Congregation battles bats

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A colony of bats is refusing to move from a 1,000 year old church in Ryedale despite the efforts of local parishioners.

However the congregation of St Hilda’s Church, in Ellerburn near Thornton-le-Dale, is determined to continue holding services, said churchwarden Liz Cowley.

The Grade II*-listed Saxon church was closed for several months last year after droppings and urine from the protected creatures made it impossible to hold services.

Hundreds of whiskered, pipistrelle and natterer bats, all protected by law from being disturbed, have made the church their roost.

Mrs Cowley said: “We are working closely with Natural England and they paid for the church to be cleaned because we had three weddings and a Christening booked.

Hopes of encouraging the bats to move into a specially-built loft at a nearby farm’s barn, and another in the church lychgate, have failed, she said.

The congregation have spent thousands of pounds on heated bat lofts in a failed attempt to lure the creatures from the church.

The next big service, said Mrs Cowley, will be the Christmas carol event which attracts a congregation of over 100, packing the tiny historic church.

“We are determined it will be looking spick and span for that, “ Mrs Cowely added.