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Wednesday 9 August 2017

Building a shelter/gazebo at the allotment garden using reclaimed materials

allotment shelter

Recently, work slowed up a bit. It's a natural part of the cycle of being a self employed maker but can certainly be stressful - wondering when the next job will come in. However, it does give a chance to catch up on things like website updates and also doing projects that are a bit different.

Luckily, this period of free time coincided with some redevelopment work at the woodyard where I have my studio. As part of this work, a quantity of reclaimed European larch was up for reuse. This larch timber is very durable outdoors and so I decided to use it to build a shelter at the allotment that I share with a friend.

building using reclaimed wood

For those who don't know what an allotment is, most towns and cities in the UK have areas that are owned by the local council which are rented out to local people for them to grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables. There are usually regular inspections and some rules about what can be grown. I find the allotment a great place to unwind - digging all day certainly clears the mind.

Our allotment really needed somewhere to shelter from rain (ah! British weather!) as well as a place to just relax and enjoy the place. As well as the larch lumber and some slab wood left over from milling timber, a couple of larch trunks were available which had been drilled full of holes by wood wasps (horntails) and so were not suitable for use by the businesses that had bought them originally.

I set to making the structure. All of the work was done using hand tools (apart from a couple of battery-powered drills) as there was no power on site. There was also no one else to help with the build but that was quite nice - being free to just do it by myself.

After a few days of work, the main structure was finished. I then fitted a small jettied platform going out over the pond. It was lovely to sit and watch the wildlife around. Brightly coloured damselflies flitted over the water and several different kinds of wasp and bee flew around the posts. Some were large, strange looking parasitic ichneumonid wasps - harmless to humans and looking to lay their eggs on the wood wasp larvae. Others were small bees investigating the holes as nest sites. They were no threat to me and some, in fact, were helpful predators on pests feeding on the plants. Another welcome creature that is happy to eat garden pests is the slow-worm. It's neither a worm nor a snake, being a lizard without legs. I think that they are very beautiful animals and they can live for around twenty years.

slow worm

The next stage of construction was to fit a roof. This meant buying two sheets of FSC-certified plywood - the only timber bought for the project. Getting the sheets up onto the roof was a bit of a struggle but once in place, they could be covered with offcut strips of tough butyl rubber. This was reclaimed waste material left over from building bike sheds. Joined with Sikaflex EBT+ adhesive, the rubber is a perfect waterproof covering.

allotment shelter made from larch timber

That's the shelter done for now. I may fit some removable walling to protect from driving rain that can get under the roof but I'm happy with it the way it is at the moment - simple, natural and understated. The local allotments officer likes it and it is definitely a relaxing spot to appreciate the plants growing and wildlife busying around you.

Thanks very much to Roundwood Design, Touchwood Play and the Bike Shed Company for kindly donating the materials used to make this structure.

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