Volunteers join forces to plant a ‘bat corridor’ in Beer

Volunteers from across East Devon have joined forces to plant a hedge to create a natural “bat corridor” to help boost populations of rare bats near Beer.

As part of a community initiative called Bat Friendly Beer, a group of volunteers from Clinton Devon Estates’ Friends of the Commons group and Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project (DGHBP) planted 360 native species including hawthorn, blackthorn, oak, elder, field maple and holly to create a Devon hedge on farmland at Beer Head.

The seaside village of Beer, and particularly the Beer Quarry Caves which are owned by Clinton Devon Estates, are well-known for their Greater Horseshoe bat population. The new hedge has been planted between two important bat maternity roosts, the only known sites in East Devon and two out of just 11 in the whole county.

Bat Friendly Beer, which has participants from 16 local community groups including the village primary school, was established two years ago to support the DGHPB and build on the excellent work undertaken previously by East Devon AONB, local landowners, businesses and bat enthusiasts.

Helen Parr of the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project explained: “Britain’s greater horseshoe bats have declined by 90 per cent over the last century and are now only found in the South West of England and South Wales.

“Hedgerows play an incredibly important role in increasing the life chances of bats, doubling up as bat corridors and providing food whilst enabling bats to navigate the countryside more easily in the dark using echolocation, using sound waves and echoes to determine where objects are.”

The Bat Friendly Beer working group spent several hours creating the hedge at Southdown Farm, where farmer Richard Dormer is working hard to increase biodiversity for the benefit of local wildlife and the wider environment.

Facilitating the Bat Friendly Beer working group was Kate Ponting, Countryside Learning Officer for Clinton Devon Estates who explained: “All the partners in Bat Friendly Beer are keen to deliver practical measures to support bats in this part of Devon. This is about creating something for the long-term but whilst this hedge was planted for bats there will be other benefits too.

“A central part of Bat Friendly Beer is to raise awareness in the local community that what is good for bats is good for other wildlife and for people too. Then we know how to look after what is so special and with continued support can continue when the DGHBP ends in 2020.”

BFB group member Karen Mynard, who also works for Beer Quarry Caves, was among the volunteers planting the new hedgerow. She said: “I spend most of the year being the keeper for the bats in their hibernation roosts underground, so it’s nice to be able to do something for them for the part of the year when they’re not with us.”

For more information visit, www.devonbatproject.org