We live only 5 miles away and have come here nearly every week in the last three years to cycle or walk. My little boy is 7 and is really interested wildlife (took after his late dad who was a wildlife film maker and photographer). Anyway, three weeks ago, he found a young grass snake and a slow worm together under one of the metal sheets that was left there on the western end of Ham Wall. It was the first time he saw a snake in the wild and he was so excited. We went back a week later and as we were busy looking under the metal sheets hoping to find our little snake again, we did not notice that there was something else big, long and dark lying just in the middle of the open area there in the sun. I nearly stepped on it. It was an adult grass snake. It did not want to move much and Luke reached out to touch and it did not seem to mind much. It was just coiling in the middle there with the head lifted up. I just talked to it gently and it looked intensely into my face and opened and closed its mouth like it was talking to me too. It was so amazing. We must have spent over 15 minutes with it there and eventually we had to guide it into the long grass just in case any predators came by. Luke said that its skin felt very bumpy and rough, we thought it was shedding its skin and that may explain why it was very slow and did not want to move much. we went back there again yesterday and guess what, it was there again! We were right, it was in the process of shedding its skin, its top half has some of the skin hanging loose. It is now moving a bit faster than last time. This time I managed to capture a few shots of it on my phone, We then went on our bike and one and a half hours later, we were back and Luke wanted to have his last look before getting back in the car and it was back there on the exact same spot under the metal sheet. It is an extraordinary experience for Luke and me to have such close encounters to the same wild animal many times over...
So pleased to hear you are having such success on your visits and great to hear that young Luke is so enthusiastic about wildlife. I hope he continues to enjoy everything the natural world has to offer - it will give him hours of pleasure.
I think the metal sheets you refer to may be at the end of Shapwick Heath, close to the Shapwick Road. We do have some sheets out on Ham Wall too but not at the western end.
I checked the ones at Shapwick myself today as I was driving our reed cutting machine back to our workshop and was pleased to see 4 slow worms but alas no Grass Snake for me.
The only word of caution I would offer is that Adders have also been seen at this location so obviously be sure of your identification before reaching out to have a touch.
Keep visiting all your local nature reserves, there's just so much to see- you're so lucky to have this virtually on your doorstep. Thanks for posting - do keep us informed of any more exciting finds!
You are absolutely right, it is not Ham Wall. We used to park at Ham Wall car park until last year when there have been so many cars and people visiting the Starlings. We since then have gone to park on Shapwick road and cycle all the way to Ham Wall and I tend to forget and refer to the whole area as Ham Wall!
Thank you for letting us know about the Adders. We have seen them a couple of times in other places. We will be very careful. It is an amazing place for hunting for caterpillars too. Luke has found quite a few different types and we took some pictures and we yet to identify them.
We are longing to see a sight of a bittern too. What a fantastic place you have got there and we are very lucky to live so close to it.
I was lucky enought to have several sightings of a bittern last week from the first viewing area on the left heading away from car park, just using eyes and bins. Will be back this week and see if i can repeat the experience and have a (careful) look for the grass snakes
I will go to the viewing area and try harder. I have been looking up pictures of the birds in flight on the Internet, so that I can recognise it when I see one. I love wildlife but i was never into birds, until very recently - It is quite new to me but really fascinating.
Good luck with the Grass Snakes!!
Dae, I have just been looking at your website. I missed the exhibition at Devizes Museum. I drive past 'white horses' all around Wiltshire but they look so different from the air. I do wonder how they were carved by people who had no concept of human flight and views from above.
It is nice to see youngsters taking an interest in the natural world, they may not keep it up but they will remember it. As the explorer Scott said in his letter to his wife "make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games".
Thank you for writing Bob, the White Horse Exhibition finished several months ago. Britain from the air, the street exhibition is still going, and it is now at Chatham, Medway. seeing all these great landmarks and landscapes from the air was totally amazing and to be able to capture the right images in the right light as well was just incredible. We have all white horses of Wiltshire on our website if you want to see them.
I do hope my little boy keeps up his interest in the natural world. It could be the only thing that would keep his memory of his dad alive...