The 4 Most Snake-Infested Areas in England

Common European Adder (Vipera berus)

Written by Rebecca Mathews

Updated: August 30, 2023

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England has three snake species: venomous adders, grass snakes, and smooth snakes. You might have heard of a slow worm too, but although this looks like a snake, it’s a legless lizard.  England’s snake species are not numerous, but there are plenty of them if you look in the right places. This article will discover the most snake-infested areas in England and which species have made the area their home.

4 Most Snake-Infested Areas in England
England only has three snake species.

Before we jump into specific areas, let’s look closer at England’s snake species because their needs indicate why they need to live in a certain area.

An concept Image of a map of england

England is home to three snake species: the adder, the grass snake, and the rare smooth snake.

1. Adder

England’s only venomous snake is the adder, but since 1876 only 14 recorded human deaths have been pinned on them. The last United Kingdom adder fatality happened in 1975 in Scotland.

All regions of England record adder bites each year. Bites occur from approximately April to October when adders wake up and look for a warm place to sunbathe. The peak season for adder bites in England is July to August.

Between 50-100 adder bites occur each year in the United Kingdom, and studies show that arms and hands are the most likely bite spots due to people picking up snakes, but accidental bites to a foot or leg occur too.

Nearly every adder bite happens in the countryside’s long grass, but a few bites occur in gardens or during wild swimming forays. Alongside the 50-100 human bites, dogs receive approximately 100 adder bites each year, chiefly to their nose area.

Adders reach around 31 inches long and weigh around 3.5 ounces. Males appear gray with a distinctive dark zigzagged back and red eyes with a vertical slit. Females are usually lighter silvery gray or even reddish-gray. On occasion, quiet walkers spot melanistic black adders.

Adders live in all of England’s regions, where they prey on rodents, lizards, and ground-nesting birds such as skylarks.

Common European Adder (Vipera berus)

England’s only venomous snake is the adder.

2. Smooth Snake

Smooth snakes only live on a few heathland sites in southern England.

They’re rare constrictors without a venomous bite, even though they partially resemble adders. This rare 30-inch-long reptile strikes as a deterrent, but even if it bit a human or dog, it wouldn’t matter.

Smooth snakes don’t have dark zigzags, and their rounded pupils differ from an adder’s vertical slit, but they hunt down the same kind of prey. Ground-nesting birds, rodents, and lizards are their chief dinner targets.

A smooth snake with its head raised flicking its tongue

England’s rarest snake is the smooth snake. It’s a constrictor without venom.

3. Grass Snake

Harmless to humans and pets, the English grass snake hangs out near water sources, and it’s a superb swimmer. Its chief prey is amphibians, including tadpoles and fish, if they can catch them. Grass snakes reach some epic lengths, up to five feet! Despite this, they’re not dangerous at all and will play dead if threatened.

Green with a yellow and black collar, these secretive snakes usually have pale bellies with dark markings running down their length.

In England, grass snakes prefer to spend time in wetlands, heathlands if water runs nearby, garden ponds in rural areas, and woodlands across the country. More live in the warm southern regions, but England’s north is home to grass snakes too.

grass snake on lily pad in water

England’s grass snakes prey on amphibians and fish.

The 4 Most Snake-Infested Areas

That’s a brief rundown of England’s snakes, so let’s move on to the question at hand. Where are England’s most snake-infested areas?

Snakes need warmth to live (they’re cold-blooded reptiles), so it’s no surprise that the majority live on England’s warmer south coast.

1. West Sussex

Late afternoon shadows at the bottom of Devil's Dyke in West Sussex

All three of England’s snake species can be found in West Sussex.

West Sussex lies on England’s south coast and shares a border with Surrey, East Sussex, Hampshire, and the English Channel. Its county town is Chichester, and approximately 858,000 people live in its 769 square miles. West Sussex is England’s sunniest county, and snakes inhabit its warm South Downs.

South Downs

Follow the South Down’s Serpent Trail; if you’re quiet, you might spot all three of England’s snake species.

Adders, grass snakes, and the rare smooth snake all live here. Adders prefer forests, grass snakes slither through its wetlands, and smooth snakes enjoy the South Down’s heather and gorse heathlands. The South Downs has a small smooth snake population, so it’s not exactly infested, but it’s rare for this snake to appear anywhere in England. It’s only established in Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, and West Sussex.

Over the past few years, the media has reported a big increase in adder sightings, including a “large adder at a popular walking spot” that sent locals into panic for some time. The unfortunate adder did not bite anyone. It was simply basking in a sunny spot.

Adder on grass

Adders live in the South Downs’ forests and woodland areas.

2. Surrey

Tree roots and Surry countryside views to horizon in Surry, UK

Surry is unofficially called the “bite capital of southeast England.”

Situated in England’s southeast lies Surrey County. Approximately 1.1 million people live in Surrey, and its rich human history dates back to the hunter-gatherer era.

