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by Robert Cooper

Chapter 3

I got hold of Geoff. and Edward to see how his survey of local sports facilities was going. Turned out that there were none within the local area. Nearest p ool and golf course were more than 15 miles distant, there was no fitness centre within 20 miles so there would be no local competition. The school that served the Manor villages was a ten mile bus ride and was at cost to the parents. There was also no horse riding establishment anywhere near.

W ith this information I could start working on my presentation to the 'Vicars Conference'.

I must get Sheldon's input about land availability.

I had already searched suitable prefabricated building companies on line and had a rough idea of costs. Tomorrow I must get onto the Estate Accountants t o see if my scheme was viable and their ideas about funding. With equipment I was estimating for the fitness centre about £2 ½ million with a further £1 ½ million plus equipment for the school.

O nce I had Sheldon's land appraisal I could gather estimates for gas, water and electric services. I wanted to get things going sooner rather than later as once the New Year had passed, Geoff. and I would need to get stuck in to some serious work for our 'A' Levels.

The Vicar's Conference.

This gathering was well attended with representatives from both villages, two of the leasehold farms, both vicars, wives of both publicans and a couple of ladies from the Manor staff, about 18 people in all.

I started the ball rolling by outlining my ideas for the Manor Estate. I detailed my plans for a L eisure C entre with pool, gymnasium, squash and tennis courts, pitch and put t greens and a Young Person's Adventure Playground.

On the same site would be a school catering for the needs of the community.

Also at the Manor Stables would be a Riding Centre.

I suggested that we take each item in turn.

The Leisure Centre and the S chool were well received as was the Riding centre. The adventure playground was not though t a good idea but perhaps swings and roundabouts instead. This I thought was a little "old hat".

I then explained that the whole venture would initially be funded by the Manor with a subsidised membership for Estate residents and full fee for outsiders. I expected that as there w ere no local facilities that there would be wider interest outside.

I also hoped for some outside interest for the school. This would depend o n the interest of the Local Education authority. I would investigate and report back on this.

This more or less concluded the business of the meeting and tea and biscuits appeared. During the general conversation I was complimented on the 'breath of fresh air' across the Manor. Geoff. also garnered compliments about the fresh attitude of the Manor. People felt as if they mattered again and that we wanted to improve the estate and it's residents welfare .

Both of us mentioned that we were thinking about 'opening up' the Manor for occasional functions but NOT weddings . This was met with considerable interest but we did not go into any detail yet.

People drifted off leaving just the two vicars and the two publicans wives. They all expressed surprise at the enthusiasm and interest shown by a normally conservative bunch. They felt sure that when we surveyed the whole community we would get more support. On that note Geoff. and I went back to the Manor. We were to start a new module tomorrow and we wanted an early night.

We had intended to work our normal study schedule through the summer to be sure we were ready for 'A' levels next spring. This did not mean that Andrew and Anthony w ere left alone. We had plans for plenty of activities for them.

We asked Edward to see if Sheldon could spare some time in the next couple of days to discuss land for our project. We also asked him to get Mr. Lang to ready our horses after breakfast as we wanted to see the Villa site and to call in at Upton Lodge to ensure all is well there.

When we arrived at the Villa we saw considerable activity.

When we approached the Lead A rchaeologist he looked very pleased to see us. He was about to call us as they had found something very interesting. Due to the undisturbed situation, they were able to establish accurate dating levels. They had uncovered a small cache of weapons and musket balls near the corner that they were digging. This dated to about 1650 ish and was certainly Civil War Period indicating that the villa ruins had been used as a defensive position. He took us over and showed us. This cache had showed up on the ground penetrating radar scan. There were certainly muskets and balls there. He said that there were other 'hard returns' on the site scan but they did not have permission to dig them yet . Some of these returns were deeper in the ground indicating older artifacts. Once they had found all there was in this site he might ask for permission to dig more sites but they had plenty yet to do her e.

