It could only happen to a Programme Manager

‘If there’s one thing that will completely scupper the project,’ sighed my colleague, ‘it will be bats.’

These were the wise words of a veteran project manager advising me on what to expect with Lincoln Cathedral Connected. I’d heard all the horror stories: the capital programme brought to a grinding halt for months by a solitary hibernating pipistrelle; police intervention at the perceived infringement of a European Protected Species Licence; the historic property with an established bat colony battling against the damage caused by their droppings.

All in all, I was left in no doubt that bats are a programme manager’s worst nightmare.

Therefore it was with fear and trepidation that I met with Kayleigh Fawcett of Aecom on a hot and sunny August day to assess the Old Deanery’s potential as a bat habitat.  Conversion of this building into the cathedral’s new visitor facilities will impact greatly on any resident wildlife, so this initial survey aims to gauge the provision of roosting opportunities for bats in the building and the availability of foraging habitats in the surrounding landscape.

Kayleigh starts by familiarising herself with the site and the outside of the Old Deanery. She explains bats prefer a warm environment and asks whether the building is occupied. Whilst the Old Deanery is watertight and in reasonable condition, there are various nooks and crannies which could give access to the roof cavity; I can’t help but be impressed when Kayleigh explains a pipistrelle can squeeze itself through a hole the same diameter as my little finger. A more thorough scout around the premises reveals some bat droppings, which I’m reassured to learn are ‘quite old’.

Thermal Image - Cathedral

Then a thermal imaging camera is set up to check that it gives coverage of the entire building; this will be necessary during the follow up surveys. The first will be a dusk survey, with ‘watchers’ stationed at strategic positions and the thermal camera set to capture any bat action. ‘We may also have to conduct a dawn survey’ says Kayleigh with a slight frown. ‘That’s a little more taxing, as we have to be on site two hours before dawn.’

‘But that means a 3.30am start!’ I splutter. However, Kayleigh reassures me that it is actually a lot of fun and a large volume of hot chocolate is involved.

And in spite of my misgivings about the impact bats could have on the project timetable, budget and my sanity, I can’t help but feel a little excited at the prospect of seeing them flit against the backdrop of the cathedral, as the city sleeps soundly around us.


Through this blog we will share with you the highs, the lows, and the mild indifferences, of Lincoln Cathedral Connected.

The Connected project aims to improve the visitor experience at Lincoln Cathedral by providing new facilities, beautiful gardens and a packed programme of events and activities for all to enjoy.

In May 2015 the project was awarded a ‘Round 1 Pass’ from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has ring-fenced £12.5 million towards this £16million project.

To release this grant, the project has to go through a Development Phase. Lasting 18 months, this period (also funded by HLF), gives us the opportunity to work up our plans in detail, ensuring that HLF’s investment will reap rewards for the Cathedral.

And what is the reward?

Well for Lincoln Cathedral it is financial security.

This beautiful, intricate structure requires substantial investment to keep it in tip-top shape. Unfortunately the effects of weather, pollution and Old Father Time have taken their toll on the building. That combined with the somewhat fragile nature of Lincolnshire Limestone (imagine a building made of hard cheese – you get the idea), equates to an annual bill for routine maintenance of £1.6million a year. Every single year. Year in and year out. £1.6million.

So the genesis of Lincoln Cathedral Connected was an idea: that fantastic facilities, exhibitions, activities and events will encourage greater numbers of visitors to explore what Lincoln Cathedral has to offer them. In return, greater numbers of visitors will generate more income, which can be invested in the care of the building.

Such a simple idea, but one that’s already been two and a half years in the making. However, we’ve only really just begun on this journey (which will last until 2021!) and hope that you’ll join us in seeing the Connected project take shape.