Article by Chloe Chapman: Families will soon be able to get up close with snakes, lizards and tortoises after plans for a huge reptile house were unveiled.

The new attraction, at Barleylands Farm and Craft Village, in Billericay, will be home to the largest display of reptiles in the South East of England.

Bosses at Barleylands have teamed up with Snakes Alive, based in Southend, for the £100,000 project.

Snakes Alive co-founder Daniel Hepplewhite, 32, who began collecting reptiles two decades ago, visits schools, Scout groups, holiday clubs and shopping centres to show off his display and educate youngsters.

The reptile house will have 55 separate enclosures, which will be heated to between 28C and 30C, featuring scorpions, tarantulas, toads and creepy crawlies. Mr Hepplewhite, set up Snakes Alive in 1996 with his parents, Peter and Susan.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Hepplewhite"]This is a fantastic opportunity for us to expand and it enables us to put our vast array of creatures on display to the public, which is something we’ve never been able to do before. We’re really excited about sharing our passion, enthusiasm and knowledge to educate and engage Barleylands visitors. We’ll be holding plenty of hands-on sessions so visitors of all ages can get involved and theymight even find themselves holding our Burmese python or coming face-to-face with monitor lizards.[/quote]

The Discovery Centre at Barleylands is being revamped to make way for the attraction, and will be renamed the Reptile House and Discovery Barn.

It is expected to open to the public on Saturday, March 28, with baby snakes, tortoises and slow worms set to hatch about Easter.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Chris Philpot, owner of Barleylands"]We’re delighted to team up with Snakes Alive. There’s a great synergy with our education programme and the educational opportunities with Snakes Alive. We’ll have the largest display collection of reptiles in the South East.[/quote]

Article by The Echo, Chloe Chapman

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