Batting church back

A CHURCH which has been closed since June due to problems with bats is opening its doors again today.

St Hilda’s Church at Ellerburn, near Pickering, had to suspend services for the first time in its 1,000-year history due to problems with a large colony of Natterer’s bats.

The church had a roost of around 250 bats, which were soiling the walls, floors and even the altar with droppings and urine.

People had even been “dive bombed” by bats flying around the church during a carol service.

Church warden Liz Cowley said: “It has been very difficult. It has cost £10,000 to build alternative accommodation for the bats in a nearby barn, £1,000 for a bat consultant and £2,000 for professional cleaning. Around 13 kilos of bat droppings were removed.”

However, she added that to seal up the hole where the bats were getting in and out had cost just £2.

Members of the congregation and villagers have rallied round with donations to help solve the problem.

Mrs Cowley said: “People have been very generous, not just at the moment but over the years. It’s a tiny church, but it’s very well loved in the area.”

Scarborough firm Hackness Cleaning Services was called in to carry out the deep clean prior to today’s opening. Owner Ian Wise, who specialises in difficult tasks cleaning including forensic work, said: “There were five of us working at the church and it took two days. It’s a lovely church and it was a good job to work on.”

Churchgoers are now gearing up for the Christmas celebrations, with Evensong on December 11 and Carols by Candlelight on December 21 at 6.30pm.

Mrs Cowley said: “Christmas services will be going ahead as usual and everyone’s looking forward to it.”