Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hedge planting in the picnic area

A Big Cheer for all the families that came to Fordhall on Saturday to help us plant a hedge in the picnic area.
Inspite of the recent sunshine the day was cold and grey but that did'nt stop 20 families from coming along to help with the planting. Our hedging came free from the Shropshire Council and the Woodland Trust, which both running a scheme to encourage more tree planting and more hedges. Our hedge is designed to help cut down the wind that whips up the Tern valley and also supply us with a good supply of fruit and nuts - sloe berries, elderberries, damsons, cherries, crapapple and hazel. As a result, we expect to attract more birds into the garden  and no doubt, a few squirrels but lets hope they leave some for us. As there were so many children and grown ups to help we were finished in a tick so we warmed up on hot soup and ate scrummy chocolate beetroot brownies. Once again a big thank you to everyone that helped. Bex

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Timber construction everywhere!

WOW, everything is coming on at speed at Fordhall. Last weekend lots of wonderful volunteers helped us to re-erect our yurts.Bex organised a good clean and some well needed tlc, before our yurts were erected in the fields, with a beautiful view across the Tern Valley. It was heavy work and 7 of us worked on it all weekend, working over 8 hours a day to ensure we completed them in time. Perhaps the most difficult bit was getting the timber base where we wanted it. It was like piecing together an enormous jigsaw, with at least 4-5 people required to move each section, it was a big heavy jigsaw!
We eventually got the bases where we wanted them, only 3 hours later! Then we had to lay the insulation on the base and another timber floor on top of that. Once the floor was in, we could begin to erect the lattice structure. All made from steam bent ash from Shropshire Wildlife Trust Reserves. This was great fun and probably the easiest bit. With the basic structure in place, it was time to add the insulation to the sides and roof - lovely sheep's wool from the lake district; a cosy, warm blanket.

..and then came another tricky bit - pulling the canvas over the insulation without it all coming off... With Phil directing things from the middle and others pulling on ropes or pushing from the bottom, we soon pulled it over. And as 6 o'clock on sunday evening approached, the yurts were finally water-tight and insulated. We also have a new found respect for native Mongolians, who take down and move their yurts more than once a year - once every 5 years is enough for us!

Meanwhile, work has continued with the renovation of our Old Dairy. Another site meeting was had today with our fantastic design team to ensure that everything is on track. Sitting amongst our community growing area, the ideas were flowing. We have been busy organising renewable energy solutions, finishes, drainage and paints. All in all, we are currently due to complete the build at the end of April and therefore hope to be open early May - possibly even in time for the Royal Wedding...

The design team (Shingler Construction, WCP Associates, Seven Architecture and
Charlotte and Ben) meet in the picnic area to discuss progress.
As you can see from the images below, the build really does do Fordhall justice. The design is in-keeping and classic and the detail is finished with skill. This was evident again today, as Castle Ring Oak Framers arrived with our timber frame for the grass roof canopy.

The last of the scaffolding is removed to uncover the beautiful gable end of Fordhall's NEW classroom.

In the same format as the oak on our gable end, this oak canopy is pegged together through real joints and then lifted into place with the help of a crane.

By the end of the day the canopy was in place, sitting neatly on the stone plinths and awaiting the green roof that will soon cover it. This oak framing company are only across the border in Wales. Everthing is bespoke and made with care and attention. http://www.castleringoakframe.co.uk/html/gallery.html
The whole building is fantastic.

We really can't wait for you to all come and visit - and I haven't even shown you the new compost toilet yet...


Fordhalls new facilities have been generously part funded by Advantage West Midlands

Friday, March 18, 2011

..And hemp insulation too!

Looking towards our farm shop entrance, these british stone plinths will hold our oak canopy.
The renovation of our old dairy building at Fordhall continues to progress. Earlier this week saw the foundations for our oak green roof canopy go in, along with our wondow and door frames. This is when it all starts to feel real...

Preparation works for the oak canopy.
Following the installation of the sheep's wool in our roof, hemp batts have been pushed into our walls. I asked Sarah, our graduate who is carefully calculating our carbon footprint, to provide me with some information on the material and she said: 
"Don't be mistaken that this is in any way similar to the stuff that can be smoked! Although the same plant hemp insulation is a sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional insulation materials and it is becoming an increasingly popular construction material due to its durability and effective thermal properties. The hemp insulation also helps regulate internal moisture levels, creating a more comfortable space in the building in terms of humidity and air quality.

The hemp batts can be seen between the
timber frame.
Above is the wool wood board and
all in a mornings work!

