Banish bats from belfries, vicar's wife pleads

Andrew Brown
Sunday 23 August 1992 23:02

A NORFOLK vicar's wife has warned of a future in which the doors of country churches will no longer open, jammed by great drifts of bat droppings inside. Catherine Ward has written to the Church Times urging the formation of a Movement against Bats in Churches.

'Churches' main purposes are for people to worship God, not for bats to hang upside- down in and spatter droppings and urine everywhere,' Mrs Ward wrote. 'The gilt organ pipes in one of our churches have been covered with slanting slashes of brown stain. Enter the worst afflicted church during the week and the odour that greets you . . . is of a bat's lavatory.'

Her husband, the Rev Michael Ward, told the Independent that in the worst affected of the five parish churches in his care there were 'heaps and piles of bat messes everywhere'. The churches are normally cleaned on Fridays, but where bats are present, they must be cleaned on Saturdays, which is more difficult to arrange, and then swept again on Sunday mornings.

Mrs Ward writes: 'Churches have for some time been covering altar tables and other furniture with plastic sheeting, but there is a limit to how much one can do this . . . . The endangered species is not bats, but congregations . . . . To ask us to live amicably with our bats is totally unreasonable. Would museums tolerate them? Why should churches have to?'

But Gillian Sargent, of the Bat Conservation Trust, said that medieval churches made wonderful bat habitats and a number of congregations had decided that providing shelter for an endangered species was worth the inconvenience. 'I have had many letters from people who are really keen on bats in their church and would like to attract more.' Ms Sargent said the trust would be happy to inspect the Wards' churches and advise them.

Mrs Ward, however, claims in her manifesto that only redundant churches should be handed over to the bats, where 'bat-lovers could sit and be dropped on unmolested, and try to decide which species the droppings come from . . . until one day the door won't open against the piles of bat shit that have built up.'

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