S4E37 Haddon Hall, the private residence of Lord and Lady Edward Manners, is set in the Peak District in the valley of the River Wye. With nine hundred years of history, it is one of the oldest houses in the country and moreover one of the only houses in England to have remained in one family’s ownership for its entire existence. In the corner of the Hall, a large soprano pipistrelle bat roost resides within the roof of the Chapel. Steve chats with Lord Edward about rewilding of the estate, his conservation work in Africa and the fact that he has to clear bat droppings from his desk each morning!
Find out more about wilding of the Medieval Parkland as well as it's ecology
Watch a video of the roost on the Derbyshire Bat Group YouTube page
Advice about bats in historic buildings from Historic England, the bats in churches project and from this collaborative guide.
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Hello and welcome to BatChat from the Bat Conservation Trust. This podcast is for anyone who loves bats. We bring you the stories from the world of bat conservation, from the people on the ground doing work that furthers our understanding of these magical creatures. There's a lot of information and experience out there and our aim is to bring it right to you. I'm Steve Roe. I'm an ecologist and a trustee of the Bat Conservation Trust. Don't forget you can join the conversation online using the hashtag BatChat. that's all one word. This week we're joining Lord Edward Manners, who owns Haddon Hall in the Derbyshire Peak District. In the corner of the hall is the family chapel and hidden in the roof is a roost of around 250 soprano pipistrelle bats. They cause quite a mess in the chapel and visitors definitely notice the smell when they walk in. So I wanted to ask Lord Edward why they're so tolerant to the bats and whether they caused any issues during the recent restoration work done on the chapel. The great thing about this roost is you can sit inside and watch the bats emerge from the roof and fly around before the light fades. As numbers begin to build the space becomes more and more crowded. So much so that bats end up colliding with each other before flying through the doorway out into the courtyard and eventually out into the Parkland. It's a bit echoey in this interview with been sat inside the stone chapel, as I chatted with Lord Edward about rewilding of these states, his conservation work in Africa and the fact that he has declared back droppings from his desk each morning. Summer seems to finally broken we've had a good amount of rain overnight with with the first thunderstorms the air and I'm in a part of the world which is renowned for his bakewell tarts just down the road from from the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire and I'm at Haddon Hall with Lord Edward Manners. Thank you very much for coming on on the podcast, Lord Edward.Lord Edward Manners:
Pleasure. You're very welcome.Steve Roe:
Haddon Hall's been in your family's ownership for the last 900 years or so. What's the history of the hall? And why has it been so well preserved?Lord Edward Manners:
The history of the Hall. Well it was originally built as a Norman fort, just after the conquest in the late 20th century, when after the conquest, the Normans threw up 1000s of these sort of very rudimentary forts in the early days, which are nothing more than really a wooden stockade with a strong gate. And then, every time someone would turn into castles, someone would just pull down and Haddon ratherUnknown:
And coming to the animals were sat in in the unusually was turned into a manor house, but a fortified manor house. So it was never garrisons, and therefore, it wasn't turned into castle. And so it survived all the to the War of the Roses in the Civil War. And so that was one reason why it is like it is and the other reason why is because it was left empty for 200 years, from 1700 until the 1920s When my grandfather restored it. So it missed out on all that kind of modernising period of 1800s and the 1700s. And so it really is just as it was, when it was left in 1700. Not much done. family chapel, which is a very small, very small chapel, not 1600 say most of what you see at Haddon, is mediaeval, early, mediaeval, some Norman, a lot of Tudor and some Elizabethan, but nothing after that. So it's very unusual. And I think because it like the local village churches or anything, just a few metres was left for 200 years, it also made rather peaceful place. So the animals moved in! wide. But we're sat here and we're watching or at the moment about 20/30 soprano pipistrelle bats emerging from the roof flying round. And that's how I came to Haddon for the first time a few years ago. Now back in 2012/2013. When you invited us up and do a count of this. You've invited us several times over the years and we've counted this roost and there's 250-odd bats in this roost. Why have you been so accommodating of the local bat group? Well, they're a very important part of the house. I mean, by through treat the house it is almost like a habitat in itself for all sorts of different names the bats, one very important species that live at Haddon. And also, we have a fantastic colony of wild bees, which lives on the walls, and they've spread