Behind the scenes
Sun 14 August 2016
Andrew writes …
We are delighted that so many guests comment positively on the facilities at Sheldon and the quality of the whole experience while they were staying with us. As you can imagine, keeping an operation the size of Sheldon running smoothly requires a lot of people working behind the scenes. Community members have their own specific roles and we are immensely grateful to our dedicated teams of part-time staff and volunteers who help us carry out a lot of the day-to-day tasks.
Reception is the first port of call for arriving guests, for those with questions, and for what seems like an ever increasing number of delivery drivers. Miranda works in reception for three days a week and two reception volunteers, Isabel and Penny, help out on the front desk during the week. Sarah and Andrew also cover reception, particularly at weekends. Reception volunteers also help to keep the shop, managed by Sue, stocked – particularly with jams, marmalades and chutneys.
The responsibility for ensuring that the accommodation is clean and ready for occupation rests with the Housekeeping Team led by Jan with Deborah as Assistant Housekeeper. There are eight cleaners on the team who come to work when changeovers dictate (plus a couple of others who come in when college and university dates allow). Often called “the red army” due to their red tabards, they clean rooms after guests have left, gather up lost property and get the place ready for whoever is arriving next. The endless permutations of rooms, people, events and arrangements for food keeps the team on its toes. When they run out of rooms to clean, there is often jam to make or cakes to bake.
Once guests have settled in to their accommodation, they expect to be fed! Cooking food and getting it onto tables is the responsibility of the Cellarer Team led by Hillary with Rhian as her assistant. Guests on private retreat may have opted for a stocked larder so the Housekeeping Team will have ensured that enough home-cooked meals, vegetables, fruit, bread, milk, etc are provided. Guests on programme events eat in the Pound House dining room and either Hillary or Rhian will be in charge of the kitchen, ably assisted by a number of hospitality volunteers. Such volunteers come to stay at Sheldon for the duration of an event and prepare and serve meals, wash-up after meals and generally look after guests around meal-times. They also become skilled at steering conversations that are straying close to or outside the boundaries of the Sheldon House Rules!
The gardens and grounds don’t look after themselves. The decorative parts of the garden and the vegetable plots are looked after by Hillary and Rhian and ably assisted by Kerry who also spends some time on theatre work for Carl. The wider grounds - we have a total of 45 acres (or 18 hectares in new money) - are tended by the part-time Estate Team (which Carl manages) of Simon, Rom and Lawrence – aided by an impressive array of machinery.
There are a lot of financial transactions around so much activity, so Karen, our part-time book-keeper, ensures that the bills and salaries are paid and keeps the accounts reconciled.
We are always keen to support local businesses so we also have links with a large number of local companies and tradespeople who we can call on to do those jobs that fall outside our own skills – whether shearing sheep, fixing the drains or installing replacement fencing.
So when you’re next enjoying the tranquillity of Sheldon, give a thought and a prayer for the many people who are helping to make it all happen!