Saturday, 20 August 2011

Bats in the cemetery

This evening we went up to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park for one of their bat walks.

The park itself was, until 1966, one of London's big cemeteries to rival Highgate and Brompton. But with no burials since the mid sixties, and years of greenery growing over the gravestones, the park is now the archetypal cemetery typical of any 80s goth music video.

I must admit, until today, I didn't even really know the park existed - let alone just how interesting it is.

This evening, after reading about it on the park's Facebook page we decided to go along for one of the organised bat walks.

I have to say, it has been one of the most fun evenings I've spent in London. The cemetery takes on quite a spooky feeling after dark - if I believed in mad things like ghosts, then it'd probably be a fairly scary place to be. As it is, it feels like walking through the set of a horror B-movie. And that's without the bats.

After a short talk from Ken (the ever-enthusiastic bat-lover) and getting to find out lots of facts about bats, it was off into the cemetery as night fell to point our bat detectors at the trees and listen for the wet slapping noise which means there's a bat.

Bats use echolocation at frequencies way above what we can hear, so Ken handed out lots of bat detectors for us to point around the place. A bat detector is a little device which reproduces sounds at a much lower frequency. The echolocation of bats sounds like someone clapping their hands quickly with wet hands. Really.

We hadn't even left the clearing by the visitor centre before our bat detectors started slapping. Then a characterist black shadow flew past.

We headed into the cemetery and although the place wasn't teeming with bats, everyone got to see at least one bat - and with a group of fun, chatty people - the atmosphere was fun and convivial - and occasionally interrupted by the slapping noise from a detector. I got a great view of a pipistrelle swooping across a clearing at the back of the cemetery.

So - I'd highly recommend that if you're the kind of person who thinks snooping around an old cemetery in the dark looking for bats is fun (who doesn't?), then I highly recommend getting yourself up to Tower Hamlets one summer weekend and spending an evening with Ken.

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