Meet Marisha – Premises Officer

Am I really vacuuming the courtyard?

 

Hello, I am Marisha, Premises Officer here at Knole.  I have worked here since March 2010 and I love the experience.  I work alongside Pauline,  supporting her on a day-to-day basis together with keeping a watchful eye over our Health & Safety compliance. We have a large number of contractors for essential project work, House and Estate maintenance and smaller ad-hoc works.  As you can imagine the task of keeping Knole maintained to a standard that ensures a fantastic customer experience is a huge task.  We are always busy and the role is extremely varied. Ranging from climbing through tiny voids to identify water leaks, up into the attic spaces to maintain security and fire alarm systems and then the next moment assisting in the car park or helping customers to find their way.  We have an ever growing team of volunteers, without whom we could not do the fantastic job we do. Being part of the Premises team means we see things others don’t, one thing I love is to see so many years of graffiti from the various trades over the hundreds of years.

A spot of carpentry

A casual chat to HRH Prince Charles

A casual chat to HRH Prince Charles

I came to work at Knole following a career in Facilities Management in London and Surrey and it is great to live only 10 minutes away from where you work.  The feeling I get every time I arrive here at Knole  is amazing, I am so lucky to work at such a beautiful place which I have such a passion for.

Gwappling with the Undergrowth…

Drive from the House

The first sight any visitor has of Knole is our half mile drive.  The drive starts just off the main high street of Sevenoaks, winding its way down a wooded hill and undulating through the park and around to the front of the house.

We do their best to keep the drive clean and tidy, but this year we decided we needed to tackle the steep banks either side of the drive that run down toward the ticket hut.

Lisa assends the steep banking

The changeable weather this summer has resulted in an explosion of growth all over the park,  this is particularly noticeable in visitor areas, so we jump into action.

This was going to be a serious job that would need more than our usual pool of volunteers, so we put a call out for help. Not only across the property but also within the local area via the local newspaper and the Do-It volunteer website.

We started on a Monday which is a closed day for the property so we had less traffic to manage, this also allowed us to utilise the space on the drive.

The start of a very big pile!

So with a truck full of tools including shovels, loppers, rakes, brooms, strimmer and leaf blower and with secateurs and gloves at the ready we got to the task in hand.  We did well with the weather, for once and it was a nice warm day!

Not only did we cut back the brambles and lop the low branches on the trees we also conducted a full litter pick and cleared the gutters and drains and swept down the path.  We even decided to move the entry sign as the volunteers pointed out that in its current position on a bank and under the trees it was difficult to read.  So over the other side of the road it went – holes courtesy of our master hole digger Steven (you may remember him from water, water everywhere!)

Where do we begin?

Where do we begin?

On day two we started by finishing off the top part of the drive however it was a much warmer day and we were about to get out into the part of the drive that has no shelter from the sun.  We split into two teams Steven and Paul took the strimmer and the leaf blower to cut back the long grass at the edge of the road that was beginning to obscure the signs and marker posts.  The rest of us retired to the shade of stable court to tackle the ever-increasing battle against the weeds.

Steven and Adam head off to empty the unload the truck of cuttings

Steven and Adam head off to empty the unload the truck of cuttings

Two days later  our objective was achieved, there’s still work to be done and we will definitely be organising another concerted effort once he Autumn takes hold, but in the short-term the Premises team will continue to keep up with the usual maintenance.

We’d like to thank all the volunteers that joined in, particularly the new additions Paul, Colin, Christine, Bridget, Jean & Jim.  Some enjoyed it so much they are coming back for more.

Jo, Steven, Pauline and Marisha

**Click on images to enlarge**

A Sense of Community

The Jazz band get us in the mood..

The single biggest event for the Premises team and the property each year is the annual Knole Open House.  The open house coincides with the Sevenoaks festival which is a week-long celebration of the town and its people with many events going on in and around the town.

Each year Knole throws open its doors free of charge for an evening for the local community to come and enjoy.

Locals queue waiting for our doors to open

It is a big event for us and requires many months of planning made all the harder this year as it was to be held alongside the National Trust Council dinner – the last event Dame Fiona Reynolds would attend as the outgoing Director of the National Trust –  So no pressure then!

