Digger and dumper wish comes true for building site fan John, 84

12 April 2023

84-year-old John had a birthday wish come true on a Salisbury building site.

John Parfitt, who lives here at Braemar Lodge, donned a hard hat, hi-viz jacket and tough boots for the chance to sit at the controls of a digger and a dumper truck.

The visit was a hands-on opportunity to check progress on the home’s forthcoming extension, Stratford Court.

In his working life, Watford-born John did a range of jobs including being an agency worker on various building sites, hence his interest.

With all safety precautions followed and under close supervision, he was thrilled with the visit.

John Parfitt in the digger with Site Manager Paul Findlay, left, and Companionship Team Leader Graham Ballard.

“I’m happy as Larry,” he said after a few minutes sitting at the controls of the eight-ton digger. “I’ve been looking across from Braemar Lodge, keeping an eye on how it’s all going and seeing the guys driving round. On my birthday in December I asked if I could come on-site and see it for real at a suitable stage and when the weather was good enough. Sitting here I just feel I’m in the right place at the right time. It’s comfortable and you have a sense of the power it can deliver.”

After being in the digger, John went to sit in a three-ton dumper truck, saying: “This is lovely, a great chance to see everything from a different angle out in the fresh air.”

John, who has lived in Salisbury since the 1980s, was accompanied throughout the visit by Site Manager Paul Findlay who explained how the controls on both vehicles work.

Paul said: “It was a real pleasure to give John such a great experience. I could tell he had been on building sites before. He had all the site banter.”

While John was enjoying himself in the digger and dumper, fellow residents Catherine Brighty and Pamela Rees were turning ‘detectorists’. They took a metal detector to search for items under the rubble and mud in a small, safe area well away from the main construction site.

Catherine Brighty, left, and Pamela Rees get to grips with a metal detector in a safe area away from the main construction site for the home’s forthcoming extension, Stratford Court

Although no treasure was revealed, they found various pieces of metal including screws, nails, coins, wire, a drill bit, a tap and a battery.

The residents’ visit provided an opportunity to see how the build is developing since groundworks began in November 2022.

Stratford Court is on the site of a former charity-run care home which had been lying vacant before it was demolished in 2020.

The new extension will house 36 bedrooms, each with an en-suite wet room, split over three floors, including a garden floor.

Accommodation will extend to 2,700 sq m or 29,052 sq ft.

As well as bedrooms, there will be plant, training and staff rooms and a second-floor guest suite. The main entrance and reception area will be accessed from road level.

The build programme is expected to last around 18 months, with interiors and fit out due in spring 2024 and overall construction completed in summer 2024.

When it is ready, some Braemar Lodge residents will move in while the original home undergoes a phased refurbishment with 49 new bedrooms, taking the combined capacity to 85 bedrooms.

Ian Heard, Group Director of Construction at Colten Developments, said the construction will involve around 30 sub-contractor companies employing around 250 tradespeople.

“Everything needs coordinating to ensure the project is delivered on time and on budget,” he explained. “Every construction project has its challenges but we are a compact professional team operating under one roof and have the ability to make dynamic decisions to overcome any challenge. This is an exciting project for Colten Developments and we are looking forward to delivering another fine home to Colten Care.

“The most important thing on this project is to ensure that we keep any disruption to Braemar Lodge to a bare minimum so that our residents aren’t impacted. Our site manager is in regular contact with the home to keep them informed on progress and any activities that may cause any disturbance.”