Reconnecting Wild Sussex – Bats in the Landscape

There's more to bats than meets the eye

The dense woods, patchwork of fields and scattered parkland trees of the West Sussex Downs are a stronghold for some of Britain’s rarest bats. For many years we’ve been monitoring bats and managing habitats around our places at Slindon, Woolbeding Countryside, Black Down, Petworth and Uppark.

Now our ambitious plans have been thrown a lifeline thanks to a generous award of £100k made to the National Trust by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

A group of brown long-eared bats hang upside-down in a loft
Group of Brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus) in loft space
A group of brown long-eared bats hang upside-down in a loft

National Trust South Downs Ranger, Fiona Scully, said: “There is so much we still don’t know about these elusive and fascinating creatures. The support of People’s Postcode Lottery will enable us to continue our research and improve habitats across for the South Downs to make them even more attractive to bats.”  Bats feast in woodlands and pasture but also need water. Woodland edge ponds are particularly key areas so new ponds are being created and existing ones restored and improved.

The Rotunda at Petworth
Rotunda at Petworth
The Rotunda at Petworth

We’re removing invasive plants from our woodlands too, like non native rhododendron, as it smothers our native plants and affects associated on which the bats feed.  In the coming months we’ll be creating more grazed wood pasture - one of our rarest habitats, which is ideal for bats. Grazing with cattle is one of the best ways to preserve wood pasture and even the cattle dung is an essential part of the lifecycle for some of the insects on which bats depend. 

Cattle grazing
Cattle grazing
Cattle grazing

Bats roost in mature trees so we’re giving the very best care to our veterans trees whilst identifying the next generation by creating space for veterans of the future to grow. Removing conifers helps too, as it ensures that we have more light and open, leafy, native woodlands, essential to enable bats to feed and roost.

Veteran trees are easily identified by their gnarled and twisted trunks
A veteran tree
Veteran trees are easily identified by their gnarled and twisted trunks

Join in one of our community events near you, or take part in walks, talks and events in the West Sussex Downs where you can make a bat box for roosting. We’d love to welcome you to get involved build on the incredible amount of volunteer hours that have already been committed to the project on activities including night-time bat monitoring. Surveys are an essential part of this work so we can monitor the success of practical habitat management work we are doing in so many ways. As well as our supporting our practical estate work we also need help with desk-based work such as inputting bat records onto a database to help increase our understanding of them

Together we want to build the best future for bats and habitats they depend on.  Find out more about the project here.

People's Postcode Lottery logo
People's Postcode Lottery logo
People's Postcode Lottery logo
Postcode Earth lottery logo
Postcode Earth lottery logo
Postcode Earth lottery logo