Part of the 'Beneath the Ridge' project has involved a careful survey of any special flora and fauna that may be found to be living in the cracks and crevices — our most recent survey of wildlife in the caves took place just last month on 27 and 28 July 2018.
Obviously, we do not want any future work to disturb any wildlife.
We know for certain that there are bat roosts in one or two of the better-known caves. The Cheshire Bat Group monitor these and access is only permitted in the company of a licensed bat protection officer. There has been no other study of life in the caves, however, and so the Trust invited some graduates from the University of Sheffield, under the guidance of Graham Proudlove, of the British Cave Research Association, to map and study the life in three of our locations: at Beeston Crag, the Queen's Parlour, Harthill, and Bloody Bones Cave at Rawhead. We are very grateful to the Bolesworth Estate, the staff of English Heritage at Beeston and Mike Freeman, Chairman of the Bat Group, to enable us to access these sites.
The location of the creatures discovered in the caves was mapped according to the degree of visibility:
- a "light" zone close to the entrance of the cave
- a "twilight" zone where the light is dim but objects are still visible, and
- a "dark" zone where no light penetrates
A surprising number of different species of insect were identified in the darker zones — several kinds of cave spider, moths and (surprisingly) roosting butterflies, as well as unexpected parasitic wasps and thousands of tiny black flies clinging to the walls.
We await precise identifications but it seems clear that, apart from the bats, there is nothing in need of special protection.
We were also looking out for any specialised plant life but found none on this visit although we understand that an unusual moss known as 'Goblin Gold', which seems to glow in the dark, can be found in some locations.
We have invited the Cheshire Wildlife Trust to join us in further searches in all the remaining caves and cavities along the Ridge.
Keep watching this space for updates.