Bats at our places

The rare Barbastelle bat

There are 18 species of bat in the UK, and all of these can be found at some of our special places. We're at the forefront of bat conservation in the UK and produce advice for builders, conservators and foresters who encounter bats.

In the 1970s experts found evidence of widespread decline of bat species in Britain. This led to all 18 species, 17 of these are breeding, being protected by law in 1981. Since then there has been some proof of recovery within the bat population but some have shown very little change from what was already low numbers. The reasons for lack of recovery are thought to be loss of roost sites, especially in buildings; loss of feeding habitats, especially in farmland; and in some cases direct persecution. 

A common misconception 

Bats aren't blind, they can actually see very well. However, at night their ears are more important than their eyes. Bats shout as they fly and the returning echoes give them information about what is ahead of them. It’s called echo location.

Their shouts are so high in frequency that they're inaudible to us. We use a bat detector to tune in to them. This translates the ultra sound into a frequency that we can hear. Romantically-minded male bats serenade females in mating season.

Feeding 

A common bat, the Pipistrelle, can eat around 3,000 tiny bugs each night including midges, moths and lacewings, which is the equivalent of one third of its body weight. For an adult human this is the same as eating around 137 sandwiches or 24kg of food each day.

During cold or wet summers, when there aren’t many bugs to feed on, bats can go into a semi-hibernating state known as ‘torpor’. This means they expend less energy and can conserve their resources until the weather warms up.

There are 18 species of bats that live in the UK, 10 of these species can be found at Cliveden.
Cliveden Bats

Bats and our buildings 

As a conservation charity, protecting wildlife at our places is at the core of our values. Old buidlings and manor houses which we care for are ideal roosting sites for bats. 

" Our big country houses and their stable blocks provided the perfect environment for bat roosts, warm enough and private for breeding. We have a special responsibility within the UK and Europe for the care of the bat population. "
- Dr. David J. Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation at the National Trust

A recent conservation project at Wilderhope Manor demonstrates why careful planning is vital to protect the homes of bat colonies in our older buildings. 

A dusk and dawn survey at Wilderhope prior to starting work, indicated the presence of summer roosts of Brandt’s bat, Brown Long-eared bats and Common Pipistrelle bats. In preperation for winter, bat's hibernating period, temporary alternative bat roosting provisions were built within neighbouring buildings. 

An ecologist observed the work at Wilderhope as it happened, and noted down the location of bat nesting sites as the roof slates were removed. He also advised on mitigation measures throughout the work, including providing a number of small gaps in the slates and roofing felt to allow bats to access the batten void and roof-spaces.

The wildlife mitigation strategy was successful; monitoring is ongoing but during summer 2016 it was found that the bat colony and a colony of nesting swifts had returned to the building.

Bat boxes being installed during The Vyne roof project
A photo of bat boxes being installed during The Vyne roof project

How to spot bats near you

The best time to spot bats is from May - September. They typically begin hibernating from October through to March/April, so to catch them out flying stick to the summer months. Dr David Bullock, our head of nature conservation recommends that the first half an hour after sunset is when you are most likely to see them. 

Climate change means that some bats are extending their range to the north of the country as it's becoming warmer for them to live there. During winter hiberation, if the temperature reaches above 7 degrees and insects are flying, bats wake up to feed before going back to sleep. 

To help bats thrive, in addition to roosting sites, they need easy access to feeding sites. They like areas free from light pollution, woodland avenues and long bushy hedgerows so they can move between spots without being exposed to the open. 

When you visit one of our places to see nature up close or join a specialist bat walk, you help us maintain our commitment to wildlife conservation. 

A bat flying towards a branch

Bats at Arlington, Devon 

Arlington is home to one of the largest colonies of lesser horseshoe bats in Devon, and as such is of international importance. The colony can range from 90-150 bats at any one time.

Common Pippistrelle Bats (2)

Bats at Sherborne Park, Gloucestershire 

The Sherborne Park estate spans 1200 hectares of farmland, woodland, parkland, a village, a river and lakes. Bat conservationists have monitored bat roosts and feeding areas, and plotted flight lines. So far we’ve discovered eight species of bat at Sherborne. Our aim is to improve the bats' habitat to encourage a bigger population.

Meet some bats at Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House

Bats, Tyntesfield 

Tyntesfield house and grounds is home to seven species of bat. You can see some of them hibernating in a tunnel near the wood yard, in the Chapel and the cellars of the Chaplain's House.

Inspecting our bats

Bats at Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire 

Woodchester Mansion and its surrounding parklands has been home to the greater horseshoe bat since the early 20th century. Since then, the bat population has fluctuated wildly due to changes in their environment and a number of harsh winters, dipping to a low of 85 bats. However, the bats are now beginning to recover, with numbers gradually increasing each year. Since we've been caring for the estate, our programme of sensitive management has helped increase the bat population to about 150.