Following an incident recently when a large (3') adder in my path, decided against the common perception that they are meant to be more scared of us than we of them and headed straight for me; it is perhaps sensible to advertise what can be dangerous to us in the trade.
'It is safe to put your hand down anywhere in the British mainland, without fear for being bitten' - I have heard this several times and know it to be utter nonsense. From the age of 8, when I was bitten by a slow worm, (yes this is true, despite what most people believe, these animals can draw blood, although I probably deserved it as I was heading into my parents house to place the unwitting animal in a position to scare my sister), I have throughout my tenure in land management been bitten by a series of creatures all of which are meant to be harmless.
There are though, some creatures well worth noting as a potential hazard: Obviously the adder comes high on the list, though rarely fatal, the bite will require a trip to the hospital. Once working in Cloanaig in Kintyre, an assistant, finally tiring of being unable to see what he was doing due to the cloud of midges, sat down and promptly put his gloved hand on top of an adder, fortunately the snake bit only into his glove but did not let go. this was the last straw - he ran down to the fore shore, stripped off and plunged into the sea. This would have been incredibly refreshing, but he happened to time his plunge to coincide with a passing 'lions mane jellyfish'. This was his last day with the company and I would not blame him if he is now sitting in an air conditioned office in a large city, filling in insurance forms with a huge smile on his face.
It is also commonly believed that there are no spiders in the UK which can bite and harm a human, the woodlouse spider would disagree with this and is responsible for many a rushed trip to casualty. Capable of piercing human skin, these small bright red spiders are commonly found in dry stone walls.
But another creature worth avoiding is the truly hideous, (I swear they based the alien in alien on these things), dragonfly larvae. When rummaging about with bare skin in the bottom of a pond, these beasts can open up their heads and shoot a huge pincer like jaw into your flesh, which is not only painful but will remain a sore bump for a long time. There is a story of a Countryside warden in Norfolk, who in an attempt to be very 'hands on' with a school group, tempted them all to roll up their trousers and rummage through the waterways of the broads - they started to drop like flies as the dragonfly larvae feasted on fresh Norwich Schoolchildren. A dragonfly itself, whilst beautiful, is not terribly pleasant when cornered.
There also seems to be a plethora of various other beasties that follow foresters, gardeners and landscapers around in search of a quick and easy meal. Every week a new lump, bump or wee rash appears on us to which scratching only makes the irritation worse. I was once told to smack myself hard to alleviate the irritation, but I am still unsure whether this was a joke, as it always raises alarm to any client when they peer out of their window to watch me busy slapping various parts of my body. The Clegg or Horsefly, which looks like a large normal fly, whilst wearing the uniform of an SS officer, will actually follow you from behind waiting for the perfect moment to nip you in that area, where the skin bulges above your trousers.
When your partners or indeed anyone else whinges on about what a great profession we are in and how easy it must be, this is another thing to add to the list to gain a wee bit of sympathy.