I thoroughly enjoy getting out into nature by way of my trail running. There are so many benefits to trail running that have kept me hooked for years now. Spotting flora and fauna are one of those plus points when out running. For me personally, looking out for the elusive Slow worm (Anguis fragilis) is something I always enjoy.
The Slow worm
Slow worms are often mistaken for snakes. They’re not snakes! In fact, they are legless lizards. I made this same mistake myself when I first found one. If you don’t look carefully you can easily mistake it for smooth snake from a distance.
The slow worm is just that – slow. From my observation they’re really lazy and lethargic. I’ll often nudge them gently to try to coerce them into the grass and off the trail. The last thing I want is for the next runner / walker / mountain biker to squish them.
They can be so lazy in fact, that even nudging them won’t get them to move. Here’s a particular stubborn little guy that just wasn’t budging after repeated prods.
Slow worm Habitat
Heathlands and grasslands seem to be their favourite places to hang out. I’ve almost always spotted them lying lazily across warm, sun exposed sections of trail. Usually they seem happiest basking in the sun in sandy areas of trail.
Basically any substrate or surface that is good at absorbing the warmth of the sun is fair game for slow worms.
This actually puts them in danger, as they’re really easy to step on if you’re out hiking or running. Even worse if you’re on a mountain bikes as you’re very unlikely to see these little reptiles at speed.
I’m not sure which parts of the UK they’re most common in, as I’ve only ever seen them in the South of England where I am currently located.
They’re quite rare too. I tend to run trails between 2 – 5 times a week, average 3 x times a week, and on average I might see them 3 x times a year.
Of course you don’t really see them in the colder months. May to October seem to be the months where they’re most commonly out.
More information about UK snakes
Check out this page over at The Wildlife Trusts if you’re looking to identify snakes in the UK.