At St John's we have joined SliC (Slow-worms in Churchyards), which is a project to record and monitor slow-worms in church grounds. SliC is a project being run by ARG UK (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation) and locally by HIWARG (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group).
Churchyards are an important habitat, in the main they have areas which are unmanaged and have been undisturbed for many years. Although St John's is a relatively new church (almost 100 years on this site), the grounds has areas which have intentionally been left - these include areas such as our no mow areas and our hedges, some of which are very old. This all provides a good habitat for a variety of animals, including amphibians such as slow-worms.
What is a slow-worm? A slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) is the most common reptile in the UK, generally they can be found hiding underground, under vegetation or under compost. Although they look like snakes, they are infact a legless lizard. Another interesting fact is slow-worms have eyelids, where as snakes do not. They grow upto 35 or 40cm and are a grey or brown colour. Slow-worms are found around Hook, and a number of us have seen them in our gardens or whilst out walking locally, so we believe we should see them in our church grounds in the areas which are undisturbed, such as in Wild Corner or along by and under the hedges. Slow-worms are a protected species and if you see one, please do not touch or disturb it.
A number of us have been trained to record and log slow-worms in our church yard. We met on a wet October afternoon to look at possible sites to survey and to find out more about slow-worms (how to recognise male or female slow-worms, how to tell them apart from snakes, where do they like to hide). We have 10 places where we have a refugia, these are the little areas of habitat covered by a black corrigated cover, which is where we think we may find slow worms - but perhaps we will find other creatures - what do you think we will find? We will be logging any thing we find! If you see a refugia, please do not disturb it, we would not like to scare off any inhabitents.
the team with Pete West from HIWARG
one of 10 refugia at SJC