Bats In My Belfry

Plas Glynllifon is a large country house and park near Caernarfon in North Wales situated between the peaks of Snowdonia and the sea. Mountain streams gush over boulders through wooded valleys, past long abandoned copper mines and quarries. This combination of habitats is perfect territory for lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolphus hipposideros) and the area has been designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) supporting over 6% of the total UK population. The designation applies to a series of old buildings which provide roosting and rest sites.

An old map of the gardens and parkland

Plas Glynllifon mansion (Grade 1 Listed) was in a very poor state of repair prior to purchase by out client, Mr Paul Williams, with extensive dry rot and parts of the roof were close to collapse. Deep into the steep bank at the rear of the house is a series of vast coal cellars which provide extensive hibernation and maternity roosts for literally hundreds of lesser horseshoes. Working with local bat ecologist, Sarah Cartmel, Land and Heritage have been able to facilitate renovation works to the main roof and upper sections of the mansion. Heating a section of the cellar has proved highly popular nursery for young lesser horseshoes, and further enhancement measures are planned to allow further restoration work within the mansion and surrounding gardens. Glynllifon is a Grade 1 Listed Garden and we are preparing restoration works based on research of eighteenth and nineteenth century records. Large sections of the garden were destroyed in the 1950’s and the surviving sections have been untouched for over 40 years.

The formal gardens – a hidden gem

The gardens of course are also within the SAC and play an important part in guiding the lesser horseshoe bats to and from their roosts in the mansion. Sensitive garden restoration works, which must be acceptable to Cadw, have also to be approved by Natural Resources Wales so as not to adversely affect the bats.

Lesser Horseshoe bat

Land and Heritage are working hard with all parties to achieve a satisfactory and timely solution. To reduce impacts on bats, the garden restoration works have been phased over three years, ensuring that roost features and sufficient dense cover are maintained. Finding a way through the range of contradictory designations at Glynllifon is challenging, but we can be sure that lesser horseshoe bats will continue to enjoy its beauty and tranquillity.

Simon Humphreys

Matt Jackson