Can bats and church wardens live in harmony?

Bats in Churches. Photo: Hugh Clarke

Bats in Churches. Photo: Hugh Clarke - Credit: Hugh Clark

They are a symbol of Halloween and things that go bump in the night - not to mention Dracula's shape-shift.

Bats in Churches. Photo: Hugh Clarke

Bats in Churches. Photo: Hugh Clarke - Credit: Hugh Clark

Bats are also the scourge of many church wardens, nesting in roof spaces and firing dropping into the aisle.

But a new project is encouraging churches to embrace the bats in the belfry - and use themn to raise valuable funds and educate visitors.

Bats in Churches is a project to help churches across England which are struggling with the protected creatures.

According to the Bat Conservation Trust, 60pc of medieval churches are home to bats and in Norfolk they have been causing problems.

A Soprano Pipistrelle Bat

A Soprano Pipistrelle Bat - Credit: Archant

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Philip Parker, an environmental consultant on part of the project, said: "I have looked at 270 churches in Norfolk and we have only found three or four without bats.

"We have a lot of churches with medieval roofs, dating back five-to-600 years old, which are ideal habitats for the bats because they are so porous and there are gaps for them to get into."

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Churches in Norfolk that are home to large bat populations include St Mary's in Gayton Thorpe, All Saints in Thornham. St Margaret of Antioch, in Cley, and St Andrew in Deopham.

Ione Bingley, communications officer for the project, said: "In some cases elderly wardens have to clean up after the bats but we want bats and people to live harmoniously together.

Cley Church Picture: Dinah Goom

Cley Church Picture: Dinah Goom - Credit: Archant

"They are an important part of our natural heritage, for biodiversity and part of the food chain."

A partnership between Natural England, Historic England, Church Conservation Trust, The Church of England and the Bat Conservation Trust has combined expertise to find solutions to protect the churches whilst making sure they remain a habitable place for the bats.

The project offers cleaning workshops specialised for each church and the historical items inside as well as bat boxes to encourage them to stay in specific areas of the church to reduce damage.

It also encourages churches to use the bats as a tool to engage with the public and younger generations.

Some Norfolk churches are involved with bat nights, an event led by Mr Parker. It is a chance to get up-close and personal with these nocturnal creatures using bat trackers and infra-red cameras.

Mr Parker added: "We have been doing the bat night for 10 years and they have been a great success."

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