From Typhoons to bats an newts - all in a days’ work

The team from RAF Coningsby who took part in the big moat clean-up
The team from RAF Coningsby who took part in the big moat clean-up

They are more used to working alongside some of the country’s most expensive fighter jets, but staff from RAF Coningsby have taken a step back in time...to help out at Tattershall Castle.

A team from the RAF base has cleared the historic moat at the caste as part of a team-building exercise.

And the vital work has earned the official seal of approval from staff at the castle... along with a colony of rare and protected Greater Crested Newts - and the ‘resident’ bats.

A spokesman for the castle explained that conservation of the site is a very complex issue and is not just about maintaining a “glorious pile of medieval bricks”.

He added: “The objective of moat maintenance/clearing is to give visitors the experience of seeing the major archaeological features easily such as the kitchen foundations and moat access steps.

“It also maintains a vital “highway of vegetation” which provides cover and breeding areas for the newts and habitat areas for insects providing a food source for the bats as they flit between us and Holy Trinity Church next door.”

The offer of help from Coningsby came from Lance Corporal Mark Finlay, of the Military Provost Guard Service.

After speaking to staff at the castle, he decided that a corporate volunteering day would meet all his objectives, as well as being a great community venture.

Mark said: “I am in the Army and when I came for a site visit I realised that there was a lot more that could 
be achieved by opening 
this up to our RAF colleagues and the whole station community.

“I called it “RAF Coningsby Big Dig” and about 20 members from the RAF volunteered.

“It turned out that on the day we had about 32 people who turned out with spades and forks ready for a hard day’s work.

“I’m really pleased with what we achieved. Everybody got stuck in and got their hands dirty. It has been really good for community relations between the castle and the base.

“It’s been so popular that people have been emailing me asking is it going to happen again. Maybe we could make it a yearly event as it’s so popular.”

Chris Latham, Conservation Manager at the castle, said: “We have protected species on site, namely Greater Crested Newts and several species of bats and these are always in my mind when doing any works like this.

“There was also the potential discovery of medieval artefacts. Whilst the odds on this are low, 
a full briefing always takes place prior to any group activity.”

Sara Blair-Manning General manager at the castle, said: “The National Trust really values volunteer help from work parties such as the RAF team who have helped with the ongoing moat clearance work.

“We would not be able to run and maintain any of our heritage sites without this valuable community input. It’s also great fun.”