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Sustainable Shakespeare – A ‘Rich Increase’ in Wildlife at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage this Autumn

Find out more about some unexpected visitors who turned up early for Halloween…

Andrew Anderson

Over the past few months, we’ve found many different types of wildlife on our sites, such as hedgehogs, badgers and deer. But not everything that lives on our sites is as cute and furry as those mammals. We recently spotted some spookier (and a little bit Shakespearian) wildlife at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage which turned up early for Halloween.

Back in August, some visitors discovered a Grass Snake slithering around the steps in the Cottage garden. They very kindly shared their photos and video of the snake with us.

AHC Grass Snake Cropped

While Grass Snakes may not look as friendly as a hedgehog or deer, they are non-venomous and completely harmless to humans. They tend not to bite but, instead, will ‘play dead’ or will wriggle out of the way of danger as quickly as possible, like the snake on our site did when she spotted humans. Grass snakes are Britain’s longest snake and are green and yellow in colour. They also have darker green and black stripes and spots to help with their camouflage. It’s possible that these were the “spotted snakes with double tongue” Shakespeare was thinking of when he wrote the lullaby sung by the Fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

AHC Bat 001
A bat who popped into (and out of) Anne Hathway's Cottage

Towards the end of September, we had another unexpected visitor, this time in Anne Hathaway’s Cottage itself. Somehow or other, a bat had got into one of the rooms upstairs and couldn’t seem to get out. We made sure there were plenty of windows open and closed the door so that the bat wouldn’t become stressed by human visitors. When we opened the door again, the bat had gone.

Much superstition has built up around bats, mostly because they fly around in the half light of sunset, and this reputation can be seen in the play Macbeth where “wool of bat” is one of the ingredients thrown into the cauldron during the Witches’ spell. However, bats are really wonderful creatures and help humans by eating many of the flying bugs and insects which can annoy us and bite us. We were incredibly happy when we discovered this little bat on our property and will be seeing if we can find out more about the bats we have on site next year.

Whether they are cute and cuddly or have a reputation for being an unwelcome visitor, we encourage biodiversity in all its forms to our sites. The fact we had snakes and bats at the Cottage shows that our plan to re-wild parts of the site is working. A whole range of creatures now call our gardens home, which we blogged about earlier in the year. With an increase in animals and new species of plants, such as yellow rattle and wild spotted orchids, being found in our wilding areas, we are proud of our first years’ work and look forward to continuing our attempts to encourage biodiversity in 2023.

To find out more about how the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is becoming more sustainable and encouraging biodiversity at Shakespeare's Family Homes visit our Sustainable Shakespeare page.