Dorset Amphibian and Reptile Network (DARN)
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About Us

DARN is a network of people in Dorset interested in our native reptiles and amphibians. Its purpose is to promote the conservation, recording and appreciation of native amphibians and reptiles in the county of Dorset. DARN serves as a means of communication between volunteers, professionals and the general public. DARN members pay an annual fee of £6 and then when suitably trained they can  take part in our widespread reptile surveys. These can be viewed once reptile surveyor status has been achieved. DARN is also running the SliC project - Slow-worms in Churchyards. We have rare reptile survey sites on FE and MOD land and we are continually adding new transects as we expand our activities across the county.   

Dorset has 12 of the UK's 13 native amphibian and reptile species, and a handful of non-native species. Its internationally-important heathlands are famous as national strongholds for the rare reptiles - Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake - and southwest England's only populations of our second-rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad. With such an important wildlife heritage in Dorset, several wildlife NGOs have their headquarters in the county, including the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC). Together with the various statutory bodies and local authorities, this means Dorset has many wildlife professionals. DARN aims to form a link between all these people, and to nurture an appreciation among the general public for our herpetofaunal friends.

Sheila Dyason is Chair of DARN and you can email her at: with 'DARN' in the subject header. DARN Dispatches is a newsletter that is produced every two months, telling you of news, items of interest, and projects to get involved in; and there will be at least one annual meeting or event. Dorset is home to some of the most important reptile and amphibian populations in the country, with a high concentration of protected sites, and a buzz of conservation activities and research projects. There are endless opportunities for helping out by volunteering, and there are already many volunteers in the county who give their time towards projects helping to conserve our herpetofauna, and raise awareness.

The History of the DARN Group

DARN was set up as a surveying and recording group on 30/01/2020. Previously it had been an email and facebook group.

The founding members were Sheila Dyason as Chair, Catherine Dyason as Secretary, Pete Gillatt as Treasurer.

The Group started with rare reptile sites which Sheila had arranged with Forestry England to survey as part of HIWARG – the Hampshire Group. Some of them had been set up and monitored by David Tamarind who sadly died recently. There were not any widespread species surveys for members to get involved with so Sheila set up the SliC Project – Slow-worms in Churchyards - as a way to get members involved in surveying.  

As of July 2021 DARN has 8 widespread reptile transects set up in north Dorset and three more rare reptile transects including one on MOD land. DARN is working with land owners and managers such as Forestry England, Butterfly Conservation, the Dorset Wildlife Trust, the MOD, church communities and private land owners.




DARN Dispatches 3

Posted on Tuesday 18th August, 2020

Hello again!

I hope you’re all still keeping safe and well.

The SliC Project (Slow-worms in Churchyards) is well underway with transects at 4 churches and Slow-worms found at two of these so far. I have also just written a Slow-worms in Churchyards leaflet for churches and to be included in DWT’s Living Churchyard information pack. If you think your local church might be interested in joining in the SliC Project, just let me know and I will send them a leaflet. You could then help to monitor the site if you wanted to.

The fire at Ringwood Forest was another devastating blow for Forestry England and the wildlife that live there. The fire was literally on the Dorset/Hampshire border. I found one crispy Toad which was a new record for HIWARG as it was on the Hampshire side. 

If you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website:  or on Record Pool: or email the details to:

Wall Lizards were still being spotted in Bournemouth and Boscombe.

Some amphibian survey training was carried out in Hampshire by HIWARG. If you are interested in amphibian or reptile survey training then make sure that your DARN membership is up to date and for insurance purposes, that you have completed the Volunteer Worker’s Agreement (VWA) and we will add you to the list. HIWARG have kindly invited DARN members to their training sessions.

Habitat management season will soon be underway. If you would like to join in make sure you tick this option on the Voluntary Worker’s Agreement (VWA). If you know of any areas that would benefit from a trim then let me know.

Gillingham Town Council have agreed to a reptile transect being set up, once some signage is in place. If you know of other areas that could be surveyed or if you would like to set up a transect near where you live let me know and we will investigate the possibility.

I had a meeting with Ben Limburn (ARC) and Forestry England about sites for ARC’s SitH project and DARN’s involvement. If you would like to be involved in the reptile monitoring, let me know.

So, if you have some spare time, there are plenty of opportunities to join in and help conserve Dorset’s amphibians and reptiles; meet other volunteers and see some stunning wildlife.

Any ideas or questions just email

I look forward to hearing from you

Best wishes

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!

SliC - Slow-worms In Churchyards

Posted on Thursday 23rd July, 2020

SliC - Slow-worms In Churchyards


One of my first jobs as Chair of DARN is to try to set up reptile transects across Dorset that are accessible to everyone who is interested and hence fulfil DARN’s motto of ‘Conservation Opportunities For Everyone’.

All communities have a church and churchyard nearby and many churches now have wildlife areas. Some churches are already involved in monitoring their wildlife and others would like to but need help to get started. So this project brings together survey opportunities, record collecting and knowledge about reptiles, in this case particularly Slow-worms, across Dorset.

