Thursday, 10 April 2014

From Reedbed to Roundhouse

The Lower Windrush Valley Project has recently joined forces with the Hill End Centre, situated on the Eynsham Road. Just a few miles shy of Oxford City Centre, much of Hill End’s 62 acres is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Dan raking rotting reeds into habitat piles, ideal for Grass Snakes

As such, it is an important area for conservation efforts and was established initially as an outdoor school in order to allow visitors to “experience a simpler, quieter life; an opportunity to be closer to nature, with the space and time to explore, understand and appreciate the wonders of the natural environment.”

Therefore, the Centre offers activities such as residential stays, day visits, training courses, workshops and special events for many groups such as schools, community groups, the general public and businesses.

Collection of Reeds by Hill End Centre volunteers at Standlake Common Nature Reserve
It is for this reason that the Lower Windrush Valley Project and Hill End Centre has teamed up and are pooling resources to benefit both parties and the wider community.

The primary aim is to create an Iron Age Village at the Hill End Centre, using a combination of traditional and more recent materials. The Iron Age village will consist of several Roundhouses constructed using local, natural materials. It is here that the partnership begins…

The Lower Windrush Valley Project's Thursday volunteer team has recently been scything sections of the reedbed at Standlake Common Nature Reserve, situated on the Windrush Path between Standlake and Newbridge.

Scything took place on March 20th 2014 with the aim of establishing blocks of reed of different ages. If a reedbed is unmanaged it will eventually dry out and turn into willow scrub. Opening up the reedbed also permits ingress by water fowl and aquatic species and increases the diversity of invertebrates living in the individual reed plants. The volunteers also created prime grass snake habitat by piling partially rotted reeds from last season’s scything into elongated mounds at the reed margins.

However, the majority of cut reeds were piled into large stacks and donated to the Hill End Centre for use as roofing material in the Iron Age Village.

The Hill End Centre team wasted no time and began work on the first roundhouse immediately. Using a combination of tightly woven willow and hazel branches, lashed together and nailed into place; the main structure of the soon-to-be roundhouse took shape.

‘Naked’ Roundhouse awaiting reeds for roof

The reeds collected from Standlake Common are bundled into tight ‘Yelm’s’ prior to being placed on the roofs surface.

Bundled Yelms – soon to form a waterproof roof for the Roundhouse
Yelms being added to roof

Once completed, the roundhouse will be one of several Iron Age Buildings within the wood at Hill End Centre. As well as the Roundhouses, there will also be a Workshop and traditional kiln oven, both of which are also currently under construction.

Workshop (foreground), Roundhouse 1 (background)
Functioning Kiln Oven; made using just mud, turf, straw and bricks
The use of the reeds by the Hill End Centre is a very welcome development for the LWVP with the knowledge that the reeds are being removed from the site and put to good use, as the finished Iron Age Village will be employed as a practical education experience for school children across Oxfordshire. Thus, providing the children with the opportunity to develop new skills in an old environment.

Partially roofed roundhouse

Finally, we want to thank David Millin and everyone else at the Hill End Centre for permitting us to photograph their brilliant Roundhouse! It’s going to look fantastic!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this with us! Some really amazing features.
    Roofer Abingdon