Not to quake in the face of a challenge, when our amazing Estates team were faced with the prospect of setting up a new site within just a week, not only did they rise to the challenge magnificently but they were kind enough to document the process for us in a diary penned by Estates Manager, Rob (Minty) Kendall. Grab a cuppa and see how the pros do it…
Day 1 & 2
The first thing to say is the work has not begun on day 1. Before we arrive with all the materials and tools etc, there is a huge amount of work involved. This includes discussing the design with colleagues, talking to contractors and the landowner, undertaking surveys of the site, risk assessment, applying for a budget from head office, ordering materials and designing the infrastructure. Anyhow, let’s assume that is all done. The first stages usually involve matters of underground services, drainage and landscaping. This usually needs a digger and lots of stone, pipes and wires. Playing with diggers is always a highlight for the team. This also provides the opportunity to future proof the services by adding cables and pipes where we think they could be needed in the future. Diggers are costed per hour so the first stages are all about efficiency so you don’t have machines lying around idle.
We start to build above the ground. The foundations are laid out. This may take time but having these spot on really pay dividends when you build. This is often done by one person, slowly and carefully.
With levels laid out the team can increase in number and the pace of change is faster. We build in timber which is fast, and it looks good. Most of our timber comes from local sawmills. Walls and roofs are added and the site really begins to take shape.
Other staff from the company turn up to give the Estates Team a hand on the build. It is a chance for discussion on the finer points of layout which has to work for the people running the forest school when it opens. In particular, the focus is on the main campfire and seating that forms the centre of activity on the site.
Now we are past building the timber structures, the work for the Estates Team focuses on the details such as the compost loo featured in a recent blog post, plumbing, doors, steps etc. Our Facilities Officer turns up to discuss signage and equipment that is needed. Meanwhile, the site is cleared of any unnecessary clutter (we filled a 6 yard skip)!
It is always a bit of a rush finishing off details, fitting safety equipment and tidying up our mess. Piles of timber off cuts are left to start fires. We put the tarp up to test the poles and the pulley system. It sort of worked but needed some adjustment and changes which included stronger pulleys and thicker rope.
Yes, I know there aren’t 8 days in a week! You always have to go back to attend to snags or things we just did not have the time to do. The snag list was not too big so our Estates Ranger spent the day ticking these off the list. It’s a lovely drive up to the Ilfracombe site and the sun is shining so we don’t mind.
Rewarding the team
Forest School Manager Nick informs me that once all the hard work was complete, the team rewarded themselves with a well earned cup of cowboy coffee. Being someone who was unfamiliar with this term I had to ask what this was and was provided with a recipe in case anyone out there ever needs to make a coffee when you have no way to filter the grain…
How To Make a Cowboy Coffee
Light a fire
Heat up water
Meanwhile place a stick in the fire allowing the end to burn
Add coffee grain to cup
Fill with hot water
Dunk the burning stick into the cup (has to have lots of embers on it)
Coffee should separate from water leaving a small scum on the top, while lost grains sink
Why not have a go and tell us how you get on?
Don’t forget that if you have a site to set up and are wondering where to start, we offer a Consultancy service, tailorable to all sizes of site and budget, to get you started in the right direction with a helping hand!
For now, I’m delighted to say that Ilfracombe Forest School is now accepting young people into the woods and is looking absolutely fantastic and the whole company would like to give Bert and his team a massive thank you for all their hard work!
Author: Rob Kendall (AKA Bert, AKA Minty), Estates Manager
Date: Friday 30th April 2021