Box Moor Trust a registered charity that manages 500 acres of farmland, woods and parkland around Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. In 1594, land around Hemel Hempstead and Bovingdon was acquired by a group of local people to be used for the benefit of the local inhabitants – mainly as common grazing. Subsequently, it was reformed as a charitable trust. Today, the Trust’s activities have expanded to include; cattle & sheep farming, an education centre, managing woodlands and parkland, and running public events.
Estate management was being hindered by the lack of a consistent set of information detailing the location and condition of estate features and assets; including fences, gates, rights of way, stiles, signs, water and gas utility pipelines, electricity and communication cables, etc. What information they had was spread throughout many separate files: the maps were all different scales; information was often out-of-date; and no-one was sure whether it was accurate or complete.
Here are a few of the estate management issues that the Trust wanted to address.
- Maintaining accurate field maps, acreages and IACS field numbers was important when applying for grants and Rural Payments.
- Much of the estate land is criss-crossed by underground gas pipelines and electricity cables. Over the years, the utility companies have provided numerous maps and notifications of alterations. However they had no maps that showed all the services in a coherent way, or showed how they related to the estate fences and furniture. On occasion, staff had fallen foul of these underground hazards when carrying out fencing work.
- The Trust allows ‘in memory of’ benches to be donated and placed at various locations on the estate. The Trust undertakes to maintain these benches on behalf of the families. However, there was no system to record bench locations and plaque inscriptions.
- Maintaining good public access on the numerous public and permissive Rights of Way requires monitoring the condition of the paths, kissing gates, stiles and associated way-markers; up-to-date information on accurately labelled maps.
- There were many different types and styles of signs, notice boards and plaques around the estate. There was no list of their locations, wording or condition. This lack of basic inventory was impeding plans for a review of the estate signage.
- The recently developed Tree Safety policy required the inspection and maintenance of trees and woodlands in relation to the Occupiers’ Liability Acts and general duties of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Estate Manager needed to divide the estate lands into different Risk Zones and to implement a rolling schedule of tree inspections on up to a 1000 trees. But there were no maps or inventory of trees to be assessed.
The Trust decided to produce digital maps of the entire estate in order to address a range of issues and also to facilitate the planning of future projects. In addition, the Trust wanted a system to track the condition of the estate furniture and to implement the Tree Safety policy.
Intrinsica selected appropriate mapping software and developed a database and reporting system tailored for the Trust. The initial maps were generated by piecing together information from various estate records and local authority websites. These were further refined during detailed reviews with the Estate Manager – utilising his in-depth knowledge of the estate. The Estate Mapping database was developed to maintain a range of information for each mapped feature; including, location, condition, inscription, work notes and inspection dates. Finally, Intrinsica Mapping staff carried out on-site surveys to map the heretofore undocumented features and to verify all the mapped features. The mapping application and database were installed at the estate offices and the staff trained.
Using the mapping software, the Estate Manager now has a set of maps at his fingertips that show all of the estate features and furniture. The Estate Mapping system allows him to:-
- View any combination of feature layers and view/update the associated database records.
- View and print maps of the estate at different scales, with legends and scale bars
- Generate inventory reports, work schedules and inspection schedules to aid the day-to-day management of the estate
- Automatically maintains an audit trail of tree inspections (especially important for compliance with tree safety legislation)
From the start, the Estate Manager was keen to have a paperless, mobile solution that allows him to add new map items. carry out inspections, make note of repairs, and have it all updated back at the office. With a GPS enabled mobile device, he is automatically provided with the maps for his current location, and can carry out inspections, make note of repairs – no scraps of paper needed!