across throughout the house in somewhat inconvenient places, but they are very, very healthy, colony of bees, which is great, and then they go off into the woods and create new colonies. And so we really encourage that. And we have swallows nesting. And there's all sorts of different things. And I really enjoy sort of conservation stuff and, you know, looking after habitats and trying to increase biodiversity wherever I can. And so bringing you guys in was just really important to just work out and see what we have. And to underline why it's so important. When you mentioned the habitats and the range of wildlife you've got there when I was looking on your website earlier today, I've noticed that it's had a massive revamp, and there's now a comprehensive ecology section, detailing all the work that various scientists now undertaken across the state. And for the first time you opening up the mediaeval, the mediaeval parkland for the first time for guided walks and talks, why then the shift from having the members of the public go around the house and the historic bit. So then going out into that parkland? Well, I think I'm really interested in this whole connection between nature and humans. And if you own and are responsible for land like I am, then it's a it's a natural, it's a natural progression. And this, this link is so important. And so with the mediaeval park, I had an opportunity about 12 years ago, to take that land back in hand, it's about 400 acres. So it's decent size, but, and it was first embarked back in the 1400s. And we researched where the boundary was for the original mediaeval Park. And so the project has really been to go back to how it was back in the 1300s. And that is involved removing some of the field boundaries, and putting a big fence up around the hole, but one lot of big fence towards only a wire stock fence, just to keep the cows in. And so it's been a, it's been a project. So it's about habitat creation, and it's about improving biodiversity. And obviously, you know, we've had substantial help through stewardship schemes, which is important public money. And so the, it's important to open it up to people as much as possible, without causing too much disturbance on the land. So the what we decided to do was to create some guided walks. So the experience you get when you come and visit, the mediaeval Park is more about, it's more immersive, you're not just walking in, bring your picnic, sitting with a rug by the river type thing. It's, it's we have special interest. walks and talks about butterflies are about birds, some are about the history of the park. Some are just general nature type walks. So the idea is to is for to make it an interesting experience to fuel companies. So that's the idea though, that was our solution. And I think we're doing some other amazing things. And it's really, really working. And we're seeing really increase massive increase in, in all sorts of different species, and biodiversity. And so, which is a nice thing to show people off. And hopefully, people get inspired by it and go off and do some of the things elsewhere. And hopefully, that'll help nature and help people as well. That's the idea. I mean it's quite refreshing to hear that. Your father was the 10th Duke of Rutland, and he was known for keeping the longest established pack of fox hounds. Countryside pursuits can be a hot button issue, your vision for this immersive side of keeping the nature in and encouraging people to reconnect with nature. Do you think you know yourself and the other landowners across the UK? Do you think there is a trend now for perhaps moving away from more traditional activities such as hunting or driven grouse shooting more towards value in nature? And rewilding, you know, what's your view on that? Yes, I think you'll I think we'll probably right there as a general movement. Because whatever you do in the countryside has to be appropriate and it has to be relevant to the time. I mean, that's not to say I'm against fox hunting or or grouse shooting, because they have served a purpose within nature over a long period of time. So that's another debate. But I think I think it is it's in this day and age, you have to really think about your activities as a landowner and their long term strategy. And the priorities are somewhat somewhat changed. You know, climate change is super important for us. We have these fantastic rivers on the estate, 24 miles of river bank and four rivers and, and that, to me is a crucial indicator of the health of the land here. And so you're seeing this year where everything's so incredibly dry and rivers, well, rivers, okay, just but we desperately need rain. It's really worrying. So the priority is really for me to build resilience into the landscape will set into the land I buy and look after. But I think proving, making nature work for itself and giving it every opportunity to help itself is is what I think it's the most important thing to do as a landowner today. So in terms of building in that resilience, then you need to start to this rewilding project. How similar is it in terms of the methods that something like the Knepp Estate have used you have you drawn on experience from, from Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree down there? Great