Among the drifts of falling leaves, it’s finally time to find a cool nook and bed down for the winter, if you’re a bat that is!

On the other side of the roost, the Bats in Churches team are busier than ever. We’re taking advantage of the hibernation period to coordinate construction work for some of our worst affected churches to secure a sustainable future for the church community, fabric and bat population.

If you’re interested in hearing how male bats advertise themselves to females, have a listen to this male Nathusius’ pipistrelle bat calling outside a maternity roost. Who could resist?!

Tesco Bags for Help

Thanks to your generous token choices at local Tesco checkouts, we’ve secured an amazing £14,500 from Tesco Bags of Help since January. This will help fund even more work and activities at our churches and also help us to meet our fundraising target of £250,000 over the five years of the project.

Our application success rate of nearly 60% blew our expectations out of the water and really does demonstrate that local communities care what happens to their historic churches and natural heritage.

At All Saints Church, Braunston-in-Rutland, Tesco’s funding supported the cost of installing pole-mounted bat boxes and arranging a very popular Beer & Bats night that over 100 people from the local community attended. After enjoying refreshments at Rutland’s oldest pub, the Blue Ball at Braunston, volunteers from the Leicestershire & Rutland Bat Group provided advice and guidance to participants who were then able to use bat detectors to identify the species as they emerged.

If you’re hoping to raise additional funds for your church for repairs or development work, take a look at our fundraising page to see if you’re eligible for some of the opportunities listed there.

A Pioneering Project

One of the many fascinating things about this project is that in many areas we are working at the boundaries of what is known about bats, conservation and cleaning. We recently commissioned a conservator’s report into a 14th century wall painting at Hardwick churches that was able to bust some myths about appropriate conservation approaches and also identified features of the painting which had never been recorded before.

And, in the world of bats and the management of their behaviour, we are proposing pioneering new approaches without affecting their conservation status. To help move this forward, we are holding a Best Practice Forum for Bats in Churches Class Licence (BiCCL) registered ecologists.

The very well attended Beer & Bats night at All Saints Church, Braunston-in-Rutland
The very well attended Beer & Bats night at All Saints Church, Braunston-in-Rutland
Huge telescopic duster

Scrubbing Up Well!

On Saturday 12th October All Saints church, Wimbish welcomed us to host a cleaning workshop. A dedicated group of 11 people from 7 different churches came to network, connect and learn more about the cleaning of historic fabric in churches. Although everyone who came had spent years cleaning bat droppings from the inside of churches, in what sometimes seems like an endless and thankless task, we made an enthusiastic group ready to get stuck in.
Heritage and cleaning experts, James Routlege and our own heritage advisor Rachel Arnold talked about the importance of cleaning historic fabric sensitively, the tools and techniques to use and when to carry out the tasks or even call in an expert.

One of the most exciting bits about the day was to get hands on with the cleaning kit and trial the techniques - the huge telescopic duster was very popular! (see photo)

It was great to see people from lots of different churches get together to share their experiences. We think all the attendees would agree that the workshop was extremely valuable and inspiring and everybody left with a new enthusiasm for looking after their church and its historic fabric. We hope that every one of our project churches will be able to attend one of the workshops over the next few years. Even if you aren't a project church but keen to attend, get in touch and we'll see what we can do!

Getting batty at The Rissington School

Our Engagement Officer Rose Riddell organised an extremely fun and informative bats in churches curriculum day for The Rissington School in Cheltenham. 45 pupils from Year 5 and 6 played a rip-roaring game of bat and moth to learn about echolocation. They also enjoyed activities based around hibernation and the bat year, their special adaptions and why they’re important, and examined real bat specimens, as well as exploring why bats use churches including their local chuch and the impacts that they can have on historic heritage items.

Here is what some of the pupils said afterwards:

“I liked seeing the bat pictures and seeing what other bats looked like – I thought it was really interesting that there were so many types of bats out there!”

“I enjoyed how interesting it was that such a small creature can cause so much damage to things.”

“I liked how we got to see the actual bats.”

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Since January we've completed over 110 trips around England!

We Need You for our Citizen Science Study

We’ve started analysing the bat detector recordings that our volunteers sent in as part of the National Bats in Churches Study that we piloted over the summer. We have already made some exciting discoveries and that was only looking at 47 churches. Thanks to our volunteers putting in a total of 300 hours, we recorded 9 different species of bat and have already added to our knowledge of how bats are using churches in England.

Next summer, we’ll be opening up the citizen science study to anyone who wants to survey their favourite church for bats, no experience needed! It would be great to have your support to do this, whether that is taking part as a volunteer, or meeting a volunteer that has contacted you about the survey.

If you have any questions about the Bats in Churches citizen science study please email our Training & Surveys Officer Claire Boothby cboothby@bats.org.uk or visit our website to find out more.

If you’d like to find out more about the survey process and what it entails, you can watch our survey training videos.

We're looking for an evaluator!

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Spotlight on St Pega's

Not only does St Pega’s church in Peakirk shelter a fine series of historically important wall paintings, it also hosts a large maternity colony of soprano pipistrelle that had been making quite a mess of the place!

Earlier this year, St Pega’s fell victim to lead thieves who stripped the roof leaving the wall paintings and the bats potentially at risk. The project helped to get the gears in motion to restore the roof this winter, rapidly bringing together a BiCCL registered ecologist, church community, PPC, local bat group and church architect who were able to come up with plans for a new roof that included a bat box.

Work has already begun on the roof and hopes are high that the bats will continue to thrive without further damage to the church fabric. Truly a silver lining!

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