We're hoping that the cave will provide a useful roost site for the bats, who use the canal to forage for food and make their home in the surrounding countryside.
Local volunteers have helped us to repair these early 19th-century limekilns at the site as the structures were overgrown and their stonework began to crumble. The kilns played a vital role in Wales' industrial history, being used in the 1800s to produce lime mortar for agricultural use and the construction trade. The raw materials of coal and limestone were brought to the kilns by canal boat and the finished product, burnt lime, was then transported by cart to local farms and by horse drawn tramway as far away as Hay-on-Wye and Kington.
Suitable for hibernating
A temporary wooden door has been built in one of the side-chambers of the kiln to provide insulation and a heat monitor will be installed so that the team can monitor the temperature level and ensure it is suitable for hibernating and night roosting bats.
We've carried out this project together with The Vincent Wildlife Trust‘s Y Bannau – Bro'r Ystlum/Our Beacon for Bats Project, which is funded by the Brecon Beacons Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund. The work has approval from the conservation team at Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and has been carried out sympathetically to reflect the status of the kilns.
Dr Mark Robinson, Canal & River Trust ecologist, said: “We know lesser horseshoe bats use the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal as an important commuting route and find plenty of food along the way. This species has been recorded in a number of rural buildings locally, but too often these buildings are being used or are in threat of development, so we want to give the bats a decent, peaceful place to set up home.
“The shape of the kiln is ideal for bat habitat. It has grills which are perfect for bats to fly in and out of, while the stone walling retains enough heat. The kilns themselves have a fantastic story behind them and it's great we've had so much support to bring them back into a condition befitting of a piece of national heritage.”
Dr Jane Sedgeley, from The Vincent Wildlife Trust, adds: “It has been fabulous working with Canal & River Trust to look after both the natural and cultural heritage associated with the canal. In particular, we are very pleased that lesser horseshoe bats have been given such a prestigious and historic canal-side residence that will provide safe roosting opportunities throughout the year.”