Surrey is known for its proximity to London but is full of heathland, common land, and wide open chalky spaces, making it perfect for reptiles and insects. Surrey is unofficially called the “bite capital of south-east England.” In the past three years, 46 snake bites have been reported here.

Surrey’s Chobham Common is one of the most snake-infested places in England. Although “infested” is a strong word. Even if you’re walking on Chobham Common, spotting a snake is rare.

Chobham Common

This beautiful area is a lowland health managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust. It’s southeast England’s largest national nature reserve shaped by prehistoric agriculture. Over 200 generations are responsible for its current layout.

The Common is an epic wide-open countryside that stretches your eyeballs in all directions. Wildlife abounds here, including birds, deer, rabbits, and reptiles. In particular, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Society manages an area south of Sunningdale Golf Course.

The lowland, dry heathland, bell heather, low-growing gorse, and acid boglands here create perfect habitats for all three of England’s snake species. Adders, grass snakes, and smooth snakes, plus the “pretend snake” slow worm and sand lizards, have made it their home.

Smooth snakes were successfully reintroduced here in 2004, and the Reptile Conservation team regularly creates habitats suitable for their lifecycle.

A smooth snake with its mouth open

in 2004 smooth snakes were introduced to Chobham Common.

3. Dorset

Parish church of St Mary in Batcombe, Dorset county

All three of England’s snake species call Dorset home.

The glorious county of Dorset sits on the south coast of England. Its rich farmland and rolling hills sit on chalk, and its coastal lifestyle is popular with students and retired folks. The largest town is the seaside resort of Bournemouth.

Dorset’s residential history stretches back to the Iron Age. Winterbourne Kingston’s prehistoric town of Duropolis, named after the local Iron Age tribe, the Durotriges, recently produced five 6,000-year-old skeletons. Coming right up to date, Dorset’s heathland is one of today’s most snake-infested places. Poole’s Canford Heath, Dorset’s largest heathland, is somewhere snakes love to live.

Canford Heath

Dorset’s heaths provide habitat to all six of England’s native reptiles. That’s three snake species, slow worms, sand lizards, and the common lizard.

Heathland is such a great spot for reptiles because it offers south-facing banks to bask on and plenty of suitable prey. Scrubby heathland on Canford Heath contains England’s rare smooth snake and plenty of adders and grass snakes too.

Unfortunately, Canford Health is prone to wildfire, and according to some estimates, 42 acres burnt to the ground in 2022, killing numerous rare smooth snakes and other reptiles.

scots pine

All three of England’s snake species live in Dorset’s heathlands.

4. Hampshire

New Forest wild pony at Sunrise, Godshill, Hampshire

New Forest, Hampshire, was proclaimed a Royal Forest by William the Conqueror in 1086.

Bordering Dorset is the county of Hampshire, stretching 47 miles from the coast to Mortimer West End in the north. Its county town is historic Winchester, and a belt of chalk lies northwest creating the Hampshire Downs, a favorite with sun-basking snakes, but according to reptile experts, it’s Hampshire’s New Forest that contains most snakes.

The New Forest

Hampshire’s New Forest is far from new. It’s a historic area that was proclaimed a Royal Forest by William the Conqueror in his 1086 A.D. Domesday book. The New Forest is huge. It’s 220 square miles of unenclosed pasture, forest, and heathlands that’s home to rare English animals like the mole cricket.

In terms of snake-infested areas, all three of England’s snakes reside in the New Forest. Adders inhabit the rough woods, grass snakes enjoy its mires, and rare smooth snakes inhabit gorse and heather heathland.

There’s a pub in the New Forest named “The Snakecatcher” after Brusher Mills, a Victorian man who caught thousands of New Forest adders. Luckily for the snakes, they’re now legally protected.

If you want to see England’s snakes but haven’t had any luck in the wild, try the New Forest Reptile Centre. Set up in 1969, it breeds all three snake species plus rare sand lizards.

Close up flowering Calluna vulgaris common heather, ling, or simply heather Selective focus of the purple flowers on the field, Nature floral background.

Smooth snakes use heather and gorse to stay hidden in the New Forest.

Where to See Snakes in England

So, we’ve seen that England is home to three snake species. Venomous adders and grass snakes spread across the country, but rare and elusive smooth snakes are only found in a few southern counties.

You may be disappointed if you’re looking for snake-infested places in England! England’s snakes are shy, pretty rare overall, and they don’t enjoy human contact.

The best places to spot England’s snakes include West Sussex’s South Downs, Surrey’s Chobham Common, Dorset’s Canford Heath, and Hampshire’s New Forest, but any sunny rough woodland in England may be home to an adder, and grass snakes frequent gardens ponds throughout England too.

Summary of the 4 Most Snake-Infested Areas in England

1West Sussex

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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