Church before restoration

Churches InSpired by Bats

Historic churches in the UK are often vast buildings with plenty of cracks and crevices providing the perfect place for bats to enter and roost. The surrounding churchyards can also encourage the presence of bats as they can offer the ideal habitat for many species of plants and wildlife that attract a bat’s favourite food, insects. Bats often cause no issue to church-goers and can benefit the buildings by controlling the populations of insects such as the common furniture beetle, a pest also known as woodworm that causes damage by burrowing though wood.
Bat droppings on altar
Bat droppings on altar

While bats often go unnoticed, some churches experience problems with them due to their urine and droppings, which can sometimes cause damage to the interiors of churches. Bats needn’t be seen as a nuisance because, as we will see in this blog post, with some thought and planning it is possible for the church to remain a home to bats without compromising these treasured buildings.

The Survey

Missing tiles from the spire of the church
Tiles missing from church spire prior to restoration, allowing bats to enter

In 2016, Acer Ecology surveyed a 19th century church in the province of Kington and discovered the presence of multiple species roosts inhabiting the spire. The spire was dilapidated, and work was planned to re-roof the spire and the main roof of the church, but the restoration works would disturb or even harm the bats. The spire was in such a derelict state that the works could not be postponed, as it would result in it the spire being damaged beyond repair and also in the roost being lost. The potential loss of a religious building and a vital bat roost habitat was far too great, and Acer Ecology applied for a Natural Resources Wales License to allow work to begin.

Species Identified

Inside the church spire
Inside the spire

During the dusk emergence and dawn re-entry surveys, the ecologists found three species of bat inhabiting the site; soprano pipistrelles, common pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats. Two Myotis species of bat were also recorded foraging and commuting across the site; noctule and barbastelle. The site was assessed as a site of medium conservation significance due to having such a diverse community of bat species.

Requirements for Construction

A protected species licence was needed to develop the spire because carrying out work without one would breach the Conservation of Habitat and Species Regulations 2017. The license was granted by Natural Resources Wales, and the work to restore the church could begin.

During Construction

Bat box on tree
Bat box fitted to a tree

To allow the bats somewhere to roost while the construction work was being carried out, temporary alternative roosting habitats, known as bat boxes, were fitted to several trees near the property. To minimise disruption to the bats, the work was also carried out during a time that bat activity is at its lowest. During the removal of the spire the contractors were on constant alert for the presence of bats on roofing tiles and in crevices. Soprano pipistrelles can roost in crevices the width of a fingernail, so it was vital that the contractors were fully briefed on what to look out for, and what steps to take if a bat was found. If a bat was discovered, all activity would stop until advice was given by the licenced bat ecologist from Acer Ecology Ltd, who was available on-call throughout the duration of the construction should any issues arise.

Rebuilding the Bat Roost

Church after restoration
Church after restoration

The roof space of the church was originally a roost for numerous species of bats (soprano pipistrelles, common pipistrelles and brown long-eared bats) and it was important to preserve this roost. To encourage bats to inhabit the space after the restoration works. Many plans were put in place to make it appealing to them.

Raised roof tiles were installed to allow a gap for crevice-dwelling bats to enter. The new bargeboards

Raised roof tile
Raised roof tile to allow crevice-dwelling bats to enter

were fitted off the face of the render to create a gap underneath, providing a ‘crawling space’ for the bats. The bargeboards installed were made of timber which was pre-treated with ‘bat-friendly’ chemicals, and the lighting installed nearby was of a level that would not disturb the bats or discourage them from moving back to the site. The original access points to the roost were maintained, causing as little change to the current roost as possible.

Does your church need a bat survey?

If you need a bat survey to be carried out on your church, contact Acer Ecology. Acer Ecology has a friendly team of fully-licensed ecologists who can see to all your ecological needs. If you would like a quote for your church email or phone us on 029 2065 0331 for more information.

For more articles on the mitigation that we have conducted, please see the following links: Bat mitigation Forest of Dean and Bat mitigation St Tewdrics.

For more information about bat surveys, please see the following links:

Bat Survey InformationI Need a Bat Survey