WHEN one bird-loving Chippenham couple needed to repair their roof, they wanted to make sure the house sparrows who nested there would not be left homeless.

Karen Hoy and Alan Summers, of Wood Lane, took on roofer George Richards, of Stay Dry Roofing in Bristol, to do the work, because he had an idea about how to preserve the nesting space for the house sparrows.

“Our roof badly needed repairing, but we were concerned about our house sparrows -a protected species- being able to return to nest next year,” said Karen, a former wildlife film-maker.

Sparrows live in colonies and nest in holes or crevices in buildings, in bushes and nestboxes. Karen and Alan's sparrows were nesting under the tiles.

“We found a roofer who is into wildlife himself and he totally got how bonkers we are about our sparrows,” she explained.

The solution was to leave a gap between the tiles' edge and the barge boards on the gable end, so the sparrows could still have room to nest.

“We’re excited about this, as it’s a real and easily followed solution to the house sparrow housing crisis that other roofers and homeowners could take up. Although nest boxes are an option, and we’ll add those as a back up, there is true longevity in simply continuing to enable the sparrows to access. It would make a big difference to this struggling species,” she said.

Her husband Alan, a leading Haiku poet, feeds the birds.

At times they have around 25 sparrows in the garden, and up to four or five nests.

They hope that in spring, the sparrows will return to the space under the tiles, and take up residence in the nesting box.