Ben Silk, Property Manager

06 September 2022

Back in 2015, I left the bustling city of Brighton for the idyllic life in the East Neuk, along with my fiction editor wife, Vicki, plus our tabby cat, Spooky, and our crazy spaniel, Freddie. As soon as we got here, I began renting a workshop from Balcaskie Estate, on the newly renovated Comielaw steading. From here I made bespoke furniture for all sorts of different clients – including fitting out Bread and Butter cafe, Aeble cider shop, Crail Pharmacy, and the Bowhouse butchery, as well as making many many pieces for people’s homes in the area. Then, at the start of 2022, three weeks before our second daughter was born, I came to work full time for Balcaskie.

As Property Maintenance Manager I don’t spend as much time making things as I used to – though that is still part of the job! Instead, my larger focus is on overseeing and running the maintenance programme for Balcaskie residential and commercial properties. This covers around sixty different buildings, all within the East Neuk, and the work ranges from fixing rotten floorboards and leaky taps myself, to organising and overseeing full renovation and installation projects.

Since February, I’ve overseen the alterations of the cafe at Bowhouse, currently run by the fantastic Baern team – who’ve thanked me with lots of delicious bread samples! This work included alterations to the kitchen and seating areas, and the creation of a floating door you may have noticed upstairs – soon to lead into the new courtyard mezzanine, which will hopefully be completed within the next month.

I’ve also managed the repurposing and renovations of the three commercial food units in the courtyard, working with Rosie (Bowhouse manager) and the businesses going into them to create bespoke layouts for each. Fiona’s finish-at-home meals from the Bothy Kitchen is the first you come to in the courtyard, followed by Angry Kulture in the middle unit, selling their own, locally made vegan kimchi. I’m looking forward to seeing who will take on the third unit.

Within the next couple of weeks, we will be finishing off refurbishments to one of the Estate cottages, where I will be installing a new kitchen and utility room and adding loft insulation. The project has taken around three months, and has included nine different trades from the local area, often working simultaneously – such as, electricians, joiners, stone masons, carpenters, flooring specialists etc – as well as the Estate maintenance team, brought in to excavate trenches for connecting a new gas tank to the property. This cottage will soon house three of the Estate’s farming and forestry students.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be beginning a big renovation project for Comielaw units 2 & 3, occupied by Rory Dowling of Taran Guitars – who builds unique world-class guitars. This is to help Rory keep up with the huge demand for his impressive growing business. The renovation work will involve converting two of the old milking sheds, currently used as open storage spaces, into a usable workshop area that will contain a new machine room and spray booth. At the same time, I’ll be planning out maintenance programmes for the winter period and into 2023. It’s a busy and varied job, but so far it’s been fun. Though I’d rather not move any more furniture, if that’s okay!


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