Iit's a tale of once bitten twice shy for boater Gary Marsland, who was hospitalised after an adder attack.

The 52-year-old was bitten on his hand on Monday afternoon, after cycling on the towpath at Wolfhall Bridge, near Crofton Beam Engines.

The injury happened as he tried to catch the adder, to take a photograph, having nearly ridden over it.

Mr Marsland, who was moored in Wilcot, braved the bite and continued on to meet friends in Hungerford; only calling for an ambulance three hours later, when his arm was swollen from the hand to above the elbow.

He said: “It was a very quick decision to get off my bike to try and catch it.

“It was the first I had seen and it was slithering away, so I tried to grab the back of its head, as I’d seen on TV loads of times. I thought it would be easy, but I just missed it and it managed to wriggle around and bite me.

“I quickly looked it up on the internet and people were saying it was just like a bee sting, so I didn’t think much of it, but then my arm started swelling up quite badly and the tips of my fingers started going blue.”

About 100 adder bites are reported every year in the UK and there have been 14 deaths in the past 100 years; the last recorded being a five-year-old boy Scotland in 1975.

Mr Marsland – who did a 1,000-mile journey on his solar-powered narrowboat, Merganser, last year – dialled 999 from Hungerford towpath.

He said: “The funny thing was, the paramedic kept snakes and it was the first snake bite he had treated in 15 years. He was really useful, because he was describing different types of bites.

“He said I would have recovered if I’d just left it, but I would have been very ill for two to three days, so I think I made the right decision.

“He told me about a reserve in Newbury, where you can see adders quite readily, so I might make a trip there, but I won’t be trying to pick one up again.”

Mr Marsland was admitted to Swindon’s Great Western Hospital for observation, then discharged.

He said: “The staff were fantastic and intrigued, as they hadn’t treated one before, so they had to consult with toxicology experts.”