Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Avon Wildlife Safari Day 5 - Bats in Bath

Browns Folly nature reserve is a unique place to explore with fantastic views towards Bath. The flower rich grasslands attract a wide variety of butterflies, bees and moths and provide a great spot to admire the view, whilst the ancient woodland on the lower slopes are home to woodpeckers, owls and deer. You can download a butterfly spotting sheet here and a woodland wildlife spotting sheet here to help you identify different species.

The nature reserve covers the remains of the old Bath stone quarries, reputed to have provided stone for Buckingham palace and now home to several different species of bat, including the threatened greater horseshoe bat. There is a huge amount of history associated with the area, from the Jurassic period when the area was covered by a warm tropical sea (you can still find the fossils), through the Industrial revolution when limestone was heavily extracted from the mines to World War 2, when the caves were converted into ammunition stores. If you would like to find out more about the wildlife or history of the site then contact us to receive a copy of our Browns Folly nature journal on mail@avonwildlifetrust.org.uk.

The species rich downland flora that covers the spoilheaps, includes nine different species of orchid, wild thyme and harebell. This steep sided slope is grazed annually as part of our Sheepwatch programme to help keep down scrub and protect this valuable habitat. The insects attracted to the variety of plants that grow here are an important part of the food chain, providing much needed food for the bats and birds.

The tower that sits in the heart of the nature reserve was built by Colonel Wade Browne in 1848 and gives the nature reserve it's name. The folly was constructed by Browne's workers in an attempt to provide employment during an agricultural recession and enabled him to admire the commanding view.
Folly's are generally extravagant buildings built for decoration rather than any practical use and this one has many stories associated with it. One local tale I heard was that Browne put his daughter in the tower to avoid her death which had been predicted by a local fortune teller. Every day food was hoisted up to the top of the tower for her in a basket. One day, the day of her predicted death, her food was sent up as usual, but this time, unseen by anyone, an adder slid into the basket. Needless to say, the tale goes that the adder bit Browne's daughter and she died, as predicted.

Download our detailed walk for the site and see if you can find the rare bath asparagus, listen to the wide variety of birds singing in the woodlands and if you are their in the early evening look out for the bats leaving the caves to feed.

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