Have a go at… bat walks at Sherwood Forest
The Major Oak holds a major secret. Nestled where the great Robin Hood himself is said to have once hidden, a roost of bats huddle together until nightfall; awaiting the chance to stretch their wings and enjoy a bite to eat. (Please note – not the vampire variety!)
Once the crowds of Robin Hood hunters head for home, the forest comes alive with a new kind of noise. From the screech of a tawny owl, to the rustling of a rabbit – the evening is merely the beginning at Sherwood.
I spent last Saturday evening on a bat walk at Sherwood Forest, an hour long tour which takes you on a guided walk after dusk, in the hope of spotting a bat or two. Armed with very little knowledge about bats – only the gruesome blood lusting images played out on the big screen – I was keen to learn about these creatures, and look forward to watching them in a natural habitat – and I wasn’t alone.
Arriving late into the evening at half past nine for our tour, we were pleasantly surprised to see a strong gathering of over twenty people, also here to enjoy the bat walk that evening. There were some real bat fanatics with excited bat chat from the different sonar equipment on offer, to the excitement at the possibility of seeing the many species of bats native to the forest.
The ranger who led the walk certainly knew his bat facts. Before we set off, he filled us with information from the several species of bats that live in the Forest (believed to be up to 11 out of 18 species recorded across Britain), to their dietary requirements and nesting preferences.
He also managed to dispel a few myths about bats, often vamped up by your typical horror movie; managing to placate any fears we had, and helping us see that bats really are quite fascinating. Not only did he equip us with knowledge, he also provided the perfect equipment for detecting the nocturnal residents.
Throughout the walk we were invited to share around ‘bat detectors’ which picked up sonar signals given off by the bats as they fly overhead. Using a frequency level of around 45, we were able to pick up clicking sounds of bats as they danced through the trees. The chance to not only see the bats but hear them too provided a great sensory experience.
Everyone became animated at the slightest clicking sound, gathering excitedly around the box that gave away a bat’s location.
The ranger was so informed that he could tell the different species from the different range of clicks, and even knew when they were about to feed (the bats create a very comedic ‘raspberry’ type noise as they devour up to 3000 insects a night).
Although there were very few bats visible to us during the tour (bats are migratory and move home often), we were able to enjoy the majestic surroundings of Sherwood Forest.
The walk was a great low impact workout, a gentle amble through the forest at your own pace – although you had to mind for the odd tree stump off the beaten track (torches were recommended for the route back).
Insect repellent was also suggested as a necessity for the walk – the bats knew exactly when to come out of their roost to feed, as the forest was beset with their favourite insects (who were more than happy to take a nibble out of the visitors too!).
The rangers were on hand to answer any bat related questions, and guide people to the best bat spots in the forest. It was not only a chance to see bats in their natural habitat, but to witness other wondrous sights and sounds which may be missed during day visits. Everyone had a great time, young or old – expert or novice, and it was lovely to see people so animated about nature in Notts.
And with the new Batman movie, partly filmed in Nottingham recently, now is the perfect time to check out the real thing. Walks at Sherwood Forest are coming to an end for the season, but be sure to look out for the next one – you’d be batty to miss it.