Volunteers help breathe new life into building

Londesborough Lodge continues it's unique refurbishment.Ani   Tselha with the building team. pic Richard Ponter 151324c
Londesborough Lodge continues it's unique refurbishment.Ani Tselha with the building team. pic Richard Ponter 151324c

The transformation of a historic Scarborough building is well under way thanks to what has been called a “unique and inspiring” project.

Londesborough Lodge is being given a new lease of life as a health and wellbeing centre thanks to an army of local tradesmen and volunteers.

The renovation project was taken on by Buddhist charity the Rokpa Trust last year, after the building was transferred to the charity by Scarborough Council under the community asset transfer scheme.

The trust, which now has the building on a long lease, is spending around £500,000 on creating a place where both local people and visitors can relax, reflect and recharge their batteries.

Ani Tselha, of the Rokpa Trust, said she has been blown away by how people - especially volunteers - have taken the project to their hearts.

She said: “People’s commitment to the project is so inspiring. Some of them have come to us on placements from Yorkshire Coast Homes and they’re building their confidence and self esteem by working with the more experienced guys.

“There’s a sense of everybody helping each other, but also working for the greater good.

“We have fun and pull each other’s legs. It’s a very positive experience and builds a great deal of positive energy.”

One of the workers, Rowan Langley, is a full-time electronic engineer at the BBC in London and spends all his free time in Scarborough working on the project.

Ani said: “He does it all as a volunteer. He’s a genius with electrics and has taken a local trainee electrician under his wing.”

Rowan has been involved with the Rokpa Trust for 20 years and has worked on similar projects in London, Scotland and Cardiff.

However, he said Londesborough Lodge is unlike any other building he has worked on.

Rowan explained: “We’ve not taken on a building needing so much renovation work before.

“It has been empty for years and there’s a lot of deterioration to attend to. It would have been a much-loved home and people have visited it for generations.”

Site manager Paul Brazier, of Red Arrow Drains, is also giving his time for free - six days a week.

With his staff carrying out the business’s day-to-day jobs, Paul is able to fulfil his wish of giving something back to the community.

He explained: “It all started two years ago when we did a free survey of the drainage. We just did it to help.

“But I decided I wanted to give something back after Marie Curie helped my mum when she died at home.

“I’m not a Buddhist, but what these people are doing is amazing. With this building and these people, the help they’re going to give the community will be unbelievable.”

He added: “We’ve got local tradesmen on here and we can trust them 110 per cent.

“We’ve had volunteers come to us from various places, including a Facebook appeal, and they are so positive and hardworking.

“They’re some of the best people I’ve ever worked with.”

The project is currently in phase one, which is due to be completed in July so the first group can come and take part in a retreat.

Work so far, which started last July, has included asbestos removal at a cost of £80,000, and a new roof, which is nearly finished and has cost £104,000.

Internal work such as electrics and the widening of doorways to allow for disabled access has also been taking place.

The centre will feature rooms for meditation, yoga and tai chi, along with a cafe, retreat rooms and a residents’ lounge.

It will be open to all, regardless of their beliefs, and everyone is welcome to come to sessions or simply call in for a coffee.

Volunteer days are held every Saturday from 10am to 3pm for anyone wishing to get involved in the renovation work.

The trust is also appealing for plasterers to come forward and would also welcome any donations to help fund the project.

Project manager Paul said: “It will be ready for July and it’ll be lovely when it’s done. It’s all being done with lots of goodwill.”