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Hampsssstead Heath

Last modified: 16 August 2013

Snake Walk - Wild About Hampstead Heath

One of the young Londoners discovering the Capital's natural residents

Image: Heidi Mansell

Urban snakes are not as common as say pigeons or squirrels, but they do live in London and are as much a part of the Capital's wildlife as bats, stag beetles and hedgehogs.

The UK traditionally has only three types of real snake, the cute ones are grass snakes, the biting ones with scary-eyes are adders, sometimes called vipers, and the rarely seen smooth snake makes three. We have harmless slow worms too, but these are lizards without legs.

As part of its community program, our Wild About Hampstead Heath partnership project runs a series of discovery trails, and one of the most recent went in search of newly hatched grass snakes.

"It was sick!" The excited and brief feedback of the event from the Sayer brothers.

 

A rummage in the undergrowth, led by one of the Heath's experienced Rangers, soon found what they were looking for. A nest of young grass snakes. They hibernate over winter, mate in and around May with eggs hatching in June and July, that's the grass snakes not the Rangers.
 
 

There are events on the Heath throughout the Summer and Autumn, so there are plenty of opportunities to discover more about this amazing green space. Alternatively, simply take a rug and a picnic with a kite, book or ball to soak up it's impressive natural ambience.

Although we officially only have the three types of snake, London does have some more exotic visitors in residence too. 

There have been confirmed sightings of Aesculapian snakes, which feed on rats and other small rodents. London also has sizeable populations of terrapins, parakeets and Chinese mitten crabs surviving in our parks, gardens, waterways and trees. Most are unwanted pets dumped in the wild or hitchhikers who've made it to the UK on ships or trucks bringing goods from abroad. Some manage to fit in to our environment, but others are causing problems by undermining river banks, spreading disease or eating food that other species rely upon.

Where possible, visiting creatures causing problems are re-homed, but new arrivals are always likely. If you come across any wildlife, treat it with respect. It may not be dangerous but if you're worried, do report it to your local council parks or environment officers. 

Wild About Hampstead Heath is a partnership project involving the City of London Corporation, Heath Hands volunteers, English Heritage, the RSPB and the Camden Community Consortium with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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