Sunday, 30 June 2013

Watch Your Step — Vipers in the Grass!

Needless to say you should always have a mobile phone on your person when you go fishing. It's a quite dangerous pastime in many ways especially fishing solo when falling in a swollen river fully-clothed wearing waders or even wellies might well cost you your life. 

There's another danger this time of year though, because adders will be basking in the sun and though they tend to flee pretty quickly it's quite possible to step on them unawares. I came within a yard of one last week whilst fishing way up in the wild upper reaches of the Saxon Mill. It shot off when it heard my footsteps coming through the scrubby grass, but if I'd not seen it in front of me (and I saw it only when it was almost too late) or suddenly sidestepped and trod on it I might have been in deep trouble because my phone had just run out of charge, and though I was fishing with Baz Peck, he was out of earshot and I didn't have a clue where he was.

However, I was wearing wellies and in this case they might have saved me from the bite if I had stepped on it. 

Adder bites can kill in extreme cases, unconsciousness in many, but the bite causes severe swelling of the bitten limb which will quickly swell to twice, even three times its size, and make it impossible to walk your way out of trouble. 

Be warned, I've seen the results first-hand and it's not pretty. It happened to a friend of mine when a teenager. He stepped on it, it bit him, we panicked and ran the half mile back to his house. By the time we got there his jeans had to be cut off him, because his leg had swollen enormously and continued to swell. He was in hospital for a few days and was fine, but it could have killed him...

If it happens, or even if you believe it might have, then immediately phone the emergency services on 999, give them your exact location, stay put and remain calm. 

Do wear wellies and have that phone fully charged. They're quite rare creatures but not so uncommon that they should be ignored as a very real danger especially in open scrubby grassland, which the Saxon Mill has in abundance in certain remote places.

Do heed this advice — the best way to avoid an adder is to watch your step!

But I wasn't watching mine...



  1. Jeff

    Not wishing to pour cold water on your story, you know that's not my style, but as a former recorder of reptiles in Warks., it is thought the adder may now be extinct in the county so anyone seeing one should be encouraged to get a photo if at all possible to confirm it.

    If there is an as yet unconfirmed population out there it needs to be recorded and conserved.

    'Not doubting you for a moment I might add.

    ...and, yes, I am still alive, and now in possession of a Warwick book too!


  2. Well George, I'm pretty sure it was one. I've seen five adders in my life, one when I was a kid in Essex, one on a cliff walk in Dorset, another two on the Essex coast and this one. All were seen in rough remote places in unkept grassy scrub except the first and all were basking in the sun except for the first who was under a sheet of plywood. I've also seen plenty of grass snakes around water and they look very different on sight. Less shocking you might say!

    The location is just the kind of place I'd expect them to live, if I was aware they might be there of course! Basically a two mile strip of long abandoned land with dense nettles lining the river, rough patchy grass and scrub behind but barely any footfall one year to the next. You never know, it might just be their one remaining stronghold in Warwickshire...

    Next time I'll freeze before I scare it and get the camera out. I watch my step there nowadays so might just encounter another at enough distance while the weather is warm.