Hello Monty the Python – and goodbye fear of snakes

They are both terrified of snakes. But that didn’t stop Richard Symonds and his godfather Crispin Mardon from facing two pythons and a boa constrictor to raise money for Bowel & Cancer Research.

Off they went to the Snakes Alive reptile centre in Billericay, Essex.

“The staff started by getting us to handle a few grass snakes and gradually the snakes got bigger,” said Richard who is Corporate Partnerships Officer for Bowel & Cancer Research.

“When they brought out two pythons, called Monty and Charlotte, we thought that was it. But then they walked in with this 10ft boa constrictor and wrapped it around our necks.

When we arrived, I was in a flat panic. Now - well I wouldn’t volunteer to jump into a snake pit but I’m not as scared as I was.

Crispin was no less terrified. “My heart rate went through the roof to start with,” he said.

“I was surprised the snakes weren’t cold and slimy - they felt like warm leather shoes. I’m not sure I enjoyed the experience, but I’m glad I’ve done it.”

The two were in the capable hands of father and son team Peter and Daniel Hepplewhite at Snakes Alive in Billericay, Essex who have a reptile house full of snakes, lizards and spiders.


“I can’t speak more highly of the people at Snakes Alive! They were so calm and good to us,” said Richard.

He was inspired to face his biggest fear for our I’ve Got Guts fundraising campaign when Crispin was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Richard said:

If he can keep such a positive attitude and be so strong, the least I could do was face my phobia.

“Crispin has always been an incredibly positive person, and even though he is battling cancer, that hasn’t changed at all and I have been completely inspired by his bravery.”

Crispin, 59, from St Albans, was diagnosed in January 2019 and is undergoing treatment for bowel cancer. His cancer was caught by chance after a routine visit to his GP.

As well as raising money with their I’ve Got Guts challenge, they also wanted to raise awareness and encourage people not to ignore the symptoms for fear of going to the doctor.

“It might seem terrifying to go to the GP but it could save your life,” said Richard.

More than 41,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK making it the second most prevalent cancer. It is one of the most treatable cancers if caught early.

Anyone who wants to support Richard and Crispin can do so at https://www.bowelcancerresearch.org/fundraisers/richards-fundraising-page