‘Snakes in the Heather’ is a new and exciting ARC project which has been awarded support from the National Lottery. The project aims to conserve Britain’s rarest reptile, the smooth snake, by bringing together key partners including Amphibian and Reptile Groups, Wildlife Trusts and other non-governmental and governmental organisations.

Over the past two centuries there has been an extensive decline in the smooth snake’s primary habitat, lowland heathland. The species is now only found on the heaths of Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex, with a special introduction site in Devon. It is a very secretive creature, choosing to bask within heather vegetation and burrowing out of sight. For this reason, its ecology, behaviour and distribution have been difficult to study and therefore its status and conservation needs are poorly understood.

Our £467,100 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant will develop partnerships between organisations and community volunteers, and harmonize conservation efforts across southern England.

The project will raise awareness and “ownership” of reptiles among local communities through the media and events, greater community awareness of smooth snakes as a unique component of our biological heritage. We will use a “citizen science” approach to help us conserve the smooth snake by training new and existing volunteers to carry out targeted reptile surveys. This will provide valuable data to better understand the smooth snake’s needs in order to support and inform conservation decisions. Volunteers will also carry out practical tasks to improve the species’ heathland habitats across Southern England.

The project’s legacy will ensure better managed, more resilient smooth snake populations through a greater, shared understanding of the conservation needs of the species.

The Snakes in the Heather Development Phase will focus on developing important partnerships, and planning an exciting range of events and volunteer opportunities

A Second Round application will be submitted to the HLF in autumn 2018 to secure funding for the Delivery Phase, starting in 2019. The project will then run until 2023.

The highly successful New Forest Smooth Snake Survey (NF-SSS…) will continue in 2018, and will form an integral part of Snakes in the Heather during the project’s Delivery Phase, building on the strong local partnerships that are already in place.

For more information on the Snakes in the Heather project, or to find out how you can get involved in reptile conservation on the heaths of Southern England, contact:

For more information on Snakes in the Heather, contact:

Ben Limburn, Snakes in the Heather Project Development Officer

t: 01202 391 319 (ARC office)
t: 01202 727 989 (direct)
e: [email protected]

John Wilkinson,  Regional, Training & Science Programmes Manager

t: 07810 770560
e: [email protected]