News and Events

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Lets Go Bats

Some of the bats caught at Poole's Cavern during a recent survey by Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group.

Rather topically with Halloween just around the corner, we recently had a bat survey conducted in Poole’s Cavern by Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group. The group were hoping to record swarming activity. This involves of bats from a widespread geographic area, visiting an underground site and chasing each other in and around the entrance.
The reason why bats swarm during the autumn is not fully understood, but probably allows them to check out hibernation sites and bring males and females from a wide area together to enable mating opportunities and therefore increasing the genetic mixing between colonies.
Steve Roe, Events Manager for Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group explained that although no swarming activity had been recorded; all bats caught were male adults in breeding condition. Steve explained further that “Far more male bats are caught during swarming surveys and it may be possible that they were males checking out the site to see if any swarming was taking place or it could just be that they are using the cavern as a roosting site. It is probably a combination of both, however four species in a single night is still a great result and clearly the site is important for the local bat population.”

It is believed that the reason why more male bats tend to be found during the autumn swarming events is that once mated a female will no longer participate, where as the males will continue to swarm to increase the chance that their genes are selected by mating with more than one female.

In all ten bats were caught in total from four different species; 5 brown long-eared’s, 2 Daubenton’s, 2 Natterer’s, and 1 whiskered.

Our thanks to Derbyshire Bat Conservation Group for carrying out the survey and to Steve Roe for letting us use his photos.

Protecting Badgers through a vaccination programme

A badger vaccination programme can help protect the wildlife population from Bovine TB

Buxton Civic Association are pleased to announce that we are working closely with Derbyshire, Wildlife Trust, Derbyshire Country Council, Badger Trust, and a number of local land owners to support the work that Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are doing to help protect wildlife from the risks of being infected by Bovine TB, by carrying out a badger vaccination programme in the High Peak and Derbyshire.

The plan is to carry out the badger vaccination programme over a period of five years, which will help to support the build up of immunity in the Derbyshire badger population and contribute to reducing the risk to the badgers and other wildlife of contracting bovine TB.

Keep an eye and an ear out for further updates on our website, on local radio, and for more information on the work the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are doing on Badger Vaccination go to their website at

Poole’s Cavern: A natural laboratory to study past and present environments

John Gunn and Ian Fairchild, School of Geography Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK

In common with virtually all limestone caves Poole’s Cavern has an environmental history that spans millions, of years. The Carboniferous Limestone’s in which the cave is formed are about 345 million years old and water began to circulate slowly through them when they were still covered by many metres of sandstones and mudstones, the rocks commonly referred to as the Millstone Grit. The water dissolved away the limestone, following preferred flow routes (‘inception horizons’) and forming small channels. As the overlying rocks were removed by erosion more water was able to flow underground enlarging the conduits through which the water was flowing. Poole’s Cavern grew from a conduit that formed on inception horizons above an important volcanic layer, the Lower Millers Dale Limestone. During one or more of the cold periods that are commonly called ‘Ice Ages’ large amounts of melt-water flowed through Poole’s Cavern from sinks the location of which has now been lost to a resurgence that has also been removed by subsequent erosion. At the same time as this was happening new conduits fed by new stream-sinks on Stanley Moor were developing along inception horizons below the lava and discharging at the Wye Head and Otter Hole springs. These captured water from the older conduits and now the Poole’s Cavern stream only flows following wet weather. However, even when the stream is dry the cavern receives inputs of water that have infiltrated through soils and percolated through the rocks. It is these waters that form the flowstones, stalactites and stalagmites which are collectively referred to by scientists as speleothems and which provide information on past environments.

When studying archives of the past such as ice cores, marine sediments, or cave deposits, we seek to interpret the past using various characteristics that stand for, or act as proxies for the original environmental or climatic conditions. The past two decades have seen major developments in our understanding of a variety of proxies found in terrestrial archives. A particularly radical advance has happened in the study of speleothems. Researchers have used many different approaches including chemical analyses of the speleothems, working out how fast they grew, making theoretical models of processes in the cave and the overlying soils, carrying out laboratory experiments and monitoring processes in modern caves. One of the speakers, Ian Fairchild published the first textbook on this subject in 2012 with his former Birmingham colleague Andy Baker.

Poole’s Cavern is a special place for a number of reasons including its archaeology, but also because it is located under historic lime workings. The water passing through the ground becomes highly alkaline and this results in some very unusual speleothems. Usually when a stalactite or stalagmite forms, the chemical process is one of carbon dioxide emerging from the drip water but in very alkaline water the opposite happens, the stalagmite growth depending on carbon dioxide dissolving in the cave water. Under alkaline conditions growth is around ten times quicker than normal and the beautiful tall stalagmites of the Poached Egg Chamber, growing at several millimetres per year, have been created since this industrial pollution. For similar reasons calcareous precipitates have filled the bottom of the valley at Brook Bottom on the outskirts of Buxton.

We have used Poole's Cavern as a training ground for undergraduates doing their first research projects as well as for more sustained graduate research. We now know much more about matters such as the pattern of air circulation in the cave and its effects on radon and carbon dioxide levels and its control on the rates of stalagmite growth. Specific effects related to undiscovered cave passages beyond the end of the cave can be felt. Although some information on past rainfall has been deduced from study of the stalagmites, their main intrinsic scientific interest is to study chemical processes under alkaline (high pH) conditions including transport of trace metals and changes in abundance of natural isotopes. The cave maintains very consistent conditions of temperature, humidity and rate of dripping water which would be very difficult to achieve in the built environment. For such reasons, Poole’s Cavern has proved to be a marvellous natural laboratory.