We’re seeing some beautiful images of the snow from across the country and one place that looks particularly stunning is our wonderful Charlecote. It looks so peaceful with only the footprints of the deer and birds sprinkled across the grass. We’d love for you all to come and see it, but unfortunately we’ve closed. We know that this can be frustrating for you, our visitors, and it frustrates us too!
But there are important reasons why we have to close and particular steps we need to take before we can close. Let me give you a little insight…
We have an extreme weather policy – sounds quite, well, extreme doesn’t it? But with veteran trees onsite, open water, an important and historical collection, 140,000+ visitors and more – it really is important for us to think about worse case scenarios to make sure we are protected and prepared for anything! This policy outlines what we do in different circumstances from flooding and high winds to snowfall and ice.
Recently we had to deal with flooding – thankfully that only resulted in one day of closure and then we were able to implement more of the policy and reopen some areas of the site which were becoming safe again. Did you see our photos of the flood? You can see the extent of the water levels in our facebook album here. It took almost a week of near constant pumping to get the cellars dry again!
In the case of the snow we have had this week, it has been a little more complicated and, as I write, we are now on day 3 of complete close down of the property and there may be more closed days ahead.
Things we have to consider when closing the property include …
– Site safety.
A lot of the beautiful landscape features in our park become hazardous when covered in snow. The ha-ha edges become less obvious for people walking around the garden. Our lake and the river is not very well-defined as snow can settle on the water and makes it look like solid land. Pathways become slippy, as do the steps around the garden.
– Visitor and staff access.
Some of our staff struggle to get to Charlecote in weather such as this. They live in villages with little access or rely on public transport which can often reduce services or stop running completely.
– How long are we going to be closed?
We need to be prepared for the days ahead if we’re closing. Are we expecting deliveries that need cancelled? Events and meetings will need to be postponed. Staff who can do some work from home gather paperwork and diaries to do what they can. We also need to ensure that there is some basic cover at the site. The livestock still need to be checked and fed so the park and garden team who can make it in discuss a basic rota of cover.
– How do we tell people we’re going to be closed?
Our extreme weather policy has a clear line of instructions we need to carry once we’ve decided as a management team that it is best to close.
Our park and garden team will get the ‘closed’ signs out of the shed and put them up on all the access gates. The house team will check the heating in the house – we can’t have pipes freezing/bursting/etc! In the office we start ringing around. We need to tell many people about the site closing. Our area managers need to know as does the regional office so we can get the message out to all our places. Our page on the website gets a closure notice on it and we’ll use social media, such as our twitter feed, to share that too. Answer phones are re-recorded, emergency mobile phone contacts shared… It can take quite a while to get these things done so we all have our part to play!
Everyday a member of the team has to check the site to see what the conditions are and whether we are able to reopen. When we do reopen we have to go through all the same procedure in reverse, taking signs down, contacting staff and volunteers, change website, and so on. Again, it can be quite a lengthy process!
So whilst we await more news of when Charlecote will reopen to us all, let me leave you with these few photographs of Charlecote during the last bout of heavy snow fall.