The smooth snake is Britain’s rarest reptile, yet its status and conservation needs are poorly understood.

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 will run for four years until the summer of 2023. However, due to the global pandemic and related government legislation and recommendations ARC has suspended all face-to-face events, including our volunteering activities, until further notice. If you have any questions about this please email Ben on [email protected] or Owain on [email protected]

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. To deliver the project aims, ARC is coordinating a systematic reptile survey and monitoring programme, training an army of ‘Reptile Survey Volunteers’ to find  the animals within their heathland home. We also carry out habitat enhancement activities, instigate evidence-based research, and raise awareness of reptiles within local communities through an education and events programme.

Join In!

Volunteer! Snakes in the Heather is recruiting volunteers for a number of exciting roles. If you are interested in becoming a Citizen Scientist, helping to maintain the heathland habitats on which the smooth snake relies, or supporting us at events please email [email protected] and include information about the type of volunteering you are interested in. Visit the Snakes in the Heather Volunteer Days Event Page for details of our regular winter volunteer tasks.

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 will 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. These lessons will be tailored to fit a double lesson. (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, Dorset County 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 (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 or a Rotarian, Snakes in the Heather has a programme to fit your needs! ARC are leading an education and engagement programme for all ages.

Guided Walks: Our guided walks 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.

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.

Activity Days: We run activity days in the summer and winter. Our winter events have been designed for families/groups of people who are able to remain in their 'bubbles' as per COVID19 guidelines. Accordingly, maximum group size is 5. Visit the Snakes in the Heather Sunday Fundays Event Page which will be back online next year for booking details. Our most regular summer event are the Snakes in the Heather Wild Wednesdays which will be back online next year. These run from the New Forest Reptile Centre from spring until autumn.

Other Events! Snakes in the Heather is hosting numerous educational events to inspire interest in heathland and reptile conservation. All of these events are free of charge and families are welcome. Snakes in the Heather Public Events which will be back online next year include community presentations, Bioblitzes, guided walks and reptile themed arts and crafts tables at events and will resume next year.

Survey your site!

If you are a landowner or conservation organisation interested in collaborating to survey reptiles on your land, or if you would like more information about our survey and monitoring programme and how species records will be used, please email: [email protected] We are extremely thankful for the support of our partners, volunteers and funders who have made Snakes in the Heather a reality.

Snakes in the Heather 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 Council for Voluntary Service

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