The Youth Climate Action group is for young people ages 10-14 from across the area who want to be able to make a difference in the fight against climate change. Funded through the #iWill Campaign and Cornwall Community Foundation, it is a supported youth project including funding and resources to learn and take action to reduce the impact of Climate Change, running on a variety of dates between Spring and Summer 2021. To find out more, please [email protected]
This week I have been thinking about the slow worms hibernating in my garden. They hibernate from October to March. They are not snakes or worms, but in fact legless lizards! Its serpentine appearance earned it the Old English name wyrm, a label broadly applied to anything that crept or crawled, from adders to dragons. Slow worms are completely harmless; they do not bite or sting. These gentle, sentient creatures are great for gardens as they eat slugs and snails.
I am lucky to see them every year and this summer that I lost count of how many. We uncovered a pile of rubble at the back of the cottage when we cleared some brambles that had rooted in the guttering (long story). Whenever the stones were disturbed a slow worm’s head would peep out. As the weather grew warmer they became more adventurous. At one point I counted 30! Many of them were writhing around mating in balls of glistening golden luminescent cords. They give birth to live young, up to 8 at a time. I am always careful if I ever mow the lawn (not very often) as I do not want any being chopped up by my lawnmower.
I was reminded of our slow worm summer when I found a book that had belonged to my Grandma who sadly died in May. I took the chance to look through the book again. When I first received the book I was amused to discover that all the pages containing pictures of long-tailed animals had been taped together! The book was the Wildlife Trusts Book of British Wildlife and includes field mice, voles, shrews, lizards, adders, and slow worms. All those pages were stuck together, some with warning signs!
I had carefully peeled the pages apart but some signs of sticky tape remain. I always smile fondly when I see them. I find it ironic that she absolutely loved Wind in the Willows (anyone remember Ratty?), but I do inherit my love of nature from my Grandma. She had a tiny garden but it was a haven for wildlife, and though she was scared of slow worms and lizards she would never do them any harm.
If you want to see slow worms in your garden look out for them basking on bricks, slates and walls in the warmth of the sun. Slow worms are up to 45 cms long and have smooth, golden-grey skin. Males are paler in colour and sometimes have blue spots, while females are larger, with dark sides and a dark stripe down the back. They can live for up to 20 years!
Like lizards, slow worms are a protected species. To encourage them into your garden then leave some long grass near dry stonewalls, log piles and compost heaps. They are shy creatures but if you are quiet on a sunny day you may be lucky enough to see 1….or 2… or 3… or 30!.