About Us

LATEST NEWS - June 2023

Sussex Bat Group Launches their new National Bat Monitoring Program (NBMP) Guide, and provides training at the Knepp Estate about the different types of surveys and how to take part! - Guide Available on our Bat Records Page

August 2023

We are delighted to see these Greater Horseshoe bats in their newly renovated roost site. Although full grown, this pup is clinging to mum as it practices flying. Just 20 months ago, in partnership with wonderful Vincent Wildlife Trust, we launched an appeal to raise funds to buy this derelict stable block in West Sussex where a pioneering group of Greater Horseshoe bats, with young pups, had been discovered…the first significant record of breeding for the species in the Southeast of England for more than 100 years!

The building they were discovered in was due to go on the market for development – so we launched the "Sussex Bat Appeal". Not only did you help to raise the purchase price within five months, we were able to raise further funds towards fixing the roof and walls, so that the roost is safe and will remain so for future generations. It is thanks to your donations that these pioneering bats now have a safe haven to raise their pups and are potentially able to return to their former ranges in the years to come. So thank you again. Stay tuned for more updates. 

We have very busy with events for the past couple of months. These included bat walks at Kingley Vale Nature Reserve, Southwick Hill, Aldingbourne Church and St Mary's Churchyard in Chichester. We also hosted a stand at The Floral Fringe Fair, in Loxwood, promoting the work of our group.

February 2023 

The Sussex Bat Group is very sorry to have to tell you that Tony Hutson, our founder and ‘guru’, passed away on 16th February 2023, after a sudden deterioration in a health condition. This is a huge loss, not only to Tony’s wife, Jacqui, but to the world of Bat Conservation, where he was often referred to, fondly, as a ‘living legend’.

Tony was a modest and unassuming man who was hugely important in the bat world, not just locally and nationally but internationally. He was the author of many books; the most recent being ‘Bats – their Biology and Behaviour‘, published in 2022. His work made a major contribution to the understanding of bats and their diverse roles in the ecosystem, thereby helping to bring in legal protections both here and in many corners of the world.

Not only was Tony extremely knowledgeable about bats, he was also a leading expert on invertebrates having worked at the Department of Entomology at the British Museum (Natural History Museum) and publishing no less than two key works on Diptera (true flies) on behalf of the Royal Entomological Society of London. The first being a collaborative effort to produce a key to the large and challenging ‘fungus gnats’ (Mycetophilidae) family in Britain (effectively ‘bat food’) in 1980 (only comprehensively superseded by an ex-colleague of Tony’s as recently as 2022), then in 1984 a solo effort on the ectoparasitic, blood-sucking flies known as ‘keds, flat-flies & bat-flies’ (Hippoboscidae & Nycteribiidae). This latter volume consolidated Tony’s various passions in the world of natural history; mammals – in particular bats, birds (Tony was a keen birdwatcher and was involved with bird ringing etc) and of course the insects that interacted with the above higher taxa as potential food resources themselves, or totally flipping the script, evolving to become blood sucking external parasites of our mammalian and avian fauna.

His enthusiasm, expertise and patience with us all was endless and we deferred to his knowledge on all issues. Not only will he be terribly missed as a mentor to many a bat-worker over the years, but we will also mourn his friendship and great kindness, as well as his sense of humour and that twinkle in his eye.

As Bat Group members will know, Tony had a major role in co-ordinating the Sussex Bat Appeal project to save a derelict old Victorian stable block in West Sussex for a small maternity colony of Greater Horseshoe Bats (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum). Fundraising for this appeal continues and roost refurbishment works are well underway thanks to the efforts of project partners Vincent Wildlife Trust, and of course all the individuals, organisations and grant funders that have contributed financially thus far. Once completed, this roost will be the stepping stone to facilitate the re-colonisation of this rare species to the south-east of England. Tony was involved with this project from the very beginning, being one of the first to be informed of the discovery and the potential to take the building on in all of its decrepitude. Without Tony’s vast network of contacts in the conservation world, whom he worked admirably for support, advice and funding, or his tireless efforts in writing to bat groups, individual supporters of bat conservation and such like, this conservation project may not have succeeded. It is of great regret that Tony will not be here to see the building renovation works completed and the bats return to produce further young in 2023, safe and secure. However, Tony’s long-held suspicions that ‘something was going on’ with the Greater Horseshoe Bats and that a small maternity colony may well indeed be present somewhere in Sussex was proven to be true in his lifetime, and he was able to use his knowledge, contacts and influence to ensure that something good came of it and this will be a lasting legacy of his life and bat conservation work. See further details of the project below.

