting the Dragons Project Officer, Tawny Clark shares some of the projects exciting work for Wales' slithery, scaly, and splendid snakes.

With the media stubbornly insistent on churning out narratives of fear, it’s been heartening to hear from real people this summer and discover that most of them actually quite like snakes…even the ‘dreaded’ adder!

Here in South Wales, the Connecting the Dragon’s team has been speaking to the public about all things slithery, scaly, and splendid, both online, and at in-person events like the Gower Show, Cardiff Nature Celebrations and Rhossili Dog Show. We’ve been chatting to visitors at nature reserves, country parks and blustery cliff tops to gain valuable insights into what the nation really thinks of our very special, venomous viper.

It turns out a lot of people really like adders. Even among the not-so-avid fans, we found a general understanding and acceptance of adders being part of our natural world. ‘Live and let live,’ I was told more than once.

Of those who weren’t so keen, they tended to hold a fear of snakes in general - not necessarily directed at Britain’s shy little slitherer. Alongside advice, education and leaflet proffering, we’ve been reiterating some key messages, ‘Stay calm, No harm’ and ‘Think zig zag.’

Dispelling snakes of basilisk proportions from people’s minds has hopefully gone some way to allaying fears too. Many people were surprised to learn that adders generally only grow to around 55-65cm in length.

With more dogs, and dog owners than ever before enjoying the countryside, one of the biggest concerns people have about adders is the perceived risk they pose to their pets. Along with effective recall training, keeping dogs on leads and sticking to clear paths in woodland, heathland and coastal areas is one of the best ways to keep everyone - you, your dogs, and wild animals - safe.

Perhaps, due to their shy, elusive nature, but also the increasing ‘disconnect’ of people with nature, adders aren’t always on the radar - particularly for visitors to areas like The Gower Peninsula. I was certainly met by a few blank, bemused faces when I asked people about them. The need for education and informative signage continues.

We haven’t let adders hog all the limelight though; grass snakes - our largest native species of snake – is having its time to shine here in South Wales.

Hitting the ground slithering this summer, we produced a shiny new practical guide to creating egg-laying sites. ‘Hatching a plan for grass snakes’ is a clear, concise, and straight-forward guide, aimed at ensuring grass snake-specific habitat requirements are considered by landowners and site managers. A PDF version is available here. Fersiwn Cymraeg ar gael yma.

In August, we ran a practical grass snake egg-laying site workshop on Cadle Heath Local Nature Reserve. The exceptionally hard working and highly motivated volunteers at Swansea Community Farm put the abundance of wood chip and manure produced on their site to good use, to create a superb, steaming heap of egg-laying goodness, ready for next spring.

It’s been a brilliant, busy summer, but the major highlight has to be the creation of a magnificent willow grass snake at WWT Llanelli. With a sterling team from ARC, the National Trust, and members of the public, Clare Revera from Welsh Baskets instructed us through the ins and outs (and overs and unders) of professional basketry, and I think it’s fair to say that, together, we’ve created something truly incredible.

Unlike the diminutive adder, this giant, willow-coiled grass snake is indeed of mighty basilisk proportions. Ready to be filled with compostable on-site materials, and regularly rewoven with Wetlands-grown willow, this is not merely a spectacular, sustainable sculpture, but a fully functional egg-laying habitat feature for the resident grass snake population. With existing incubation sites nearby, it shouldn’t take long for the locals to discover this sensational, serpentine citadel! Head to the Millennium wetlands area of WWT Llanelli to see it for yourselves.

you'd like to read more about ARC’s Connecting the Dragon project and how to get involved visit the project page.

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