The office at Wheatfen Nature Reserve is nothing more than a glorified shed. I am not complaining; a lack of insulation does not bother me, nor does the 1950s style wooden flooring that lines the walls.
Not much can be said for the carpet either, adorned in its fen finery of leaves and mud, I do vaguely remember it being grey a few years back. Various spider species lurk in the cobwebs, mice scuttle around my ankles stealing bird seed, and one time I even had an otter raise 3 kits in the space between plywood floor and the earth beneath.
On returning to work after a fine week away in Dartmoor, my trainee warden, Jordan, was swift to relay a story to me regarding a bat in the office roof space. It had been a cold, frosty November day, the reserve was flooded and having spent the past 6 months learning from my good self, Jordan had spent the day sipping tea and eating cake by the office heater. But the office got a little too warm…
Directly above the electric heater, the poorly fitted 1950s flooring that also lined the ceiling has a half inch gap where it joins the walls. To Jordans dismay, perhaps awoken by the intense heat, he suddenly spied a bat peeping out at him from the gap. As Jordan flapped about in panic, the bat went on to crawl down onto the wall, having a quick peek around before returning back into the office roof space. It scratched about for a bit, and then all went silent.
On hearing the story my initial concern was which fungi Jordan had eaten to trigger such a hallucination. My second thought was of where might I find said fungi… That evening, with the light fading around 3pm, I had finally caught up with the many emails that awaited me after a week off. I had drunk a lot of tea, and eaten a lot of cake as my middle-aged-lady fan club came with their offerings. The office was roasting. I spend many days out on a wet, cold fen up to my waist in mud, so why be cold when indoors? I suddenly heard scratching above my head. Somewhere in the roof space I could hear something crawling around. I felt like I was in the beginning of a horror movie, and I nervously awaited the gaunt face appearing in the window followed by my untimely death. A few minutes later, looking out across the carpark I spied a pipistrelle flittering around the airways.
Alas, I feared that I had woken it up prematurely. I also feared that if I told my ecologist partner Mary, she would demand the heater to be left switched off for the rest of the winter. When I saw Mary that night, I confessed about the bat, but chose to keep the cake-eating secret… Thankfully she did not demand a heater ban. The pipistrelle, which regularly roosts in the office roof during the summer, has not been heard since. We can only assume it hung on into the autumn longer than usual and finally got the hump with me and the intense heat.