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New swift and bat sign celebrates Woking’s twinned towns

Date: 

Thursday, 1 August, 2019

The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, formally opened a new swift, bat and town twinning sign in Woking Town Centre today (1 August 2019). The sign provides a nesting chamber for swifts and bats and commemorates Woking’s twinned towns.

The sign is made of three sections, providing nesting chambers in the upper section, a middle section featuring finger post style arms showing the way to Woking’s twinned towns, all atop a specially engraved, conical stone base, surrounded by planting.

Designed by 51 architecture, the sign stands in Gloucester Square, between the theatre, the Civic Offices and just over the Basingstoke Canal from the WWF’s Living Planet Centre. 

The Mayor was joined by councillors and representatives from Woking Town Twinning Association, 51 architecture, ThamesWey’s Swifts in Woking project, and national expert Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation to recognise the installation of the new sign.

Swifts are a bird species in sharp decline and over the past 20 years the UK’s swift numbers have halved. The sign incorporates a system which will play calls to draw the swifts’ attention to the boxes, and features webcams to give an insight into nest life to share pictures when new swifts have moved in. 

UK swifts migrate through Europe to spend their winter in Africa – an annual round trip of some 22,000 km (14,000 miles) – before returning to breed in the UK late spring for the summer. The sign’s stonework base design beautifully illustrates this amazing journey. British Trust for Ornithology provided the journey data, and wildlife artist Jonathan Pomroy drew the beautiful swifts.

Cllr Kevin Davis, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Climate Change/Strategy, said: “The swift and bat sign is a new piece of public art which celebrates some of the wonderful wildlife that we enjoy locally, and our greatly valued relationships with our twinned towns in Europe. The nesting chambers will add to those being provided elsewhere through the conservation efforts of local residents and the Swifts in Woking project. 

“Sharing the swifts’ amazing annual journey and giving wildlife a home in our town centre is one of the ways in which we are working to deliver Natural Woking, our biodiversity and green infrastructure strategy for our borough.

“I am delighted that we are launching the swift and bat sign the week after the Council declared a climate emergency – further raising awareness of the importance of protecting our environment.”

Peter Thomas, Director of 51 architecture, said: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to work on such a fascinating conservation project, as well as with the teams at Woking Borough Council and Woking Town Twinning Association. The sign is made up of three sections, offering eight nesting chambers for swifts and a communal bat roost, a map illustrating the swifts amazing journey of 22,000 km each year, as well as celebrating Woking’s twinned towns.”

Marlie Roes, Chairman of the Woking Town Twinning Association, said: “Town twinning enables contacts between people of different countries. We are so pleased that our initial idea of a twin town signpost is now a reality – it will continuously remind us of the special relationship with our twin towns and the possibilities twinning provides. As befits our pro-biodiversity town, and where swift flight lines also connect with the areas of our twin towns, the signpost has the further purpose of providing swifts and bats nesting chambers.”

Woking's twin towns are Le Plessis-Robinson, in France, (twinned since 1992), and Rastatt, a city bordering the Rhine in south west Germany (twinned since the late 1990s).

For further information about Woking Borough Council’s nature and sustainability work please visit our website www.woking.gov.uk/nature-and-sustainability 

For more information about the new sign please visit www.woking.gov.uk/nature-and-sustainability/conservation-projects/town-centre-swift-and-bat-sign