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Photo © Jon Cranfield

Once again, the annual HWM, held at the Hilton Hotel, Northampton (3-4 February 2018), and jointly organised by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK, proved to be a lively and informative event. The centre point of our annual calendar, it offers volunteers and professional herpetologists from across our sector an opportunity to keep up-to-date with the latest news and research findings for amphibians and reptiles. It is also a chance to meet up with friends and colleagues from across the UK and Europe.

We would like to thank all the presenters, chairs and workshop leaders for their fantastic inputs, and all of those who worked behind the scenes to ensure that this was, once again, a hugely successful meeting.

We asked some of the ARG representatives for their comments and memories:

Sam Langdon, SWWARG - Hotel and facilities were fab, food was great - very vegan friendly and tasty, talks were very well balanced, engaging and varied., Greatly encouraged by Jeremy’s talk on the South Midlands newt licensing - if only the GCN programme can go ahead like this in practice! Really loved quick thinking to donate raffle fund to Madeleine’s Patch! 

Erik Paterson, CARG - I really enjoyed the HWM, the atmosphere and gala dinner were the highlights for me I think. Good to meet folks and put faces to names! Such a lot of interesting talks, but I may be a little biased when I say that Pete Minting reporting on his Scottish work was very interesting, the eagle drawing he showed particularly had me in awe. Of course, Brian Laney’s whistle stop tour of his inner thought processes was a fantastically interesting and comical close to the weekend. Well worth the drive from the Weeg! 

Stuart Graham, SAS ARG - A must for people involved in reptiles and amphibians in the UK!! Another amazing meeting where the mixture of formal presentations and informal workshops & discussions provided an update on the current status of reptiles and amphibians in the UK. The enthusiasm for on-going conservation projects and research was noted as being at a high, with some great examples of work undertaken presented. Furthermore, informal discussions with a number of delegates identified future areas of research and species / geographical areas which need targeting. 

Rhiannon Carys Williams, NW Wales ARG/Bangor University Herpetological Society - Having attended the past 7 Herp Workers Meetings, the conference always offers something new. The workshops I attended were hugely relevant and informative and the talks addressed some of the most important developments in UK herpetofauna conservation. I found the epidemiological talks of especial interest. Monitoring the spread of infectious diseases is hugely important, with the discovery of alpine newts in my local ponds, the talk of chytrid monitoring in midwife toads was timely. Habitat management methods, rewilding and eDNA are also currently hot topics in conservation.  eDNA particularly, is often discussed as a potential strategy to alleviate labour efforts for surveying, the discussion surrounding the advantages and limitations of eDNA was hugely relevant.

As an ARG Chair that experiences adders in woodland habitat, the workshops on adder management and the workings of an effective ARG were informative. Along with the great talks, there was fantastic company at both the curry and the gala. Thanks to the organisers for hosting another great event. 

Peter Gillatt, SARG - A thoroughly enjoyable HWM18!  Although only my 2nd HWM, the format with presentations & workshops certainly works. The venue this year was much better IMO as accessibility was much easier with a good range of alternative accommodation in the nearby area. This seems to be important for many people who opt to find cheaper accommodation in the area. Food was very good and the gala dinner a special part of the event.

I was extremely happy with the choice of workshops I had made, both of which offered some interesting insights into fields that have been brought back into my local ARG for further discussion. I think the talks could perhaps be a little overly weighted towards specific research project & their related results.  I feel a few more talks could be added that relate to practical activities that ARG members can participate in or contribute towards. In this regard the talk by Becki Lawson on SFD or Brian Laney on animals being trapped in drains were very useful. Both of these have application activities that can be rolled out to the regular members of the individual ARGs.

Perhaps a few more display stands with a variety of herp fieldwork related items displayed and for sale. Maybe even habitat management equipment. Perhaps at future events, have a 2nd hand herp books stand of some sort on which people can trade books no longer wanted. 

Tariq Stark, RAVON (honorary ARG) - All reptile and amphibian species that occur in the UK are also present in the Netherlands. ARC and RAVON share not only these species but also the same challenges (and successes!) that a Western European country presents for herpetofauna. It is always a joy to see what the herpetological community is up to on the other side of the English Channel. Much can be, and is, learned from each other and we hope we can continue to collaborate in the future! Until next time! 

Krissy Le Feuvre, JARG - My very first HWM, totally enjoyed it!  The talks and presentations were very interesting as well as some quite entertaining, especially the last one with Brian Laney.  Although being from the Channel Islands there was valid information I could take home from these presentations: Newts on Dartmoor National Park, Alice Pawlik. Snake fungal disease, Becki Lawson. Back from the Brink What does it mean for reptiles and amphibians? Jim Foster (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation) and eDNA Exploring the issues - an update, Andrew Buxton (The Durrell Institute  of Conservation  and Ecology).  I met some great people and made some new fantastic contacts too.  I attended workshop E, it was a great opportunity to be in a small room with other ARG representatives and to hear about how and what they do with their group, inspirational.  The food was rather tasty too.  Looking forward to the next one.