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Church in battle against pigeons
Buy this photo » Father Adam Romanis at SS Mary and John Church in Oxford’s Cowley Road. Picture: OX57708 Jon Lewis
TRADITIONAL climbs to the top of an Oxford church tower have been abandoned because pigeons have made a mess of the roof.
Now a clean-up is under way and staff at the Church of St Mary and St John in Cowley Road are planning to spend £6,000 getting the tower back into use by detering the birds.
And they are hoping to be able to hold their morning service on Thursday, May 9 – Ascension Day – at the top of the tower.
Father Adam Romanis said pigeons have been plaguing the place of worship where he has worked for the past 14 years. Flocks of pigeons roosting on the Victorian building in Cowley Road have become such a pest that spikes are to be installed to deter them from settling.
The birds have become an increasing problem during the past 12 months after people started to feed the birds.
Installing the spikes will cost about £6,000, part of an ongoing £5,000 renovation project at the church.
Father Romanis, 55, who lives in the vicarage next to the church, said: “You can see why people feed the pigeons – they are not without beauty.
“But there has been a noticeable increase in the problem over the past year so we have put signs up asking people not to feed them.
“The pigeons have caused a particular problem on the flat roof at the top of the tower, which is covered in droppings.
“There’s a fantastic view of East Oxford, and we usually use the tower three or four times a year, but the tower has been out of action because of the pigeons.”
Father Romanis said visitors were unable to visit the top of the tower for a Ride and Stride event in September.
He added: “I hope the top of the tower will be clean for Ascension Day and then it could also be opened for the Cowley Road Carnival on July 7.
“The pigeons have also made a mess near the door at the base of the tower and we spent about £100 paying the city council to clean up about a month ago. We need to use that door for some weddings and funerals.”
Pigeons’ acidic droppings can react with chemicals in stonework, causing surfaces to erode.
Layers of droppings can become infested with mites and insects while other problems include blocked gutters and slippery surfaces.
The vicar said £15,000 has been spent restoring the roof over the side aisles, while roof repairs over the nave cost a further £30,000.
Father Romanis does not expect the installation of the spikes to be completed before Easter and added that it would not cause any disruption to services.
Eamon Kelly, chairman of Didcot and Wantage District Pigeon Club, said some of the birds flocking to the church could include former racing pigeons which “got lost”.
He added: “It’s not cruel to try to deter them in this way – they won’t land on the spikes and will find somewhere else to perch.”
The parish of Cowley St John dates from August 4, 1868, and the foundation stone of the church was laid in 1875.