Learning from the past how to build a green future

by Managing Director of OBee CIC in Stowmarket, England, United Kingdom

Total raised £890

£2,500 target 32 days left
35% 4 supporters
Flexible funding – this project will receive all pledges made by 14th August 2024 at 7:38pm

With your help we'd like to provide heritage construction skills for local volunteers and wider community (building with earth and straw).

by Managing Director of OBee CIC in Stowmarket, England, United Kingdom

 donated match funding
Aviva Community Fund is providing live match funding

This September we want to build a Masonry Stove in our new Education Building. 

A Masonry Stove will allow us to heat our new building making more efficient use of our firewood. It will also enable us to demonstrate and teach cooking skills to preserve our home grown produce (orchard fruit and vegetables) into jams and pickles the traditional way.

In order to build the stove we need to make over 100 of these CLAY LUMP BLOCKS. To make clay lump blocks we need to train and supervise volunteers in the time honored craft of making building materials from the clay-rich sub soil that is just under our feet.

We have more people wanting to learn with us than capacity to teach them. Please help us raise extra funds so we can pay for extra Volunteer Supervision and Training.


Over the last 17 years we've worked with thousands of people and have all learnt a lot about heritage building skills. With your help we can continue to reach and deliver more practical Earth Building workshops that will enable our new Education Building to be ready for use very soon.

Our ancestors built with materials from the local landscape. They converted trees into timbers using hand tools, and built beautiful timber frame buildings that are still standing hundreds of years later. Furthermore construction was a community enterprise. Everyone was involved and everyone benefited in the learning and doing.

Earth and Straw Our big project last year was making and fitting our own Light Straw Clay insulation. Seven tons in total. Mixed by hand, foot, rake and hoe by 87 Volunteers. We all got a lot fitter!

The materials were the same as used in the making of Daub (a heritage building material) but the ratio of straw to clay was different in order to comply with modern building regulations. See process below.


Volunteer Skills Development 

In our last accounting year we worked with over 137 Volunteers - people who live just down the road, people who came and helped for a month or more, and architecture students from all over the world who have learnt with us through making and building. View our full Impact Statement video on YouTube.


In the last week students from Hungary, India, Malaysia and London have worked alongside our regular Volunteers. They've dug out the clay rich sub soil foundations of the old floor and started converting it into Clay Lump Blocks for use in our new masonry stove. 

Below are Ramona and Roland celebrating the completion of a task they set themselves. They, along with Devyani and Madeleine dug and wheel-barrowed this mountain of very yummy clay sub soil out of our new Education Building!


Using what we've got 

We're also drying the clay and will be reusing it as the top surface of our new Earth Floor. Please contact Sarah directly if you'd like to come and help make this Earth Floor (complete with underfloor heating) at the end of August? 


To say we're learning all the time is no exaggeration. Here is a footprint we found last week in a 200 year old clay lump block. It's a small hobnail boot, may size 3 or 4?  Possibly a child helping to make these blocks? Anyway, they used their boot to push the block out of the mould. We've started doing the same. It's a whole load easier that trying to persuade 30lbs of clay to leave the wooden mould on its own! 


Physical fitness - Stomping the clay and straw together is a fantastic Green Gym activity. Great for keeping us fitter, also a fun way of making new friends. 


Here are some clay lump blocks we made earlier. They're drying nicely outside in the sunshine and will be ready for use in 4-6 weeks (depending on the weather). They've been made using human energy and solar dried. Is that carbon neutral, or maybe carbon negative? Anyways, we're planning to use these blocks to face our the Masonry Stove we'll be building in September. We just need your help to enable us to make more! 

SO many great uses for our clay sub-soil! Below is a photo of another project volunteers have learnt from using cob wall, clay lump blocks and earth mortar. These heritage building materials and methods that have been used for hundreds of years, and with your help will play their part in lowering our carbon footprint and building more resilient communities.


So, you can see, we're using locally dug clay, human and solar energy to make these traditional building materials, AND having fun learning as we go. 

YOUR donation will help us provide more hands-on traditional building skills workshops to even more Volunteers from near and far, and don't forget, your donation will be doubled (up to £250) by our funders Aviva Community Fund. There are lots of lovely Rewards available.



This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£165 or more

1 of 6 claimed

One day Intro to Timber Framing course place

Get a discount of £35 on your course fee (usual price £200). Come and get started with traditional timber framing on a professional course in heritage skills construction. Live project. Practical hand tools. Locally sourced green oak. Learn from our timber framing tutor who has decades of experience in this ancient craft. IHBC CPD attendance certificate available.

£20 or more

Your name on Supporters Board

Your name to be added to a list of fellow supporters on a beautiful slice of Ash board (grown in Suffolk). To be displayed in the reinstated 1580 Long House (new Education Building)

£50 or more

Guided Tour for 4 people

Come to Orchard Barn and see what we've achieved! Ninety minute tour of Long House and other vernacular buildings led by Sarah Partridge (Centre Manager and Co-Founder of OBee CIC).

£70 or more

0 of 4 claimed

A PowerPoint presentation for your group

Book a 50 minute talk by Co-founder of this project and learn first hand how the project evolved, and the extent of our outreach. Hear about the challenges and delights of managing an off-grid project which is run by volunteers for volunteers. Travel costs included within 20 mile radius of IP14 2LY.

£250 or more

1 of 4 claimed

Half day Professional Consultation

Three hours of One to One time with one of the directors of OBee CIC. Could be hands-on tuition, or time discussing how to proceed with your heritage/community project. At Orchard Barn, or within a 50 mile radius of IP14 2LY.

Show your support

Payment and personal details are protected