Church wins race to finish repairs to roof before colony of bats return
- Credit: Sarah Reynolds
A church won a race against time to finish repairs to a damaged ceiling before a colony of bats returned to roost.
Work to repair the damaged roof of St Peter's Church in Spixworth started at the beginning of the year but had to be completed by April before a colony of about 400 soprano pipistrelle bats returned.
Builders working on the ceiling of the Grade 1 listed church, which was built in about 1160, also discovered an active honey bee colony but still managed to complete the repairs on time.
Had the repairs not been finished by April the church, which had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, would have had to remain shut until next month, when the bats leave.
But with the work completed it meant the Buxton Road-based church was able to reopen, with its first service at the beginning of June and now regular services three times a month.
Sheelagh Cook, churchwarden, said: "It really is great to feel we have a safe and welcoming church once again after such a long period of closure.
"The bats were not put off by the building work and before the baby bats (pups) were ready to fly a bat count at the end of June gave a tally of over 350 bats leaving the maternity roost at night to feed."
She said it was a "privilege" to see the bats flying in church on a late lock up but added it was "not really good for the fabric of the church".
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Mrs Cook said: "The bats do not need to fly within the inside of the building so this is something we would like to look at with Natural England and the Bat conservation bodies.
"They are welcome in the roof to rear their young but as all their feed is outside we would like them all to fly out there rather than in the body of the church."
By the end of this month all the bats will be reared and they will move on elsewhere until April next year.
But while the ceiling repair project has been completed it has depleted funds which had been set aside for a new accessible toilet which is one of the next priorities.