Any church can participate in the project. As Chair of DARN I am concentrating on Dorset initially but I know that other counties are keen to be involved as well.

DARN is keen to work with other Groups to broaden our understanding of the distribution of reptiles across Dorset.

If you know of a church community that might like to be involved in the project then leave a message on the DARN Facebook Group, on Messenger or email:

The survey involves putting 5 – 10 corrugated bitumen roofing tiles, in the sun, but out of the way, at an edge of longer grass or shrub habitat. These are then checked by either church volunteers or DARN volunteers, once a month and the records added to the DARN website via the ARGWEB. Each church or cluster of churches will have its own Land Manager portal so that they can see a map of where the reptiles are and this can then inform future habitat management. Full training will be given so there is no need to worry about lack of expertise either in reptile ID or the online recording system.

DARN looks forward to working with church communities across Dorset.

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation Opportunities For Everyone


DARN Dispatches 2

Posted on Tuesday 30th June, 2020

Hello again!

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

Naturally, not a lot of DARN surveys have been carried out over the past few months but we have just started again in Ringwood Forest. Nevertheless, throughout the lockdown, some records were still coming into the DARN database – which is fantastic! So, thank you, everyone!

If you have any records, historic ones are fine as well, add them to Casual Sightings on the DARN website:  or on Record Pool: or email the details to:

The recent fires in Dorset and Hampshire, some deliberate and others through thoughtlessness, are sad and frustrating. Some people just don’t care about our precious wildlife. How species manage to survive is a miracle. On the other hand, because reptiles are difficult to find, some people do not realise they are in the area.

Amphibian survey training is just beginning in Hampshire. If you are interested in amphibian or reptile survey training then make sure that your DARN membership is up to date and for insurance purposes, that you have completed the Volunteer Worker’s Agreement (VWA) and we will add you to the list.

Just before lockdown I was about to set up transects at Motcombe and I was investigating sites in the Purbeck area. If you have any other suggestions for sites, maybe just 3 or 4 tins near where you live, just let me know and we can set it up.

Pete Gillatt took these fabulous photos earlier in the month in Dorset – thanks Pete! Pete has a rare reptile licence and was surveying under that licence.

Scan 20200630

Any ideas or questions just email

I look forward to hearing from you

Best wishes

Sheila Dyason

Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!


DARN Dispatches 1

Posted on Saturday 7th March, 2020

I hope you have all had a good hibernation and are fully refreshed and ready for an exciting new survey season!

DARN now has a bank account and Paypal operational so if you would like to pay the annual £6 subscription or donate to DARN then this is now possible on

the Home page.


On Sunday 26th April there will be an opportunity to undertake reptile survey training at a joint event with HIWARG (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian

and Reptile Group) and another partner, in the New Forest. If you are interested in this then email

and further details will be sent out as preparations are finalised. You will need to be a DARN member and have completed the VWA (volunteer worker's

agreement) which you are prompted to do once you join. This is so that you are covered by ARGUK's insurance.

DARN has 9 reptile transects in Ringwood Forest. More survey sites are needed so if you know of an area that needs surveying or a landowner who might

be interested in knowing what reptiles are on their land, then email

with the details. Similarly, email if you know of any churchyards or cemeteries with wildlife areas that may have Slow-worms. This is another area I would like

to develop.

Any spawn or animal sightings can be added on the Home page, Record a sighting, or if you are already an amphibian or reptile surveyor on the on-line

recording page.

Any ideas or questions just email 

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing some of you at the reptile survey training.

Best wishes


Chair of DARN

Conservation opportunities for everyone!

New Year - New Chair

Posted on Wednesday 29th January, 2020

Sheila Dyason, Secretary of HIWARG (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group) is the new Chair of DARN. Chris has done a fantastic job over many years but he does not currently have the time to take the Group forward but we thank him for all his hard work and luckily he is going to continue as a DARN member.

Sheila lives in Dorset near the Hampshire border and hence her interest in both Groups. She has previously surveyed for reptiles for the Cyril Diver Project and for ARC's New Forest Smooth Snake Project which has now morphed into the Snakes in the Heather Project. She has a GCN licence and a Rare Reptiles licence. This year she will be doing some work with Natterjack Toads at Hengistbury Head. She looks forward to meeting and working with land managers, volunteers, ecologists and other conservationists across Dorset.



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Info & ID guides

Info & ID guides

Herp Identification - downloadable colour charts

Amphibian Identification - downloadable colour cards 

Reptile Identification - downloadable colour cards

Newt Eggs & Larvae - downloadable colour cards 

Dogs & Adders - downloadable advice sheet.   

Improving Herp habitat

Creating Garden Ponds - downloadable booklet   

Herp diseases - recognise & report

Snake Fungal Disease  

Toad fly (Lucilia bufonivora)   

Amphibian Chytridiomycosis  

Ranavirus Disease  

Reptile Slough Genebank - collection & submission of found sloughs  


Useful glossary of terms often used within the herpetological field. (Credit due - unknown)      

Kids stuff - Educational items for the young ones

Pond pack                                                             
Pond Pack                                                  

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