EMERGENCY roof repairs to a medieval Grade I listed Cornish church have been delayed by Botham, Eeyore, and Acrobat.
Just before the £30,000 project began at St Sampson’s, South Hill, in Callington, near Saltash, it was discovered in May that two families of bats, pipistrelles and regionally rare Natterer’s bats, had set up a maternity wing in the roof. Work was suspended for a survey, and subsequent alterations to the plan to accommodate the legally protected animals have added at least £6000 to the work, which will now start next month.
To meet the additional costs, the church has launched a sponsor-a-bat appeal, seeking pledges of £10 for echo-location hearing, £20 for a leg, and £50 for a wing. Donations of £200 secure a whole bat, with naming rights.
The first sponsor to have naming rights was the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, who who picked the name Acrobat. Next was the churchwarden, Miranda Lawrance-Owen. She chose the name Eeyore, after the appeal co-ordinator Judith Ayers observed that donkey sanctuaries were successful fund-raisers. The conservationist Chris Packham then stepped in, naming his bat Botham, because he was very handy with the bat.
“When he put it on his Facebook and Twitter pages, it encouraged his followers to join in, which added around £1000 to the fund,” Mrs Ayers said. “I have been quite staggered at the response. We got £2300 very quickly. We now have 13 fully funded bats — although some are made from various bits.”
The roof repairs are part of a £500,000 long-term renovation project at the 13th-century church of St Sampson’s. “We have always had bats, but not a breeding colony,” Mrs Ayers said. “I think they moved in during lockdown when the church was shut up and it was so quiet and peaceful. It is true to say we were not too pleased by that, but we can’t get rid of them; so we decided we had to embrace them: there was no point sitting down moaning. They do make a mess, but it’s not horrendous.
“It’s a blessing in disguise. It’s bringing a different set of people to the church. We already have the religious and the heritage-lovers; now we have wildlife people, which is fabulous. I have joined so many bat Facebook groups, and had contact with people all round the world — one woman in Australia told me about her bats, and made a donation. It’s a totally new group of people to talk with.”