Starting to build: skills or no skills?
Before moving to Norfolk, I had built a cot-bed. I had built a wonky garden table from pallets. When I was 13, I carved a random mermaid in woodworking class. If you had asked me a few years ago whether I could see myself designing and building a unique, innovative and exciting building, or whether I even had the guts to dream about the idea, I would have laughed at you and called you names. Have my previous lives as a student, a security guard, an “actor” (Ha! Extra maybe?), or a music teacher prepared me to take on such a challenge? Has my partner Kate brought transferable skills with her from her days as a bar maid, a travel agent, a finance office worker or an environmental auditor……Surely not. However, that seems to somehow be where we, with help from our 2 boys obviously, are heading.
To make some sense of it, so that I could begin a blog that will attempt to record our journey, I tried brainstorming why we are doing it and to my amazement I found that although we have not actively experienced a great deal of building (some random volunteering here and there, or a seemingly irrelevant one-off course on a whim), the building we are working on is quite clearly the embodiment of the ideas, values and experiences we have developed throughout our lives, both together and individually. It seems crazy to consider that the seemingly random, disconnected paths we have trodden may actually find some form of harmony in the structure that we are so excited to begin work on.
It would be remiss of me not to mention our previous and first Round the Woods project - the conversion of a shipping container into a luxury shower building. This has become a beautiful building that we are very proud of but is in a different league to building from the ground up. The shipping container was already weatherproof, provided a strong structure and dictated the design, it felt a little bit like cheating (look out for a future blog to find out how challenging it really was!) but the perfect beginners project and was a chance for us to develop our skills. These skills will very soon be put to the test...
After a 9 month design and approval process, the structural work is finally beginning and we can't wait to give our guests and followers a glimpse into our exciting new project.
That's right! We can now announce that we are building a:
Straw bale, timber frame Roundhouse!
This beautiful natural structure will give us wonderful space for guests to stay in all year, it'll be cosy in the winter and cool in the summer.
Circles, circles everywhere
We absolutely love our yurts! Their circular shape and how they feel inside is inspiring and we wanted to emulate that and build on it in our new project. The circle is an incredible shape, it represents harmony, infiniteness and completeness and is strongly represented in nature and the natural environment. This ties so strongly with our beliefs that we just knew we needed to build a Roundhouse, the ultimate circular building, as our new, year-round accommodation option at Round the Woods. Plus with a name like Round the Woods it couldn't exactly be square, could it?
The building will feature a roundwood timber frame (more circles!), straw bale walls, a green roof to enable the building to blend into the natural environment and will even feature a floor created from discs of wood grown and cut right here at Round the Woods. We value nature and wish to protect our environment and it is really important to us that the building is sensitive to the environment we are building it in. It will be built using natural, healthful, non-toxic materials that are either recycled from waste products, or environmentally sustainable and sourced as locally as is practical. These values are at the core of everything we do, from washing reusable nappies on a daily basis to cutting our own firewood with a saw powered by solar panels.
I know what you're thinking! It sounds like something we're throwing together with bits salvaged from the rubbish dump. That wouldn't be quite right though and as anyone who knows us or has visited our site will tell you, as well as our environmental values, we are drawn to beauty and have an eye for detail too.
A thing of beauty
Imagine laying in blissful comfort on a sumptuous King size bed. You feel the warm embrace of the roundhouse as the strawbale walls hold the heat radiating from the wood-burning stove. You glance up and your eyes are drawn upwards, led by the gentle curves of a eight larch poles. As your eyes reach the top you marvel at the simple, yet stunning engineering of the self-supporting reciprocal roof, each larch pole meeting and intertwining with another creating a ring which frames the sky. You are filled with awe and a sense of deep relaxation as you look out through the domed skylight at the star filled rural night sky.
Sorry, I get a bit carried away sometimes and think I’m in an M&S advert. I can’t help it, this image fills me with joy and excitement. We have been contemplating this build for a long time and can now finally begin work on the project. Even before we actually decided to pursue the idea, we seemed to be unknowingly shaping our destiny, from Kate attending a green roof workshop to my summer trip to Wales to volunteer on a strawbale roundhouse build at Lammas. Little did we know that those experiences, however limited, would form the basis of our most ambitious ever project. The question remains, can we do it? Only time will tell.
We are now beginning work on various stages of the building process and are working with the wonderful mastercrafters at Artizan’s of Wood who are creating the frame and roof for us. We will share our experiences on this blog so that you can follow our ups and downs and perhaps tackle a project like this of your own. We certainly never thought we would actually do it but when you consider it, we seem to have been travelling down this path for a very long time.
Please join us on this journey by following our build blog or by showing your support through volunteering (we'll need lots of extra hands for the wall building stages) or sharing this with anyone interested in building or staying in such a beautiful natural building. We hope you enjoy the unconventional building process that we're so excited to be embarcking on.