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Hello. This week David Elliot shares more about the design and materials for the new environmentally friendly building that Ben Law is helping the National Trust to build at Swan Barn Farm.

We have decided to call the new building Speckled Wood, after this butterfly that likes to frequent woodland rides and glades. They seem to be doing rather well here at Swan Barn Farm, thanks in some way at least to the work we have been doing here for the past few years.

Speckled Wood butterfly

Speckled Wood butterfly

The building will be based on a roundwood cruck timber frame. This construction technique produces attractive, functional buildings that can be sourced from the local woods. Exterior walls will be made of straw bales which will then either be rendered with lime or protected with oak boards. Interior walls will be wattle and daub with earth plaster. The roof will be made of chestnut shingles. We are very proud that pretty much all of the materials used in the building will be sourced in a sustainable way from woods within a couple of miles of the project site.

Sketch of new building

Sketch of new building

Above is a sketch of what the new building will look like, we have had a long haul to get the project off the ground and are still working hard on funding. Meanwhile we are also working hard in the woods getting the materials we will need for the project ready.

Felling chestnut

Felling chestnut

Here we are working in Ridden Corner Copse on Black Down felling and preparing the Sweet Chestnut which will be used for the timber frame of the building. The process becomes really fascinating when you start to think about which parts of the building the tree’s you are working with are going to be used for.

Working on oak

Working on oak

Above you can see me working on an oak in Witley Copse at Swan Barn Farm. The tree I am working on in this photo is destined for interior floorboards for the building. It will be sawn into planks and then air dried for a number of months before a final short spell of kiln drying.

Most of the timber for the building is coming from coppice woodlands. Coppicing is a traditional (and sustainable) form of woodland management which dates back many hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In a coppiced wood an area of the wood is felled each winter, but the trees don’t die, instead they re-grow from the cut stumps, the re-growth from the stumps can be harvested many times without any affect on the tree’s ability to grow again. Coppicing provides wood which is useful for a variety of purposes, but perhaps even more importantly it also provides the alternating cycles of light and shade, as well bare ground and dense shrubby thickets which are so vital to much of our precious woodland wildlife. Wild flowers grab the opportunity to grow and set seed in the light when the coppice is cut and woodland birds love to nest in the thickets as the woodland regenerates. There is nothing quite like a walk through a well managed hazel coppice in the spring, it is a vibrant place, bursting with life.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project you can visit the speckled wood blog at: http://swanbarnfarm.wordpress.com/

I am writing it as way of keeping a diary of progress on the project, telling its story I suppose, as well as letting people locally know about some of the other things that are going on at Black Down.

The project has been really interesting so far, and we are only just getting going, we have been lucky to have lots of local support and interest and we hope this will continue.

We have a busy year ahead of us, so wish us luck! If you are here in Haslemere this summer why not call in and see the building going up, there is easy access to Swan Barn Farm from the High Street, and the main footpath goes right past the project.

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In this week’s blog David Elliott, National Trust Head Warden for the Black Down Estate, starts writing about the Speckled Wood project at Swan Barn Farm.

Swan Barn Farm is a National Trust property next to the small town of Haslemere. Being right on the town’s doorstep it offers a real opportunity for people to get involved in the countryside. It is made up of about 100 acres of ancient woodland and meadows as well as a small orchard and a number of ponds and streams. It is home to the Black Down wardening team as well as to Hunter Basecamp.

Hunter Basecamp at Swan Barn Farm

Hunter Basecamp at Swan Barn Farm

The basecamp, pictured above, offers accommodation to volunteers who come for week long working holidays and work on a number of NT properties in the area. It is also the site for an exciting new project; a project that aims to extend the basecamp facilities by building new accommodation for long term volunteers.

View across the estate

View across the estate

From our base at Swan Barn Farm the Black Down countryside team manages hundreds of acres of woodland, heathland and meadows. This countryside and its important wildlife are much loved by local people. We want the new building to reflect this landscape and to be constructed from materials sourced on the estate in an environmentally friendly manner.

Woods near Swan Barn Farm

Woods near Swan Barn Farm

The woodlands on the estate are managed primarily for public access and nature conservation. Large areas of them are traditional coppiced woodlands. The cyclical cutting of coppiced woodland provides ideal conditions for a wide range of woodland wildlife as well as providing timber for use on the estate, including our new building.

Chesnut coppicing on the estate

Chesnut coppicing on the estate

We have been working with local designer and woodsman Ben Law, who you may have seen building his house (shown below) on the Channel 4 programme Grand Designs. Ben is working with us to design and build an environmentally friendly, locally sourced building which we can construct with the help of our volunteers.

The house Ben Law built

The house Ben Law built

Next week David will share more details about this project including what work has been carried out so far and the design of the building.