At the heart of the small, hilltop Rutland village of Cold Overton, this modest, Grade I listed church dates back to C12th, although most of what stands today comprises additions made in C13th, C14th and C15th.
The church was restored in late C19th. The south nave aisle is adorned with rare C13th pre-Reformation wall paintings on two of the lime-plastered walls. The wall paintings were restored and conserved in 2018 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
A kitchen area and accessible toilet were installed in 2019, enabling St John’s to become an active and thriving community hub for the village, which has no shops, pub or village hall facilities.
St John’s supports maternity colonies of around 250 adult female soprano pipistrelles and about 20 adult female Natterer’s bats, both of which predominantly roost among the roof timbers of the nave.
The droppings and urine from these colonies were damaging the wall paintings, adding to the cleaning burden on the church volunteers, and putting some people off coming to church.
Under the guidance and supervision of a specially trained ecologist three bat compartments have been constructed within the nave roof for the soprano pipistrelle colony, which is responsible for most of the mess inside the church.
The bespoke bat compartments have been designed to allow the soprano pipistrelles to continue to roost and breed within the structure of the building, still using their existing access points and principal roosting location, but also preventing them from accessing and flying within the church interior.
The bats will be monitored for several years to ensure their numbers remain healthy.
With expert volunteers from the Leicestershire & Rutland Bat Group the church hopes to organise bat walks, and is planning on offering “bat champing” (camping inside the church while the bats are present) in the future.