Aided by the glorious sunshine, Rob and Bob have made some pretty substantial progress on the structure over the last couple of weeks. They began by heading out with the Avalon Marshes Project’s own Kevin Anderson up onto the edge of the Mendips to one of Natural England’s reserves, Ebbor. They spent a good solid day coppicing material destined to be used wattling the roof and sides of the building. Their choice of wood was hazel.
Hazel responds exceptionally well to the ancient woodland management technique of coppicing; if you cut a hazel tree down to ground level, the following Spring lots of straight, new growth will emerge from the ‘stool’. This material can then be left to grow on for a number of years (depending on how big you want it and what you want to use it for) and then the poles can be cut down. Once again, in the following Spring the new growth will start shooting forth providing an almost everlasting source of timber or fuel. Coppicing is one of those incredible, but rare feats of nature that allow humans to exploit a resource and by doing so, actually create positive effects; from prolonging the life of the tree to opening up the woodland canopy to wildflowers.
The following week they cracked on and, in what seemed like no time at all, had turned their little space into a real building. The woven-hazel roof had created a giant basket, making the structure feel exceptionally strong and tightly bound together. Towards the end of the day, Tanya had knocked together a huge bundle of reed, the first of four that would be framing the roof ready for thatching.