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14th February 2019

No job too small

The Estate Yard team is the first point of contact for maintenance enquiries from almost 350 households, 26 farms and numerous commercial premises across the Estate’s 14,000 acres.

In total, we oversee the day-to-day maintenance of around 1,000 buildings, including Englefield House, now 400-years-old, and its associated infrastructure. Our team of six comprising carpenters/joiners, a stonemason/bricklayer and multi-skilled trades has a diverse mix of skills and expertise. We are on-call 24/7, 365 days a year and no two days are ever the same as unexpected jobs always arise.

In the space of a week, each member of the team undertakes a wide range of tasks; they could be fixing a hinge on someone’s back door, repairing a broken roof that’s been hit by a falling branch, or unblocking a septic tank that serves several properties.

The team also makes, from scratch, new doors, windows and other joinery that are needed to repair the often-ornate timberwork on many of the Estate’s buildings. Effective maintenance directly impacts on the quality of life of those people who live and work on the Estate, so every job, large or small, is important.

Additionally, the Estate Yard is responsible for a number of ongoing projects such as the Estate’s annual painting programme which works on a five-year cycle and extends to around 60 properties each year, including cottages, farmhouses and anything else on the Estate that is painted!

Senior team members also oversee full refurbishments involving stripping houses back to their core to enable modernisation often for the first time in more than half a century. At any one time there can be up to a dozen projects either being planned, underway, or nearing completion. These are typically undertaken by external contractors with professional consultants appointed where necessary, depending upon their scale and complexity.

We can also be called upon to support major investment projects, such as the expansion of the farm shop, which will be rebranded Cobbs at Englefield when it opens next spring.

The Estate’s approach to the all-important topic of Health and Safety also falls under our remit with a forum for all departments being held three times each year.

The team’s work is not just limited to residential or commercial properties. One of the most substantial projects for the Yard team over the last 12 months has been a programme of modernisation of the private water supply system at Englefield. This impressive piece of Victorian engineering is a vital part of the parish infrastructure given the hundreds of people (and livestock) who rely on it.

Many people might not be aware that Englefield’s water supply is pumped from a borehole deep into a chalk aquifer and then up to a 100-year-old Victorian dome covered reservoir. The reservoir is located in the Park above Englefield House and holds 84,000 gallons of water. Having passed through a water treatment plant the water is then distributed around the parish through many miles of underground pipework.

The system is closely monitored by the Estate, the Environment Agency and the local authority, and the Estate’s maintenance team manages its ongoing upkeep. During 2018 this involved repairs to the reservoir, installation of new valves and water meters to better monitor consumption and to enable leaks to be identified and dealt with more quickly. The drought conditions during 2018 highlighted more than ever that water is a very precious commodity. This is particularly so when relying on a private water supply with only a limited volume available.

Through careful management of the supply and with the assistance of local residents the Estate was able to avoid imposing measures to restrict the use of water this year and we intend to keep on taking good care of the system as our predecessors have done for centuries.

Writer: Duncan Rands, Building Manager