Boost for a bat roost

Papermill Cottage by Steve Bloomfield

Work to help bats as part of the restoration of a historic cottage is underway.

Papermill Cottage, part of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s The Knapp and Papermill nature reserve, was once a paper mill on the Leigh Brook. It was last lived in by humans in the 1960s but is now home to a population of scarce bats.

A colony of lesser horseshoe bats has taken up residence in the derelict cottage but work to ensure the stability of the building will include lots of new features to ensure the bats have a boost to their roost.

Dominique Cragg, conservation officer for the Trust, explained “This project has been a while in the making – surveying for bats, planning exactly how we can help them and working out when the best time of year to do the work could be so that we don’t disturb them in the winter months when they wouldn’t be able to find food whilst making the cottage perfect for them to start breeding this year.

“We know that there are at least 47 lesser horseshoe bats living at Papermill Cottage and that they usually breed there over summer so we need to include a variety of different places for them to move around within the house. Having two different bat lofts in the roof space, for example, will allow breeding females to move to the warmer loft in summer whilst allowing males or non-breeding bats to perhaps stick to the cooler loft.”

Boosting the bat roost

Two bat lofts are being installed in the roof space, which is currently one big open area. The lofts are large triangular-shaped boxes with an opening to allow the bats freedom to fly in and out.

Lesser horseshoe bats roosting in Papermill Cottage by Dom Cragg

Lesser horseshoe bats roosting in Papermill Cottage by Dom Cragg

The Trust will also be installing bat boxes within the house. Once the work is completed not only will there be areas of different temperatures and sizes but the new features will provide plenty of opportunities for different species of bats to use the space.

Bats such as lesser horseshoes like to hang upside down whereas pipistrelles like to snuggle into crevices.

Dom continued “We already have more than 50 bat boxes placed throughout the woodland at The Knapp. These are regularly monitored, under licence, by volunteers from Worcestershire Bat Group and we know that we have good populations of 11 of the UK’s 15 regular breeding species of bat on the nature reserve.

“The site is perfect for bats with lots of roosting opportunities as well as the wildflower-rich meadows and Leigh Brook providing a wealth of insects for the bats to feed on.

“The wider area is rich in hedgerows, which allow the bats plenty of opportunities to move through the landscape. This connectivity is really important and is something that we work with neighbours and communities to help achieve.

“The UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries so it’s brilliant to be able to do something like this to help our wildlife.”

The work would not be possible without funding from Evesham-based Severn Waste Services through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Jim Haywood of Severn Waste commented “The Knapp is a wonderful place to be and it is a great pleasure to be able to give the Trust’s staff the opportunity to use their considerable skills to provide further opportunities for the wildlife at the site to prosper, giving us all more chance of experiencing the magic of seeing bats”.

The Trust owns almost 100 acres of land at The Knapp and Papermill; the purchase of a ten acre woodland adjacent to the nature reserve last year became the Trust’s 100th patch of land.

The nature reserve consists of an orchard, wildflower-rich meadows, woodland and a section of the Leigh Brook.