Shaftesbury Build and Training Course

I've been busy this month working with all the wonderful folk at Bittles Brook Farm in Motcombe, Shaftesbury, in preparation for the building and training course we are running there in a couple of weeks.

I've come to know the farm through Jonathan Davies, who is a recently graduated Master of Architecture, educated in Australia, Sweden and the UK.  It's refreshing to work with an architect that fully understands how to work with straw and has a passion for designing truly sustainable buildings.  We've been working together on Huff and Puff projects since the Sherborne Art Cabin, and our connections have brought me to meeting the wonderful Bourchier family at Bittles Brook Farm.

Horses at Bittles Brook FarmClive takes care of the sheep rearing on the farm, whilst Carolyn runs 'The New Horse' - a place where people of all ages can learn to interact with their horses as equals, understand the therapeutic qualities of horses, and where horses themselves can get some therapy and rehabilitation.  I've never had much to do with horses, although I've always wanted to, and it's magical to see these wonderful animals being treated with such love and respect.

This farm itself is nestled in the rolling Dorset countryside just two miles from the historic town of Shaftesbury, famous for its Gold Hill (remember those Hovis bread adverts!), and surrounded by truly magnificent views.  It really is a very lovely place.

The farm is in need of more storage space for hay and equipment for all the animals, and this has given a great opportunity this summer to get everyone together to use their areas of expertise to design a load-bearing straw bale building to meet the need for storage and utility purposes, as well as as a new hay barn.

Jonathan digging foundationsThe new building is going to have a footprint of 7.5m x 5.5.m and will be built on car tyre pier foundations.  The last few weeks have involved getting materials on site and, most significantly, Jonathan digging out the holes for the car tyre piers.  The ground on the site is really heavy clay, and even a mini-digger had a bit of trouble getting through it.  The holes are all dug now though, thanks to Jonathan's perseverance, and the piers will now be built up, alongside all the carpentry work in preparing the bottom ring beam of the building.

Once all that is in place we'll be ready to get on with the straw, which is coming via a swap for some hay, I think, via a man with a very exciting sounding small baler (I really do get excited about such things!) that can make them accurately, super-square and even vary the size!

Hopefully more blog posts soon with further progress.  And in the meantime do check out the course page if you fancy coming along to learn about how it's done.  Camping and all food is included in the price - currently just £350 for five days for the next few bookings - and it will also be a great opportunity to ask questions about your own ideas and projects.

Building With Straw Bales Course - Shaftesbury, Dorset

Bittles Brook Farm field shelter
What the building will look like

Course: Building With Straw Bales

Date: Wednesday 16th - Sunday 20th September 2015

Cost: £350.00 (£280 for full time students and unwaged)

Bookings: Please email to check availability and book your place
I am delighted to say we will be running a straw bale building course at Bittles Brook Farm, Motcombe, Shaftesbury, Dorset SP7 9NX.

This small farm is nestled in the rolling Dorset countryside only 2 miles from the historic town of Shaftesbury, famous for its Gold Hill, and surrounded by magnificent views. The mainline railway station at Gillingham is 10 minutes away.

We will be building a load-bearing straw bale building, measuring 7.5m x 5.5.m.

On this course you can learn:

- Straw bale building basics - presentation

- Selecting and preparing bales

- Building bale walls

- Framing doors and windows

- Fitting top beams

- Compressing the straw

The course fees also include:

- Accommodation: Camping in one of the fields on site (toilets and showers available)

- Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

You are also very welcome to camp with your family, whilst you attend the course, so they can head off and explore the surrounding, stunning Dorset countryside and coastline.  (In this case please make sure they have food etc., as we will only be catering for attendees.  Any questions please ask.)

This will hopefully be an excellent course towards the end of a beautiful English summer, so book now to avoid disappointment!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.