The smooth snake is Britain’s rarest reptile and needs help to better understand its ecology and status in the wild in order to conserve it.

Snakes in the Heather is an exciting and ambitious project led by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) to conserve the smooth snake throughout its range in Southern England. The project is advancing our knowledge of the species and coordinating conservation efforts essential for its long-term survival. We work in partnership with a wide variety of wildlife conservation organisations, site managers, landowners and individuals to protect this rare and elusive species and the internationally important lowland heathland habitat on which it depends. The project runs for four years until the summer of 2023. Take a look at our project updates to find out what we've been up to.

Continue reading to find out the ways you can join in and support the project:

Jump to...

Snakes in the Heather has three aims:

  • To raise public awareness of the conservation needs of our reptile and heathland heritage, helping to promote better understanding that safeguards their future.
  • To promote community relationships, personal wellbeing and life opportunities by providing chances for people to engage as project volunteers, allowing them to gain new skills and knowledge.
  • To develop guidance and technical support to advance the conservation and ecological resilience of the smooth snake and other heathland reptiles.

In order to conserve the smooth snake, we must first know where it lives. We deliver these project aims in several ways...

  • We are raising awareness of reptiles within local communities through our education and events programme.
  • With the support of our partners and an army of trained citizen scientists, we are establishing a surveillance and monitoring programme for reptiles through out the range of the smooth snake.
  • We are carrying out habitat enhancement activities guided by our survey results.
  • We are supporting our partners by sharing data and knowledge, and providing common resources such as standardised survey methods, equipment and protected species licencing.

Join In!

Volunteer! Snakes in the Heather is recruiting volunteers for a number of exciting roles to support our reptile surveys, habitat management tasks and community events. If you are interested becoming a volunteer and would like to receive updates and opportunities to get involved in ARC initiatives, please register via the link below:

ARC Volunteer Registration Form

Events! Click the link below to see details of upcoming Snakes in the Heather and other ARC events:

ARC Events

Learn something new!

Our schools outreach programme covers the science/biology curriculum for all ages, from 5 year olds to university students. These lessons are free of charge and cover classification, taxonomy, ecology, biology, and more and can be delivered in a number of settings:

- Via Zoom: ARC deliver lessons on identification of UK reptiles that can be adapted for all ages. To book a session please email [email protected] using the subject; Education via Zoom. You will be asked to provide the Zoom link and some basic details about the audience prior to delivery.

- In the classroom: ARC will come to your school and deliver curriculum linked lessons. (Please note, our Education Officer will not bring lives animal to these events.)

- On the heathland: For schools that are adjacent to heathland or have access to transport, ARC's Education Officer is able to deliver lessons on heathland sites, providing the opportunity for students to see the habitats animals live in for themselves.

- At the New Forest Reptile Centre: Our project partners, Forestry England, have kindly allowed us to use the New Forest Reptile Centre. This wonderful site has live examples of our native species and is adjacent to areas of heath. There is also on-site parking and toilets.

- At Avon Heath Country Park: Our project partners, BCP Council, have kindly allowed us to use Avon Heath Country Park from September to March for secondary school, college and university education. This an excellent venue to take pupils with a classroom, live reptiles, large areas of heathland ideal for fieldwork, toilets and parking (parking charges apply).

If you are interested in a face-to-face outreach please email Owain on [email protected] using the subject; Education.

- Assemblies: Our assembly showcases the UK's native reptile species whilst delivering messages about the importance of biodiversity and explaining why we should value reptile species as much as other animals. It can be tailored for age group and length of session. If you are interested in book an assembly please email Owain on [email protected] using the subject; Assembly.


- ARC is running a Work Experience Programme for Key Stage 4 students who undertake 2 weeks of work experience as part of their education.

- ARC is running an Internship Programme for adults wishing to gain experience in conservation. Through the Internship Programme there are opportunities to work with staff with various expertise allowing the programme to be tailored to the interests of the individual.

Book an event!

Whether you are a Brownie group or a Rotarian, Snakes in the Heather has an event for you! We can host a guided walk or presentation for your community group - details as follows:

Guided Walks: Our guided walks are open to groups of more than 5 people. They take place on ARC managed heathland nature reserves in Dorset and take about 2 hours, but this is flexible. We will explore heathland wildlife and, if between March and October, we may be lucky enough to spot a reptile or two. Children are welcome but must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Book by emailing Owain on [email protected] using the subject; Guided Walk. Please include the following information in your email: The date you would like to book for, the names of everyone in the group, your mobile telephone number and any other information you think worth noting to run a safe and enjoyable event. If booking for a group with children please provide their ages.

Presentations:  Our presentations cover either a) identification and ecology of UK reptiles, or b) a Snakes in the Heather project overview and update. They can be delivered via Zoom. You will be asked to provide the Zoom link. Book by emailing Owain on [email protected] using the subject; Presentation. Please include the following information in your email: Group name and area of interest, age/demographic of group and number of people who will be attending.

Snakes in the Heather hosts regular activity days and educational events throughout the year to inspire interest in heathland and reptile conservation for all ages. All of these events are free of charge (booking may be required) and families are welcome. 
Click the link below to see details of upcoming ARC and Snakes in the Heather events:

ARC Events

Survey your site!

If you are a landowner or conservation organisation interested in collaborating to survey reptiles on your land, find out more on the  information about our survey and monitoring programmes visit the ARC National Amphibian & Reptile Monitoring page. If you have a specific enquiry about reptile surveys on the lowland heathlands of southern England, email: [email protected]

Project updates:

Jan 2023: Snakes in the Heather - a busy year ahead

Nov 2022: Snakes in the Heather - conservation, education and celebration

Sep 2022: Snakes in the Heather - reflecting on a successful summer

Jul 2022: Not long until Heath Week 2022

Mar 2022: Snakes in the Heather - inspiring volunteers and the next generation

Jan 2022: Snakes in the Heather - preparation is key!

Nov 2021: Sssmooth sssnake sssleepy time...

Sep 2021: Successful summer for Snakes in the Heather

May 2021: Snakes in the Heather – New video lesson series and exciting dates for your diary!

Mar 2021: Snakes in the Heather springs into action

Jan 2021: Snakes in the Heather goes digital

Nov 2020: A creative first year for Snakes in the Heather

Feb 2020: A smooth start to Snakes in the Heather

Jul 2019: The secretive smooth snake gets National Lottery lifeline

We are extremely thankful for the support of our partners, volunteers and funders who have made Snakes in the Heather a reality. The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bannister Trust and Love the Forest (New Forest Trust).


Our Snakes in the Heather project partners are: 

Amphibian & Reptile Groups UK

Bournemouth Community Action Network

Bournemouth Natural Science Society

Bournemouth University

Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council

Broadstone Golf Club

Clinton Devon Estates - East Devon Pebblebed Heaths

Devon Reptile & Amphibian Group (DRAG)

Dorset Amphibian & Reptile Network (DARN)

Dorset County Council

Dorset Wildlife Trust

Erica Trust

Forestry England

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Amphibian & Reptile Group (HIWARG)

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Hampshire County Council

Kingston Maurward College

Livability, Holton Lee

Men in Sheds Christchurch

National Trust

Natural England

New Forest National Park Authority

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group (SARG)

Sussex Amphibian & Reptile Group (SxARG)

Urban Heaths Partnership

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

Wiltshire Amphibian & Reptile Group (WARG)

Back to top