The Greater Horseshoe bat has established a nursery roost in a disused barn at Penrose this summer. This endangered bat only numbers approximately 5000 individuals in the UK and is restricted to the mild climates of south west England and south Wales. This new site is only the 5th and most southerly recorded nursery roost for this species in Cornwall and is of national conservation importance.
The discovery was made by Cornwall Environmental Consultants (CEC) Ltd, the trading arm of Cornwall Wildlife Trust. CEC were asked by us to survey the bat populations in buildings around the Stables at Penrose. The buildings have been monitored for Lesser Horseshoe bats for many years, but we needed to gain a full picture of how bats were actually using the buildings. The outcome of these surveys would then determine how to renovate the buildings.
CEC’s Senior Bat Ecologist, Steve Marshall, found at least 6 species of bats present and more Lesser Horseshoe bats using more buildings across Penrose Estate than had previously been counted, but the most momentous find is the new Greater Horseshoe nursery roost, an unexpected but exciting result of the survey.
“Penrose is a very exciting find. It is fantastic to see such a significant bat species thriving and that the National Trust takes their responsibility to protect them so sincerely….I think they were just as thrilled as I was when we discovered them!” (Steve Marshall CEC)
We are already putting measures in place to safeguard the roost from disturbance and working with CEC to see how it can be improved for the future. We knew that Greater Horseshoes were using our buildings and old mine workings for hibernation in the winter, but it’s great to know they’re choosing Penrose to raise their young. We think the bats were attracted to roost here due to the complex of unused old buildings and the variety of mature woodland, open parkland and Loe Pool; all of which provide a source of insects which the bats feast upon. The Trust manages the land around Loe Pool to try and maximise the wildlife benefit. The building they have been found in will undergo improvements for bats during the winter to encourage them back next summer.
The parkland immediately adjacent to the newly discovered bat roost is managed through a Higher Level Stewardship scheme by the Trust’s tenant farmer, the Wallis family. Natural England administer the scheme, which encourages farmers and land owners to manage land in a more environmentally sensitive way.
Jeremy Clitherow, Lead Adviser for Natural England in Cornwall, said: ‘We are very pleased to have an Environmental Stewardship agreement with the Wallis family that aims to help them manage Penrose Farm for its very important wildlife and historic features. This includes a plan to restore the landscape of the ancient Penrose parkland. On top of that Martin Wallis provides a valuable facility for visiting school children by showing them around the farm and educating them about how he balances food production with managing a high quality environment.’
· Of the 18 species of bat found in the UK, 10 can be found at Penrose.
· Greater Horseshoes are the UK’s largest bat, around the size of a small pear.
· Bats are an important part of our environment and sign of a healthy and biodiverse landscape.
· In the 20th century UK bat populations have declined by an estimated 70% and Greater Horseshoes have declined by 90%.
· They are under threat from unsympathetic building developments, loss of habitat and changing farming practices
Laura, Area Ranger Penrose