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A Quick Guide to Adders

Female adder - resized.JPG

A Quick Guide to Adders

The adder may be the UK’s only venomous snake but it is also one of the shyest. Found in many areas of Britain, its zig-zag markings are highly distinctive.

Here we take a closer look at this amazing creature and why its conservation is so important. 

What is an Adder?

An adder (Vipera berus) is a smallish snake that is found in many parts of Western Europe and into some areas of east Asia. The average length of the snake is between 60 and 80 cms and it is a member of the viper family. [1]

What Does an Adder Look Like?

There is a difference in appearance between male and female adders, though this is not always easy to see. The best way is to look at the distinctive zig-zag pattern down the back. The zig-zag in males is black whereas the zig-zag in females is brown.

Where Can You Find Adders?

You can find adders in most parts of Britain. Adders are not found in Ireland. They prefer areas like woodlands, moors, and heaths and are most numerous in undisturbed areas with a good mosaic of vegetation – open areas for basking as well as plenty of scrub for cover.

Are Adders Venomous?

Adders are venomous but their bites very, very rarely cause death. Adders will only bite a human or dog as a defence mechanism. The venom is used to paralyse small mammals and fledgelings which are their main diet.

You may suffer from soreness and swelling in the affected area after a bite but it should heal over a few days. The last fatality from an adder bite was way back in 1975. [2]  If you are worried about a bite, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust has a helpful set of resources.

Adders in Folklore

Snakes are often the subject of superstition, even today. Much of this may have come from our folklore. The Welsh for ‘adder’ is Gwiber and in ancient times was associated with a snake that could fly. It was especially important to the druids in Wales who believed the adder had mystical powers.

The adder also plays a role in the story of King Arthur. According to legend, an adder sparked the battle with Mordred’s army which led to Arthur’s death. [3]

5 Interesting Facts About Adders [4]

  • Adders are shy: Adders are not often found out in the open and prefer staying in the undergrowth where they can catch their prey.
  • Female adders give birth to live young: Males normally seek out females for mating in April or even earlier. The young are born in late summer.
  • Adders hibernate: During the winter, adders find frost and flood free areas, typically underground with a sunny aspect higher and drier places to spend the winter, emerging again in early spring.
  • Adders can live up to 15 years, with the oldest wild UK adder living over 30 years. Juvenile adders are left to fend for themselves soon after they are born and become independent quickly. The average life span is between 5 and 10 years.
  • Adder’s dance: Adder males will entwine around each other and fight to show a female who is the fittest.

Are Adders an Endangered Species?

In the UK, adders are protected by law and it is an offence to kill or injure them on purpose. Although not strictly endangered, the adder population has been dropping for the last 80 years.

Initiatives such as Connecting the Dragons in Wales are focused on amphibian and reptile conservation, including creating new habitats for adders to thrive and raising awareness with the general public. [5]

 

Links:

[1] Jessie Szalay, 2016. Facts About Adders. [Online]. [March 30, 2016]. Available from:  https://www.livescience.com/54227-adder-facts.html

[2] Emily Osterloff. Should we be scared of British snakes? [Online]. Available from: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/should-we-be-scared-of-british-snakes.html

[3]  Everyday adders - the Adder in Folklore. [Online]. Available from: http://adder.narrs.org.uk/folklore.php

[4] Adder, Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group [Online]. Available from: http://surrey-arg.org.uk/SARGWEB.php?app=SpeciesData&Species=adder

[5] Kim Boughey, 2019. Connecting the Dragons - Cysylltu’r Dreigiau. [Online]. [11th February, 2019]. Available from: https://www.arc-trust.org/connecting-the-dragons

 

Trees...They're Good!

“Trees exhale for us so that we can inhale them to stay alive. Can we ever forget that? Let us love trees with every breath we take until we perish.” (Munia Khan, Poet & Author)

One of the perhaps unsurprising benefits of the lockdown in many countries linked to the global coronavirus outbreak has been for our environment. As more and more people have stayed at home in order to protect themselves and their communities from the spread of the virus, the planet’s environment has breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Fossil fuel emissions have plummeted and air quality has improved significantly. It only takes a few weeks of stopping our destruction of the environment and we can see how that same environment bounces back remarkably quickly. And nature’s advance is led by the trees.

