Build your own Hibernaculum!

What is a ‘Hibernaculum’, you may ask? The word ‘hibernaculum’ has  Latin roots, meaning “winter quarter”, with hibernus being Latin for winter. Thus, hibernacula are places of refuge that creatures seek-out in cold climates during winter when resources are limited and temperatures are low.

I wanted to create a refuge mainly for the reptile and amphibian residents at Yew View, but also possibly for small mammals and any invertebrates that might be seeking shelter. There are no hard and fast rules about making such a shelter; it is all about creating a range of spaces that will offer dry places for hiding and possibly hibernating.

Although it is something I had been thinking about building for a while, it was actually some work on site and a large skip full of materials that spurred me into action! There were lots of bits of brick and rubble that I knew I could use, so I was in the skip, pulling out a range of materials before it was removed! I searched around for a variety of other materials that would be suitable. I wanted it also to be a possible site for reptiles such as grass snakes and slow worms to hide, offering warming platforms on which they could sun themselves early morning, so found some unused mini paving slabs and roof tiles as well.


I started by removing the turf from a sunny site, at the top of the garden, that I felt would be a perfect, warm site for my hibernaculum.

I dug out some soil and then started to lay some of the broken bricks, to create lots of small nooks and crannies for creatures to hide in.

Next, I started to use the materials to build some little brick chambers with a tile roof and other spaces for wildlife to hide….

I also added a couple of pipes and tried to create as many varied spaces as I could. Adding some dry twigs, sticks and  some bedding-type materials to some of the little chambers I had created, I aimed to make it attractive to vertebrates and invertebrates.


Next, I filled some of the remaining spaces with some moss and hay and then began to cover it over, first with some waterproof materials and then with soil and turf.

I lay some materials near the surface that should warm up in the sun and then keep the whole area maybe a degree or two above the outside temperature after the sun goes down. I then put the turf back on top for insulation. I placed a few slabs on top. These should warm up in the sun and provide good sunning spots for reptiles in the spring and summer, I hope.

It was a really fun project and took me just a few hours to complete. Time will tell whether it has the desired effect! In the Spring, I will place a Bushnell there… I would love to capture a grass snake or slow worm basking on the top there!!