BW seal famous cave for the bats

Published: Sunday, 05 July 2009

THE fate of the Devils Den cave at Prestwood near Kinver on the Staffs & Worcs Canal has now been sealed up—for the bats.

This decision by British Waterways has caused outrage amongst user groups who claim that BW’s promises on two occasions to allow representatives to accompany its people when the cave was being monitored for bat activity but reneged on both promises.

The cave is a well known attraction, being one of the most photographed pieces of canal heritage, cut in the sandstone by the waterway as a boat house when the canal was built in 1771, although it fell into disuse over 100 years ago.

The cave remained untouched until a BW bat expert decided bats must roost there and insisted wooden doors should be placed across the entrance with just a small gap to allow bats access.

BW's first attempt to close the cave was its claim it had been used for 'anti-social activities' including drugs, but after it had been pointed out the only access to the cave other than by boat was to either abseil down a 30ft sheer rock face or wade through nearly four feet of water BW then admitted no evidence of anti-social behaviour had been found.

It was British Waterways spokeswoman Nicky Lister who stated:

"The cave was clearly showing signs of anti-social behaviour with discarded cans and bottles and drug paraphernalia. With the only access to the cave by the steep cliff above or by water, any attempts to enter could pose serious safety risks."

The second attempt was bringing in its bat expert, though there had been no record of bats, and it was pointed out to BW that if it had been there for 200 years, why change it now.

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association and the Stourbridge Navigation Trust have all complained to British Waterways, but to no avail. It has now installed a strong wooden door across the entrance with a small hole in case there are any bats.

Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal Society treasurer Chris Dyche pointed out:

"As far as we know the boathouse is a unique structure of the waterways and certainly an historic feature of our canal. We have had a lot of feedback from our 400 members who are outraged that something that has been here for 200 years has a had a nasty wooden door plonked across it."

But alas, the cave is now lost to the public.