Woodpeckers cause a hole lot of trouble ...

Berwick church, work started on damaged roof. SUS-140710-010106001
Berwick church, work started on damaged roof. SUS-140710-010106001

The iconic spire of Berwick Church is being restored – after years of unwelcome attention from woodpeckers.

The birds have drilled the wooden shingles at St Michael and All Angels with their beaks and consequently the spire is riddled with holes.

These have been enlarged by jackdaws, which have made their nests inside the structure.

Scaffolding has gone up for the £58,650 restoration project, which should be completed in four weeks. Now the church, which is also home of the Bloomsbury Murals, has publicly thanked all those who gave to the Spire Appeal and the Heritage Lottery Fund for its generous support of the scheme.

The Rev Peter Blee, Rector of Berwick, said the birds had been pecking in search of insects and as a territorial sounding board. He said rainwater had been leaking through to the spire interior and tower.

The solution to the woodpecker problem is to replace the existing cedar shingles with tougher and more traditional oak and to insert strips of stainless steel between the shingles to stop the birds from making holes.

This is an expensive undertaking, far beyond the congregation of Berwick, so an appeal was launched to raise funds and an application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The success of the appeal and the Lottery application has enabled the work to go ahead.

So look out for woodpeckers with sore heads and a bemused expression next spring!

Interestingly, lightning can strike twice in the same place as Berwick Church bears testimony. The spire was struck and destroyed in 1774 and in 1982 considerable damage was caused to the repaired structure by ball lightning.

Meanwhile, a wildlife conservation management plan for the churchyard was the subject of a meeting on Tuesday. Keith and Linda Sutton have helped look after the site for a number of years and recently attended a course on the management of churchyards for their wildlife conservation value.

They are keen to share their experience and to recruit additional volunteers to help in 2015.