Excitingly, hemp insulation is ‘carbon negative’ as the hemp crop absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows which is then retained within the hemp insulation. More carbon dioxide is absorbed during crop growth and harvesting than is released during the insulation production stage. This is great for the Old Dairy building and its carbon footprint."

 On top of this hemp will be woolwood boards. A more environmentally sound alternative to plasterboard and with the added benefit of being fantastic for noise and heat insulation. As you can see these are being laid directly infront of the hemp batts. Eventually, these will all be covered with a lovely traditional lime render.

Simultaneoulsy, the roofers outdoors have been busy applying the zinc covering to the new roof spaces. This is a very skilled job, but the workmanship has been first class and it looks wonderful.

Keep up the great work chaps.


Fordhalls new facilities have been generously part funded by Advantage West Midlands

Monday, March 14, 2011

The yurts are on the move..

Our yurts have been in desperate need of repair for some time. As we approach the end of our building project our focus moves towards creating a car park space and improving the remaining infrastructure on the farm.

As a result, last weekend was spent erecting a new compost toilet (well starting to erect one!) and taking down and repairing our 10-year-old yurts. They have begun to look a little untidy through the harsh winters and the canvass has been especially hit. But unable to afford to buy a new canvass we are repairing, cleaning and re-waterproofing the ones we have.

Taking the yurts down was like peeling an onion: first the canvass came off, then the sheep’s wool insulation, then the sheets inside, and then the timber structure (which was almost like a stack of cards collapsing). Everything was bundled into Ben’s van and moved into a temporary container, ready for us to re-erect them this coming weekend…

In the meantime the canvass has been cleaned with big brooms, bins full of waterproofing soap and then hung over any available fence (or pig ark!) we can find to dry.

Meanwhile another willing group of volunteers were erecting the frame for our new deluxe compost toilet. It might not look like much at the moment, but just give us another weekend and it will look amazing.

If anyone would like to come and help erect the yurts or complete the build of the compost toilet this coming weekend then please let us know.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Insulation at Fordhall - a first!

This week has seen insulation enter our old drafty farm building. Already, even without windows, it feels warmer than our thin steel portacabin!

Trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible, we are using a natural welsh sheeps wool in the roof instead of normal glass fibre insulation.
Consequently, the builders have enjoyed installing the insulation; with no need for masks and no itchy skin at the end of the day - even those who suffer with asthma have been fine.

There are many other benefits of using sheeps wool insulation. Being hygroscopic, it can absorb and desorb water vapour without detrimental effect to its thermal efficiency. It is therefore ideal for use in roofs, and timber-framed walls designed to avoid a damaging build up of moisture by allowing water vapour to migrate through the structure. Wool also generates heat when it absorbs moisture from the air. This helps prevent interstitial condensation in construction cavities by maintaining the temperature above the dew point in damp conditions.
Furthermore, wool insulation is truly environmentally friendly. Production takes a fraction of the energy required to produce glass fibre insulation. And the life expectancy of such insulation is more than 50 years and it is recyclable.

Plus if you want to roll around in it - you can!


Fordhalls new facilities have been generously part funded by Advantage West Midlands

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Scaffolding is down on the Old Dairy

As the tiles cover the whole of our Old Dairy roof at Fordhall, the beauty of the building again shines through. Most of the scaffolding is now down and the lovely circular brick window that was previously blocked up has also been uncovered. The Zinc for the classroom extension is still on order, but the rest of the old roof is pretty much complete. Work over the last 10 days has concentrated on the first fix for plumbing, electrics, phone connections and our network points.  Carefully guided by our Site Manager Charles (see upper left) the work has been efficient and without a (major) hitch....

Although every time I walk onto site the sparkies and plumbers seem to run out of my way! Left (lower left) you can see Andy our electrician trying to hide, but not quite being successful!

Charles has also been working hard to bring back the one timber truss from the original building. Due to the fact that it is very old timber, our structural engineer Peter, was not happy with it forming part of the structural wall. As an alternative we have sat it against the main classroom wall (very close to its original position) as a reminder of the old construction.

You will notice that you have to duck to get through the doorway, but I am assured that Charles will sort this out for us before we open! Fitting it into the space I know, has not been easy.

Fordhalls new facilities have been generously part funded by Advantage West Midlands

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fordhall has a fun working weekend!

What a great weekend,  lots of new faces and many returning faces came to help us on a very pleasant (for February!) volunteer working weekend at Fordhall Farm.
We made bridges, human photo frames (well planters for the car park really!) and hung gates plus lots lots more.
The next working weekend is the 11th-12th June, so sign up quick as with all our new facilities by then it's sure to get fully booked!