Baker Shepherd Gillespie (BSG) recently provided advice for a lottery-funded project to preserve a blast furnace in the Royal Forest of Dean, an area renowned for its industrial heritage.
The furnace, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, was constructed at Whitecliff Ironworks near Coleford at the start of the 19th Century but after a brief operational period fell into disuse. Much of the masonry from the ancillary buildings was reclaimed for use elsewhere and the remaining structures were colonised by vegetation.
Overlooking the Wye (OTW), the project co-ordinator, was responsible for devising the preservation work required, including the stabilisation of the flue core with steel pins, vegetation clearance and repair of the external masonry.
The Royal Forest of Dean is of course also famous for its bats and, in particular, is a stronghold for lesser horseshoe bats. The furnace itself has an abundance of bat roosting opportunities and because of this BSG was asked to join the project team to provide specialist bat advice.
BSG undertook detailed surveys of the structure during both summer and winter and were able to establish that the structure provided roosts for both common pipistrelle and lesser horseshoe bats.
Working closely with Ascend (a specialist rope-access firm) we were able to devise a working method that avoided the known roost sites and maintained flight access to these areas throughout the work. Other parts of the structure with potential to be used by bats, such as air vents and shafts, were also carefully maintained within the structure.
The care taken to seek early advice, thoroughly survey the structure and devise a sensitive working method paid off: Natural England were satisfied that impacts on bats would be avoided and the project was able to go ahead without a European Protected Species (EPS) Licence and, thus, OTW was able to avoid the time and cost implications that such a licence can often entail.
Following the success of the furnace restoration, BSG is now surveying two lime kilns and a bridge abutment at the same site. The bridge abutment adjoins a small cliff and surveying this structure will see Steph Boocock, one of our Senior Ecologists, being dangled from the ropes once again!
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