Articles & Case Studies


Posted: Wednesday 22nd May 2013

PipeKit, a specialist plastic pipe distributor, has recently supplied an extensive range of leading brand plastic pipework and drainage products to Skokholm Island, a 90 hectare nature reserve off the Pembrokeshire coast, as part of a major refurbishment project to return the island to public use.

Owned in recent years by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Skokholm’s colourful history, as the first Bird Observatory in the British Isles and the home to some of the first ground breaking ornithological work by pioneering conservationist Ronald Lockley, was to be seriously tested. In 2006 the Trust took the reluctant decision to close the site to all visitors after the dilapidation of the island’s building stock was seen to pose a potential risk. The old farmhouse and cottage buildings had slipped into near ruin and the estimated £1.2m cost to modernise the accommodation could not be justified.

But with the desire of a volunteer group, the forward thinking vision of a trust and a plan that looked to regional companies to cut costs, the uncertain future for Skokholm changed irreversibly.

The challenge to re-open was initially pursued by The Friends of Skokholm, an active volunteer group, who approached The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales with an implementation strategy based primarily on the work and good will of volunteers. In April 2010 the first working party was deployed and over a two year period a massive undertaking has been carried out, led by Friends of Skokholm volunteer and Project Manager Steve Sutcliffe, to refurbish the three main buildings in the complex. A feat that has involved over 80 volunteers, totaling 11,500 hours to date and of which has helped reduce the estimated cost of over a million to just under £100k.

One of the main infrastructural changes of the project was the implementation, for the first time, of supplying running water to the island’s properties. Prior to the refurbishment project, the island’s water supply was fed solely by a well 100m from the complex and which had to be boiled before use. Steve Sutcliffe turned to Shropshire based supplier PipeKit after sourcing the specialist, leading brand plastic pipe distributor online and was impressed with the extensive range on offer. PipeKit supplied a range of GPS, Philmac, Floplast and Marley pipes and drainage products to the project, delivering the 1100 meterage of pipework and large range of fittings to Neyland Harbour for shipping to the island.

Since the dispatch, the pipework has been used to pipe and pump the water from the well to newly constructed storage tanks and then into the buildings for all water supply needs. Products from PipeKit have also been used for essential drainage and sewerage requirements and to connect with the properties new solar heating systems. Commenting on the work Steve Sutcliffe said: “We were very pleased in our dealings with PipeKit throughout the process. From the order and delivery, through to the flexibility in responding quickly to the changing requirements of the project it was seamless”.

The complex overall includes The Wheelhouse, The Cottage and The Library and houses a kitchen, dining room, common room, education room and a number of bedrooms between them. Where possible all refurbishments were tackled using an up-cycle approach, recycling materials from the island but new materials were also brought in to re-roof all the buildings as well as strip, re-pin and re-structure walls, install new kitchens and bathrooms, and introduce new furniture to bring the visitor accommodation up to modern standards.

Documenting the period of change on Skokholm Steve Sutcliffe further adds: “Fundamentally it’s been two years of hard work, by many volunteers and the Trust’s support, to bring Skokholm back to the people. This island is an extraordinary site of scientific interest, where visitors can witness Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots and Grey Seals in abundance and in their natural habitat and is somewhere that we must secure a future for. The Friends of Skokholm’s work, the Trust’s priorities for the island and local companies involvements have meant that we have helped establish a future for the next generation”.

With the extensive refurbishments and the recent purchase by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales of The Lighthouse and surrounding land on the island, the next big objective for the trust and its volunteers is to gain Bird Observatory status again, which it lost in the 1970’s, and work towards making the island as scientifically important as it once was when Ronald Lockley resided on the island in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

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