inspiration from them. They're good friends of mine. And I went to visit their projects when they're very when they started it whenever it was 17/18 years ago. And I stayed there many times in those days when the early days when you're wading through fields of thistles up to your neck. And they were real pioneers on the idea of, of taking unproductive farmland, out of farming out of producing food. And they were producing mainly a dairy farm at the time with a big dairy unit producing milk and cheeses and whatever it was, it was it was a brave move. But it was also commercially sound thing for them to do because they were losing money on the farm. And they want to do with in unproductive land. And I think this is the real issue right now we're all facing, and it's a little movement about whether land goes into food production or whether it goes into creating natural assets, which has other benefits and producing food. So I think that's the, that's the thing. So I was very much inspired by by them. I think the whole rewilding name has been overused, and has some slightly negative connotations to people who are in the farming community. And, and other sorts of stakeholders. I think you call them that. And so and so that's, I call that I don't actually use the word rewilding, or you won't see it on our website, I don't think I use I tend to use I tend to use regenerative farming, I think that's, that's a better term. Because it implies or regenerative land management. Cuz we're not just letting the land go. It's actually jolly hard work creating habitat. So we're working just as hard on the land. But in a slightly different way, our main focus is not about producing food and meat. It's about creating a habitat, and I call it a sort of productive paradise is the idea. So create a fantastic paradise, a land rich in everything from the, from the little grubs in the ground the mycelium up to the opposite big predators on top and everything in between. So So that's it, so create the paradise and then the productive side will come in here, we will be able to produce some meat, but it won't be in high volumes, that will be very high quality, we will be showing people around the land and making a bit of money from that too, and hopefully educating at the same time. So it will be producing stuff, it will will be able to stand on its own two feet. Commercially, hopefully, not quite yet. But that's the idea. So so we will be looking to make it work properly, but in a slightly different way.Steve Roe:
Nice. I was interested to read on on your website that you've got a particular species of lichen, which is not only a first for the UK, but it was only the second time it's been recorded in the world, I think, which amazed me,Unknown:
I have no idea how to pronounce it I'm afraid. It's got a lot of letters to it. And it was impossible to but that's right on an old ash tree. And I think part of the really interesting part about this this project various projects is to bring in a whole load of experts always fascinated and fascinating for them particularly. And there's a we have we had a brilliant surveyors game around or separate select beetles, and we've had lichen surveys and bat surveys and bird surveys. And then you learn not only do you learn what you've got and how important it is, but also it creates a foundation of proper science data, which you can then then you can then prove how well what you're doing actually works. Great stuff. So coming back to the bats, then how much of a problem do bats cause on the Estate? Sure, I remember you telling me a story that you have to sweep off bat droppings from your desk every morning? I do! Yes, I do. But that's okay. They cause no I'm used to that! They don't cause any problem whatsoever. I mean, the only problem they cause is literally droppings around the house in the summer, we have to sweep chapel every morning. There's a bit of a smell sometimes, but it's just the smell of the house really amongst other things. So you know, they are very welcome. And then they perform a very important function as well. Can you watch your earliest memory you've got I've seen bats. Well, when I was a boy, we used to come on summer holidays. And I remember, I remember being at breakfast on the private side, and there was a fragment of a tapestry above the table and, and two bats suddenly appeared in the middle of breakfast and started flying around. So that caused a bit of a stir. But they were everywhere really. They used to come into the our bedrooms, and they're all over the house. So just get used to them after a bit. And like I said, we sat in this this chapel, and you've recently had some restoration work completed, you've had various bits and pieces done both to the stained glass and to the stonework. Did the bats cause any issues in terms of timing or the actual roost prevending works like that during the works? We had to, No we were advised I think by the bat group, about exactly what impacts the restoration work would have on the bats. Or we got the majority of the work completed by the time that the bats reappeared again, and then in the spring. So it wasn't a problem. And in fact, most of the work was to the main east window, the chapel and so it was to one end of the building, and didn't really affect the rest of the building at all.Steve Roe:
