The folly threatening beauty spot wildlife
An appeal has been launched to fund more conservation work at a 100-acre wildlife haven near Bath.
Conservation workers fear the Brown’s folly reserve at Bathford is under threat from careless use and vandalism.
They want to ensure that the land does not deteriorate into scrub and woodland, and put in conservation measures to support its rare plants, insects and bats.
Avon Wildlife Trust, which bought the site 30 years ago, says that its popularity for camping, firelighting and parties has made it difficult to find a farmer to graze animals there.
Trust reserves manager Joe Middletion said: “At the moment, grazing animals can’t be kept on the land because of the fires and littering that occur on the site.
“We have a constant battle trying to stop the encroachment of shrubs by hand. Unless it can be grazed, we will lose this extremely rare grassland and the rare insects and bats which live around it.”
The trust is looking to raise £10,000 for its Brown’s Folly Seed Appeal in order to be eligible for grants to fund a conservation programme.
Planned changes include protecting and extending the grassland through better scrub control, to prepare for a time when sheep can be introduced for grazing.
Cave security grilles also need repair work to prevent disturbance to bat roosts, which are home to greater horseshoe, lesser horseshoe and Bechstein’s bats.
The trust will be seeking additional external funding for education and community activities, as it believes that informing the public about the value of the site is an essential part of its effective long-term conservation.
Mr Middleton said: “We would like to run walks and classes to get people using the area positively.”
The organisation also wants to put in measures to restrict vehicle access from the car park and to improve liason with police to tackle anti-social activity.
The main conservation work, which it wants to start later this year, will cost £100,000 in total, with most of this coming from landfill tax grants and charitable trusts. To kickstart the process, the trust needs to raise the £10,000 as matched funding. Pat Ellingham, its director of communications and development, said there had already been a positive reaction to a letter to supporters sent by trust chairman Rosamund Kidman Cox.
“We have had a really good response, and have raised £4,000 in the last few weeks.”
The trust intends to apply for funding for the education and community projects over the next few years.
It is keen to preserve public access to the reserve, which gets around 5,000 visitors a year, and is a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
To contribute, call 0117 917 7270 or visit www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk
Brown’s Folly fact file
* The site has been home to one of the oldest bats in the world. Boris the bat was recorded in a survey of bats at the reserve in 1972, and was found alive and well in January 2000, 28 years later. That had made him the second oldest recorded bat in the world.
* There are 17 species of bat in Britain and at least 12 of these can be found at the reserve.
* Bats live in the 12 miles of passages below the reserve, part of the disused Monkton Farleigh Mine.
* The woodland to the south is Sally-in-the-Wood, named after a gypsy woman whose ghost is said to haunt the area.