If you’ve not been to Beeston Castle near Tarporley, I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a splendid, proper castle on the top of a hill, magnificently ruinous, with a precipice on one side and a moat on the other. And it’s a groovy orange colour as it’s made from the local sandstone. Smashing !
Even better, not only is there a castle on the site, there are caves too, and caves mean BATS !
This is the site where our lonely lesser horseshoe was first recorded to hibernate. He/she was later joined by a second individual, so we can say we have a population of two lesser horseshoe bats in Cheshire. At least some of the time :)
In the summer, there are roosts of four species of bat on site. Cheshire Bat Group record numbers of these roosts each year and we find that they fluctuate quite a bit. This time, I didn’t see any brown long-eared bats but numbers are always low and this year we were a bit later in the summer than usual so this isn’t necessarily cause for concern. We did see 60 pipistrelles – the site seemingly has a mixed roost of common and soprano pipistrelles, although we don’t know whether they occupy different areas once they get inside the roosting space. The received wisdom is that sopranos and commons like to roost separately. Because soprano pipistrelles smell. They do, honest !!!
We also counted 45 Natterer’s bats which again isn’t as high as usual, but we think it is a maternity roost – in good weather years like 2014, maternity roosts tend to break up earlier, as the young bats develop faster and so learn to become independent sooner. When a maternity roost breaks up, some of the bats may stick around in the same place whilst others disperse to other roosting sites, often, but not always, in the local area. So we are not worried about our Natterer’s at all as they may just have moved on a bit earlier than usual. We do know of at least one other Natterer’s roost nearby. One day we will get organised and count them both at the same time so we finally know how many bats we have ! This may be easier said than done though as the other roost is on private land and we are not sure how much the owner likes bats….we are grateful that English Heritage love their bats and are happy to let us in out of hours to count them.
You don’t have to go into the site to see bats, as you can get a good view from the gatehouse – so if you want you could always go and see for yourself – be careful though, as the gatehouse fronts directly onto the road and it’s busier with traffic than you might think for such a tiny lane.
Last year the bat count team saw glow worms on the hill leading up to the castle, so we went to have a look and *almost* convinced ourselves we could see some. Until I realised at least some of what I was looking at and telling myself were glow worms were actually white flowers – ! Yeah. Maybe next year I will get lucky.