In the years immediately after the Wildlife Trust purchased Skokholm Island (2007-2009), the accommodation had to be closed following a report from a surveyor highlighting health and safety risks, particularly in Lockley’s cottage, due to wet and dry rot.
Subsequently the team that had designed and overseen the recent Skomer Island Heritage Project visited Skokholm, to assess and cost the work needed to restore the farm buildings. The solution they designed was fairly drastic and involved demolishing some of the smaller buildings and replacing them with more modern, timber-framed constructions, and adding a new tractor/ tool store and workshop, with additional accommodation, as well as an ‘ablutions block’.
The initial estimate for the work was a little over £800,000. However, our experience of the Skomer project showed us that any estimate was likely to be too conservative, and of course access to Skokholm is a lot more difficult than Skomer.
Having discussed these issues, the estimate was revised to a little over £1,000,000. However with the deteriorating national financial situation, and with significant funds having been provided so recently for the project on Skomer, works on this scale were becoming increasingly difficult to fundraise for and to deliver.
In January 2010 staff from the Wildlife Trust met with key members of the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer, a voluntary group affiliated with the Wildlife Trust. The group has a long history of involvement with the islands, and their members have considerable skills, as well as a wealth of knowledge about and depth of passion for the islands.
The Trust agreed to work with three of the Friends to review the plans for the restoration project. Over the course of the next few months the Friends and a small group of Trust staff and Trustees worked to produce a new restoration plan, focusing on keeping the buildings as they were, using traditional building techniques and most importantly, maintaining the unique character of the island. Volunteer work parties started later in 2010 and have continued throughout 2011
The result of this change of approach has been incredible. What started as a project worth over £1,000,000 has been reduced to a project that will cost less than £100,000- one tenth of the total expense.
The character of the buildings and island remains intact, despite the use of modern technology where possible eg sustainable energy technology and compost (instead of chemical) toilets. The island was partially open to overnight visitors again for the first time in 2011.
Although considerable funds have been raised to contribute to the progress made to date (including money left over from the purchase appeal, individual and corporate donations, and grants), further funds are still needed to complete the renovations.