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by Robert Cooper

Chapter 10

Sheldon found Standish and I and told us he had identified the run of the pipes and cables and also the entry place in the manor wall. He has covered it again but he could see the void quite clearly with a good torch. Perhaps nearer the time we could use something like chimney sweeps rods to probe the void and see where it ended, hopefully at the meter room. He does not want to open up a full trench yet for safety reasons but assures us that it will only take half a day. He asked us to find out if a b ed of gravel underlay for the cable was required so he could have the material on hand a lso separation distance between water and gas feed pipes. He recommended gravel infill anyway to prevent waterlogging and rainwater running into the house. When he opened the full trench he would give it a slope away from the Manor for the same reason.

Drove to Mr. Lang's friend to look at the horses. One was a magnificent all black stallion. His name was Black Knight. He was bright of eye and immediately came over to me in the paddock and nudged me on the shoulder then promptly nosed at my jacket pocket for the treats that I had hidden there. Gave him a couple and it was "bonding immediate". This was MY man he said. Lang gave a chuckle and said "You got yourself a horse Sir. He will not leave you now. He was already saddled so I hopped up from his left side, he stood still until I was seated then at a knee from me he trotted off round the paddock. Using only knees and foot pressure we did some neat moves in the paddock.

The owner said that he had some dressage training but had been too headstrong for the show ring.

He was surprised that he had chosen me so quickly as he was a little cautions of strangers but he could see that the bond was already made. We looked over the rest of his stock and we all rode a few. Black kept a careful eye on me. I remounted Black and rode alongside Mr. Lang. I laughed at the look on his face and said

"You want them all don't you?"

"Yes of course, you do too."

"How many does he have for sale"?

"12 horses and six ponies. He also has two young grooms, brothers aged 14 and 16 who need a job and a home ."

"O.K. Do a deal, ask the boys if they want to work at the Manor and we will come over when the stables are ready and ride them all back. It's not that far." I will arrange a money transfer with Mr. Wat son when we get back.

"We may have to double them up on lead reins but we will manage. I'd love to take Black Knight now but I will tell him that I will be back for him soon. Bring a trailer on the Range Rover for all the tack"

I went to Black K night's head and explained to him what was about to happen. He shook his head up and down as if he understood and cantered off with the rest.

I left Mr. Lang to do the deal, much to the surprise of the owner who thought he would have to sell off the rest one by one. Now they would be with their stable mates and Black Knight had already bonded.

Thus we had started The Braeborne Manor Riding Stables.

In addition to the two utilities specialist teams estimates, after two weeks we had estimates from English Heritage recommended contractors and from contractors recommended by the L.B.O. So we had four estimates for the each of the two services. We also decided to go only for the Gas supply companies estimate as it was a simple pipe lay and meter job. The Kitchen fitters would deal with the connection of their appliances. The meter room was adjacent to the kitchens so no great run of pipes was involved.

The most important thing would be that the interruption of supply would be as brief as possible. The voids in the building looked big enough to run most of the new cables and pipes alongside the old until "change over" time when the old could be removed. At worst we could be "off service" for three or four days. Mrs Lang could negotiate pub meals and we could exist on bottled water for a few days. About half the staff had their own homes and extra time could be allowed for them to go home at mid day for meals, or given extra leave for a few days. The rest of us could camp out.

Now to study and compare the estimates. I suggest that Standish, Geoff and I should each go through and make notes then meet and compare notes. Geoff said that as he had no experience of major works that Standish and I would be best. We agreed that Geoff would look over my shoulder and put in a bit of common sense where appropriate.

I saw right away that the Utilities Specialist Teams had the edge. Both were reasonably priced, both had ALL our requirements as marked on the plans and both beat the other bids as far as time went.

The Electricity Board team were the only ones to include the supply of wall lamps and chandelier in the new Estate office and the chandelier refurbishment in the Foyer and they recognised the need for multiple circuits to balance the loads in each area, which accounted for some of the extra cost.

The Water Team took notice of our shower and bath needs and also the request for "service taps" to allow tap and w/c repairs or replacement without shutting down the whole Manor.

They were a bit above the price of the others but their estimates were more complete. I felt that this was the route to follow especially as they could both start works a lot sooner and with bigger crews would finish more quickly.

I wondered what Standish thought?

Standish said that his main concern was the length of disruption involved. Both the Utilities Teams were able to start sooner, bring a bigger crew and therefore finish quicker. Yes, they were more expensive but they both followed the work brief more closely. Both the other teams had omitted vital parts of the brief, especially the electricians who had failed to balance the circuit load, just presenting one single ring main, if one part failed then the whole Manor would be without power.

The water estimates did not consider area stop valves so for any repairs the whole Manor would have to be drained down. This was not acceptable. It seemed that neither of these teams had experience of dealing with a restoration of a building of this size. He was therefore recommending the two Utilities Teams. They also offered guarantees against delay and large overspend. So I contacted our legal team, gave them all the paperwork including copies of the marked floor plans and asked them to draw up contracts ready for signature. I wanted a bonus for early completion and penalties for late.

Thus, with two signatures I spent about £500.000. There would be about the same on the Kitchen and Laundry, but I will leave that to Standish, Mrs. Lang and Mrs. Renney to organise. I just sign the cheque s .

Sheldon, dig your trenches. Water pipe/electricity cable separation 50cms. Depth for water 1 Mtr. with 10cms gravel underlay, Other pipes ½Mtr. With warning tape at 300mms.on top of gravel backfill. Gravel overlay up to 20 0 then earth top fill.

Find the void and see where it goes.

So. It starts. A HUGE upheaval to our home lasting more than 6 months.

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