Church re-roofing project creates new homes for house martins
As Aldershot Catholic Cathedral Church undergoes a major roof restoration, we’re working to minimise the potential impact on house martins nesting in the iconic building.
Roof replacement works have been underway since the summer of 2017, with 48 tonnes of bespoke slate tiles due to be fitted by the time the project ends early in 2018. The tiles on the old roof were visibly worn and had become compromised over time, allowing water seepage into the roof space. Re-roofing will ensure that the building is weather-proofed for decades to come.
The project is being delivered by Aspire Defence Services Limited (ADSL) (funded by Aspire Defence Limited) with Southern Counties Roofing Contractors Ltd and Abbey Scaffolding. ADSL is contracted under Project Allenby/Connaught to maintain the defence estate at Aldershot and several Salisbury Plain garrisons; the company refurbished the Cathedral’s spire in 2009.
The Cathedral has long been a suitable place for nesting house martins. Colin Wilson, Trustee of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust, saw the re-roofing project as an opportunity to ensure the birds could continue to thrive there where a suitable environment exists likely to remain undamaged for many years.
It is illegal to disturb nesting birds so, with advice from the Trust, Aspire enlisted the assistance of the contractors to ensure that all existing nests were allowed to fledge their young, before starting the final stages of the roof work.
House martins are amber listed birds, summer visitors to the UK, meaning their status is of some concern. A reduction of almost 50% in numbers was seen between 1970 and 2014. This is occurring as more people change to plastic gutters and soffits and new building designs are less suitable for the birds to add their mud nests. Drier weather in spring may also influence their ability to collect mud which they use to make their nests.
Ready-made nests provide an effective solution and 16 purpose-made nests were therefore funded by Southern Counties Roofing Ltd with a further four from the Trust. These will now be spread under the eaves of the Cathedral, mainly along the nave and sides of the transept.
This was a great opportunity to show how wildlife conservation and building operations can offer valuable help as the modern world is continually adding pressure on our wildlife and seeing alarming losses in biodiversity.
The Trust thanks Aspire for their response to the issue of the nesting House Martins, their co-operation in arranging the fitting of the swift terrace and the House Martin boxes. We also wish to thank Southern Counties Roofing for their willingness to erect the nests and the Swift terrace according to the specification agreed with Rushmoor BC.
Photo: (left to right) Chris Lowe, Operations Director, Southern Counties; Mark Bassett, Project Manager (Aldershot) Aspire Defence Services Limited; Lee Weeldon, Site Manager, Southern Counties and Colin Wilson, Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust.