MEET THE GM – MARTIN LYALL
Those of you who have visited Bodmin recently will have noticed the tall, yellow crane and scaffolding surrounding the town’s most historic and iconic building. Cornwall’s former county Gaol which originally opened in 1779, is currently in the middle of the largest private leisure development in the South West since the Eden Project; a £40 million investment that will result in a world class visitor attraction and 70-bedroom boutique hotel, both scheduled to open in 2020.
Behind the scaffolding, the Bodmin Jail team is busy getting the new attraction ready for the opening launch, led by general manager, Martin Lyall. Martin was appointed in December 2016 to help steer the business through the development, and he’s really had his hands full!
Martin Lyall – pictured on the right – presenting Cornwall Hospice Care with a fundraising auction cheque from Bodmin Jail
‘What I like most is being instrumental in managing the transformation of such an iconic building from start to finish,” Martin says when asked about what he loves about his job. “I work with an amazing group of people who are truly passionate about what they do, and this dedication is going to be very obvious once we open the new attraction.’
Bodmin Jail is steeped in history and heritage, with a whole host of stories, legends and paranormal activities to keep visitors entertained. ‘Let’s just say there is definitely an atmosphere and a presence,’ Martin says about the haunted reputation of the Jail. Any favourite prisoner stories? ‘I love the chap who kept committing a petty crime each year, just before Christmas, so he could get a half decent meal and a warm bed for Christmas,’ he laughs.
The building works have not been without challenges, and Martin and the team have had to steer through some interesting situations over the last few years. ‘The biggest challenge we faced was probably the bats,’ Martin states. ‘Bodmin Jail is home to over seven species of bats, including two species of the very rare Horseshoe Bat. As part of the development we have worked very closely with ecologists to ensure we protect the bats and their habitat – we even built a bat bungalow to ensure they have somewhere to roost!’
Martin, who grew up with a father in the RAF, moved to Cornwall in 2016 with his wife, who’s from the South West. ‘I love the beaches, the walks and the culture of Cornwall,’ he says. ‘The heritage and the history are what attracted me to Bodmin Jail in the first place – the chance to deliver an experience like no other by restoring the ruins of this captivating monument so that new generations can experience and understand its importance. We want to give people the opportunity to really feel, hear and taste what it was like to be a prisoner in 18th century Cornwall!’
‘The new year has seen some real developments in the building project,’ he continues. ‘We have finally got a roof on the Jail for the first time in a century! What a milestone.’
Posted: 5th February 2020 By: Tara Jones
Bats are incredible creatures. Below are some fun bat facts so you can learn more about these interesting animals!
- Bats are flying mammals.
- While others can glide, bats are the only mammals capable of continued flight.
- There are over 1000 different bat species.
- Bats are nocturnal (active at night).
Brown Long-Eared Bat
- Bats ‘see’ in the dark using a special skill called echolocation. Bats make noises and wait for the sound waves to bounce back off objects (an echo), if it doesn’t bounce back then they can safely fly forward. They can tell the distance of various objects by how quickly the sound waves bounce back to them.
- Most bats feed on insects, while others eat fruit, fish or even blood!
- There are 3 species of vampire bats which feed solely on blood.
- Some bats live by themselves while others live in caves with thousands of other bats.
- Bats can live for over 20 years.
- Pteropus bats (also known as flying foxes or fruit bats) are the largest in the world.
- Their wing is very much like a human arm and hand, except it has a thin membrane of skin (called the patagium) extending between the “hand” and the body, and between each finger bone. Bats can move the wing like a hand, essentially “swimming” through the air.
Posted: 28th August 2019 By: Tara Jones
Two Thirds of Britain’s Bat Species can be found at Bodmin Jail.
Fittingly, for an old building steeped in history, Bodmin Jail is much loved by bats.
Of the 17 resident bat species in Britain, Bodmin Jail is home to seven of these (Common Pipistrelle, Brown Long-eared, Lesser Horseshoe, Greater Horseshoe, Whiskered, Daubenton’s and Natterer’s).
An additional four species (Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Barbastelle and Noctule) have been recorded foraging within the immediate environs of the jail, meaning that two thirds of Britain’s bat species occur here!
Photo by Mark Tunmore
The jail is particularly important for its colony of Greater Horseshoe and Lesser Horseshoe bats, including a maternity roost of the latter species. Horseshoe bats are among the rarest of Britain’s bat species, being restricted to south-west England and Wales, and estimated to have declined by 90% during the twentieth century. All of Britain’s bat species are protected by law as a result of their historic declines and threats to their habitats.
The best way to see bats at Bodmin Jail is to keep an eye out just after sunset, when they may be seen foraging around the car park or emerging from buildings; they are also sometimes seen during night walks flying along the corridors of the jail.
If you are lucky enough to encounter a bat during your time at Bodmin Jail don’t be afraid as it won’t harm you and bats don’t get caught in people’s hair as folklore would have us believe. Bats are not blind and their navigational systems allow them to fly fast with pinpoint accuracy, to rival the skills of any RAF pilot. There are no vampire bats in Britain and all our native species feed upon insects – a single pipistrelle bat can eat more than 3000 insects in one night
Bodmin Jail has invested heavily in the construction of an additional bat abode to help secure the future of this colony – a bespoke building, designed with the bat’s welfare in mind; to be an attractive, comfortable, and safe environment in which these fascinating little creatures can thrive.
Further information about bats can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust’s website.
Posted: 14th March 2018 By: Tara Jones
Before any of the long-awaited development and restoration of Bodmin Jail can begin, we need to ensure the safe relocation of our resident bat population.
The Jail has been home to 9 species of bats for many years, including the Greater, and Lesser Horseshoe, and the tiny Pipistrelle; we have a duty of care both legally, and morally, to ensure this population continues to thrive under our care and monitoring.
Working alongside bat experts Bodmin Jail have provided a swanky new abode specifically designed and constructed to be the most attractive, comfortable and safe environment which will enable these fascinating little creatures to thrive.
We’ve even incorporated CCTV cameras that will enable the ‘Bat Team’ to monitor the comings and goings of this winged community day to day. Film footage will at some point in the future be live streamed via our website so you can watch them for yourselves.
The completion of this luxury Bat House is the start of a very exciting new period in the Jail’s history, and you can follow our development and restoration through this blog page, or follow us on Facebook for the latest instalment!
Posted: 23rd October 2017 By: Tara Jones