I think snails are a little like Marmite. You either love them (irrespective of the fact that they insist on decimating your plants), or you dislike them.

I won’t say hate, as there are those out there who will insist on eating them,  and perhaps it is more appropriate to say they hate them and have resorted to eating them as some sort of revenge.

I’m not really sure. As I am certain you must love the taste, and texture of snails to eat them more than once, or perhaps twice.

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I live on the edge of a common and I think we have more small snails in the garden as a result. Some are white lipped…some are not. Many are a pale uniform yellow. Some have beautiful brown shells, and most of them are quite small. We do have the odd ‘garden’ variety, with their large heavy shells, but on the whole, ours are a ‘different’ sort of animal all together. It seems from a quick look on the Internet that the long antennas carry the eyes, and if they are the kind to have two sets, the shorter pair is olfactory.

I have just spent rather too long looking at snails on the Internet, really to find out the details of the anatomy, and have found a superb site full of useful (and not so useful) information about gastropods. I would not have believed that there are snails out there that are hairy! The range of shells is quite extraordinary, long and etiolated (and I should think quite a problem to move around), through to almost flat. Some have shells that are disproportionately smaller than the body of the snail and look as though they have grown out of them and need to buy a new one, and some that look as though they have been carefully made with ridges, out of a fine glass.

Early morning walks with Pakka in the autumn and winter often take us along the footpath that runs along the Grand Union Canal. There are small lamps standing about two foot high along the edge of the canal. Set, I think, in the hope you will not tumble into the water. It is a very peaceful time in the morning, around four o’clock. We sometimes see fox cubs chasing one another around the verbiage that grows on the opposite bank, along the towpath. More often we come across single foxes trotting around the estate. Pakka used to chase after them, tail perpendicular, galloping after them with me following on.

Once early one morning in the spring we were sat on an old ant heap on the common. I was reading and Pakka was on my lap. Without warning she leapt away to chase a large fox that had just caught a rabbit, and, quarry in his jaws he looked over his shoulder in what I can only say was astonishment, to see this wild looking cat streaking after him. So he bolted. She bolted after and they disappeared one after the other into the woods. I stood in the middle of the common and whistled. Rang my falconry bell. Nothing happened.

I was just beginning to get concerned when she appeared, called out to me and galloped as though she was in some sort of Flake advertisement, back to me tail a banner behind her…really pleased with herself.

We often hear owls and at the right time of year we can enjoy listening to the dawn chorus, often begun by small birds, the robins, and wrens. Irrespective of season, however, if the ground is wet, we often come across snails crossing the path by the canal.

I have a habit of picking these up and carefully moving them across the path. I am concerned that early morning workers, in their hurry to get to work might tread on them. I do wonder though whether the snails then find they then arrive early at their destination and whether this causes them problems. Often too the bit of land to which they are crossing, is less moist, more crumbly, if not rough on what I must assume is a delicate foot, irrespective of how much slime one might apply to protect it.

Pakka seems slightly bemused by this hold up in our walk, but will wait for me as I settle the gastropod down near a leaf. She is not overly fond of snails though, and has been known to flick the shells of the larger garden variety so they clutter against the tarmac.

I thought this was probably just an aberration of mine. Until my sister admitted to Mum that she did the same.  I suppose though I shouldn’t be surprised about that, after all she did run a snail farm (or perhaps it should be referred to as a snail sanctuary, since they weren’t restrained for fattening purposes), when she was very small.

ImageI have also found that snails like to wash and once found a garden snail had climbed to the top of my spherical fountain and was lying across where the water ran down the side. It allowed the water to flow over its body and periodically its head…it stayed there for some time.

They really are beautiful creatures and though they do destroy many plants in my garden, I would miss them, and so I always try and move them out of the way if they are walking across the path and feel guilty whenever I inadvertently squash one…

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