NatWest started a major building upgrade in Caterham, in December 2020. Like many people, I don't often look up when I am walking along Croydon Road, but many others do. Several concerned residents contacted me, concerned the major works would impact the much loved house martins who have made NatWest their summer home. They were alarmed the refurbishment could lead to the potential loss of the nests above the bank.
House martins generally spend their winter months on warmer shores, mainly in Africa. They then migrate back to the UK in March and April when they feed over wetland areas, before returning to their traditional nesting areas in May: in this case, under the eaves of Natwest.
Following several phone calls to the NatWest head office, the regional director and the property manager, I was put in touch with the programme managers, Faithful and Gould, and ISG, who were the main contractor. They provided me with the drone surveys and nest photographs. Throughout the works, protections were put in place to protect the nests and great care was taken to ensure the birds were not disturbed. I have been kept up-to-date with progress throughout.
The scaffolding is now in the process of being removed from the building, with the 'tin hat' roof having been removed. The next phase will remove the scaffolding from the area around the eaves, where the nests are, to allow access to the birds upon their return.
Next time you are in Caterham Valley during the summertime, when these nests will once more be home to our African visitors, make sure you look up!
It's amazing to think these birds travel thousands of miles, but return to Caterham every year. I'm pleased we were able to save these nests for our visitors.