Things are moving in the field of lust for life vzw in Lennik. A 19thecentury ice cellar is being expertly restored. A few minor adjustments ensure that the ice cellar can function as a wintering place for bats. These works are the result of a long trail behind the scenes. Until now, this cellar was hidden, although situated close to Scheestraat, on the border of Schepdaal and Sint-Martens-Lennik.
Read more under our video report about the restoration of the ice cellar
Preparatory study and financing
As early as 2011, a first agreement was signed between Natuurpunt MOLennik and the management of Levenslust. The intention was to restore the rediscovered icehouse and make use of it for bats. Given the scope of the project, various partners were attracted over the years.
Monumentenwacht Vlaams-Brabant inspected the structural condition of the ice cellar in 2021, a beautiful example of brick masonry. Bat working group Myotis indicated what bats find attractive for a winter home. The work is financed with a 360° heritage subsidy for valuable heritage from the province of Flemish Brabant, a project subsidy for Nature (Flanders) and a contribution from Levenslust vzw. Regional Landscape Pajottenland en Zennevallei vzw (RL P&Z) is responsible for the coordination of the restoration.
Temporary visibility through work
The exceptionally large icehouse is well integrated into a wooded hillside and only accessible via a winding underground passageway. The brick tub itself is therefore not visible from the street. It is the entrance, located between retaining walls, which is currently being worked on. The underground corridor and the cockpit are next.
First, three trees obstructing access were felled (three new trees will be planted on the site). Only then could access be made free. Since last week the real repairs have started. The retaining walls have been exposed up to the healthy part and are being rebuilt. Soon the brick walls in the hallway will be restored and some hollow bricks will be hung in the tub, on which, next to and between which bats can hang.
Finally, three doors will be replaced, which will guarantee the stability of the temperature and humidity in the rooms. These steel doors have narrow entrance openings for the bats. Myotis has consulted about the best place to place the hollow stones for the bats and where the entry openings in the doors should be. The target date for completion of this phase is mid-September. Finally, the construction of the immediate vicinity with a fence and hedge follows.
A conscious decision was made to allow the moment to take place during the works to allow the neighbors to visit, because at the moment the whole is clearly visible and accessible. This is an exceptional situation, because immediately after finishing the interior, the ice cellar will be closed, so that the bats can nest in peace in preparation for the winter. Exceptionally, the ice cellar will not be opened to the public until next summer.
Speaking of bats…
Once in the winter, the corridor and the cockpit will be visited by volunteers from Myotis to count the bats present. Twenty bat species live in Flanders, each with specific behaviour. All species are European protected. In addition to the design of habitats, the landscape where they forage is also important. Regional Landscape Pajottenland & Zennevallei and the Bats Working Group Myotis have already developed a family-friendly cycling tour in Halle (http://batbike.be/folder) and collaborated on improving winter accommodations, e.g. in Kasteelpark Lembeek, in the Maasdalbos (Essenbeek) and on the Kesterbeek swamp (Alsemberg).
Castle domain Schepdaal
The small but steep, wooded hill above the icehouse was part of the landscaped park with ponds and winding paths, built around 1860-1870 around a neoclassical villa (rebuilt around 1930). The main axis of vision started from the pavilion on the icehouse. Levenslust vzw recognizes the greenery and heritage as meaningful for the residents, these works are a signal of this.