This common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) was found under a black piece of plastic in the sun. We visited early in the morning so he was probably using the heat absorbed by the plastic to warm up (being cold-blooded) ready for a day of foraging. The diversity of habitat on allotments is ideal for reptiles: the bare earth and debris provide plenty of basking spots; the long grass provides areas to forage; and the compost heaps provide somewhere to hibernate and lay eggs. For these reasons you can find half of Britain’s reptiles in this one habitat. Along with common lizards, slow worms (Anguis fragilis) and grass snake (Natrix natrix) are commonly found on allotments. None of these are dangerous and can help control the pest populations so should be encouraged as much as possible! To attract reptiles to your allotment keep a varied sward height, leaving areas of bare earth, mown grass and areas which are left to grow. Leaving sheets of corrugated iron or dark plastic on the ground in sunny areas creates perfect basking spots. Having a small pond would attract frogs and toads which are food for grass snakes. Maintaining a compost heap provides a warm place for hibernating and egg laying.
After making your allotment as reptile friendly as possible, try lifting up some of the basking sites on a sunny morning and you might be treated to the same sight we had.