Monday, 30 January 2012

Skomer Volunteers Blown About



A couple of weeks ago 33 Skomer Volunteers gathered in the Brecon Beacons for a
friendly weekend and a walk. An epic walk up to the tops of Fan-y-Big was led by the friendly Skomer Warden, Chris Taylor, who is an experienced mountain man

The weather was challenging with 80mph gusts along the ridge but no-one really complained too much and nobody was lost.

The pub and the massive curry on Saturday night ensured the whole weekend was memorable and exceedingly social. A great opportunity for all to meet fellow volunteers, talk about island experiences and look forward to 2012.

More pictures on the Skomer facebook site.

From Chris Taylor

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Skokholm Restoration Report 2011

Position at the end of 2010
A huge amount had already been achieved by the Skokholm restoration project in 2010, The central block had been re-roofed and completely refurbished and refurnished. Early tasks were begun on the cottage, with some old mortar being chipped away and some walls being re-built. Lots of other jobs were completed that supported the work programme, such as the restoration of the red hut as a storage area and the creation of a food shop.
During 2011
clip_image002A finally relenting wind allowed the first work party of the year to land in South Haven on 9 April, unloading supplies and setting to work to prepare the island for its first overnight guests in several years, in May, June and July.  The first goal was to bring the Central Block accommodation up to visiting standards, to install the solar-powered electricity system in the Wheelhouse and Central Blocks, and set up the Separett compost toilets. The solar systems were soon installed and a generator powered test of the system illuminated one evening’s pre-prandial drinks and was a salutary moment in the history of Skokholm. 
Work in the Central Block continued apace. All the bedroom floors and walls not already decorated were painted, the shelves and hooks were placed in every available space, pictures were hung and the bedroom cupboards were assembled.  All the beds were cut down to 2’6” and rebuilt so that they matched the mattresses giving a more spacious feel to the rooms. Vanity units with sinks were fitted to each bedroom.
clip_image004Soon after, the professional building team led by Chris Ward arrived to begin work on the jetty restoration. The first job was to build the scaffolding and shuttering. Fortunately the team were blessed with perfect conditions and another batch of young volunteers from Skomer arrived. With three cement mixers going and a chain gang of people supplying them, in three hours around 13 tons of concrete had been laid. The next day the remaining volunteers laid another 5 tons to repair the next section, and to fill in the deep crack near the first big step. The new jetty surface holds two new large rings for the boat to tie up with. Just the very top section remains to be completed.
clip_image006The bedrooms and the lab were completed. Almost completely new furniture and loads of pictures make every room look spacious and bright. The lab has now been decorated and fitted out with new desks and chairs, and whilst it might seem nothing much has changed externally, the inside of the Central Block is now really nice.
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There is also now a shop on the island which during the summer months supplied most of the visitors’ needs, except for fresh food and butter. The modest profits will continue to be ploughed back into the project.
clip_image010A “sponsors day” held on 23 April brought around 40 people to the island for a curtailed day out in quite cool breezy conditions which certainly enlivened the return trip to Martins Haven. We hope a positive impression will encourage more support in the next two or three years. It proved a really good way to say thank you to them all, and Renate Thome, Friends Chair and Lizzie Wilberforce, Trust Conservation Manager, were able to say thanks personally during the day as well as accepting a cheque from the Friends of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
clip_image012One week to go before the first visitors of the year, and the outside of all the buildings has been whitewashed, the doors and windows painted and the library up and running, with both hard chairs for serious study and softer ones with cushions on which to lounge.
The first overnight visitors arrived at the beginning of May and continued for the three peak summer ‘puffin’ months of May-July and the island’s incredibly hard working warden Jerry Gillham continued the island’s conservation work and monitoring alongside visitor management and the restoration project during the break from workparties.
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The completed library, a furnished double bedroom, and the wheelhouse
August-September 2011

The final overnight guests left the island at the end of July, leaving the accommodation free for the second round of workparties.
clip_image020The first work party was joined by Chris Ward’s 6-strong building team to make a start on the cottage roof. Huge amounts of building materials had been moved to the island by hand with support from Dale Sailing and the Lady Helen.
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The roof was soon removed and the building gutted. All the interior walls were hacked off and the ceilings came down in the bedrooms
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The chimney place was gutted and made good, and the chimney itself re-built. The building team re-roofed the cottage and the volunteers then remained to complete the large task of hacking out and repointing the inside and outside of the building over the next six weeks.
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Inside, most rooms raked out ready for the application of lime mortar. The fire was fitted with a new multi-purpose burner, the fire place having been repaired. The cottage is now looking very similar to how was before, just better and more solid.
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Hacking off and lime mortaring the outside of the cottage, and covering the outside to protect from the sun the parts that have been lime mortared.
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Walls round the fireplace being re-mortared, and tongue and groove timber ceilings being installed.
Volunteers who have contributed
Seventy five volunteers gave massive amounts of time and effort to help out on the work parties and deliveries, amassing something in the region of 4300 hours donated to the project. It really would not have happened without their help and we are still looking at another two years of input so if anyone is interested we need to know about you!
The Friends and the Trust are actively looking for funds and sponsorship for materials for the next two years. Anyone and everyone can help with donations or even just links to potential sponsors we can contact. We will continue to need new furniture and many materials including large new water tanks and pumping equipment, solar panels and electrical and plumbing fittings – it is still a huge task, and will still going to take some effort to fund everything.
Plans for 2012
In 2012 the plan in the spring is to complete the cottage, modify the kitchen, re-roof the kitchen and wardens quarters and the garage (damaged by storms) and to create a breakfast bar in the Wheelhouse to reduce congestion in the kitchen area. By the end of April we expect that the cottage rooms will again be open as accommodation and that new seating will be installed in the Common Room.
In the autumn the plan is to install a water supply system. At the moment all water is carried from a well in 25L containers some 100m from the buildings, but by installing new water storage tanks below the well and above the buildings and a suitable pumping system (a water RAM which requires no power) the basics of a supply system can be introduced. Then the plan is to create a supply system to all the buildings (kitchen first) together with a solar heated water supply and suitable hygiene treatment on the supply side.
With a little luck we also hope to make the island an Accredited Bird Observatory again. It was last accredited in 1976 but with the reintroduction of appropriate bird ringing and trapping regimes we hope to achieve this if the materials can be found and the traps built.
The water supply and solar heating is estimated to cost around £25k plus the cost of any professional help required, and the Bird Observatory status around £5k.
Other plans for the future are fairly minor but include rebuilding the red hut, which is in a poor state, and try and create more storage around the buildings.
Summary
2011 has been a year of fantastic progress on Skokholm, thanks to the hard work of the island staff, long-term volunteers, the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer and all their volunteers
Major restoration has taken place to the cottage and the island has been open to paying visitors for the first time in several years. The income from the visitors has supported the island warden, helping the Trust to continue the conservation work that is key to protecting this internationally important nature reserve.
Watch this space for more news about the lighthouse too.
We hope that in 2012 will see even more visitors to the island with the accommodation in the cottage re-opening after refurbishment is completed this spring.