The Sussex Bat Group will hugely miss Tony but will continue his work to ensure that bats continue to flourish in our county.

There will be a private family burial for Tony but Jacqui plans to hold a celebration of his life on 16th March 2023.

Tony Hutson ©️Stephanie Murphy 

Original statement on Sussex Bat Group facebook page

Kind tributes have also been made through various other channels: BCT   Twitter  EUROBATS 


The Sussex Bat Group was formed in 1984 to help conserve bats in East and West Sussex. The Group is a registered charity made up of volunteers who share a passion for bats. We are affiliated with the Bat Conservation Trust. Bats are facing serious population declines across the UK. There is a bat group in nearly every county working to help reverse this decline.

The aims of the Sussex Bat Group are to:

These aims are achieved by:

PLEASE NOTE: The Sussex Bat Group does not undertake surveys for commercial purposes or to object to planning applications.


Roosting greater horseshoe bat

Thanks to the generosity of many, we have saved a derelict stable for greater horseshoe bats... but it is falling apart!

Find out why we need urgent help to make it a safe haven for this rare species and pups, and donate:

Sussex Bat Appeal - Help us create a safe haven for horseshoe bats - JustGiving 

During the last century, greater horseshoe bat numbers fell by over 90% in Britain, by some estimates, and the species became confined to parts of Wales and south-west England. Today, however, there is some much-needed good news. The population is showing signs of recovery, with small colonies now found outside of this core area. This includes one pioneer breeding colony recently discovered in an old stable block in Sussex − a sign of a possible eastward spread. For this reason, it is a site we must protect.

Vincent Wildlife Trust, Sussex Bat Group and others are working hard to safeguard this rare bat species by purchasing and restoring a roost site in Sussex. 

As well as monies from the Sussex Bat Group’s own reserves, we’ve received the very generous help of our local bat groups, Surrey, Kent and Hampshire, plus additional, fantastic support from PTES, group members, local ecology companies and Southwood Foundation


You can donate here or by sending a cheque, payable to Vincent Wildlife Trust, to:

Sussex Bat Appeal, 3-4 Bronsil Courtyard  Eastnor, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1EP. 

We are very grateful to those of you who have already contributed. 

Thank you so much.

Extinct bat making a come-back? Press Release 19/01/2023

In 1992 greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) were declared extinct from the UK, but since 2002 a single male has been recorded hibernating in disused railway tunnels in West Sussex. It has been officially known as ‘Britain’s rarest mammal’ and speculation was that he was a vagrant that had crossed the channel from France where there is an established population and took up residence in Britain.

However, during this year’s National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP surveys) on the 14th January 2023, members of Sussex Bat Group were astonished to find a second greater mouse-eared bat hibernating in this important network of tunnels, in addition to the single existing known male, who has been hibernating in the area for the past 20 years. [CORRECTION - Two untagged individuals have since been confirmed present - 08/03/2023]

Sheila Wright, contact for the Sussex Bat Group, says ‘This is a hugely important discovery for the Sussex Bat Group and demonstrates the importance of regular monitoring of bat colonies - we could have missed this highly significant find of the second greater mouse-eared bat in Britain. It also shows how important it is to safeguard these hibernation sites for bats.

