In early 2022, the committee decided that DNATS could support other local projects that fulfilled some of the aims of the society, as set out on the ‘Home’ page of the website. Two such projects were proposed for consideration; ‘Dating of the Bog-oak Chair’ and the ‘Smeaton Swifts project’.

Colin Howes, the author of the article ‘Doncaster’s mayoral bog-oak chair’ which appears in the Doncaster Naturalist Volume 3 (2): 67-72, has provided the following information on the Bog-oak chair. The timbers were acquired in 1848 during the excavation of a drain from the parish of Arksey, into the tidal Don, downstream of Doncaster. The chair, commissioned by William Chadwick, Squire of Arksey was created by the cabinet maker George Collinson and exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851. In 1901 it was presented to the County Borough of Doncaster to commemorate Edward VII ascending the throne. It has spent most of its existence in the Mayors parlour at Doncaster’s Mansion House but since the 1990s it has been on display to the public at Doncaster Museum.

Colin is at present in negotiation with the Doncaster Local Authority and its Museums Service for access to the chair and for permission to take the required core samples or to prepare the required surfaces necessary for the dating process. Currently there is no time table and any future progress depends on gaining positive responses from appropriate DMBC departments and staff and from raising funds from interested parties.

Details of the Smeaton Swifts Project was provided by Joyce as follows : –

Paul Simmons and Dave Williamson organised nest boxes for Swifts in the Kirk Smeaton Church tower 5 years ago. This was funded by a generous local resident and a donation from the Smeaton Magazine committee. The project has gone so well that almost all the nest boxes are occupied, and 11 out of 11 eggs laid successfully fledged this year. There are 14 nest boxes, and young swifts which hopefully will breed next year have shown an interest in all the vacant boxes. This leaves us with the dilemma of putting up boxes matching the 14 in the opposite side of the tower. The funding is the problem as we will have to employ a joiner, Paul and Dave being only competent to assist. We will need to buy good quality materials so that the nests will last. We intend to ask the magazine committee for a donation, but they have been delivering the magazine free throughout lockdown, so probably won’t have funds to offer. We will also use some of the funds which we raise through Brockadale meetings, but there is still bound to be a shortfall in funds.

The following account of the Smeaton Swift Project has been provided by Joyce :-

The Swift colony in St Peter’s Church, Kirk Smeaton has done extremely well since boxes were installed in the west window of the church tower in 2016. In 2021 eleven out of the fourteen boxes were occupied with fourteen youngsters fledging successfully. This fantastic progress has exceeded all our expectations and we think it is fair to say this has saved the Smeatons Swifts from disappearing altogether.

As we are nearing the capacity of the existing boxes, we are keen to increase their number. The church authorities have kindly given us permission to do so – just imagine the prospect of having 50 or more Swifts wheeling over the villages in a few summers time! Ideally, we would like to complete this work before the Swifts return in May 2022.

The committee decided to join with other interested parties in supporting the Smeaton Swifts Project project and provide some of the funds required. The Bog Oak Chair project is still awaiting the outcome of Colin’s negotiations.

Here is a link to a reply from Dave Williamson & Paul Simmons January 2022 regarding the ‘Smeaton Swifts Project‘.

Update on Swift Project Dave Williamson – 23rd May 2022

I wanted to update you on the Smeatons Swift nest boxes. You will be pleased to hear that this morning Paul and I completed the installation of 16 new boxes in the church tower bringing the total number to 30 boxes. Your very generous donations, both personal and that from the Doncaster Naturalists Society, have helped fund the materials and fittings that we needed to construct and install the boxes.

The Swifts arrived back in Kirk Smeaton on 11th May and some have been seen entering the original boxes. We even had one in one of the new boxes which was a surprise so soon after we’d installed them! We don’t expect any to nest in the new boxes this year but hope that any young birds returning from last or previous years that have not yet bred will inspect the new boxes and return next year to breed and so continue to expand the colony.

Please note that it is not possible to visit the site.

Many thanks for your support.