Badgers, bats and battalions
Aspire Defence has recently celebrated a decade of development on behalf of the MOD, enhancing military infrastructure at garrison locations across Salisbury Plain and at Aldershot.
Sustainability is at the heart of Project Allenby/Connaught.
So we’re not just building accommodation for the Army.
We’re creating homes for wildlife too.
Read our interview with John Langdon, from the Aspire Defence Capital Works (ADCW) environmental team, for an insight to the wildlife conservation work underway across the garrisons…
I’m responsible for safeguarding wildlife on garrisons where construction works are underway to support the Army Basing Programme, ensuring minimal disruption is caused to their habitats and the wider environment. My job brings me into regular contact with numerous elusive and protected species, from bats and badgers to reptiles and dormice.
We’ve found around 400 common lizards, amphibians including about 200 protected Great Crested Newts and many grass snakes including one that was 1.5 metres long. We capture the lizards by placing tiles, normally made of roofing felt or metal, in their habitats for them to hide under or bask upon, then they are caught by hand and safely relocated off the garrison to a nearby habitat.
Across the garrison sites five species of bat have been identified – two types of pipistrelle, serotine, noctules and barbastelles.
I carry out dusk-to-dawn surveys with ADCW’s ecology team to monitor the population and ensure the bats and surrounding environment are in good health.
Bats are an indicator of our overall environment so if we’ve got an abundance, we know we’re doing everything correctly. If the population were receding, we’d know either we’re doing something wrong or something in the area is going wrong. Bats are very loyal and will return to the same roosts year in, year out; thankfully our numbers appear healthy.
I advise the construction team on the planning and installation of bat boxes and bricks during building works, providing an alternative habitat to compensate for the loss of roosts through demolitions of existing garrison buildings. Raised lead flashing on rooftops of new and refurbished buildings gives bats access to loft space for maternity roosts, while wide soffits and cavity voids are used to enable roosting inside walls for one or two bats – ‘bachelor pads’!
An artificial sett has been installed to provide an alternative habitat for resident badgers. It comprises seven buried chambers on different levels linked by tunnels of plastic pipe. It will provide a home for up to seven badgers, with the animals able to extend by digging further into the surrounding land. A licence was obtained from Natural England to close off the old sett because it sits within the footprint of a new development. Screening was erected to give the badgers some privacy while they set up home.
The bats restrict access for maintenance, so that needs to be done under supervision and approved. Nobody is allowed into an area where bats are roosting for more than 30 minutes at a time and if there are any hibernating bats, it should be a no-go area. Every time a bat in hibernation wakes up they’ll be losing body fats and that can be fatal. If a bat is discovered during building works – for example, inside a window frame – I’m immediately called onto site to safely remove it.
I discovered my passion for conservation by chance after I was (reluctantly!) volunteered to join a village woodland management committee. I then signed up for a bat licensing course through the Dorset Wildlife Trust.
I really enjoy working with protected species; I’m able to see animals that most people only hear about but I can actually get up close and personal and help protect them. It’s a privilege.
And as an ex-Serviceman, sustaining the environment and its wildlife whilst improving lives of soldiers on the ground is a perfect meeting of worlds.