With the myth of the venomous daddy longlegs truly busted, the only deadly creature I’m aware that we have in England is the adder, a slithery snake of a thing often seen sporting a brown zigzag overcoat.
‘Just ‘adder’?’ asked D-man, ‘not ‘death adder’?’
‘Erm,’ I thought quickly, racking my brain for any hidden information that might boost the reputation of our only venomous beast. I found nothing. ‘I’m pretty sure it’s just an adder. But it can kill.’
Rewind back from this conversation, maybe ten minutes in time.
Having been in the UK for less than a week, D-man and I had trained west from London and were now enjoying a British springtime walk in the woods overlooking Stroud in Gloucestershire. An early summer sun shone down through spindly branches on which bright green buds unfurled and leaves leftover from last autumn lay crunchy underfoot. D-man suddenly stopped.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘I just saw something. Do you have snakes here?’ He didn’t move.
‘Yep. Where did it go? What did it look like?’
D-man pointed to a heap of dead branches and leaves. I rustled the pile with my feet, but he pulled me back.
‘Careful!’ he said, ‘Get away!’
And there it was: the different attitudes that Aussies and Brits have to snakes. For me, having grown up in England, the sight of a snake is a cause for celebration. On the few occasions that I have seen grass snakes and adders I have sat and watched and followed them when they moved.
D-man, an Australian through-and-through, has grown up with regular sightings of some of the world’s deadliest snakes and has had a healthy fear and respect instilled in him through snake awareness classes in school and real life survival tales of friends of friends.
Would the adder have come for me, had I disturbed it? Possibly. Would I have died, had it bitten me? Probably not. What I didn’t tell D-man was that no one has died from an adder bite in the UK since 1975. Instead I let him run with the idea that I was both curious and courageous in my pursuit of a snake sighting.
Or just completely stupid. And totally, totally un-Aussie.
- Adder bites in Britain (British Medical Journal)
- Bitten by an adder – ‘the doctors were worse’ (The Independent)
- Should we celebrate or mourn the death of Britain’s only venomous snake? (The Telegraph)
- Vipera berus (Wikipedia)
- Snake bites (National Health Service/NHS)
- Australia’s 10 most dangerous snakes (Australia Geographic)
- How to Become a Snake Charmer (reed.co.uk)