As well as the house and garden being open to the public the property also runs several  stalls and activities including Tudor skittles and Dressing up, Jazz band singers and musicians in the Ballroom and Great Hall, a

Lisa and Chris gear up for Wattle and Daub

Wattle and Daub demonstration (and join in), shop tastings, Barbecue and Pimms tents, a wonderful free cake stall run by our Volunteer partner Waitrose, children’s craft stall and much more.  This year we also opened up Mason tower rooms for tours,  this is a new area we hope to open to the public in the future.

The Premises team called in all available volunteers for the day as we are responsible for not only ensuring the place is clean, litter and weed free but also for setting up all the individual activities.  So we started the day early setting up the garden with all its

We begin erecting our many..many gazebos

associated signs and information and delivering & erecting gazebos, tables and chairs and any additional equipment required for the stalls.  Once we had finished in the Garden we could then start on the courtyards and house.

In total we delivered and erected a total of 9 gazebos of varying sizes, 22 tables, 40 chairs, 10 benches, 30 signs, 6 nicely pressed table cloths, two Wattle frames, 8 buckets of clay and tools, 8 sets of ropes and stanchions, 4 music stands, two plinths and dressing up picture frames, three power leads, a very heavy Tudor Skittle Alley, a croquet set and a replica of a 19thcentury graffiti wall constructed by our team – we’re nothing if not diverse!!

Marisha and Pauline share a joke while taking a break in the fire engine

And whilst all this was going on the caterers had arrived and were setting up for the Council Dinner up in Retainers Gallery.  This is an area high above the Great Hall that was restored recently and is another area we hope to open up to the public.  Again the Premises team helped out by installing some additional lighting and setting up the PA system for the speeches.

As 6pm rang out from the Knole Tower Clock, we were all set and ready to go, the weather had even held out for us.  Outside the main doors an excited queue had formed along the driveway.  It looked like it was going to be a busy night.  Some of our volunteers were running some of the events such as Wattle and Daub and meeting and greeting visitors to the garden and also helping with parking in the car parks.  The rest of us could mingle with the public for a while and enjoy the atmosphere.

Rebecca, Anne and Mark join the fire engine fun

Waitrose kindly donated lots of lovely treats. Binni one of our Monday Waitrose volunteers provides refreshments to the fire service visitors….. this made her very happy 🙂

It was great to see so many people sitting enjoying a picnic in Green Court listening to the Jazz, the kids playing Tudor Skittles and croquet in the garden and the families getting pleasure out of dressing up in traditional Tudor costumes.  All these while discovering the House and Gardens, hearing and understanding the building work for this magnificent property and achieved under the gaze of the National Trust Council – that’s us “Going Local”

But it wasn’t all over yet – what went up had to come down so as soon as the last person had left we got to tearing it all down and putting it away essential to be ready before we opened to the public the following day.

We would truly like to thank all staff and volunteers, their kids and partners who helped clear up; it made it so much less painful for our team and allowed us to enjoy a celebratory glass of lemonade at the end of an extremely long day.

Did we pull it off? – Oh yes we most certainly did!!!                              ** Click on images to enlarge**

Our special thanks go to:

All staff and volunteers for their help

Petworth & Chartwell for the loan of their Gazebos

Roberts Electrical for their lighting work in Retainers

Zest Cleaning for a super-fast clean on the night

Waitrose for providing sweets, bottled water and running the cake stall

Kent Fire Brigade for supplying Firemen and engine to play with!

and finally all the locals who took the time to come and enjoy it

Jo, Pauline, Marisha and Steven

Heavy Plant Crossing….

If anybody has ever visited Knole they would surely have visited the Orangery.  This is a fantastic space located next to the Visitor center on the south side of Green court.

Moving on out before the BIG prune!

One of the main features of the Orangery are the seven large lemon trees that have resided there for some years.  However a combination of the damp and cold conditions in the winter and the lack of direct sun during the summer have resulted in some very sick trees!  They have become infected with a variety of pests such as aphids,

Soft scale – just like cotton wool in miniature

mealy bugs, soft scale insects and red spider mites, and this was leaving a black sticky residue on the planters and the floor and generally giving the trees a very poor appearance.

