The Estates Department as part of the Corporate Services Division, plans its works around the standard accounting financial year from 1st April to 31st March, and at this time we are already focused on the coming year and the tasks which require planning and implementing across all four gardens. Spring time is also when the garden itself is coming back to life after the winter period and we see the many spring flowering plants and trees signalling this regeneration. It’s also a good time to look back and review the progress we’ve made over the year and the many interesting projects undertaken.
One of the first tasks instigated in 2016 was the restoration of the Logan Walled Garden ornamental pond. The pond had suffered from deterioration over a long period and was looking rather dilapidated and losing significant amounts of water through leaks. The beautiful and numerous koi carp had been removed previously to temporary storage ponds so that the water could be allowed to drain away prior to the commencement of the works. As the pond is ‘Listed’ as part of the Walled Garden, plans and specification for the project had to be developed in association with Hardies our professional property surveyors, in order to secure Listed Building Consent and a Building Warrant. With the necessary funding for the project already in place from The Monument Trust and the Hugh Fraser Foundation, a procurement exercise was undertaken and the Luce Bay Group, a local company, was awarded the contract. The project ran smoothly coming in under budget, and the final result is clear to see. The pond is now rightly back at the centre of the magnificent walled garden and a fitting focal point for visitors for many years to come.
The Logan pond however was not the only water feature tackled this year, with a new more efficient and easier to maintain pump installed at the Rock Garden pond in Edinburgh. The John Hope Gateway pond had also suffered from leaks and deterioration since the building opened in 2008 and sadly drew attention away from the lovely terraced Biodiversity Garden adjacent. With Edinburgh company Water Gems Ltd successfully winning the tender for this refurbishment, they began in October, the daunting task of clearing out all of the existing liner and materials through the narrow access paths and off site. They upgraded the surrounding walls and installed a new access path around the pond to allow for safe and efficient maintenance to the Gateway building. Once the new high grade liner and pumping system was installed, the ponds were finally refilled and the simple but elegant water falls over the Caithness stone walls began to flow once again. This successful project, again under budget has delivered a wonderful and impressive transformation of Biodiversity Garden.
At the Edinburgh garden an extensive and ongoing asbestos removal programme was successfully implemented at a number of locations. We have a statutory obligation to manage this hazardous substance, the removal of which leads to improved access and working environment and reduces the ongoing and onerous liability for the management of asbestos at our sites.
Works were undertaken to refurbish the two bothies at the main garden and Nursery. This involved the fitting of new flooring, works to the façade, new kitchen units and fresh paint throughout which has really made a difference to the look and feel of the facilities and hopefully lifted the spaces making a positive difference to all who use them.
A significant step forward in the management of the Estate took place in July with the award of a new Hard FM contract to Arthur McKay Ltd. Arthur McKay who are based in Edinburgh, are one of the UK’s leading building support services providers and bring with them almost 60 years of experience in the field. This contract fulfils our ongoing obligations to Scottish Ministers to have all of our service providers appointed through approved competitive procurement processes. McKay’s will undertake almost 200 planned maintenance procedures every month, delivering a much required improvement in the management of our assets at all four sites. They will also undertake small project works such as those completed this year; John Hope Gateway decking improvements and handrails, Pine Cottage Kitchen Logan, café and patio refurbishment and water main upgrade at Benmore, as well as the new tarmac paths at Edinburgh and Logan to name but a few. This contract allows us to have a single point of contact for Estates related works and much improved financial management processes.
Another major and critical piece of work which arose this year was the underpinning of the central garden wall in the Logan Walled Garden. This wall, which is 30 metres long and over 5 metres tall required significant structural work to make safe after a serious defect was identified at a section of the base. Luce Bay Group again won the contract through a competitive tender process and undertook the successful underpinning and reconstruction work. At this time the opportunity was taken to remove invasive plants from the top of the wall, repoint and replace the coping along the full length. This will provide greatly improved weatherproofing of the structure and secure its long term future.
The new Nursery Glasshouse was also constructed this year, the 1200m² facility is divided into 5 separate zones with a central passageway. It has underfloor heating throughout with an additional perimeter finned pipe for heating boost when required. Zone 1 in the glasshouse is a new Nursery propagation house and includes heated benches throughout, fog unit and misting benches. Watering network is UV filtered and boosted to ensure sufficient water pressure is available no matter how many hoses are being utilised at any one time. The internal environment is monitored and managed by a TREND management system which controls; venting, heating, shade & thermal screens and gable fan units. This is the first new glasshouse built at Edinburgh in over 25 years and will hopefully provide a decanting space for future works in the North East Corner.
Other major works completed this year included the Herbarium Lift replacement, which was especially welcomed by the Herbarium team who have to transport hundreds of specimens to and from the facility and novelty of stairs was wearing off! A programme of cleaning and weed removal on the Front Range glasshouses was also undertaken by SG Access our specialist rope access team. This work will reduce instances of cracks due to root penetration under the glazing bars, minimising closures for repairs and also increase light transmission into the houses. All in all a busy and interesting year with many challenges to confront. This coming year will be no different as we focus on moving forward with the asbestos removal programme and the daily routine of building repairs and maintenance. Watch this space and we’ll keep you fully up to speed as we progress!