Scaffolding was erected start of November 2020  
tilers and scaffolders have swooped to the rescue of the beloved but endangered barn owls of Bere Marsh Farm and saved them from the threat of homelessness as winter approaches. 

Working swiftly, but with great sensitivity so as not to dislodge the iconic owls from the tumbledown barn they have occupied for almost 20 years, the team have literally put a new roof over their heads in matter of weeks. 

It marks a brilliantly successful race against time by The Countryside Restoration Trust only months after we purchased and moved into our new UK showcase farm at Shillingstone, near Blandford Forum. 

‘We are both relieved and delighted that the owls are now safe for many years to come’ says Elaine Spencer White, the Bere Marsh Farm Manager. 

‘We could not have asked for a better repair team. Not only was their work superb but they had to do it within a very tight time frame and, most important of all, without upsetting or disturbing the resident male owl. 

‘Just for good measure they’ve even patched up his nesting box inside the barn which had become a bit dilapidated over the years. I think they developed quite a soft spot for him as he regularly flew around them whilst they were working.’   

We had to make it happen - and fast! 

Roof tiles were carefully removed and a temporary covering
was placed to protect the barn owl box.
As well as a desperate race against time, the barn restoration also presented a tough dilemma for the CRT as we had to launch an appeal to raise the necessary £30,000 
for the project  but we found ourselves with only half the sum raised by the time the deadline arrived to start work on the roof if the owls were to be saved from the threat of homelessness. 

‘We took a deep breath and went ahead in the hope and belief that the huge affection in which the local community holds the owls would take us a lot nearer to our target,’ explains Elaine Spencer White.  

This project has created a great relationship with schools local to Bere Marsh Farm. Led by Knighton House School and then joined by Bryanston and all the other schools in the Blandford Schools Network, a children’s poetry and performance competition, Icons in the Landscape, was launched in support of the owls whilst several wildlife and conservation bodies weighed in with sizeable donations not to mention scores of individual contributions from CRT supporters and the local community. 

‘It was a tough call to proceed with the work when we did but we are glad we made it. The precious owls are now safe and we are confident that in the coming weeks we’ll reach our target. We’ve certainly raised enough to pay for the crucial first phase of work whilst what remains to be done can wait,’ points out Hayley Neal, CRT Fundraising Manager.    

'The most exhilarating and challenging job I’ve worked on since becoming a carpenter'

Replacing the rotten roof timbers
Sam Watts, one of the two carpenters from Saxon Roofing Services who 
helped replace the rotten roof timbers on the barn, stressed how much important it was to work sensitively and not disturb the resident male owl. 

‘We had to be so careful so as not to unsettle him or frighten him from returning to his nest box in the barn every night. It was a bit nerve wracking at first but eventually he got to know us and was curious about what we were doing. 

‘Without doubt this was the most exhilarating and challenging job I’ve worked on since becoming a carpenter. The male owl was just phenomenal to see flying so close to us whilst we were working. He’s got such a personality and it was a joy and privilege to work on such an important job,’ says Sam.  

Carpenter's 'awesome' barn owl experience

Repaired owl box with supporting shelf - an additional special feature installed by Saxon Roofing Services 

Built in perches for the owls - an additional special feature installed by Saxon Roofing Services 

 The completed roof 

The roof repair works finished

The Barn Owls

The Barn Owls, a keystone indicator species of a healthy eco-environment, are regularly spotted at Bere Marsh by passing families, hikers and cyclists using the trailways and paths which criss-cross the 92-acre farm – making them a much loved feature of the surrounding idyllic countryside. 

Barn owl at Bere Marsh Farm 
Originally, the owls nested in the roofs of old barns and hollow trees but recent trends of modernising and converting barns into rural homes have severely reduced their natural habitats and now up to 85% of today’s birds nest and raise young in specially erected nest boxes.

This made the Barn Owl Barn at Bere Marsh even more important to restore  for it represents one of the few remaining settings in which the iconic species of the British countryside can be seen in its natural surroundings. 

However, the very short period between the completion of barn owls’ rearing of their chicks in Autumn and the start of a new breeding cycle in early December, meant that the CRT had only the briefest window of opportunity in which to make it all happen. 

Luckily it was a race against time with a happy outcome. 

How you can help

We can’t do it without you. If you want to help us protect local wildlife you can support the CRT in any number of ways, from joining as a CRT Friend to volunteering on one of our farms and attending our events. You can also sign-up to our monthly newsletter 'CRT News' for regular updates from our farms, straight to your in-box.

Join Donate Volunteer News

Read more about our conservation activities protecting wildlife across our farms please see our Wildlife Blog