Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom

by Andover Trees United
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
Off-grid Eco-friendly Woodland Classroom
A winter's morning in Harmony Woods
A winter's morning in Harmony Woods

Dear supporters,

 

When we last wrote, we were anticipating the arrival of our roof panels for the new woodland classroom. I am happy to report that the roof panels did indeed arrive and were installed over just 2 days back in November 2021.

 

The roof has since provided much-needed shelter for our volunteers and for visiting schools groups over the winter months, and we have even seen evidence of a barn owl using the sheltered beams to perch on!

 

Rainwater pipes

With the roof up and officially 'ok'd by building regulations, we were able to dig out trenches on either side of the cabin and install some rainwater runoff pipes that will carry the rainwater from the roof and into our wildlife pond, about 100m away downhill.

 

Once again, we had a fantastic team of volunteers who worked hard to dig the trenches and install the pipework! Even in the pouring rain!! (see photos)

 

Earthmoving

All that digging left us with some rather large soil mounds and a rather daunting task of moving them to somewhere that did not obstruct the main 'gathering' space. Thankfully, the rainy weather let up and on the weekend of March 5th, a team of volunteers armed with 1 mini-digger, 6 wheelbarrows and unwavering determination managed to relocate all of that soil and return the cabin gathering space to the usual calming and beautiful space that it is. They were re-paid in bacon rolls, cheese sandwiches and lots of tea and cake!

 

 

Next steps

3 months have passed since the roof went on, and after some unexpected delays, we now have 2 timber builders who are committed and enthused to take on some of the project work and help us move things forwards - installing walls (timber cladding) and floors. We hope to have completed these steps by the time our next report reaches your screens.

 

We look forward to sending you further updates as the build progresses and thank you so much for your ongoing support.

The scaffolding is up and ready to go
The scaffolding is up and ready to go
Here you can see the rainwater runoff pipework
Here you can see the rainwater runoff pipework
In less than 1 day, the roof is half on!
In less than 1 day, the roof is half on!
We have a roof!
We have a roof!
Waterproofs needed!
Waterproofs needed!
Earthmoving and levelling
Earthmoving and levelling

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The Carpenter's Fellowship raise the frame
The Carpenter's Fellowship raise the frame

Dear supporters,

 

Since our last update in mid-summer, work on the cabin build has been steadily moving along, we are so excited to see this long-awaited ambition of ours taking shape. Here's what has happened since July 2021...

 

Concrete and archeology
Remember those 16 post holes we mentioned in our previous report? Well, shortly after they were dug out by volunteers they were filled with concrete to create foundations for the frame to sit on. By using 16 pads rather than one large concreted area, we are minimizing the amount of invasion into the ground. That is something we are keen to do not only for environmental reasons but also because back in July 2021, the position of the ditch for a Bronze Age burial mound was discovered when the post holes were being dug for the frame. It turns out, the new cabin will be sitting directly on top of the mound! An Archeologist from Southhampton University was onsite to oversee our work and during the second week of August, a team of Archaeologists returned to excavate the site.

 

Cob seating
The 16 cubic meter holes left us with rather a lot of leftover clay soil! In August, the Carpenters’ Fellowship project manager, Claire led a series of workshop days where around 40 people were taught the ancient technique of cob building - using clay, sand, water and straw to build structures. You see many examples of cob cottages and walls around Andover and surrounding villages.

We used the clay removed from the ground during the post hole dig to create two cob benches. School children from Portway Junior School learned about the technique in the classroom and then designed the benches for the woodland. The workshop attendees used some of the basic shapes and ideas from the designs to create the seating. The seats will be decorated next year with designs and colours inspired by the children’s drawings and we hope to include the children with this activity.

 

Frame raising! and celebration
Over the August bank holiday weekend, Carpenters returned to the site to prepare for the frame raising. Around 20-30 people made up of 10-15 volunteers and professional Carpenters amazingly raised the frames by hand over 2.5 days! 

Many of the returning carpenters had been involved with the hewing and jointing phases however there were many new faces joining too.

The work concluded with a celebration onsite including music and a hog roast for everyone involved. 

As with the axe hewing, an incredible team of volunteers facilitated the site, ensuring that the carpenters and volunteers were well watered and fed 3 delicious meals a day, cooked on and off-site.

 

The feet are secured
With the frame in place, the stainless-steel feet have now been fully secured to the concrete pads and the building surveyor has signed off this stage of the cabin.

 

Next stages...
The roof panels are on their way and planned to be installed next week (w/c 15th November) - providing much-needed shelter for this year's school's tree planting. This will be followed by a solar array to provide an energy source and then cladding, which will make the building weather tight before the onset of winter. 

