Redbridge Council goes batty as £4.2m awarded to save rare and threatened species in Hainault Forest

Barbastelle bat by Hugh Clark of the Bat Conservation Trust

Barbastelle bat by Hugh Clark of the Bat Conservation Trust - Credit: Archant

Bat-lovers may be brimming with excitement amid news the borough has won more than £4.2million to revive Hainault Forest in a bid to save the elusive barbastelle among others.

The National Heritage Lottery Fund announced on Monday it has awarded Redbridge Council the money to restore the forest, once a medieval royal hunting ground, to its original wild state.

It is hoped the restoration will breathe new life into threatened species - including eleven different types of bat.

Among these is the rare barbastelle, which was spotted in the UK for the first time in 50 years in the Redbridge woodland two years ago.

Foxburrow's Farm will also be upgraded and three derelict listed barns revamped to provide space for community, educational and commerical events.

"With a growing population, the value of open space is of primary importance and this investment will create a lasting legacy for the site and future generations," said Martin Solder, chairman of trustees at Redbridge Vision - the council's leisure arm.

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The 2017 barbastelle spotting brought the total of resident bat species recorded in London to 11 out of the 17 species occurring in the UK.

Covering a total of 800 acres, Hainault Forest, in Romford Road, includes 250 acres of green belt and ancient woodland.

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Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal said: "This is fantastic news for Hainault and for the whole of Redbridge.

"Hainault Forest Country Park is one of our iconic parks and this generous funding will enable us to upgrade the space and protect the park for many generations to come."

He added: "We greatly appreciate this support from the HLF and look forward to preserving the legacy of Hainault Forest for a long time to come.

"The investment will allow us to more effectively protect habitats and species that are currently in decline.

Other species that will be helped to thrive include Tawny owls, badgers, great crested newts, hedgehogs and nightingales.

Training will be provided for apprentices and volunteers to gain qualifications in forestry, catering and horticulture among other areas.

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