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According to the Climate Group, working from home alone has the potential to remove over 300 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year[1]. This is wonderful but a mature tree can also remove 22kg of carbon dioxide a year. Even a relatively small forest such as the New Forest in Southern England having at least 1,000 mature trees, would remove almost 22 tonnes per year. Trees really are the lungs of the planet, allowing humanity to breath.

But trees provide so much more for us and our planet than even the awesome facts of air quality and climate improvement. US-based non-profit organisation, One Tree Planted, list five further benefits trees bring to us[2]. Trees also help us by capturing rainwater thus reducing the risk of natural disasters like floods and landslides and their roots filter the rainwater too, removing pollutants and slowing down the water’s absorption into the ground, reducing erosion.

They are also home to the planet’s rich biodiversity, with 80% of the world’s land-based plants and animals living in forests. It is incredible to think that so many creatures rely on trees for the very existence and it is widely known that for many of the species, subtle changes to their habitats could lead to their extinction.

Trees, however, also provide a direct benefit to us as people with over 1.6 billion people relying on forests for their livelihoods. Sustainable tree farming provides benefits to both people and the planet, along with trees whose fruit, nuts, berries and leaves can be consumed by people or can be transformed into medicines to provide healing to countless millions. Without the nutrition provided by trees and the employment that this brings, many parts of the world would be even poorer.

The final benefit outlined, and the one I want to focus on, is the social benefit to each and every one of us. Research in the journal Science showed that post-operative patients with a view of a natural scene with trees in it recovered more quickly and had fewer problems in recovery than those who faced a brick building wall[3]. This should not be surprising as anyone who has sat in the shade of a tree in a park or walked through a forest glade can attest to, trees have a power to help us relax, reflect and be renewed by their very existence. A 2018 report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health[4] outlined a study undertaken in Japan on the psychological impact of walking through forest areas showed a decrease in negative moods such as ‘depression,’ ‘anxiety,’ anger-hostility,’ ‘fatigue’ and ‘confusion’ and an increase in positive moods such as ‘vigour’ compared with walking through city areas. The authors write, “the psychological benefits of walking through forests are very significant, and forest environments are expected to have very important roles in promoting mental health in the future.”[5] For many, the impact of a lack of nature has led to an affliction which some have called ‘nature deficit disorder’[6] along with the creation of a new pastime, ‘forest bathing.’ Forest bathing began in Japan, where it is known as shinrin-yoku, and it involves “slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere through all your senses, and enjoying the benefits that come from such an excursion.”[7] Dr Qing Li, head of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine and author of a book on Forest Bathing states, “wherever there are trees, we are healthier and happier.”[8] American biologist E.O. Wilson noted that humans are ‘hardwired’ to connect with the natural world.

Gradually, governments are gearing themselves up to recognise all of the benefits of trees in our environment. In March 2020, the Welsh Government committed to creating a National Forest for Wales that will run the length and breadth of the country. Responding to the plan for the National Forest, Mary Gagen, professor of geography at Swansea University explained, “We need to get trees in the ground now. Trees are a brilliant multi-tasker, good for the environment, good for habitats, good for us.”[9]

So, it is really important for us to defend trees and forest and to ensure that they are not just there for future generations but for our benefit now. More selfishly, we need to ensure forest and trees are there for our own wellbeing and enjoyment, to look at currently, but equally to walk through and even, perhaps, to bathe in.



[1] Tobé, W. 2016. The Climate Group Website. [Online]. [24 March 2020]. Available from: https://www.theclimategroup.org/news/how-working-home-can-lower-global-emissions-walter-tobé-canon

[2] One Tree Planted. c2020. The One Tree Planted Website. [Online]. [24 March 2020]. Available from: https://onetreeplanted.org/pages/why-trees

[3] Ulrich, R.S. 1984. View Through A Window May Influence Recovery From Surgery. Science. 224(4647), pp. 420-421.

[4] Song et al.. 2018. Psychological Benefits Of Walking Through Forest Areas. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health. 15(2804), pp.