 

In October 2021, a new pond extension was created by the community volunteers and the youth team; it will be served by rainwater run-off from the roof. Groundworks are scheduled to install underground pipes that will direct rainwater run-off to the ponds.

 

We look forward to sending you further updates as the build progresses and thank you so much for your ongoing support.

The Andover Trees United team.

Wendy (Andover Trees) knocks in the final peg
Wendy (Andover Trees) knocks in the final peg
Excavating the Bronze Age Burial Mound
Excavating the Bronze Age Burial Mound
In goes the concrete
In goes the concrete
The frame is up! Celebration time
The frame is up! Celebration time
Cob bench!
Cob bench!

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Harewood Forest logs, felled in February, arrive
Harewood Forest logs, felled in February, arrive

We are very excited to bring you an update on the Cabin build! Read on to find out about the axe hewing, the digging of the post holes, the mobile saw mill and start of the framing. 

The Logs Arrive

On the morning of Friday 11th June the timber arrived! We originally thought that the Larch and Western Red Cedar trees, which had been felled at nearby Harewood Forest, would need to be transported on several loads, now here they were on THE most enormous truck any of us had ever seen! So the next question was will it get through the gate?! Thanks to the phenomenal skill of the driver, the lorry passed through the main gate by the Anton Sports ground and along the gravel path before reversing through the Andover Trees United gate into Harmony Woods. A crane was then used to lift the logs - measuring 41 cubic metres, 28.7 metric tons - into the dedicated hewing area.

Hewing

On Thursday 17th June, the first of the members of the Carpenters Fellowship arrived and they immediately set to work building a fully-functioning shower which was plumbed into our mains supply and had its own generator to heat the water!

Over the course of Thursday, everyone helped to set-up camp and, the following day, the hewing commenced! By mid-morning on the 18th, all 20 carpenters (from across England) had arrived on site and were busy chipping away. Unfortunately, the torrential rain arrived too but this did not stop the carpenters or our amazing support team - it was a remarkable effort!

A total of 10 ATU volunteers worked alongside the carpenters to experience the axe hewing and there was a real mix of people from 20-70 year olds, men and women - it was a truly inclusive group.

On Saturday 19th June, the BBC were on site to cover the project and this footage went out on BBC South Today on Sunday evening.

The carpenters enjoyed meeting Archeologist, Chris Elmer from Southampton University, who gave a talk on the archaeological significance of Harmony Woods as a Bronze Age burial site. Project founder, Wendy Davis, also gave a talk on Andover Trees United and the last 10 years and just how important the cabin and the efforts of the carpenters and volunteers are to the overall vision of the project.

Some of the carpenters left on Saturday evening to get home for Fathers’ Day on Sunday, others on Sunday and a few on Monday when we were down to 10 carpenters to finish the last of the hewing. Some will return for Phase 2: framing & jointing (7th July - 8th August) and, those that can, will return for the raising of the frames (Phase 3) at the end of August (26th-28th).

As the (very tired) carpenters said their “goodbyes” they commented on how happy they were to be involved with such an important project and how thankful they were to all the support team; because without that support the carpenters’ work could not have been achieved.

A special thanks must go to the 40 people who answered the call for volunteers for phase 1 of the project - they set up-tents, were up early to cook breakfast, back again with lunch and dinner (cooked at home and onsite), baked delicious cakes, shopped, kept the site looking ship-shape, refreshed the carpenters and anything that was needed they were there even through torrential rain. Amazing!

By midday on Monday, there were 8, beautifully hewn, 6m posts which will create the inner posts for the cabin frame.

On Tuesday 22nd June a team of half a dozen volunteers, including corporate volunteers from the Co-op, were on-site to clear-up the wood waste, which will be used for habitat piles, mulching young trees, lining paths and firewood (once dried).

Children from Appleshaw Primary School were also on site as part of a Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots activity to discover what is living in the woods. The children had taken part in a dress down day back in March to raise money for the cabin project so it was great to show the 20 children the hewed logs and talk about all the action which had taken place over the previous week.

The campsite remains in place with all the facilities still functioning and our volunteer team continues to watch over the site day and night. If you live locally and would like to get involved in the camping please get in touch. Waking to the Skylarks is truly a magical experience!

Digging the post holes

Over the weekend of 26th-27th June we had a team of 8 people digging the holes for the concrete pads that will support the main posts. Steve, Callum, Graham, Carl, helped by daughter Olivia, David, Harvey, Harvey’s dad and Michael dug out all 16 holes - each one 70-150cm deep and all 90cm square! They had to dig through 10-12 cms of scalpings, into the clay and then into the chalk. They worked so hard, in hot weather, their effort was incredible!

The buildings inspector has now visited the site to approve the holes. Once a positive report has been received, the concrete will be poured into the holes, levelled and the steel feet, which hold the main posts, will be bolted to the concrete.

