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Welsh beauty spot becomes one of the best sites for bats in the UK

Margam Castle Views (Pic: Neath Port Talbot Council)

A WELL-KNOWN beauty spot in Neath Port Talbot has been described as being one of the best places in the UK to see bats.

The area of Margam Country Park has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, known for its 19th Century gothic mansion in the form of Margam Castle, based on more than 1,000 acres of stunning parkland.

The site, located in Margam near Port Talbot, is also known for its wealth of history as well as the numerous events it holds such as festivals, alpaca walks and children’s story telling sessions.

However, while many will know the park for its natural beauty and wildlife, which includes a variety of plants as well as a herd of deer, the area has also been described as being a nature hot-spot for numerous species of bats.

Experts from Neath Port Talbot Council who run the park say there are currently around 14 species of bats using the park out of a total of 18 in the UK, including rare species such as the lesser horseshoe bat, greater horseshoe bat and the barbastelle bat.

Brown Long Eared Bats At Margam Park (Pic: Neath Port Talbot Council)

Megan Price is an ecologist for the local authority and said it was the variety of habitats and ecosystems that currently made the area so special for these nocturnal creatures.

She said: “Margam Park is an amazing site for bats. It’s a big site at around 850 hectares which means we’ve got a large variety of habitats here like woodlands, open grasslands and a variety of buildings that bats can use.

“I think nearly every structure in the park is used by bats as a roost with a lot of tree features for them as well. There’s also the deer herd here- and if you’ve got deer that means you’ve got the poo – which attract a number of invertebrates that are then food for the bats.

“We’ve got 14 species here at the moment and a few roosts that are a couple of hundred strong so it’s actually one of the best places in the country for the bat species we get.

“We do also have bat walks in the park, and while we don’t have a huge amount of them at the moment, we’ve got the next one in August that’s already fully booked, and if it’s something we get more interest in we could definitely look at doing  more.”

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While often misunderstood, experts say bats play an important role in many habitats, particularly for their ability to pollinate flowers, spread seeds and control insect populations. They can also be seen as an indicator species for the levels of bio-diversity in certain areas such as Margam Park.

A report from Neath Port Talbot Council points out how the authority is keen to “celebrate and promote Margam Castle as one of the best sites for bats in the UK,” with a team that carries out regular studies to see how bats are using the park, as well as holding bat walks over the summer months and hosting an international bat night festival each year.