[5] Ibid

[6] Evans, K. 2018. Why forest bathing is good for your health. 20th August. Greater Good Magazine. [Online]. [24 March 2020]. Available from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_forest_bathing_is_good_for_your_health

[7] Ibid

[8] Li, Q (2018). Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. [Online]. New York: Viking. [24 March 2020]. Quoted in: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_forest_bathing_is_good_for_your_health

[9] Morris, S. 2020. Wales launches £5m national forest scheme – with pupils' help. 12th March. The Guardian Newspaper. [Online]. [24 March 2020]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/12/wales-launches-5m-national-forest-scheme-with-pupils-help

 

 

It's all about the landscape

When we pick up a newspaper or watch the news, we often see headlines about funding landscapes. Of course, these typically refer to the way the NHS is funded or businesses get access to capital. However, a lot of our work recently has related more to a literal interpretation - funding to tackle landscape-scale challenges like climate change or human activity in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We are entering the final phase of our evaluation of the Long Forest project. It has been really good to see Keep Wales Tidy and their local partners planting trees to restore ancient hedges or create new connectivity for all kinds of wildlife in their demonstrator areas of Anglesey, North East Wales, Pembrokeshire and Monmouthshire. This collaboration with the Woodland Trust is not just meeting targets now but has done much further to embed enduring legacy in its activities.

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Elan Links is gathering pace in delivering on its 26 projects. Regardless of whether you can get to Elan, it is worth having a look @ElanLinks. We particularly like Throwback Thursday when pictures from the archives hit social media. We never get bored at looked at pictures of the Elan Valley. If you get a chance to visit, do go. 

The most recent landscape-scale programme that we are about to start evaluating is Our Picturesque Landscape. It is certainly aptly named, taking in the the Clwydian Range and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site. There's plenty going on to keep us busy but hopefully not too busy that we'll forget to pause and admire this breath-taking scenery. We really are fortunate to be able to see so many beautiful places as part of our working lives.



Projects change us

Evaluation can be objective yet still make an impact on the evaluators.

We are working on a few landscape scale projects at the moment, including the Long Forest and Elan Links programmes. Given we are not the types of evaluators that just turn up and observe, we like to get our hands dirty and work alongside the volunteers. That has led to planting lots of trees for the Long Forest project and even having a go at hedgelaying (not our strong point!)

This has really made an impression on our director, Alun. Since getting involved in Long Forest, he has bored his family with facts about hedges and joined the Woodland Trust. However, the Broadleaf magazine which comes with membership has gone down well not only with him but with his sons too. The autumn feature on hedgehogs really got everyone interested. So thanks @HeritageLottery for funding these projects. Not only can we report objectively that these projects are delivering success, we can also say they are from first hand experience too.

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Spring half term 2018

Busy! Busy!

Where does all the time go? It just seems to zip past. Once again it has been far too long since we posted any updates. 

All of the projects in our last news post have been completed and we are busy working on a new set of projects. In some cases these are with new clients, in other cases we are delighted to be working with established clients.

Autumn saw us start a three year evaluation of the Long Forest project on behalf of Keep Wales Tidy. That's a fascinating HLF-funded project working in four areas of Wales to either re-establish historic hedges or to lay new hedges as part of a drive to conserve historic wildlife, such as red squirrels in Anglesey.

A very different project is the development of a bi-lingual volunteer coordinator toolkit for Sport Wales. The toolkit will be available soon on the Club Solutions website. The work builds on our evaluation of the work of volunteer coordinators last year. Although this project is a change from the various evaluation projects we undertake, in another sense it is familiar ground. So many of our evaluation projects are with the third sector and involve volunteers.

Another established client that we are pleased to support is Disability Wales. Their Citizen Directed Co-operatives Cymru project was supported by Big Lottery's Innovation Fund to test a new model of social care support for disabled people, run by disabled people. It aims to mange and use direct payments for support services using a co-operative model led by the users of the services.

A final evaluation project receiving our attention for the next few years is the Big Lottery-funded Connected Carers project. So many Big Lottery-funded projects have worthwhile intentions, and this is no exception. GVS is managing this project, with delivery led by Cardiff & Vale Parents Federation and the Touch Trust. So often parent carers of children with lifelong or life limiting conditions are isolated and have no one with whom to discuss life's ups and downs who can truly empathise. Connected Carers seeks to link such people in small, carer-directed social gatherings.

So that's an update. It's not all we are doing but gives a flavour of our current main projects. Let's hope we get around to writing again soon.

Such Variety!

Life continues to be varied! We've had a rich variety of projects over the last year, indeed so many that we've blogged rather infrequently Sealed

 

It has been really interesting to add Sport Wales to our list of clients with an evaluation of the work of volunteer coordinators. Once again, it is rather humbling to hear the stories of so many people up and down Wales that freely give their time for the benefit of others. Frequently these volunteers are busy people juggling work and family lives, yet still giving so much of their time to help young people in their community.


