Saturday 1 May 2021

Walking In the Cotswolds With a Song In My Head

Gorse and limestone, but where’s my snake?


Climbing up on Solsbury Hill/I could see thecity light/Wind was blowing, time stood still/Eagle flew out of the night

I’ve no idea why I was singing and humming (the latter, when words failed me) Peter Gabriel’s tune in my head, other than it seemed appropriate as we went up Cleeve Common, in Gloucestershire. This is a habit I’ve had for many years now. Serenading myself quietly. I think I’ve taken after my dad in that respect. He always had a melody on his lips. Sometimes it was a well-known song played endlessly on the radio. Other times it was a piece he was working on, ready to be finished on the upright piano we had back then in my house.

Geology- and archaeology-rich Cleeve Common sits in one-thousand acres of agriculturally unimproved limestone grassland, in the Cotswolds. Quarries and gorse thickets add to the variety of wildlife habitats.

Untouched by the plough or fertiliser, the area is home to a wide range of wild flowers, many of which would have been familiar throughout Britain before the post-war intensification of farming.

However, despite the presence of three Scheduled Ancient Monuments (the Cross Dyke, the Hill Fort and the Ring), what I really wanted to see was an adder.

I’d heard so much about Britain’s only venomous snake. The presence of meadow pipits was a welcome sign as I knew that adders liked hunting ground-nesting birds. Also, the high-rising temperature would have tempted this usually shy reptile to leave its hideout in order to seek the warmth of the sun.

Yet, after walking for just over an hour there was no slithering, dark zig-zag pattern to spot. We got back to the car, my heart “going boom, boom, boom”, but I guess you already knew that. After all, I’m used to serenading myself.


  1. It has been more than a while since I listened to either Peter Gabriel or to "Solsbury Hill," so I did so immediately upon finishing your post, CiL. It is a "catchy" tune.

    Might I say, with "my heart going boom boom boom," you may have been fortunate not to encounter an adder.

  2. We have plenty of venomous snakes and I am happy to let them live their lives well away from me. I would have loved to have shared your walk though.

  3. Hi ACIL - I can relate to your post ... putting down a piece of corrugated iron attracts them I gather ... but age 6 or so ... I stood on one in Cornwall, which unwound itself under my tiny feet ... and I screamed all the way to the bus stop! Cleeve Hill looks to be wonderful to walk around ... I've just read up about the triangulation of India ... so trig points now make me think ... more than before. Thanks for this - Hilary

  4. When you're looking for snakes, and I may be one of the few who actually go out looking, they seem to be allusive. It's when I'm not looking or not expecting to see one, they scare me out of my wits (such as pulling myself up a rock cliff and coming eye to eye with a rattlesnake). Nice writing!

  5. Such geographical diversity within the UK. I have trouble keeping the locations in my head and finally looked up the location of the Cotswolds.

  6. Now I'm going to be singing that song to myself, too. :)

    I don't think I've seen a snake in the entire time I've lived in the UK -- even a harmless one.

  7. I always have a tune running through my head and your post has provided me a fresh one (until I hear or think of another). We have several venomous varieties in our area and it's that time of year where they're getting active again. I need to keep my eyes open on my morning walks! As for the harmless ones... I'm always pleased to see them.

    Lovely post and photo.

  8. I always have music running through me. They have been controlled burns at a nature conservancy about 5 miles from here. Besides being a refuge for bison it is also home to the largest population of Prairie Rattlesnake in the region. I had a picture in my mind of the snakes fleeing the burning areas like you see in cartoons. All the snakes slithering ahead of the flames.

  9. Hi CIL Beautiful Solsbury Hill,By Peter Gabriel!I had to google it on you tube :))

    Also very nice hike!Wonderful mountain with the green hills

    Here there is much snakes called hoggorm but they are really so afraid of humans they quickly snakes away hih hih

    Wish you a great 1 May!Working class hero day!

  10. Sounds like a lovely walk, I wouldn't want to see an adder!

  11. I've always walked with music so today's will be Solsbury Hill

  12. I was carried away by imagining the beauty of the Cleeve Common location with its rich nature and fauna, although honestly I am afraid of snakes.

    Have a wonderful weekend.
    *PS: I have followed your blog.

  13. Sounds like a wonderful walk. I had to look up Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill. :)

  14. Gorgeous walk! Lots of adders here in the summer and quite a menace for dogs.

  15. Boa tarde meu amigo, parabéns pela excelente matéria.

  16. A lovely place to walk.
    Wishing you a happy May.

    All the best Jan

  17. I had to smile to think of your wanting to see a snake - especially because, according to ancient Chinese beliefs, my date and time of birth decreed that I am one - unpatterned and without any venom, but nevertheless a snake! I enjoyed a Blogland walk with you in this post.☼

  18. I have that habit of humming to myself when I'm out walking too, usually a tune that gets stuck in my head for ages after I am back home. I now have many different tunes that, when I hum them, transport me to favourite places I have been!😉
    I haven't seen an adder since I was a child and lived in the country. I guess development has destroyed many of their habitats.🙁
    We do, however, often have slow worms appearing in our garden. They are such beautiful creatures.😊😊
    Such a stunning place to walk...thank you so much for sharing it with us.😊😊

    Greetings from Hampshire.

  19. I pretty much always have a song going in my head. Sometimes it's what I was just listening to. Sometimes it's something random that comes from I don't know where. Thanks for the song change; now I've got this one playing in my head.

  20. What a lovely walk! I hadn't known there were venomous snakes, yikes! So far I've only had run ins with wasps and stinging nettles, which was bad enough. Still, I miss England and travel anywhere.

  21. Aunque Peter Gabriel sea un cantautor británico, los cubanos lleváis en la sangre la buena música y el ritmo, por lo que es natural esas serenatas que te cantas a ti mismo.
    En cuanto a no haber visto a esa víbora venenosa, darte por satisfecho, por tu bien y por el de la víbora, a la que seguro que no le gustan las visitas de extraños.
    Me ha gustado mucho tu entrada.
    Un abrazo, desde Sevilla.



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