HANNAH FINCH: Batty night out at Heligan
I AM stood in one of the world's most enigmatic gardens beneath a starry night, listening. Our bat walk group, led by bat expert Tony Brazier, has brought us here for a remote encounter with a greater horseshoe bat.
We are hushed with detectors above our heads. Waiting.
I have visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan in almost every season but never at night time.
But in my mind, I have often floated through the gate into the melon yard and flower garden and into the sundial garden where I stand now.
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I step out of my shoes to properly keep my feet on the ground, the grass refreshingly damp with dew.
Sentimental and soporific wanderings that have led to this very real experience. I could not be happier.
"That's it, that's it...", through the detector comes the unmistakable warbling whistle of the greater horseshoe feeding in the garden.
It is a soft and fleeting sound, with us for just a few seconds.
"That has made my night," Tony whispers. "That is one of the rarest sounds in nature."
His face is lit. For a minute or so, every eye is on the universe above these garden walls watching a space station slide across the sky.
The tree canopies that shelter this garden from the coastal winds make an ideal feeding ground for bats.
The roost of almost 300 pipistrelles that have made a home in the roof of the stewards house don't know how lucky they are.
These very little mammals - one can fit inside a matchbox - will devour more than 600,000 insects tonight.
And after we see them drop from under the tiles - and release a stricken juvenile - into the darkening wilderness, we enter the jungle to see them flit like shadows on the great pools.
I kneel down, sheltering beneath a gunnera leaf.
Here I watch them dart in and out of sight across the water and between the trees above.
The sky is studded with stars and I can smell the soft damp green of the garden.
This special space is so easily transformed by shadows and low light. It feels as if I have stumbled upon the garden while in repose, while the birds in the poultry yard are in their beds, while the bats continue their all night feeding and while the pale moths are busy in foliage made even more fragrant now that the garden has emptied of all other activity.