Greater Horseshoe excitement in Cornwall

Bats in Churches engagement officer Honor Gay joins the Cornwall Bat Group and makes an exciting discovery in an outbuilding of a Cornish church.

Image of a Greater Horseshoe Bat hibernating upside-down

Image: Hugh Clark/


On a visit to Cornwall in June, Sam Smith from Cornwall Bat Group and I went to check out a possible Greater Horseshoe roost in an outbuilding at the church of St Creda, Creed. This is a two storey building, with the ground floor reconfigured into a comfortable toilet, and the upper floor empty. A flight of stone steps leads to an external door leading into the upper room.

We were not sure what we would find. Sam had brought along an infra-red camera and bat detectors, and as dusk fell, we positioned ourselves opposite the upper entrance and Sam set up her camera. Our clicker at the ready, we waited. Shortly after dusk, bats began to emerge. Thanks to Sam’s detector, we identified them as Greater Horseshoe bats. We had indeed found a new roost, a cause for celebration in itself. Although it was challenging to only count the bats that emerged properly, rather than those who came out and then returned inside, I soon got the hang of it. The bats that emerged properly made for some large yews about five metres from the door.


A brown long eared bat flying in front of a church

As the time passed, the number of our clicker mounted….and mounted. As we got past the milestone of 100 bats, Sam told me that there were only three or four known maternity roosts of Greater Horseshoes in Cornwall, as Devon is their real stronghold. The largest roost in Cornwall, at Boscastle, is around 570 bats, and is protected as an SSSI. The clicker kept clicking, past 150, past 200. We found it hard to contain our excitement and joy at the discovery of this huge, previously unknown roost in this beautiful and peaceful village. By the time the clicker recorded the 300th bat, we felt like cracking open the champagne. All told, we counted 331 Greater Horseshoes emerging from the outbuilding.

By an extremely happy coincidence, the church architect at St Creda also looks after one of my project churches, and I know him well. St Creda is now part of the National Bat Monitoring Programme, and the bat group have offered to clear out the droppings a couple of times each year. An absolutely unforgettable evening, one of the great wildlife experiences of my life!