A HUGE grass snake was recently spotted in a Hampshire village after a gardener almost mistook it for a branch. 

AJ Harder was clearing branches in a garden in School Lane, West Wellow, when he came across the snake that appeared to be sunbathing. 

At first, he thought it was an adder, but he then realised it was a grass snake about 2m long.

AJ, 50, said: “I'm a landscape gardener based in West Wellow and one of my customers' garden is surrounded by oak trees which constantly drop their branches. Before I cut the grass I have to go round and pick the branches up and I thought it was a really oddly shaped branch. 

Hampshire Chronicle: West Wellow grass snake

“I suddenly clocked on to what it actually was. It was really bizarre because it just stayed there and stared at me as I got closer to it. At first I thought it was an adder because it had a really strange v type marking on the back of its head, but then I saw the size of it. I know adders never grow much beyond one foot and this thing was easily about 2m long. I suddenly realised it was an enormous grass snake. It was easily the length of both my arms. It was just there in the garden sunbathing.”

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AJ added that this was not his first snake encounter. He said: “Doing what I do, I see an awful lot of wildlife. I remember years ago when my father was alive I was turning over his compost and I found what I thought at first was a cluster of mushrooms, only to realise they were grass snake eggs. I thought they had all hatched, but one hadn't and it hatched in my hand. Then it was a baby grass snake and stayed in my hand as it warmed itself.”

Hampshire Chronicle: AJ Harder

He added: “So I do see things like that quite often but I had never got so close before. Grass snakes will whip round at you if they feel threatened which this one didn't do. It sort of turned its head and hissed at me which was a precursor to a warning shot. 

“They're not technically dangerous, but if you handle them you have to wash your hands because of salmonella. Obviously if you find something like that and you can get close to it, do. But obviously never touch. Grass snakes are fairly harmless but they will attack if they feel really threatened. Normally it's adders you have to worry about, because if you get close to one, you're playing with danger.”

After the brief stare down, the snake shot off into the hedge.