Many years ago I read an advert about selling a small plot of woodland near Leatherhead. At the time I did not know where Leatherhead was. Reference to paper maps provided the answer. At the time Leatherhead was the dominant town of the area. Now it is Epsom, and at the time I obviously had no idea that years later I would be living in Epsom.
A phone call to the advertisers and arrangements were made together with details of how to get there from Leatherhead town centre. Another look at the maps to plot a route.
The allocated day arrived and it was not too difficult to find. There were a number of cars parked at or near the gate.
The above photo is not one of mine nor of the actual sand cliff but it is indicative of the situation. The above photo, 'Sand martins are gregarious birds that nest in large colonies. Photo: Felix Alred- Credit: Felix Alred', comes from this site which is an interesting read.
I was working on a road building project near Ipswich in Suffolk as a Quantity Surveyor. One of my responsibilities was the earthworks.
It was not dis-similar to the video below apart from the scrapers of the day were CAT 637, I think the suffix might have been C.
You may notice from the above video that the scrapers have created a bank or cliff, which appears to be sand.
That is what happened on my site. Nothing unusual in that. It is just trimmed back to form the slope at the edge of the road and then covered in topsoil and planted.
However, we had some opportunist visitors move in. Obviously not deterred by the movement or noise.
There was talk of sheeting over the bank or digging it back to the required slope. Either way, they would become homeless.
I intervened and stated they might be protected. I would look into it.
A red telephone box similar to the one near the site entranceOther potential nest sites were covered in sheeting to avoid more intrusion.
This all happened before the internet was available. At the start of the job we had lots of bags of coins to feed the local telephone box. Yes a red box, on the corner by the road. No mobile phone, no internet, no instant information.
Fortunately, the office by the time of the incident had had land lines installed.
I made a few phone calls to directory enquiries and then a few more phone calls, including one to the RSPB.
If I recall correctly, at the time, the birds were not protected, but nesting sites were protected, therefore safe.
However, there were exceptions. Construction sites were one of those exceptions.
The location of the site entrance, as it is today, from Google Maps, with no sign of a phone box.
We could of ignored the nesting birds and carried on the works according to the law at that time.
We didn't do that. With some judicial re-planning and changing of sequence, we let them be, but covered the area, as soon as they had left.
Construction does not always have to be hard hearted. We worked with the client to come up with an acceptable solution to all, including the birds.
The Sand Martins left without a thank you, without paying their rent.
Sand martins nest in Suffolk's soft coastal cliffs. Photo: Felix Alred - Credit: Felix Alred