A GIANT sand lizard is invading the Isle of Purbeck.
But far from threatening walkers, it is in the form of a sculpture welcoming people to the area – and celebrating the breed.
Created by Purbeck artist Eilidh Middleton, the installation – on Stone Hill Down just south of East Creech Farm – was unveiled today, on World Lizard Day, and will be in situ until August 31.
As well as celebrating the rare native sand lizard, the installation warns of the delicate balance between humans and nature, and was produced in partnership with Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC).
The sand lizard is largely found on protected heathland sites in Surrey, Dorset, Hampshire and the protected Merseyside dunes systems, due to enormous losses of its habitat.
However, thanks to a reintroduction programme led by ARC, the lizards have now been re-established at many other sites in these counties, as well as places in their historic range, such as north and west Wales, Kent, Devon and Cornwall.
They remain a species of concern, the charity said, something the installation attempts to spread awareness of.
Eilidh said: “The Sand lizard is a favourite of mine. As a child in Trinidad I was fascinated by lizards and would catch them to gaze more closely at them. Enthralled by their beautiful skin patterns and colouration, their intelligent faces and inquisitive bright eyes.
“The fact that they could drop their tails for a quick escape and then grow new ones amazed me.
“I often walk across Creech Heath, the shake of a heather stalk indicates a sand lizard’s shimmy for cover below.
“Smaller than a human finger, they remain out of eyesight for most; so I wanted to do something larger than life to bring the public’s attention to them.
“In Dorset, we have a number of Chalk Hillside drawings, borrowing this medium to represent the sand lizard serves to magnify it to gigantic proportions and give it maximum visibility.”
A special walk and talk to and from the sculpture will take place on Saturday (August 19), starting at The Cake House – Each Creech Tea Room, at 1pm, before setting off at 2pm.
To find out more about the charity and the sculpture – and for more on the walk and talk – log on to arc-trust.org.