We caught up with Julie Ault, Property Manager at Booths Park who told us more about her role and some hidden gems on-site including a rookery, secret passageway and the perfect spot for playing a Lute.
Tell us more about your role at Booths Park?
My role at Booths Park is property manager and I look after 200,000 sq ft of office space and 220 acres of parkland. Within the park we have a working farm, Toft cricket club and the fishing mere which also has to be managed, so we take care of tree surveys and that kind of thing. My main role at Booths, however, is looking after the office space and the customers based there. This includes taking care of their needs on a daily basis, dealing with any problems that may arise and being a general helping hand with their business.
What is your relationship with customers like at Booths?
Well from my side, I’m very passionate about all my customers at Booths and try and help them in any way I can as I want to see them succeed. I want to see them expand and grow so it’s really important to me that their time at Booths is happy and they get a really good impression of Bruntwood.
At the moment, because we’re full, it’s quite a challenge to manage customer expectations as so many companies at Booths are flourishing and need extra space. Hopefully the development and new office space we’re going to create will help with this. It’s a really exciting time and people will hopefully be aware that we’re working towards helping them grow and be happy in their workplace.
What do you know about the history of Booths Park?
Booths Park as an estate belonged to the De Legh family. There was a 16th Century house on-site which burnt down and there’s still an ancient monument today where it stood. It’s basically a moated site down by the farm, I imagine not many people realise it’s there. They rebuilt the hall in the 18th century where it stands today. The mere was actually created when they built the hall as the builders had to dig into the ground for clay. It’s only shallow and is now stocked with lots of Carp.
More recently, before Bruntwood acquired Booths Park, it was owned by the National Nuclear Corporation. AMEC who are our largest customer on-site, were part of the NNC so stayed on when we bought it. We then developed the site, creating a courtyard and renovating the hall.
Who lived in Booths Hall and are there any traces of the family still there today?
The De Legh family lived in Booths Hall and the owner worked in the cotton industry in Manchester. We believe he travelled through Europe as the writing on the main entrance hall floor is in Italian and some of the pictures that were once inside were of foreign places.
Fundamentally, Booths Hall was a family home and there are plenty of remnants of this today. The servant bells and fuses are on the ground floor, the original marble bathtub taken from the bathroom is in the foyer and there’s even a secret passage way leading from the Oak room into the cellar! Rumour has it that we have two ghosts; a young girl in the roof and a gardener in the cellar called George! Booths Hall also used to have an outdoor swimming pool where many local neighbours learnt to swim!
What are your favourite things about working at Booths Park?
It’s got to be the setting. The land and environment there is just stunning, no two days are the same and it looks great in the summer as well as on a wet rainy day in January.
Something I particularly love is the huge rookery we have on-site. I come in quite early and in the trees on the right-hand side there are thousands of rooks. Every morning they make such a raucous noise, then fly away and come back at about 6 o’clock. It fascinates me.
I also like it when the Canadian geese come and fly over for the winter to the mere. There’s actually a sculpture in the Garden Suite that represents the geese migrating over to the Mere.
In a few weeks’ time, Lime walk will be in full bloom with bluebells. The coverage is beautiful; it’s just like a field of blue – absolutely stunning. If anyone would like to see it and isn’t sure where to find it, I’ll gladly show them.
Tell us about the farm on-site.
We have a working dairy farm on-site where Alan the farmer’s award winning cows live. They’re beautiful and quite often people see cows being born in the fields, according to Alan it’s the most natural place for a cow to have its calf, with the herd where it feels safe. He then has a special nursery field for them where the mums go with the new born calves. The milk from the herd is sold locally and we actually use it at Booths Park in all the customer’s kitchens.
There was a funny story about one of our directors and the farm, can you tell us a bit more?
A few years ago, to raise money for charity, we had money collection jars in the office for each director. Whoever raised the least had to go and do a challenge, the first thing that was picked out of the hat was to go and assist with milking the herd one morning at Booths. Andrew came down at 5am to put all his overalls on and get suited up to go into the dairy. I found it fascinating as it’s all computerised, so although we all envisaged Andrew was going to be milking the cows by hand, it didn’t quite work like that!
Are there any hidden gems in the park?
If anyone wants a little peace and quiet at lunchtime, you can pick up a deck chair and go to the top of the ornamental garden at the side of the hall. You’ll find a spot round the corner which is surrounded by trees and you can sit there and not hear a thing – so it’s the ideal place for a break. We’ve got somebody on-site who used to play a lute up there which was lovely.
Do you have much interaction with the wider community outside of Booths Park?
I represent Bruntwood as a member of the Knutsford and Longbridge Business support group which meets bi-monthly. We go out into the local community and work in the schools in the area. The team at Booths help out at Manor Park and St Vincent’s Primary schools where we deliver events -some of the team from Booths Park were actually helping out with World Book Day last week.
In conjunction with this, we have a work experience pupil from Knutsford High School who will be coming in every Thursday for five weeks to help out with our facilities team.
We are also involved in an initiative called ‘My World’ which we run alongside Manchester Airport. It’s an event which is held at Booths Park, Tatton Park and Manchester Airport. Young children are invited into the workplace to learn about a range of different job roles.
Finally, do you have a favourite place in Knutsford?
I’ll tell you what I remember as a young girl in Knutsford was when I used to come with my family to the little park behind the shops at the bottom of the hill. It’s a fabulous place and we used to play in the stream and feed the ducks, I brought my own children when they were young and now I bring my grandchildren. It’s still a really vibrant park and is an important part of the Knutsford community.