I asked about ownership of these things found as I had in mind a small display of some sort in the Manor. He said that it was all mine and as there was plenty of Civil War artifacts about then Museums were not that interested but he felt the local history unit may be interested in combining with me on a display. It was the Roman levels that he wanted to get down to. They were going to take plenty of photographs, then lift them for conservation. Once they were clear he wanted to go deeper to expose the wall foundations. From those they would be able to estimate the size of the building and on the inner side of the wall they may be lucky and get a floor level.

We left them to it and rode over to the Lodge. Over there all seemed well. Mr. Rowlands had managed to get about half the available land planted with cereal crops and was creating a 'kitchen garden' to produce foodstuffs and fruit for the house. They had certainly been bus y and the land was already starting to generate future income.

B ack at the Manor, we found Steven in the stables workshop doing a grand job cleaning the bench mounted power tools. He showed me that he was pulling the plugs before he started work on them. As they were screwed down he had little bother working on them with his left hand. He had scrounged plastic gloves and kitchen wrap to keep his hands and plaster cast reasonably clean and Mr. Lang was keeping an eye on him as well. Steven admitted that he was slow but at least he was being useful in between t utor sessions with Mr. Timms.

Geoff. and I went and changed into our indoor clothes, told Standish and Edward where we were and then went down to the 'school' rooms. Worked on the new module with Mr. Timms until lunch time, then another two hours after that. I had the forethought to have a strong wi-fi relay s set up to cover the whole Manor and stables so using our Laptops was no problem anywhere in the Manor area. Mr. Timms had his own laptop which was connected to our system.

When we finished, Edward came to the private office. He had received a message to say we could go to Stevens house any time from tomorrow on. The police search had produced other evidence. It seems that Mr. Wilkins was in deep deep trouble and was sure to get a lengthy jail term. I told Edward to make an appointment to meet a police person there at 10.30 and to advise Mrs. Sloan and Mr Johns of the new findings and of our pending visit. The visit went well. Steven sorted, out what he wanted. We cleared out all the food from the fridge and freezer. Turned off the electricity and water supplies and made sure the house was secure. The policeman said that he would add the house to the patrol list to keep an eye on things.

Next stop at the solicitors office to sign yet more forms and see if he knew what the new findings were. He did not. Then back to the Manor.

I wanted to get with Geoff. and Edward to produce a questionnaire for the whole estate about the scheme and gain some input. I would ask Standish if any staff who lived locally would deal with distribution. The return would be through the two pubs and churches as collection points and Edward would collect from there.

We also set out our proposal in a n e-mail letter to the accountants with 'guestimated' costs to gain their thought s on the feasibility and how to fund the project.

Sheldon was due after lunch to tell us what land we could use. Once we had this information we could obtain estimates for gas, water and electric supplies.

We also needed advice on water disposal as there would be too much for a conventional leech bed or soak away to cope with especially with the chemical aspect. I did however want to investigate non chlorine alternatives for swimming pool purification.

Oh well! I must learn to make haste slowly and curb my youthful impatience but I did so want get things don e.

Sheldon told us that the barns on the other side of the Manor were quite dilapidated and in the wrong position to be useful. We could have that area and the land around it. It was quite near the road and not far from both villages. He would suggest a more suitable site for a single machine store nearer to the Manor and fuel point. For now I would have to be patient while the questionnaire was produced and returned. Geoff. and I decided to change and ride over and look at the barn site. We asked Edward and Steven if they wanted to come. They both wanted to come so while they changed I asked Mr. Lang to get our three horses and a pony saddled up for us. We told Standish where we were going, also phoned Sheldon to tell him that we were going to look.

This was the far western edge of the Manor lands and I had not been here before. Sheldon had ov erstated the condition of the barns, they looked as if a good gust of wind would flatten them. They were about 150 meters from a minor road with a gravel feeder road into the barns. Ideal site really. The surrounding area did not look all that productive either. I told Edward to get a large scale map of the area next time he was in town so we could draw an outline of our scheme. Meanwhile I would get precise measurements of the buildings so we could draw accurately to scale. We rode back to the Manor through the two villages to assess the distances.

The two villages and the leisure site formed an unequal sided triangle and were within a good walking distance.

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