Updated: Oct 22, 2020
As a result of the review of a large number of planning applications by our team of enthusiastic Hampshire Swift-ers we became aware that the Mill House Centre in Totton on the western edge of Southampton was to be re-roofed and shortly after that scaffold started to go up. Several of our members live nearby so we were aware that this building has long held a colony of swifts and that following roofing work about 15 years ago the numbers of swifts had sharply declined.
The impressive sign emblazoned across the top of the building states:
PETER MUMFORD & SONS FLOUR MILLS 1885.
The Mumfords were I believe Flour Factors and Corn Merchants and had an office in London.
It would be interesting to find out more about the history of the building but unfortunately the Eling Heritage Centre just down the road is currently closed due to Covid-19. These days it is a business centre from which many diverse businesses operate and contribute greatly to the local economy. We have no way of knowing how long Swifts have nested in this building but it is entirely possible that they have bred here for over 100 years. What we do know is, from a survey carried out by Helen and Dave Bartlett, that about twenty years ago there were between 18-20 pairs of swifts nesting in the building.
But soon after that most of the eaves had either been enclosed or had had plastic vents fitted that excluded the Starlings and Swifts that nested here.
Following a meeting with the owners of the building they explained it was necessary to completely strip the roof in order to replace the felt and battens to stop the persistent roof leaks. They intended also to enclose the west gable eaves where the last few pairs of Swifts nest. We discussed the implications of this and I'm pleased to say they were sympathetic to the problem. I suggested that provision could be made by cutting swift access holes in the new soffit with a nest shelf inside and they very kindly agreed to this.
Nineteen new nest chambers have now been created in the west gable! And the scaffold will shortly be removed so let's hope that when the Swifts return next year they like their new premises. We are very grateful to Rob Newman and Simon Meader for enabling this to happen.