Adders are common and widespread in the open areas of the New Forest. They are found throughout England, Scotland and Wales, but are absent from Ireland. The adder is Britain’s only venomous snake. The name originates from the Old English naedre, meaning a snake or creeping thing; the ‘n’ was lost in Middle English and hence the name adder came into being.
Adders live in heathland, open woodland and rough grassland and avoid woodlands and upland areas. Look for them in any areas of open heath, but the best places are where there is an open, south-facing bank, such as along parts of the old railway line between Burley and Brockenhurst. Sunny mornings are best, especially in early spring.
Adders will only bite if they feel threatened or are provoked. Bites to humans are rarely life-threatening but medical attention should be sought. If your dog is bitten by an adder, take it to a vet immediately.
Traditional cures for adder bites were the fat from another adder that had recently been deep fried. Folk remedies are legion: the ‘bag of heads’ was a bag containing the heads of an adder, a toad and a newt, and was still being used as a general aid to healing as recently as the late 19 century. The bag was dipped in water and the water that ran out when it was lifted up was applied to the affected part.