Mobile saw mill 

On Monday 28th, a huge mobile saw mill arrived on site and work began to cut the braces, rafters and beams from the remaining 70 logs. A week later, the timbers were all milled ready for the carpenters who arrived back on site on the 7th July to begin Phase 2.

Framing

This week saw the 1st of five weeks of framing, where the timbers will be shaped and jointed to form the sections of the frame that will be raised in late August. A team of 4-5 carpenters, including volunteers who will learn alongside the expert framers, will carry out the work, taking us another step closer to achieving our goal.

If you are reading this, it is your generous donations that have helped to make this possible and, on behalf of the Andover Trees United team and wider community, we would again like to say how grateful we are for your support.

 

 

 

Moving the logs to the hewing site
Moving the logs to the hewing site
20 Carpenters Fellowship members & novices at work
20 Carpenters Fellowship members & novices at work
Milling machine transforms the remaining logs
Milling machine transforms the remaining logs
Logs hewn and milled, framing can start
Logs hewn and milled, framing can start
Digging out holes for the concrete pads
Digging out holes for the concrete pads
Help was given by volunteers of all ages
Help was given by volunteers of all ages

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Community Zoom Meeting - Let's get building!
Community Zoom Meeting - Let's get building!

It has been a long time in the making, but the start of the build is now in sight.

After several years of discussions and consultations, planning permission was granted in late 2019. Funding bids were written and ready to go in early 2020 and then the world declared a pandemic... funding streams were diverted to essential services to look after those whose lives had been so dramatically and tragically affected... and the build team could not come together.

During lockdowns, online strategic planning workshops seeking to outline the priorities for the next decade concluded that, despite the challenges of a pandemic, building the Cabin remained a priority.

With restrictions ongoing and external support seeming unlikely, the wonderful Andover Trees team was determined to do everything it could to find ways and means to ensure the Cabin could be built before the 10th tree planting in November 2021 and pulled out all the stops. In the 3 months since launching this GlobalGiving crowdfunder, the team have also made green craft items, sold them at an outdoor Christmas market and put together an anonymous online art exhibition and sale. Members of the youth team have undertaken a sponsored walk and engaged with headteachers from the 25 tree-planting schools to hold a coordinated Dress Down Day for the Cabin as part of a day of Climate Action. The latter was due to be held in late March but Covid restrictions made this difficult to realise. It has not been abandonned and will now take place June 25th.

Then you, our generous donors, rose to the occasion, helping to raise £2000 in just over 3 months. We hope that you enjoyed the social online quiz evenings we put together by way of a thank you.

Taken together with grants, we have raised over half of the funds needed - enough to guarantee that the build can start and the first phase be completed this summer. With our ongoing fundraising efforts, your generosity and GlobalGiving's support, we are on course to complete the build before tree planting starts again in November. And because of this, we have finally been able to put firm plans in place!

We have:

  • received confirmation from the Carpenters' Fellowship that they have Covid-proof plans that will allow a team to come together in the summer, hopefully July, to construct the large timber frames which will be 'raised' by hand, thus forming the basic structure on and around which everything else will be built;
  • received confirmation from the Carpenters' Fellowship that volunteers and members of the public will able to watch, learn about and contribute to the construction of the frames, providing a unique opportunity for everyone to come together in the creation of a sustainable community space to support our collective conservation and climate action efforts;
  • arranged for the timber for the frames to be supplied by a local Estate - Larch trees were felled at the start of February a few miles from where the Cabin will be built - members of the Fellowship are coming to see the timber later in the month to check whether additional material will be needed - the timber will eventually be transported to Harmony Woods for processing on site;
  • set up a project management team including an archaeologist from Southampton University, who will 'watch' as the post holes for the timber supports are dug, in case features are uncovered which would provide clues to the location of a Bronze Age barrow, known to be located somewhere on the site;
  • started a volunteer list for anyone who would like to help in any way during the build - from providing a field kitchen for the carpenters who will be camped in the wood to providing evening entertainment to taking part in the build... PLEASE get in touch if you are local to the project and would like to be added to the list.

Once built, the Cabin will transform the work of the charity and the services to climate and community that can be offered. We can't thank you enough for your support.

Walk! Walk! Walk!
Walk! Walk! Walk!
Green crafting - willow bird feeders for the sale
Green crafting - willow bird feeders for the sale
Anonymous Art!
Anonymous Art!
Larch timber for the Cabin
Larch timber for the Cabin

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Organization Information

Andover Trees United

Location: Abbotts Ann, Hants - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Andover_Trees
Project Leader:
Wendy Davis
Abbotts Ann, Hants United Kingdom
$10,124 raised of $13,186 goal
 
239 donations
$3,062 to go
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