Pesky Red spider mite enjoying a meal

A couple of our hardworking volunteers have been fighting a losing battle to restore the trees back to health and so the decision was taken to call in  the Nurseries who originally supplied the trees for their advice.

They informed us that the trees needed to go outside for the summer as the sun and rain would help clean off some of the pests and mold and that the trees could be sprayed with insecticide to kill off the rest of the little blighter’s.

This was easier said than done for a couple of reasons:

  1. How were we going to get the very heavy trees out of the Orangery?
  2. Where were we going to put them?
  3. What were we going to replace them with?
Ready for the chop

Ready for the chop

A rescue plan was “hatched”  and  the nursery offered to move and transport the trees down to the Brewhouse tea room yard for a summer holiday,  replacing them in the Orangery with some large bay trees until the lemon trees return in the winter.

The team helped out by removing the trees from their planters and moving them to the far end of the Orangery so the helpful horticulturalists could prune them and load them into their lorry in the garden.  While the guys were loading up we got to work sweeping up the dead leaves &  scrubbing the sticky goo from the planters and floor ready for the replacement bay trees.

Beautiful bays

Steven scrubs the stone floor to remove sticky sap

Once seriously pruned and loaded the trees round to the Brewhouse yard where placed in the yard.  After a good dousing in water we left them to their own devices.  Wyevale will come back each week to spray, fertilise and check on the condition of both the lemon trees and the bays.  If weather conditions are good then they should start to recover in 6 – 8 weeks.

now that’s one serious trim!

We wish them a speedy recovery!

We would like to thank Wyevale Nurseries for all their help and advice.

Jo, Marisha, Steven and the team

** Click on images to enlarge **

Oh Jubilation and celebration…….

Let the flags fly

June saw the long Jubilee Weekend Celebrations.

National Trust properties were expecting high visitor numbers and so the premises began to prepare for the long weekend.

Fortunately the new stone path in Green Court had been completed and the barriers removed.  Michael our groundsman came in to cut  and put the stripes back into the lawn and the volunteers ensured that the site was spic and span by cleaning down signs, litter picking and weeding and preparing the overflow car parks.

One job that had to be done was to change the flag at the top of the entrance tower.  All year Knole flies the Union Jack flag from Masons Tower, but for the special weekend a Jubilee flag was purchased for the special celebration.

Steven, Mark and Pauline prepare to fly the flag on top of Masons Tower

Now, unusually for Knole, it was a windless morning so we had to wait till the afternoon to see its full effect.  We also had a number of small hand flags that we decided to place along the edge of the pathways around green court.  It was a simple and understated way for Knole to play its part in the celebrations and seemed to go down well with the visitors.

During the weekend we also held our annual plant stall.  The plant stall is prepared and run by the volunteers, many who grow and supply the plants on sale.  Again the Premises team help by supplying and erecting the tables and taking the site pick-up to collect the plants from the volunteers homes.

The sale was very successful in raising over £600 which will go towards the Knole in Flux appeal.

Waving in the wind.. Green Court

Unfortunately the weather played its part in reducing the number of visitors we had expected but thanks to all that helped and visited that weekend.  We even gave out the hand flags to the children on the Tuesday which they seemed very happy about and they can wave them during the Olympics!

As a special treat click on the link below to view a time-lapse video of the weekend visitors in Green Court.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v3Nmv2c-nY

Jo, Pauline, Mark and Steven

Up, Up and away……..

Up, Up and away……..

Wednesday was an exciting and nervous day for the team at Knole.

As part of the ongoing scaffold erection, so work can start on the East Front, the scaffolders needed to put in place the first of many roof beams that will support the temporary roof.

The sheer size of the Crane dwarfed the House on the East Front

The sheer size of the Crane dwarfed the House on the East Front

Enter the 150 tonne mobile crane.  Just getting it into the park was an achievement in itself as it had to negotiate the narrow High Street of Sevenoaks and then in through the gates at the top of our drive.  It arrived suitably early so as not cause too many traffic problems.

