Friday, 4 November 2011


On Thursday night our allotment shed was burnt to the ground. The fire was so fierce that neighbours called the fire brigade who had to stumble through woodland to put out the blaze and stop our Saxon roundhouse from also catching fire.

You might get the wrong impression, when you think of a garden shed storing a few tools and a couple of old flowerpots.

This was a lot more than a shed, it was what some youngsters called our tree shed. An outdoor classroom built over a 5 years with pupils on work experience, helping them gain valuable knowledge of carpentry and construction. With its wood burning stove it was a warm, dry space for volunteers to escape the rain. A place for pupils to carry on work such as carving and woodwork out of the cold. It was used for courses, talks and slideshows at our events. It was also where we stored all our food and cooking equipment used for making lunch for everyone on workdays and cups of tea throughout the day.

It was small things that you can’t put a price on that have been lost, like the two benches being built by pupils as Christmas presents for their mums.

So what now?

Before we even start to think about building another shed, we face the mammoth task of clearing up the site, rebuilding the fences, taking out some of the large damaged trees and replacing the tree nursery.

But we don’t know with what money and resources we have spare to build a new one. We are insured, but however much we get, it’s not going to be able to replace our project’s centre-piece anytime soon. We are only a small charity with one member of staff that relies on small grants, income from schools and a lot of goodwill from volunteers and supporters to survive. So we will have to look at budgets, beg, borrow and coppice from the woods and make plans for a new shed.

In the meantime we will have to quickly build a warm, dry structure to see us through the winter and dig into funds to buy new kettle, pans, plates….the list goes on.

So if you’ve got something lying around that you think we might need please get in touch or turn up this Tuesday 8th November and help with the clean up. Or think about making a small monthly standing order to support us.


  1. OMG
    That is terrible, what stupid idiots would do that???
    It will rise from the ashes bigger and better xx

  2. Got a spare kettle. Maybe post a list of what you need and we can all see what we can do.

  3. Some early thoughts about how we move on from this:

    We need to take this opportunity to think carefully about how we replace this essential facility, with a view to the sorts of activity, and their scale, in which we are likely to engage in the foreseeable future.

    What sort(s) of construction should we consider?

    What floor space should we be thinking of?

    What purposes are we likely to put the 'building' to?

    Given our emphasis on cooking and food preparation, should we consider installing mains water, an indoor sink, grey-water disposal arrangements, preparation surfaces?

    Space heating? probably a reconstruction of the previously successful clay stove, I guess, but location within the structure, flue arrangement, fuel storage, ash disposal, etc.? needs to be an integral part of the design.

    Rainwater harvesting? Obviously, but how should it be stored and distributed?

    Security? Fire resilience?

    Fittingness of the structure within its wider environment?

    Make use of freely, naturally available materials within our command, and reclaimed, re-used, scavenged, recycled, and so on stuff that we can get our hands on? Or alternatively, take the opportunity to raise funds on the back of the publicity, and pay for a 'proper job' as a replacement?

    And no doubt plenty of other thoughts and ideas.

    We can't spend much time navel-gazing about this topic, we need to get on with it. I think that this challenge requires decisions to be made, that commit us to an action programme, within the next three months.

    I suggest that a core group of 'stakeholders' takes on this task, with a nominated co-ordinator, to report back, with decisions, to the wider interest group by end February 2012. That might give us the chance to engage in the building process next year, with something to show for our efforts by 4th November 2012.