Geeks and adders …

I’ve been having some good days out with my son Joe this week. After a wet start looking at the grim bouldering at Dumbarton, we’ve walked in the Kilpatricks, snorkelled out on the far side of Knapdale, biked at Comrie Croft, and plunged into the great swimming hole just up from Comrie at Dalrannoch.

In between we put the world to rights and discussed algebra, rocketry, algorithms and all sorts – Joe is a highly-qualified engineer and science buff.

The highlight was at Kilmory Bay, seeing two otters swim up to a rock not more than 20 metres away, climb out, scurry about for a moment in a tangle of sleek snouts and slick tails, and then plunge back into the water, oblivious of the watching men.

There was other wildlife too. On a small hill above Glasgow, on a warm sunny evening, we were strolling back along the grassy track when Joe said quietly: “Dad, snake.”

A snake similar to the one lurking in the Kilpatricks …

It’s not what you expect to hear just there and I stopped dead, looking down to see a beautiful, black-and-gold hatched adder, making its way in leisurely fashion along the path less than a metre from my boots. We just stared at first and by the time we thought of getting a picture it had disappeared into the long grass at the side of the path.

Would you be expecting adders in that part of the world? Although a quick Google reveals a few stories about them in the area, I suspect most people like me would think they would be found in wilder or warmer places – the last one I saw before that was in my memory huge, as thick as my wrist, beneath the cliffs at Bosigran in Cornwall.

This one was a good size, the thickness of a dining-chair leg, and maybe 45cm. Although adders will not attack unless provoked, and bites are exceedingly rare, if it did go for you it would be no fun at all.

So now, knowing there is at least one venomous snake there, would that deter anyone from strolling in the Kilpatricks? If it did, would it be logical? Cue a small debate …

The snake was there before we saw it, so it would be foolish to think that merely by having seen it the chances of a bite would be increased.

But could you reduce the probability of being bitten by avoiding a place where you knew there was a snake? We looked at probability, choices, how you use the information you have … and I’m still not sure.

It won’t deter me from using Clydebank’s green lung, but I will take it as a sign that the environment up there is cleaner and wilder than I had thought, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for reptiles on my next visit.