Spiderman tames a two-horned monster

Tom Foulds used to be an engineer. Then he discovered his true love - creepy-crawlies. Colin Blackstock reports

It is the stuff of which arachnophobic nightmares are made: spending your life covered in spiders, with the eight-legged creepy-crawlies weaving about your person, spinning webs in your hair, and scuttling up your sleeves, while you suck them up through a tube.

To Tom Foulds, however, it is bliss. The volunteer monitor of the arachnid world has just discovered the 200th type of spider living in Nottingham's Clumber Park, bringing the National Trust property into the big league of spider sites in Britain. There are around 630 species of spiders in the country and for one site to have as many as one-third of them is unusual.

"It was quite remarkable," said Mr Foulds, taking a break from sucking on a length of plastic tubing - a pooter as it's known in the spider-catching trade - trying to catch one of the many spiders released in the room for the purposes of a photograph. "The 200th species we found turned out to be quite a rare spider."

The spider, a Linyphid, is a type of money spider known as the Saloca diceros. Roughly translated, this means "the agitated two-horned", and as the name suggests, the spider has two bristle-like horns protruding from its head.

Mr Foulds first became involved in the life of Clumber Park nine years ago when he was part of a natural history group attempting to keep a register of the park's flora and fauna. The wardens knew there were people such as bird-watchers recording the wildlife as a hobby but they never benefited from the information collected. They held a public meeting for anyone interested and drew up a list of what they hoped would be documented.

Nigel Dorrington, a warden at the park, said: "We have a large number of different habitats and it is important we know what is in them because if we don't we could wipe out a rare species by managing a habitat incorrectly.

"Right at the end of our list was spiders, and we didn't know if anyone would be interested but Tom put his hand up and we virtually snapped it off."

A complete novice when he began, Mr Foulds' job as a volunteer spider recorder is to find and document the arachnids in the park. He has progressed to become an accepted member of the British Arachnological Society, picking up his assistant "spiderman", Trevor Harris, on the way. Mr Harris was a bird-watcher until he discovered Tom flat out on the grass, "grubbing" for spiders, and became hooked himself.

"I've never had this phobia a lot of people have of spiders," said Mr Foulds, "and one of the things I'm trying to do is to talk to people about spiders and get the message across that they are not something to be scared of. When you meet somebody for the first time and tell them what you do, it's a great conversation stopper. I think a lot of people are mildly amused by what I do."

A retired British Telecom engineer, he says of being a spiderman: "It's what I should have done many years ago. I think I've found my true vocation." Mr Foulds goes back to using the pooter, but the spider in question is refusing to co-operate, as Tom chases it along his arm with his tubing, sucking as he goes.

"When I see a spider I can now more or less tell what family it's from," said Mr Foulds, who has amassed a collection of more than 1000 spiders at his home, which he keeps in small plastic pots and tubes, each one carefully referenced for study. "Some are obvious, but some are so small you have to study the genitalia. I still don't like killing them, but you have to kill some of them to identify them."

The idea of looking for a spider's genitalia seems daunting, but Tom insists it's not difficult.

His quest to find more species in the park may prove harder, however. His ideal find would be a Lepthyphantes midas, another money spider listed in the "Red Book" of extinct and endangered species. "It would be nice to find one," he said. "It has been found in the North-east, so we'll keep looking."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Stephen Hawking is reportedly taking steps to trademark his name
people
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor