sustainable garden structures

We always use reclaimed or sustainably sourced local materials for anything we construct. The main timber we use is sweet chestnut which we cut on rotation from a friend’s woodland each winter. This is called coppicing – an ancient and recognised conservation technique that produces a structure within the woodland of different ages of trees, enhancing the quality of the habitat to support more wildlife species. The felled trees grow back therefore producing a sustainable harvest of timber. Sweet chestnut is a naturally durable timber not requiring chemical preservative treatment.

The “hobbit hole”

One of our first projects was to build a deck at the top of the garden where we get the most sun using reject oak planks from a local timberyard. However, we also wanted to sit outside in the spring and autumn but it was a little chilly so we designed a sort of summerhouse (nicknamed ‘the hobbit hole’) with a living roof.

The frame is made from coppiced sweet chestnut poles.






The walls are made from cob: clay (from a friend’s land 2 miles away), sand (dug out from under the old patio) and straw (clippings from local straw bale buildings). In this picture the clay is laid out ready to puddle into a mix using our feet.

The cob is applied a handful at a time and allowed to dry naturally. Chestnut logs and used glass bottles are inserted as the walls are built up for added interest and texture.



The (almost) completed hobbit hole partly glazed at the front and with handmade chestnut shingles cladding the lower front section to the left.



Inside the hobbit hole showing the seat made from reclaimed planks and the window made from a reclaimed glass table top.


The Wood Shed

We heated our house using a 4kw woodburning stove; the wood for which we harvested from the sweet chestnut coppice we help to manage for a friend. We needed some storage for the chopped wood near to the house where it is most accessilbe so we designed a lean to structure against the garden shed (itself made from the neighbour’s old garage and clad on the two visible sides in salvaged driftwood planks).

We built this wood shed with one volunteer in a couple of days (not including making the roof shingles). The frame is made from coppiced sweet chestnut.





The completed shed is roofed with hand riven sweet chestnut shingles. The floor and cladding on the sides is from planked chestnut offcuts.


The Chicken Run

There are hundreds of chicken houses and arks available to buy but we decided to make our own, designed to meet our specific requirements and fit into our tight space.

The chicken house was made from offcuts of local cedar planks and raised up on legs to allow a dust bathing area and nest box beneath. The eggs can be collected through a hatch. It was roofed with hand riven chestnut shingles.






The chicken run was made from coppiced chestnut, reject cedar planks and reject roofing batten with a hand riven sweet chestnut doorway.


The wood fired pizza oven

There’s nothing like the taste of freshly made pizzas cooked in seconds in a wood fired oven. In 2011 we finally got around to building an oven outside our back door using bricks from the local freecycle network and lime plaster. The chimney is an offcut of a flue pipe that I found dumped in a field with some other building waste.


The Pergola

We built the pergola to support our apple tree and grape vine. Again we used coppiced sweet chestnut and built it with the help of one volunteer, taking 2 days.






Some of our other sustainable building projects

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Tree Guards made from riven sweet chestnut from local coppice woodland

Pergola made from locally coppiced sweet chestnut

Storytelling area in the corner of a local junior school playground. Screen and benches made from locally coppiced sweet chestnut. Throne chair made from Douglas Fir offcuts from local sawmill.













Tree bog composting toilet built as a Christmas present for a friend. Made with sweet chestnut wood from a coppice 200m away and some reclaimed timber found on site.

Tree seat in local village made from locally coppiced sweet chestnut planks