Once the drive was negotiated they then had to crawl through the narrower south garden gate and round to the rear of the house.  A temporary roadway was constructed days before, to take the massive weight of the crane and roof beams.

The Premises Team were on hand to ensure that all the lifting areas were kept clear of all non- essential personnel and that the house was empty.  This was necessary to ensure that should anything go wrong no one would get hurt from any falling objects.

When lifting commenced they started with some small (ish) supporting beams for  the main roof beams to be attached to.

Then came the main lift – Pauline the Premises Manager was getting increasing nervous, any slight mis-calculation and we could be saying goodbye to the showrooms at Knole!

First beam up – beautiful sky above Knole

Up went the first beam – spectacular stuff on an absolutely beautiful day – up and over the main roof.  The crane driver was being directed by his support staff as he could not see the landing point over the other side of the house.

Watching from Queens Court was equally nervous as a 1.5 tonne beam swung close the chimney stacks.. However the driver delivered it with pinpoint accuracy and the scaffolders secured it in place.  Beam no. 2 went equally as smoothly and Pauline was very much relieved when everything was down and secured and we could open for business once again.

Thank goodness I was not on the North side to witness this! from that angle" - Pauline Premises Manger

“Thank goodness I was not on the North side to witness this, from that angle!” – Pauline Premises Manager

The crane will return on Tuesday 26th (Open Garden day) – come along and see for yourself from our special viewing space, to lift the remaining seven beams… so we all hope it goes as smoothly as today.

Pinch point… 3 tonne of steel and aluminium cross high in the sky above the North front

Thanks to all involved in a successful lift and exciting day –

Pauline, Steven, Jo and Marisha

Words and pictures – Jo and Pauline

******Click on images to open in larger format*************

Tanks for the memory…….

As the Premises team, we are responsible for all the water supply and storage on site. It recently came to our attention that we had an old water tank that needed to be replaced.

Inspection of the new tanks, the guys talk tactics

Unfortunately most of our tanks are located in roof voids above the house and are not easily accessible. The tank we were going to replace was located in the roof space above one of our many towers and sits above the Venetian Ambassadors Bedroom (VAB).

What lies beneath..

The concern was that if the current water tank failed there would be nothing to prevent water cascading through the ceiling into the VAB and on to the King James bed and the artefacts below causing immeasurable damage to the delicate fabrics and objects.
The plan was to replace the tank and place it into a secondary tray that contains a sensor so that should any water leaked out or overflowed it will be captured in the tray and an alarm would trigger.
Our boiler and heating contractor Pegrums were employed to carry out the work. This was going to be no easy task as the roof void was 3 floors up and accessed by a narrow winding staircase and even smaller hatchway out on to the roof and into the roof void.

Chris inspects the size of the space – its small!

Firstly the Premises team had to make good the room. We cleared out 20 sacks of miscellaneous rubbish that had built up over the years from previous contractors such as pipe lagging, insulation and old heavy steel piping. Once we had got all of that down the narrow stairs our volunteer carpenters John & David made good the somewhat rickety floor so that the plumbers could safely put down ladders and move around in the enclosed space.
Three generations of Pegrums, a family company, arrived for installation, father Gordon, his sons and grandson Elliot. Respect to son Chris who, having only just had the plaster removed from a broken leg, climbed the stairs on crutches to supervise the work.
The new tank and tray were too big to take up the stairs so had to be hauled up the outside of the tower. The guys roped together a series of hardboard sheets to protect the walls of the tower from the tanks. (It ended up looking like a giant skateboard ramp but no one was willing to give it a go!!)

wow wee what a slide…

The install took three days and they not only removed the old plastic tanks but they also moved out two very heavy old galvanised tanks reducing the weight on the ceiling. The boys won’t need the gym for a bit!

Old steel water tanks.. heavy man!

Now if there is a leak in the tank or the water level on the roof outside gets too high the Duty Manager will receive a text on their mobile phone warning them of an impending issue and hopefully prevent any water getting into VAB. Isn’t technology grand!!

heave-ho! almost there!

Thank guys a good job well done

Jo

(Click on images to open in larger size)