This slow-worm appeared the other day, by my veg patch as I was working. Although they look and move like a snake, they are legless lizards. If you try to hold them by the tail, it will break off, and the slow-worm will wriggle off to freedom. And they move very fast.
Nowadays I don't touch them; they're getting rare, and are best left to their business. But when I was younger I caught them and took them home to put them on the compost heap to eat the snails. So if you really must pick one up to stop it going onto a busy road, for example, grab it quickly, gently and firmly just behind the head, and hold it at arm's length and look the other way. Because it will writhe like crazy and spray you with excrement. It is easy to let go at this point, but if you drop it onto grass you will not catch it again, they are so fast. Once it's finished writhing it will become calm and you can move it to safety.
They are instantly recognisable because their skin is quite shiny, glistening, and has distinctive colour: black sides with a fawn top, and a thin black stripe down the middle. The head too doesn't widen out like a snake's; it looks, if anything, a bit like a blunt pencil end.
They eat garden pests, including slugs and snails, and are generally good for the garden. They especially like to live in compost heaps, which is why you should be careful when digging in one, or turning it over.