THERE are a lot of people to thank for the wonderful feeling that comes over you when you walk into Pembroke Lodge after a leisurely, yet tiring, stroll around Richmond Park.

The award presented last week by The Richmond Society to Daniel Hearsum's private company for the refurbishment and extension of the landmark lodge in Richmond Park, he feels, is a joint award.

But as the only man passionate and crazy enough to "flog the family home," and fight the powers that be tooth-and-nail for years, to not even own the lodge, as it is ultimately owned by the Crown, but to operate it - it's pretty clear - that wonderful feeling has a lot to do with Daniel Hearsum.

"It got to two-and-a-half million and I stopped counting," says Daniel, standing amidst the Friday morning bustle of caterers, florists and wedding planners in Pembroke Lodge's Belvedere room. "The investment has been huge, but it's about the long term and doing it right."

Referring to the new function room with its gaping views from the lodge's hilltop perch, he says, "It has been phenomenally popular, we are pretty much booked out for next year. This week we have two conferences, one funeral and four weddings. And this is our quiet time of year."

The Belvedere is the work of architect, Roderick Maclennan, who Daniel reveals "is of the classical school and very much influenced by classical Italianate architecture."

Via unique sash windows that slide up into the wall and disappear, part of the formal room quickly transforms into a breezy Mediterranean veranda.

He reveals the in-keeping panels behind me and all around the room actually disguise a modern sound system. "We didn't want the massive ugly speakers you see at every wedding reception."

Dotted around a fibre-optic 'starlight ceiling' are 23 speakers, "each one synched to a radio microphone for perfect clarity of speech. How many times have you been to a wedding where you can't hear the best man's speech?"

Upstairs in the Bertrand Russell suite, which doubles (as most the rooms do) as a mini museum and a meeting room, Daniel recalls the highlights of his own drawn out history with the lodge named for the Countess of Pembroke, to whom it was granted it in the late 18th century by King George III.

"The paperwork, what was required for all the permission necessary to carry out a major restoration to a very sensitive building, took years," says Daniel.

"It was a shell. The ground floor of the Victorian wing was in much worse condition than the Georgian wing. Frankly, it would have been a lot easier to rebuild it, but that would have been politically unacceptable, so we had to carry out massive works," he says, backing up his tale with piles of photos. There are shots of him and the rest of the "prime movers" - the architects, engineers and Royal Parks' partners - in hard hats surrounded by rubble.

"We held up the first floor with steel to create the banqueting room. And to give you an idea," he says, showing me a picture of a crane more apt for building high rises, "we are not talking about a coat of paint".

Striding across the oak wood floor of The Russell Suite in the Georgian wing, Daniel tells me how they knocked down randomly placed partition walls and moved fireplaces to put the elegant Georgian interior back to its original state.

"All we have done is take it back to what the early clever people did. Sir John Soane, he was the clever part in this process. The plans are kept in his museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, I trekked up there regularly to have a look."

The infinitesimal amount of papers, books, records and trinkets Daniel has collected to use in his perfectionist restoration of the lodge was piecemeal due to the world wide popularity of one of its past residents, controversial philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell who lived there as I child.

Daniel made several trips to Ontario, Canada, where in the basement of McMaster University the archives of Bertrand Russell quietly rest.

"We needed to show the past residents," he says. McMaster donated all the photos depicting the rich and active life of Bertrand Russell in the two-room suite named after him.

"Dear Bertie needs no introduction," he says, entering The Bertrand Russell Suite and walking over to a diagram of 'Russell Family Life, A Record of Bertrand Russell's Wives and Lovers'.

"We are trying to look at various aspects of his life. Apart from being a genius, he was quite an active man, particularly from 1910 to 1920," he remarks, pointing to the relevant area of the chart.

There is also the Lord John Russell Suite, named after Bertrand's grandfather and once prime minister, to whom the lodge was granted by the grace and favour of Queen Victoria. Also on the first floor is The Phantom Room, in honour of the Phantom Squad, the liaison regiment headquartered at Pembroke Lodge during the Second World War.

To take on the project, Hearsum Family Limited, a private company owned by Daniel, his wife Jane, and their four young children, entered a partnership with Royal Parks Agency, in which the company would faithfully restore Pembroke Lodge to its former glory at the company's expense in exchange for the grant of a long term lease.

It is clearly a labour of love for all parties involved. Park superintendent for The Royal Parks, Simon Richards, says, "There was a risk in the early 1990s that it would not remain public, because there was not enough money around to put the building in proper order, or enough people to invest the time to do that. Royal Parks really were committed to Pembroke Lodge continuing as a building in the public realm. Daniel secured that future."

"The final restoration ticked all the boxes and more," says Simon. "It went from being purely a caf operation to becoming a public meeting place built for fundraising for all sorts of community events. I'd say today you can get a somewhat better cup of coffee than you would have got here ten years ago," he adds, to the delight of Daniel sipping his second cappuccino.

Throughout the restoration, which began in 1998 and ended in May 2005, Pembroke Lodge never closed. "It meant the work had to be done in stages which naturally lengthens the process. With members of the public around it meant that we had to go slowly. Safety was rather an issue," Daniel remembers.

Since the start of the transformation, which slowly "recovered decades of institutional neglect," traffic at the lodge has grown four fold. Some 250,000 people a year now visit the lodge.

The entire building is disabled friendly. Park walkers, mums with pushchairs, groups on buses and the elderly show blissful relaxation as they pick and choose from the healthy selection of traditional English food in the spaciously laid-out caf, or as they sip their tea in the comfort of the large rooms lit up with the ancient vista.

The cafeteria was a priority from the beginning. "It is a much loved local public amenity. Very early on it became agreed that it had to remain. I just felt there were very few places in Richmond where people can meet at reasonable cost."

Outside, the refurbishment has a couple more projects to go. The dated toilet block will be knocked down and an information point for the entire park will go in its place. Soon the refreshments kiosk which opened in May will get its finishing touches when the space between the car park and the deer proof entry gate is paved in york stone.

Back in the comfort of the Bertrand Russell Suite, Daniel boasts Pembroke Lodge recently raised £20,000 in one night for its designated charity, Holly Lodge, which supports those with learning and physical disabilities.

Daniel says last week's award is a very welcome recognition. "The Richmond Society are discerning people. Most of their senior members are highly educated, intellectual, professional people. So that these people have decided that Pembroke Lodge is a beneficial contribution is a great acknowledgement. Someone said to me, 'if you can please them you can please anybody.' "Before the work even began a very clear picture came to mind and this is particularly that picture. I would be very disappointed if my great grand children did not find it just as it is now when they come back here."

The fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and specialist in the restoration of listed buildings adds, "it's not very clever - I have spent the last 20 years doing it."

"The restoration began in June 1996, it took over nine years." Then through an exhale of his omnipresent cigarette he says, "it's worth it though."