A photograph of a wooden structure built to house bats surrounded by wildflowers.
Nature conservation area and bat house 2019 © Historic England

Hidden Nature at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings

1 September 2020

Historic England is committed to restoring the unique historic buildings at the Flaxmill Maltings and is also passionate about ensuring that the wildlife that has made this place home over the years is able to remain here in areas where they can thrive.

As a part of this commitment, a nature conservation area at the back of the site has been created. This area is for wildflowers and plants to grow, which not only look stunning when the flowers are in bloom but also encourage butterflies, moths, bees and other wildlife. It also contains a timber-clad building for our bats to roost in.

We’d like to share some information on just a few of the hidden species that call the Flaxmill Maltings home.

A photograph of a wooden structure built to house bats surrounded by wildflowers.
Nature conservation area and bat house 2019 © Historic England

Protecting our bats

Bats are an endangered and protected species. Their habitats, often nowadays in buildings rather than the countryside, are in decline.

Here at the Flaxmill Maltings, we have four roosting bat species; the rare Lesser Horseshoe along with the Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, and the Brown Long-eared bat.

A photograph of a Brown Long-eared bat on a wall
Brown Long-eared bat © Hugh Clark/www.bats.org.uk

Bats are one of nature’s pest controls. In the UK bats forage on invertebrates such as insects and spiders. The Common Pipistrelle, which is the bat mostly found around the Flaxmill Maltings, can eat up to 3000 midges, mosquitoes, and other small flies in a single night. If bats ever fly close to you they are not trying to come and bite you, they are trying to eat the midges and mosquitoes above your head that actually are trying to bite you.

To ensure the protection of the Flaxmill Maltings bats, in the nature conservation area at the back of the site there is a timber-clad building which is our bat HQ. The ‘bat house’ has two interior habitats. The first part simulates cave or cellar-like conditions with a cool and damp environment and a stable temperature, which is just what the bats like when they hibernate in winter. The other habitat is more like an attic roof space which is warmed by the sun. Bats need this heat for the rest of the year when they are more active, especially for maternity roosts in summer when they are raising their young.

A photograph of the interior of a building for bats to roost in. The roof has wooden beams and two heaters. The walls are constructed of concrete blocks.
Inside the bat house. The attic-like habitat. © Historic England

If you are passing the Flaxmill Maltings at dusk one evening and look up you might be able to catch a glimpse of one on our resident bats.

The bat house was part-funded by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with Government.

Summer visits from swifts

Each summer Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is also home to swifts which nest in the Cross Mill vents, similar to the 1897 Main Mill one shown in the image. With pressure on the species to find suitable nesting sites, it was important that we retained these spaces so that the swifts can continue to nest here.

Swifts arrive from central Africa in early May. They are here for only 12 weeks, during which time they find a mate, make a nest, lay eggs and raise one or two chicks. These nest boxes are the only place they ever touch down, they spend their whole lives in the air. Towards the end of August, they head south again and travel enormous distances before returning the following summer.

A photograph of a brick wall with a wooden vent.
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings Main Mill vent from 1897 © Historic England

Tree planting

Newly planted trees have come alive along both the northern boundary of the site and within the triangle of land between the railway and the mill. You can read all about the tree planting here.

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