Species recovery programmes are vital to mammal conservation efforts, required due to the threat from anthropological pressures in the 21st century such as roost loss, habitat loss and fragmentation. The Sussex Bat Group is working in partnership with Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) to restore the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) range in Sussex, where it had been absent for more than 100 years. Like the greater mouse-eared bat, records of hibernating greater horseshoes were found in the network of disused railway tunnels, and eventually in 2019 a small pioneer breeding colony was identified in a stable block in West Sussex. VWT and Sussex Bat Group are working hard to raise funds to purchase the building, which was at risk of collapse, and rebuilding works are now underway to save the breeding roost whilst the bats are away hibernating.

Dr Stephanie Murphy of the Sussex Bat Group adds, ‘There are now many questions for us to answer: is there already a small pioneer population of greater mouse-eared bats recolonising Sussex and we just don’t know where they are breeding, as in the case of the greater horseshoe bat, or, as result of climate change and the hottest summers on record in the UK, are we getting greater mouse-eared bats just beginning to move over from mainland Europe to settle in the UK? 

Press Release: Rare bats settle 100km east, attracted by fine food and a property with potential 

An urgent appeal has been launched to help save the home of a pioneering breeding colony of greater horseshoe bats recently discovered in West Sussex. The site, currently up for sale, is some 100km east of the bats’ current stronghold in Devon and Dorset — an enormously encouraging sign for a bat that suffered an estimated 90% decline in Britain in the 20th century. 

“With help, this small but hugely significant colony of greater horseshoe bats could become a real biodiversity success story — a species on the road to recovery and now returning to one of its former haunts after an absence ofmore than a century,” said Dr Lucy Rogers, CEO with wildlife charity Vincent Wildlife Trust. The Sussex Bat Appeal has been launched by Vincent Wildlife Trust and Sussex Bat Group to buy the derelict stableblock being used by the bats before it is placed on the open market. The two organisations have been given nine months by the owners to raise the purchase price. £200,000 will secure ownership of the stable block and a further £150,000 will fund the renovation work and the building enhancements needed to allow the bat colony to expand. 

“Once the site is enhanced for the bats, we would expect over time to see good levels of survival and reproductive success, resulting in a growing, thriving maternity colony. It is also hoped that this site will act as a honeypot, attracting further pioneers to this area,” said Dr Henry Schofield, Head of Conservation for the Trust. Vincent Wildlife Trust currently looks after the roost sites of some 50% of Britain’s greater horseshoe bat population and has been instrumental in driving the recovery of this bat species, helped too by legal protection given to all bat species in 1981. 

The greater horseshoe bat is one of the largest bats found in Britain and one of the easier bats to identify, with its horseshoe-shaped ‘nose’ and a preference to dangle upside down from a beam or ceiling, held on by its spindly legs and cloaked with its wings when asleep. Other than its tiny cousin, the lesser horseshoe bat, no other British bat hangs in this way. By the latter half of the 20th century, the species was heading for possible extinction, following a loss of insect-rich pasture and semi-natural woodlands over which to feed, a lack of suitable, undisturbed sites for breeding and hibernation, and the use of now-banned timber treatment chemicals. 

Until now, the greater horseshoe bat has been largely confined to south-west England and parts of Wales. From a 20th century low of some 4,000, the current estimated population is around 13,000 (to put this in context, there is an estimated three million pipistrelles — our most common bat). This rise in its population may have helped fuel this eastward quest to plant new roots in an old home. The West Sussex site will be owned by Vincent Wildlife Trust as a bat roost in perpetuity. It will be managed by the Trust in conjunction with the Sussex Bat Group. “Right now, this is probably the most important greater horseshoe bat roost site in Britain and the most significant find since the group was formed in 1984. It was discovered by a member of Sussex Bat Group in 2019 and we are determined to raise the funds needed to secure the building for this vitally important bat colony. 

As well as wardening and managing the site, there will also be opportunities for volunteers to help with the monitoring of the bats,” said Sheila Wright, Secretary to the Sussex Bat Group. More information about greater horseshoe bats, the Sussex Bat Appeal and ways to donate can be found at www.vwt.org.uk/sussex-bat-appeal