How the National Trust blew away thousands of pounds on a fancy tent

November 19, 2009

This is a sad story of what can be achieved when under extreme pressure to reach those targets
that we know plague all walks of working life in most of today’s organisations.

At the time of this story, the management at Tyntesfield were off one day a
month to a spiritual retreat to learn how to get on with each other. Beggars
belief really that while the management were off spending donated money just
because they didn’t like each other, the rest of the staff tried even harder to
patch up the holes in a sinking ship.


With the overall “project” now running some four years behind schedule due to
in-house management fighting, coupled with a blinkered view of reality and the
attitude of “we know best because were are management, so don’t talk to us of
things sensible”, the whole of the estate was a complete and hopeless


Anyway on with the story of the disappearing yurt.


The conversion work to the saw mills learning centre had not yet been
completed due to a gross under estimation of costs, somewhere in the region of
£60k if my memory serves me well. This was all part and parcel of the whole
Tyntesfield project being underestimated by £3.5 million pounds. Yes that’s
right three and a half big ones.


On learning this when it became staff knowledgeable, I questioned the senior
surveyor as to how such a momentous cock up had occurred. His reply was that it
was quite a difficult job to estimate. Also present in the room was a young man
that had changed vocations from being a very successful civil engineering
surveyor, to working in conservation in the countryside. It was when he looked
at the senior surveyor and stated that in any building company in the country,
those responsible for such a catastrophe would have been sacked, will there be
repercussions over such incompetence regarding those at fault? At that the
surveyor changed tact and found himself too busy to carry on. I wonder who
checked the figures?


Anyway, back to the problem of the lack of space for school children. In the
Victorian walled vegetable garden, a large marquee was erected as a temporary
area which the Trust had on a bargain knock down hire rate from the scouts. It
served its purpose well and helped out another needy organisation.


For some reason this did not suit some and a more twee plan was put into
operation to replace it with a yurt. Yes a genuine Mongolian yurt, all the way
from the wind swept and baron landscape of one of the most inhospitable places
on earth, or so it seemed.


It was decided to buy one direct from an internet company building yurts in
Mongolia as they seemed to be several thousands of pounds cheaper than the ones
being offered in England. I wonder why?


It was after the order was sent off that the Trust had the problem of paying
in a cash transaction while working on a ever changing Rouble currency, which I
believe incorporated live stock in their monetary exchange rate. I understand
that the problem was solved by sending good old sterling along with a
consignment of damaged stock from retail in the form of his Lordship’s bed socks
and thimbles that could plug the nasal and ear orifices from the freezing winds
of the Mongolian plains.


It was now down to me to build a sectional floor in the shape of a circle
approximately seven meters in diameter. So following the drawings that the
supplier had sent through beforehand, I soon came to realise this was a bit of a
DIY job and not something that was designed for heavy use.


To make it a substantial structure, the cost escalated some, especially as we
decided to use treated timber just in case. The instructions also stated that
due to variations in the construction, the circumference may need a little trim
of 100mm all around as sizes couldn’t be guaranteed.


I wore my Yurt,
with golden lining, bright colours shining, wonderful and new

So the day came the base was
down and the yurt was ready to go up. The few staff that had offered to help
were in position and the large group of students from the college were missing
but represented by their lecturer of one.


It was rather unfortunate that it rained while we were in the erection stages
as it later became apparent that it was not waterproof, nor was it fire proof. A
slight oversight seeing as the weather in England could be some what inclement
but the problem with it being not fire proof was quite a major one as it was
deemed to be a public space.


It was very confined with just two tiny door ways to get in and out of. These
doorways were not only small but they were very very low.


It later transpired that the wood work had only a coat of gloss paint which
peeled off revealing bare wood. The paint used was Dulux Buckingham Green. It’s
amazing to think that in the wilderness of Mongolia there stands a thriving
Jewson’s builders merchants with a mix and match paint machine for all your
family yurt requirements.


Due to the patterning around the outer fabric, every time I looked at it I
couldn’t help whistling the tune from Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dream


The fact it became so damp soon overrode the fire risk element as it would
have taken gallons of diesel mixed with fire lighters to have started one.


Then one day came the winds. Not too much of a problem at first as the
gardeners had put extra ties on to hold it down. But as the weather worsened and
with the yurt now hovering, it became apparent that it could become a danger to
aircraft approaching the nearby Bristol International Airport. I often thought
we should have invited certain project team players to hold on to it while I cut
the lines and watched a more positive out come as management were whisked away
to Abu Dhabi. Ah well we could only dream.


Very soon after, the yurt became an eye sore not having been able to
withstand the good old English weather. Coupled with the fact that the interior
was now becoming a hazard with the amount of fungi growing on the walls, it was
decided to pull the thing down and store it in a nice warm building out of sight
of the public. Should be ideal for a fungi forage by now.


The wooden floor is still there as a testament to my efforts and should they
wish to build a bandstand there in the future, it would be more than adequate to
take the weight. Perhaps they should have the band knock out some numbers such
as Money, Money, Money by Abba, or The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum by
the Fun Boy Three.