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What a day this was.
Our involvement with George Clarke and the team at Amazing spaces stretches back to 2014 when we were filmed building a magical hobbit hole as a family space at the end of our garden.
The experience then was incredible and we were thrilled to be invited back to join George Clarke for a once in a lifetime opportunity when we were tasked with building a house… in a DAY!
Always up for a challenge, Tamsin and I packed our suitcases and travelled to the CAT centre in Machynlleth Wales. http://www.cat.org.uk/index.html
The plan was to follow the old Welsh tradition of Tŷ unnos (which translates into English to mean one night house)
It was believed by some that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, the land then belonged to them as a freehold. The test was to have a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning and the boundary of the land was established by measuring the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house.
Thankfully the tradition didn’t include preparation of materials so the first few days were spent gathering and foraging.
Using locally sourced timber and slate and a fantastic team of skilled craftspeople the plans began to take shape.
Keen to get stuck in, Tamsin and I were given our mission.
We were put in charge of the roof! And this was to be no ordinary roof. This was a living roof.
Many of our projects in schools have included living walls, but a roof would present a whole new set of challenges.
We needed a plant that didn’t mind the damp and shade, could absorb water, could withstand drought and freezing, didn’t need fertilising or watering and would provide a good insulating layer. Also we needed to be able to find it in the surrounding forest.
And then there was MOSS!
The perfect plant to not only bring our roof alive, but to make it thrive.
All we needed to do was get enough from the surrounding forest to cover the whole roof. Let the foraging commence.
Although moss can grow on bare rock, we were advised to offer it a little more nutrients to live off, so our next trip was to collect nature’s own fertiliser. Poo. To be more specific… cow poo. Definitely a job for someone who isn’t scared to get dirty… Tamsin? Where are you?
After we had done all the hard work we were needed to help with the easier pre-construction jobs. Timber needed sawing, logs needed shaping and a ladder needed building. Also we wanted our house to be fun as well as functional. SO we needed to build in a bit of decoration. And what better than a layer of slate. It was collecting time again. Welsh slate is renowned world-wide and quarrying slate has shaped welsh culture for centuries.
Eventually the great day came. We were prepared. We were excited. We didn’t know if we could manage this but we were going work our hardest to make it happen.
The first task was to take all the materials we had collected up the mountain to the construction site. Easy … or it would have been except the site chosen for the home was up a steep hill. And as the day wore on that hill felt more like a mountain.
It was all hands on deck as the main timber frame was erected and by noon the house was truly beginning to take shape.
We were itching to get our moss up on that roof but as the light began to fade, so did our hopes. We were never going to get this done in time.
But the team came through. And in the pitch black and in lashing rain we hoisted crates of moss onto the roof frame and began bringing the house to life.
We had done it. With only minutes to spare we had built a house in a day. A fire was burning in the log stove, and smoke twisted up into the night sky.
Almost too exhausted to celebrate we staggered down the hill to finally rest, but when morning came we all wanted to see our handiwork.
And what a sight met our eyes. The house was stunning. The sloped roof and mirrored buttress beams blended perfectly in the surrounding woodland. And what a roof! The moss would thrive in its new home and the heathers and ferns we had added provided colour and interest.
With a sense of satisfaction we returned to the hotel to pack our belongings and head home. What a great chance to see what is truly possible. With a group of amazing people we had been part of making an amazing space. Together we had done it, we had achieved the incredible mission to build a house in a day.