And how often do bats crop up during restoration work on on the rest of the state, you know, is a regular thing that crops upLord Edward Manners:
well, they're very much around on the rivers and up in the woods and we have a lot of Deadwood around the estate. So if a tree falls down or or dies for whatever purpose providing it's not going to cause a danger to anybody, then we just leave them which is why we have so many good good good beetles and and bats and also roost for wild bees so so probably, we have all sorts of really good habitats of bats all over the state that we also have 800 acres of woodland here so managed in a similar sort of way. So we're hoping to increase their numbers if possible. That's the idea.Steve Roe:
And I know in the height of summer when visitors come into the chapter, you've often got a sign up saying please excuse the slight smell we've got about what are the attitudes of the general public to the batsman, they see the signs up here in the chapel.Lord Edward Manners:
I think probably not flying around their heads. I think people who come here are rather amazed by the house and its atmosphere and bats and whole buildings kind of go together rather world and they're part of the thing. And I was fascinated by it. And when I when we tell them that this chapel is actually a certified bat for us didn't didn't have the species of bat within the chapel people usually fascinated.Steve Roe:
And, I mean, you've talked about the woodland now you've got you've got a massive amount of woodland. You know, what are the commercial ventures incorporate wildlife, I'm sort of thinking about the shining quarry restoration where that sun going at the moment.Unknown:
Shining Bank is a quarry, which was a limestone quarry for primary, several cores around option or less than they used to be. And most of them have closed down and and so shiny bank was closed about 10 years ago. And the idea there is to just really let it go back to nature that they were planning to turns into a whitetail crayfish Ark site. But that didn't really come too much. Because Because the water levels are so different, different times of the year. So it turns out it's not really suitable but it is a wonderful habitat for particularly for nesting birds and presumably for bats as well. And just before we touch on your your work over in Africa, what would you say to any owners of historic properties or grade listed buildings if they've got bats? Let them in. Work with them. You know, they're really not a problem. Bring in experts like yourself to help advise on on how to look after them better if I were you.Steve Roe:
Brilliant, and so so you're a trustee of the Odyssey Conservation Trust. What's the interest in Africa and And what conservation projects does that organisation undertake?Unknown:
Well I've been involved in Africa for a while I just got an interest in Africa, I travel a lot, and all sorts of all parts of Africa. And I got involved with a project in northern Mozambique. And I had a small Conservation Trust at one point, which helped set up a, a project in northern Mozambique was all about conservation and communities. So how you integrate communities into conservation, where we treat wildlife and habitat as an asset for the communities as opposed to something to consume. And so that is just an interest. And I've I've been involved with some friends of mine, Chris Cox, and Julie Garnier. Julie is a vet, a very eminent wildlife, big, big animal wildlife, vet she's French. And so they have set up this Conservation Trust, called Odessy Conservation and so it's primarily about, about community conservation, and also the link between what is called One Health Team animal health, and health, the land and the health of humans together to it's all about projects around those sorts of topics. That's great. Lord Edward Manners, thank you so much for coming on the show.Lord Edward Manners:
Great, thank you very much, been a pleasure.Unknown:
A big thanks to Lord Edward for sitting down with me if you'd like to find out more about the rewilding of the mediaeval parkland, the link is in the show notes, along with a link to a video made by Derbyshire bat group of the soprano pipistrelle bats flying around inside of the chapel so that you can see for yourself just how busy it gets once they all start emerging. Next time we return to the Natural History Museum in London to discover the little known world of bat flies. please do get in touch with the show to tell us about your bats a special bat sighting you had this year, or a site you think everyone should visit to go and watch bats. Whatever your experience with bats, we really want to hear from you. So do get in touch. The voicemail link is in the show notes. And don't worry, you can hear your message back and we record it if you don't like it before sending it to us. Messages can be up to 90 seconds long and we can't wait to hear from you. I'll leave you with the sound of the head and whole pipistrelles flying around the inside of the chapel. There's no bat detector being used in this recording. The sound of the bats wings you can hear is just from the podcast microphone so you get some idea of just how close they're flying around us.