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Year of the Snake

Year of the Snake

Chinese New Year will be celebrated by a third of the world’s population on Sunday (10 February) and this year is the year of the Snake.

To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of serpent-related canal boat holiday destinations:

Look out for our native grass snake…from April to September, narrowboat holiday-makers in England and Wales might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of our native grass snake.

Grey/green in colour, the grass snake is a shy, placid, sun-loving creature that enjoys basking on grassy banks on warm summer days.  River banks, ponds and ditches are their preferred habitats, although they will also make a home of hedgerows, meadows and woodland margins.

If frightened, the grass snake will either turn and run or ‘play dead’, an impressive performance that can involve the snake writhing onto its back and lolling its tongue out of its mouth.

Be amazed by the black mamba at London Zoo…the world’s oldest scientific zoo is right next to the Regent’s Canal in Regent’s Park, so even if you don’t moor up and visit, you can still see some of the animals as you cruise by.

London Zoo’s Reptile House (which features in the opening scene of the first Harry Potter film), is home to some of the biggest and most venomous snakes on earth, including a black mamba.

Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal in West London, just a four and a half hour cruise away

See the venomous king cobra at West Midlands Safari Park…the venom from a single bite of a king cobra is strong enough to kill an elephant.  But the main source of food for these feared animals is other snakes, making them cannilbalistic as well as deadly!

To reach the West Midlands Safari Park, narrowboat holiday-makers can moor up in Kidderminster on the Staffs & Worcester Canal and take a 10 minute taxi ride to the zoo.  Kidderminster is a seven-hour cruise from Drifters’ base at Worcester.

Marvel at the reticulated pythons at Chester Zoo…famous for its medieval architecture and city walls, Chester is also home to an award-winning zoo with over 8,000 animals to see.  The Zoo’s impressive reptile collection includes two enormous reticulated pythons, the longest species of snake in the world.

Medieval Chester is just seven hours from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal.

See stuffed snakes at the Natural History Museum at Tring…snakes are included in an incredible array of over 4,000 stuffed animals on display at the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire.  This fascinating collection, which was gifted to the nation in by the Rothschild family 1937, was put together by the scientist, collector and founder of the Museum,  Lionel Walter, 2nd Baron Rothschild.

Tring is close to the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, so canal boat holiday-makers can moor close by at Bulbourne and walk to Tring town centre, just over a mile away.

Visit the boa constrictors at Dudley Zoological Gardens…Eighteen months ago reptile keepers at Dudley Zoo were surprised by the birth of 19 boa babies in their Reptile House.  These large non-venous snakes from Central and South America kill their food by constriction.  The babies have now been re-homed but their parents are still in residence.

Dudley Zoo is about an eight-hour cruise from Drifters’ base at Tardebigge.  Moor up on the Dudley Canal at the Black Country Living Museum and it’s a five-minute taxi ride to the Zoo.

Discover the mythology of snakes at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford…there are many representations of serpents in the extraordinary collection of objects from lost cultures held by the Pitt Rivers Museum.

For example, the Court Art of Benin collection from southern Nigeria, has a number of artefacts depicting snakes.  In Benin cosmology, snakes symbolize the power of Osun, the god of nature.  The python is also a symbol of Olokun, the god of water and it is said that pythons are sent by Olokun to punish wrongdoing.

Drifters has a base at Eynsham on the River Thames, just a three-hour cruise from moorings close to Oxford City Centre.

Swap theme park thrills for animal magic at Drayton Manor Zoo…part of the Drayton Manor Family Theme Park, Drayton Manor Zoo at Tamworth in Staffordshire is home to one of the largest collections of snakes in Britain.

Drifters’ base at Great Haywood is a 12-hour cruise and short taxi ride away.

See Taiwan beauty snakes at Edinburgh Zoo…as well as being home to the UK’s only giant pandas, Edinburgh Zoo offers visitors the chance to see Taiwan beauty snakes.  These large snakes are colourful with beautifully patterned bodies.  They are seen as a delicacy in their native country and are often found in the food markets and menus of Taiwanese restaurants, as well as being used in traditional medicine.

Edinburgh, with centrally located moorings at Edinburgh Quay, is a day and a half’s cruise along the Union Canal from Drifters’ base at the Falkirk Wheel.  There’s a frequent bus service to the Zoo from the City Centre.

Visit the rattlesnakes at Bristol Zoo…the reptile house at Bristol Zoo is home to a variety of snake species, including the Aruba Island rattlesnake.  Belonging to the family of vipers, there are only about 230 of these critically endangered animals left in the wild.

Drifters’ base at Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal is an eight hour journey away from Bristol Floating Harbour.  Bristol Zoo Gardens is in Clifton, a short taxi or bus ride away.