Greater Anglia: banning Martins and Swallows from Woodbridge station

Substance of my letter to Jamie Burles,  Managing Director, Greater Anglia, 20 Feb

I’m writing to you in great concern in your role as Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, having been forwarded worrying  correspondence from a constituent.

As you will see, he wrote to Greater Anglia about your recent installation of anti-bird wires at the station, and reminded Greater Anglia of the damage this would do to the families of hirondelles (swallows/swifts/martins) who nest at the Woodbridge station. These are not a huge number, but the birds return to their nesting sites year after year.

My constituent offered to point out the places where the wires could be removed in order that these wonderful, and increasingly endangered birds could continue their blameless existence

Disappointingly, his offer was met  with  a response from customer services at  Greater Anglia, that was terse, not to say rude and extraordinarily authoritarian in tone. It was also extremely ignorant of the habits of the birds in question:

The anti-bird wires have been placed at the station to prevent damage to the station and will not be removed.
I do hope that house martins find more suitable nesting sites and I am sorry that you will not get to see them with their chicks this year.

Mr Burles – perhaps Greater Anglia might bear in mind that Woodbridge Station has been in place since 1859!  I would imagine that hirondelles have been nesting here all this time (they return to the same nesting places year after year). They have done no damage in the 160 years the station has been opened. Why on earth should Greater Anglia claim they do so now? And why should Greater Anglia claim other sites as being ‘more suitable’?  For whom?

As all long-term residents of the town are aware, these birds are one of the delights of Woodbridge station.  They make us heart-soaringly happy  every spring and summer whatever the weather. Their arrival is a long-anticipated tradition.

Very unfortunately Greater Anglia repainted the station ceiling in 2017 at seemingly the moment the swallows/martins were about to nest. In consequence last season’s hirondelle nests vanished and the regular commuters of Woodbridge (of whom I am one) lost the joy of watching the little families appear.  This would seem to be in contravention to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

When GA  wrote “I am sorry that you will not get to see them with their chicks this year” you seem unaware that Greater Anglia was instrumental in this happening last year too!

Because the swift-flying, joyous swallows and martins were displaced, pigeons moved in to Woodbridge station last summer – and they do cause damage. This is presumably why Greater Anglia has suddenly installed bird wires. Talk about unintended consequences.

If the swallows and martins were allowed to nest again in their traditional sites I would imagine the pigeons would vanish. They never nested at the station before.

Can I just add that this matter is time-sensitive. Hirondelles are summer visitors.These amazing – and increasingly endangered – little birds are likely to be already on the wing, making their long journey back from Africa to nest at our station sometime in March.

Bearing this in mind, and knowing that Greater Anglia  did not have the full details when you first wrote to my constituent, I am writing to you, as Managing Director,  in the hope that Greater Anglia will change its mind and remove the bird wires, if only from around the hirondelle nesting sites in the corners of Woodbridge station. Not that they seem effective in stopping the pigeons from nesting.

Doing so would  not only immeasurably improve quality of life (for both the hirondelles and the commuters who watch them), it would also place Greater Anglia in a very good light, as a company that is suitably responsive to issues that are very important to local people.

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