Leicester City Council’s annual BioBlitz event took place at Welford Road Cemetery this year, on the 20th and 21st May. Working together with TCV and other organisations to promote biodiversity, experts, specialists and the general public were able to record the diversity of plants, birds, invertebrates, mammals and many more species at the site in less than 24 hours. With a target of finding 500 species, a number of trails, activities and guided walks were offered to all, two of which I attended.
Twilight Bat walk
This was a very pleasant evening, full of young and old, enthusiasts and novices alike. Two bat experts from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust took half of the group each, handed out some sonic bat detectors and informed us that we were likely to detect the ‘common pipistrelle’, Britain’s smallest and most common species. They measure between 3-5cm, have a wingspan of 18-24cm and weigh about the same as a 2p coin! We promptly tuned our detectors to 45kHz, as this is the frequency of a pip’s echolocation, and began our walk. It didn’t take long before the detectors were ‘peeping’ and two pipistrelles were spotted against the gloaming-sky. Further down the path we were treated to a lengthy performance by another pip, which every so often was joined by a second. This was the highlight of the night, for we were able to hear their calls and feeding buzzes wonderfully and truly experience and appreciate this little bat.
History and Habitat guided walk
Having experienced the Cemetery in owl-light, the History and Habitat walk allowed myself and a handful of others to see the area in it’s full glory. Now, I have always lived a stone’s throw away from Welford Road Cemetery, but have only visited it once as a child, and I must say, after attending this event and learning about Leicester’s oldest municipal cemetery, it will now be a regular spot for me to walk and take photographs.
The Cemetery opened in 1849 and covers around 31 acres of land. Due to it’s location and beautiful views over the City, it was used by many as a ‘park’ and in fact today, it is listed Grade 2 in the English heritage Register of Parks and Gardens. What is special about the Cemetery is that it is designated as a Local Wildlife Site and contains a number of important habitats. At almost 170 years old, many of the beautiful trees including Cedar, Horse Chestnut and Ash provide valuable roosting sites for bats and birds. Decaying sections of Beech trees create havens for many insects, plants and fungi. The ‘managed’ grassland meadows are rich in plant life and home to numerous Ant-hills. Ivy on headstones provides cover for small nesting birds and produces nectar for insects. Although we didn’t spot any during our walk, the site is home to larger animals too, including Wild Rabbits, Foxes and even Muntjac Deer (the latter of which I am still amazed about).