While many of our evaluation projects, such as the People's Cathedral and Sustainable Play are about community building, we were pleased to be part of a nation building programme in South Africa recently. The Technology Innovation Agency in partnership with the British Council is investing in a cohort of early stage researchers and innovators to commercialise intellectual property from South African universities and research institutes. We were pleased to contribute by facilitating three days of workshops in Johannesburg in February. It was such a pleasure to work with such an engaged group of participants.

 

 

 

 

 

How did we get to June already?

The interim evaluations of FamilyPoint Cymru, Sustainable Play and Go Green for Health went well and we are starting on the next phase of each evaluation now. It is striking that the two organisations behind these projects, ProMo Cymru and Groundwork Wales, are places where the staff appear to be happy and enjoy their work. Maybe that is because they are values-driven organisations that attract staff drawn to those values, or maybe it is simple good leadership. Certainly, organisations with good leadership and strong values tend to thrive.

While evaluation remains the major component of our work, with projects on-going with Guildford Cathedral and Jisc, it is not the only string to our bow. Development of project management across organisations remains a core activity. In this respect, we are currently helping a household name consumer product company to improve its approach to managing projects.

An exciting development has been drawing together our strengths in training and project evaluation to create the new Inquire tool with our friends from the PD Centre. This agile approach to organisational evaluation can be applied to address a wide range of needs, from understanding the organisation before designing a training intervention to understanding whether a project is likely to bring about intended change.

Taking Stock

Well, that was a busy start to a New Year...and that's not a complaint!

Groundwork Wales have awarded us an additional contract to evaluate their Go Green 4 Health project. In some ways, this is very different to their Sustainable Play project, nonetheless their hallmark approach to getting people active in the outdoors comes through loudly and clearly on both projects. From an evaluator's perspective, these projects are interesting as they involve data collection from people while they are engaged in all kinds of different activities rather than simple interviews over a cup of tea.

In some senses, another of our recently won evaluation projects is very different; the People's Cathedral is a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project at Guildford Cathedral. While a capital project at one level, the story of the people who built the cathedral and continue to support it today is fascinating. Oral history, schools work, community engagement, artists in residence, concerts and interpretation work are just some of the facets of this project. It is amazing to think that over 200,000 people donated money to buy a brick to realise Sir Edward Maufe's vision of a modern cathedral...it's worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

If these projects are not interesting enough, we've also won some work in Kazakhstan to help build capacity in 7 universities.  We've always enjoyed working internationally when that has been possible, so we are pleased to be working with British Council to help make this possible now.

We Love People

It is a good job we like people.  All of our projects involve lots of them!

In mid November we delivered a presentation to health professionals and volunteers to conclude our Interim Evaluation of the Big Lottery funded Sunflower Project.  This is a befriending project delivered by GAVO (Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations) to patients of two hospitals run by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.  That was a great project that brought us into contact with a lot of patients, predominantly older people, and volunteers of all ages.  Somewhat like the John Lewis Christmas advert, it really brought home to us the importance of people simply making time for others.  What we think of as a quick chat with a neighbour really can be of huge significance and value to the other person.


At the same time that project finished, we started two new evaluations for Groundwork Wales and ProMo Cymru - respectively Sustainable Play and FamilyPoint Cymru.  That's going to bring us into contact with lots of children, young people and other family members/carers.  More of that in the next update.  In the meantime, we are busy finishing off an evaluation of an e-learning module for the NHS Centre for Equality & Human Rights.  It is really interesting to hear from health professionals about the way attitudes towards equality issues have evolved over the last ten years or so.  Certainly people seem to be a lot more aware than used to be the case of the diversity in our midst.


Frameworks and evaluations

While the children were off school for their summer holiday, we continued to gain new clients and diversify the range of projects on which we are working.

We are delighted to have been chosen to work with the British Council to support their work internationally via the Newton Fund.  It builds upon our experiences in the Higher Education Sector but opens up the opportunity to work with people from a range of countries with which we have not worked previously.  Hopefully this will give us interesting stories to tell in future posts Smile.

Closer to home, we are delighted to add Public Health Wales to our growing list of clients. We will be evaluating an e-learning module 'Treat Me Fairly' developed by the NHS Wales Centre for Equality and Human Rights.  We are looking forward to starting that project later this month.

Once again, our forward workload looks interesting.

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