1st December 2015

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has been awarded £91,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new project at Swanton Novers woodland in Norfolk. Thanks to National Lottery players, BCT will work closely with volunteers from the local community to discover the relationship between the long history of management at the site and the woodland's role in local heritage and in the wildlife that the woodland supports - particularly bats, The project is in partnership with Natural England (NE) who are guardians of Swanton Novers which is a National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Swanton Novers NNR is 84 hectares of species-rich ancient woodland. It is comprised of four separate woodlands that together form one of the most important groups of woodland in the country on account of their antiquity, continuity of traditional management and presence of scarce and threatened species, including one of Britain's rarest mammals, the barbastelle bat.

Local communities surrounding Swanton Novers are very proud of this woodland gem which forms a core part of their local landscape. This new project will build on this passion and enthusiasm through a program of events on site and within the local towns and villages themselves, including community days and competitions. The events and activities planned will reach out to all age groups and abilities and will include strong ties with local schools and other young people's groups. Once established regular information and project progress will also be made available including blogs and webcam footage on a dedicated webpage.

There will also be opportunities for volunteers to play an active role in the project - gaining experience in wildlife surveying and a range of other skills, helping us to answer key questions about the site and sharing knowledge with the wider community. The variety of surveys using different techniques offer a range of opportunities for anyone wishing to get actively involved with the project no matter how much time they have to spare. This will mean that for the first time in its history a more complete picture of Swanton Novers will be known. This will be important as despite a quarter of all the UKs most threatened species, including all of our bat species, being reliant on woodlands, little is known about the relationship between bats and other biodiversity and the way in which woodlands are managed. This will include some management practices that have been carried out at Swanton Novers for a long time and are part of our cultural heritage.

For Swanton Novers woodland this project will help ensure the continued future survival of the woods and its place in the shared custodianship of the people who live and work within its influence. Beyond this, the project will be important in gaining an understanding of the way cultural history and current practice and wildlife interact. The knowledge gained from this project will not only be applicable to this woodland but will also have benefits for woodland and their associated bats and other wildlife across the country.

Robyn Llewelly, Head of HLF East of England, said: "This fantastic project will allow the local community to develop a strong relationship with this fascinating ancient woodland, and we are delighted to be able to support it. The significant opportunities for volunteers are particularly encouraging, and it is wonderful that the project will ensure the on-going survival of this important habitat".

Helen Miller, BCTs Woodland Officer says "We are thrilled to receive this support from HLF which offers an exciting opportunity to unlock some of the mysteries about how an important ancient woodland and its wildlife and culture interact. The knowledge we will gain from this project will help us ensure that important woodlands such as this one remain celebrated features of our countryside into the future."

Ash Murray, Natural England's Senior Reserves Manager "This exciting partnership will enable local communities to learn more about one of their most important natural assets, Swanton Novers Woods NNR. In contributing to surveys, participants will help to unlock the secrets of one of Britain's most important ancient woodlands and, in doing so, they will provide vital information that will help secure the future of all of our nation's woodland wildlife for future generations to enjoy."

Notes to editors:

About the Bat Conservation Trust: The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) was formed in 1991 as an umbrella organisation for the rapidly growing network of bat groups, providing support, training and advice. BCT now acts as the national voice for bat conservation. BCT is the only national organisation solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats in the UK. Its vision is a world where bats and people live in harmony.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund: Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery @HLFEoE

For further information, images and interviews, please contact Sonia Reveley, Woodland Officer at the Bat Conservation Trust on 020 7820 7165 or SReveley@bats.org.uk