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Bats reserve in ice cellar

With the approval of the town council and of Monuments and Landscapes, Natuurpunt Boven-Dender, in collaboration with Leefmilieu Geraardsbergen, restored the Ice Cellar of St Adrian's Abbey in 1989 and established a bats reserve in it.

Description of the nature reserve

Looking at it from the outside, the Ice Cellar resembles a glorified molehill, an earth mound, in other words. Inside the mound, there’s a bricked up room, the shape of an egg, which can be accessed via a staircase. On top of the brick cloak, there is a thick layer of soil on which trees grow. The earth and trees ensure that even in the hottest summers, the cellar remains cool. When the Benedictine Fathers inhabited the abbey, there were no refrigerators. That is why they made these cellars. In the summer, they would store blocks of ice in their pantries to keep fruit and vegetables, or other foods, cool.

Even though refrigerators have long since taken over the role of ice cellars, they have not lost their usefulness. Inside, it is dark, quiet, there is no draught, there is a constant temperature that does not drop below freezing in winter and there is a high humidity (80 to 100%). In short, an ideal hibernation spot for bats. In summer, they usually hang out in churches, castles, large buildings or people’s attics, but in the winter, they like to stay in cellars.

Animals and plants

In the winter months, a few bats (whiskered bats) and many spiders hibernate in holes and cracks of the Ice Cellar. Bats, such as the greater and lesser horseshoe bat, are two species that occur in our country and hibernate in cellars and caves. The vesper bats (including some 16 species) are less rare and among these species, the grey long-eared bat, the Daubenton’s bat, the whiskered bat and the natterer’s bat hibernate in cellars.

The path along the Dender is freely accessible for hikers and cyclists, alike.

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