What you will find on the Meadow

HERPTILES 2018-06-19T21:14:13+00:00

The rough tussock grassland and open water areas found on the Bishop’s Meadow provide excellent habitat for populations of common reptiles and amphibians.  To make the Meadow even more welcoming, log piles have been left around the site providing potential hibernation spots and refuges for toads and other creatures.

Casual sightings of grass snake, slow-worm, common frog, toad and smooth newt have been recorded across the site. Grass snakes, toads and slow-worms are all UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) Priority Species and further investigation of herptile species on the Meadow is currently being carried out in partnership with the Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group (SARG).


Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

The Grass Snake is Britain’s largest native terrestrial reptile and probably it’s most common species of snake. It can grow to over a metre long and is strongly associated with water habitats, such as ponds and ditches. It is completely harmless to people and almost never bites, even when caught. As with all native reptiles, it is illegal to harm or kill them.

The Grass Snake is most easily identified by its interlinked black and yellow collar which usually forms a band or ring immediately behind the snake’s head. The upper body is normally olive green or olive brown with black vertical bars along the flanks. On the underside, the belly scales are buff, cream or white and have an equally individual chequered pattern in black.

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Despite its name, the slow worm is neither slow nor a worm. It is a legless lizard measuring between 30-50cm. While superficially looking like a snake, three main differences are firstly that the slow worm does not have a distinctive head; secondly it has visible eyelids and thirdly it will readily shed its tail if threatened by predators or if handled too roughly – so if you see one please don’t touch it!

Slow worms spend the majority of their time in deep vegetation or underground in humid, overgrown areas of rough grassland, scrub and urban areas such as gardens and allotments. There is concern that slow worm numbers may be in decline, due to destruction of their habitat.

Although widespread across Britain, the slow worm is most commonly reported in the Southern counties and they have been recorded to live for up to 30 years in wild.



Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

Smooth Newts can be recognised by their smooth skin and spots on the throat. Their dorsal surface coloration varies from light brown to dark brown/black.  The Smooth Newt is the most widespread of our three native newts.  It occurs throughout Britain, but maybe in decline in rural areas due to deteriorating habitat.  However, this decline may be partially balanced by their ability to colonise garden ponds.

Both sexes of Smooth Newt grow to between 7 and 11cm, the male being slightly larger than the female. Both male and female have an orange belly which is covered in black spots. When on land the skin becomes a velvety texture and the male’s crest disappears.

Favoured habitats are ponds (without fish) and ditches with a diversity of aquatic vegetation like the Tudor Ditch in the Bishop’s Meadow.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

The Common Toad is most easily identified by its skin which is dry and warty unlike that of a frog which is smooth and usually moist. Common Toads can vary in colour from dark brown to brick red and male Common Toads are generally smaller than females.

Common Toads can be found in hedgerows, scrub, some gardens and rough grassland (particularly wet meadows). In Britain it is widespread, however, populations have declined and it is now listed as a Priority Species of Conservation Concern.



Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

The Common Frog has smooth, wet skin, long legs and large prominent eyes. It can be found in damp habitats, like wet meadows, gardens and ponds.

Although widespread across Great Britain, the Common Frog is thought to be in decline.


Would you like to see more on the meadow?