Bats and rainbows: goodbye to summer at Exeter Growers

Summer is over. That wasn’t going to stop Exeter Growers Co-operative from having a barbecue at the field. In rain and rainbows, we carried pasta salad and a bottle of wine along the track to the enclosure where a dozen people in raincoats had come to cook sausages and survey bats.

We first visited the field in Shillingford about 6 years ago, when my Mum, Margaret, became involved after her move to Exeter in 2011. EGC acquired a contract to use the field for organic farming in 2009, so it was relatively early days. My memory of it then, is that it was pretty bleak, although I’m told that might have been due to the season. A sharp wind sometimes blows across that field, and I remember shivering around an open fire, while my Mum cooked nettle soup, then added lots of nicer vegetables to make it palatable because actually nettles taste rather the way you’d expect.

These days, not only is the place bursting with all the summer produce, but there are two poly-tunnels and a shed big enough for a group to shelter in. There’s a barbecue under an awning. There’s a lily pond and a willow bower. There are trees planted that help to provide some element of windbreak. There are rows and rows of vegetables of all kinds, and a big, rich, black compost heap. It’s beautiful. Beautiful, too, the commitment of those who keep coming to grow things, all for the love of it (there’s a little flower business based here, too, which just enhances the look of the place).

We sat in the dusk and listened to an ecologist talk about bats. We passed around a bat detector that made buzzing noises when a bat was heard and sure enough, we saw a large one wheeling about over the shed. The noise would fade and the bat vanish, then a minute later the detector would pick up and amplify the bat’s noises, and we’d watch it come around again as the night settled over the woods and the distant hills.

It grew completely dark, and there was crowded discussion in the unlit shed, followed by a walk into the woods. I had two fairly small people to take home, though, and it was getting too dark and too muddy underfoot to do more than stumble about listening to the detector buzzing. It is possible to identify the bats that are present from this buzzing, but this is something that requires analysis.

We therefore made our way back out. The evening had one more treat for us, however. As we arrived home, A. and I saw that there were several large bats flying around the green, passing under the lamp post so that we could see them quite clearly. I doubt we would normally have noticed them. (S said they were ‘probably night birds’, but they definitely were not.)

As term is upon us, this is the last of the regular performing garden blogs, and more of an anecdote than a subject of study – but it was nice to end the summer blogs closer to home.






Full members of Exeter Growers Co-operative commit to two days work a month (usually Tues or Sat), with an annual fee of £80 (£60 concs). ‘Friends’ pay £15 with no commitment, to harvest vegetables at a discount, and visit the field for events, or to contribute to the gardening, or just drop in.

Devon Bat Survey runs till October 2017, and you can book a bat detector to analyse what bats are present on a given piece of land. This will help to provide valuable information about bat habitats.

Note: I used a couple of photos from a few months ago, so if you spot something horribly out of season, that’s why.