Ere the bat hath flown

14:17 04 November 2011

The Warwickshire Bat Group on the look out at Charlecote Park

The Warwickshire Bat Group on the look out at Charlecote Park

Nicholas Butler joins a party of night visitors in search of bats at Charlecote Park

Ere the bat hath flown

Nicholas Butler joins a party of night visitors in search of bats at Charlecote Park.

Dusk at Charlecote Park. The tourists are gone and all that remains of the sunset is a streak of orange. The finials and chimney pots of the sixteenth century pile silhouette majestically against the darkening sky; here and there a light in the faade discloses the shape of a Tudor window.

The business of the day is over, but a party of night visitors has business of its own. Twenty people arrive by car, shelter briefly from a passing drizzle under the gateway then set off to tour the grounds that were capably laid out two-and-a-half centuries ago. They have come to look for bats.

Two decades ago it was discovered that the bat population of this country was declining rapidly. So the Bat Conservation Trust was founded, to reverse the situation. Then the government body Natural England decreed that whenever a property such as an old house or traditional barn, was altered the local county council should look for bat roosts and if found they should be retained.

Bats are a quietly important element in the eco-system. The average bat eats three thousand insects a night. If the bats disappeared we should be horribly plagued by midges.

Happily, the numbers of our eighteen bat species are no longer declining. A spokeswoman for the Bat Conservation Trust, Heath McFarlane tells me, Most of our species are stabilising or starting to increase. However, this is in the context of a large decline in the past. We need extensive population increases over a long period to indicate a full recovery.

So the Warwickshire Bat Group, with torches and bat detectors, explores the darkness of Charlecote Park, accompanied by three members of the household, Jasper the black-and-white cat, Dodo the tortoiseshell cat and Tim Harris the Assistant Visitor Services Manager.

The party passes through an arboretum and arrives at the ornamental lake, so shallow that the comparatively rainless summer has almost dried it out. The bat detectors, translating bat squeaks into language audible to humans, start chittering. The common pipistrelle and the soprano pipistrelle are present though invisible.

The bat seekers traverse the noble parkland dotted with immemorial trees. A herd of fallow deer, phantom white, gallops swiftly and silently in front of us. Has the ghost of a youthful, poaching William Shakespeare ever been seen here?

We reach a classically beautiful bridge over the River Dene where bats are both audible and visible. There is a sudden, inexplicable low crump-crump of heavy gunfire. Where is it coming from? What can it be? Tim Harris tells us that Ragley Hall, on the other side of Stratford-upon-Avon, thirteen miles away, is hosting a Battle Proms Concert.

Finally, the party halts on the banks of the Avon, a stones throw from where the Dene splashes loudly into it. Torches pick out two Daubentons bats as they skim the water in never-ending circles. After two hours of batting the party disperses, well satisfied. A report of its findings will be sent to County Hall.

To contact the Campaign to Protect Rural England, phone 01926 494597 or visit


Shop with us at Great British Life

More from Out & About

Joe Henson with some Rare Breed Gloucester Old Spot Piglets at his family farm, Bemborough Farm

The farming world has lost one of its heroes, Joe Henson, MBE, who has died after a short illness, at the age of 82

Read more
Friday, September 25, 2015
Get involved with the Rugby World Cup in the Cotswolds

For those who were unable to get tickets for the Rugby World Cup this year, fear not as there are still plenty of places to get in on the sporting atmosphere right here in the Cotswolds. Whether you’re a front row rugby fan or an in and out spectator, we pick 8 of the top watering-holes to meet all of your World Cup needs this year.

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Charotte Dujardin to headline in the Main Arena at Your Horse Live

Your Horse Live is a fun and fabulous day out for friends and family

Read more
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Alex James and Jamie Oliver at The Big Feastival

The Westons’ Cider Teepee will be taking centre stage at The Big Feastival this weekend (August 28 to 30), ensuring there will be cider galore for foodies and music lovers alike.

Read more
Monday, August 24, 2015
The Granary, National Garden Scheme

The Granary, an enchanting secret garden alongside the Oxford Canal is opening to the public this August Bank Holiday

Read more
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Cotswold Wildlife Park's photo competition

If you’ve been to Cotswold Wildlife Park or are planning to go, then pictures of your day out at the Park could net you an eye-to-eye experience with giraffes!

Read more
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Lower Slaughter, a typical Cotswold village / Photo credit: Justine Kibler

Experience the beauty of rolling English countryside, quaint limestone villages, stunning stately homes and imposing castles by visiting the Cotswolds. But there’s more to do than just relax in this beautiful region of south England.

Read more
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
A parade of elephants make their way across the dirt road at Amakhala Game Reserve | Photo credit: Joe Meredith

Joe Meredith swapped the hills of the Cotswolds for the savannahs of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, discovering some of what makes the country such an exciting place to be

Read more
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Looking out over Cheltenham and beyond

Having had two brilliant days walking in May, the 1st of June was grey and windy as we started our walk from Cleeve Common to Dowdeswell. I took my two geriatric spaniels as I thought it would be warm enough weather and not too strenuous. Not a good idea...

Read more
Monday, June 29, 2015
The Shakespeare Centre

Does Lynn Ede’s journey to Stratford-upon-Avon end in a lovers’ meeting? Read on to 
find out if she met her Romeo…

Read more
Monday, June 29, 2015
Views over the Cotswolds

It’s May and we have walked two more sections of the Cotswold way, Stanway to Winchcombe and Winchcombe to Cleeve, in quick succession.

Read more
Friday, June 26, 2015
Some of the sights to look forward to at the Berkswell gardens

On June 28, thirteen gardens around the village of Berkswell will welcome visitors as part of the National Gardens Sceme - raising money for palliative cancer care chairies.

Read more
Monday, June 22, 2015
The Cotswolds is famous for its picturesque landscape, perfect for a picnic | Image: KPG Ivary

There are many beautiful spots in and around the Cotswolds to lay your blanket down and enjoy a good old fashioned picnic! Here’s our pick of the best.

Read more
Monday, June 1, 2015
'Dame in Hearse', by Adam Loveridge

There's a new kid on the block at Quenington – colourfully creative, wildly witty, and just a little bit naughty. Candia McKormack braces herself for the enfant terrible that is ARTSE

Read more

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Warwickshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search