Cob bricks and new wall plates!

July Camp Cob 2011This July’s camp cob at Le Petit Givais in France was absolutely cob brick-tastic! A massive thanks to all those feet and hands that helped stamp, roll and squelch to make an LPG record of over 200 bricks made in one visit!

These bricks were made using a 1:1:1 mix of sand, straw and clay with 1/4 bucket of water depending of wetness of sand and how hot it was. We have quite silty clay on our site so we do not mix too much sand in as it would make the bricks too friable, (which is when the surface is really grainy and sandy to touch with lots of surface coming away when you rub it). Once you’ve mixed the cob, by foot in our case on tarps, the cob mix can then be firmly packed into the brick forms which need a good hosing down with water first otherwise you will never get your bricks out or off the board!

Once out of the forms they can be left to dry in a shady spot (in the barn in our case) with plenty of ventilation. The bricks are then turned every day and eventually stacked ready for use. We leave our bricks for a minimum of three weeks to three months depending on weather and ventilation. Our new bricks won’t get used until next year now so will be totally dried out by the time we come to put them in a wall. With restoration the reason you can’t use wet bricks is that the wall you are putting them into is dry, so if you put in wet bricks they will dry in the wall, which will mean any shrinkage or cracking will occur in the wall. So in order to have the right size brick that you know isn’t going to break you need to wait for them to dry outside the wall first. No doubt that’s all as clear as mud?!

We also have a new wall plate coming to replace the one we currently have which is rotten in the middle. The photo you can see top left, shows how the ceiling joists have been propped, then holes cut through the cob under the main ‘A frame’ timbers and blocks and wedges hammered in and then with these timbers supported the rest of the cob has now been taken out. A new wall plate can then be found and cut to fit the existing timber frame roof, the old wall plate taken out, the new one put in and then we can brick up the cob underneath with some of our fantastically made new cob bricks.

This year will also see the new drainage and sceptic tank going in, the holes for the sceptic tank and new filter bed will also generate lots of new clay for us, saving us loads of time, as many a day has been lost ‘in the pit’ digging up clay. Although it has to be said, that digging in the now enormous pit is strangely a very popular activity!

This year we also took off the last remaining bits of concrete in the flint plinth with one small stretch left now to rebuild and re-point, phew! It’s quite a healing process smashing concrete off of beautiful buildings, I highly recommend it! We also filled in the last remaining cob holes in the gable end wall leaving it ready to be Lime rendered next year.

Next year at LPG will see some new drainage, the flint plinth finished, the gable end wall rendered, the brick wall re built and tied back to the cob and the last remaining concrete window removed and all the new timber doors and windows fitted, quite an exciting year next year, can’t wait!

Thanks again from the Cavey team to all those that came out, made bricks, fixed walls, smashed concrete and ate their weight in cheese! You are all stars!


us co-operating!

Well it’s coming to the end of Co-operatives fortnight and Cave has been co-operating with all sorts of fantastic people over the last two and a half years. We love being a co-op and all that that entails, the more we find out about co-ops the more excited and proud we are to be one and be a member of one.

Cave will be co-operating again this weekend with Transition Town Kingston (TTK) and the Kingston Environment Centre for their ‘Skills In Action weekend!’ Running from Sat 9th and Sun 10th July, 11am-5pm, at the Kingston Environment Centre, Fairfield East, KT1 2PT. Cave and some friends will be building a habitat wall on the Saturday, so come along and help us make a luxury apartment block for insects. Cave not only co-operates with humans but with insects too!

Co-operatives Fortnight is the annual campaign from the UK co-operative sector. It aims to raise awareness of how co-operatives offer a way of doing business in which everyday employees, customers and residents have an equal say in decisions and share the profits. This year, the theme ‘Yours To Share’ represents the shared ownership and the share in profits that makes co-operatives different.

Sponsored by key businesses in the co-operative sector and co-ordinated by Co-operatives UK, the national trade association for co-operatives, Co-operatives Fortnight ran for the first time in 2010. In its first year, over 160 events were held, 70,000 people got involved online, 2.3 million people were engaged overall and 43 million people heard about it from the media.

At the centre of this is a petition calling for government action to narrow the gap between rich and poor in the UK. To sign the petition click here.

For more co-ops info go to:

For a sweet little film about co-ops:

Free Eco-advice! Tuesday, June 28th, 4-7pm at The Kingston Environment Centre

Eco advice

Come to the Kingston Environment Centre  on Tuesday, June 28th between 4pm -7pm, for this month’s free Eco-Surgery!

If you have questions about how to save money on your fuel bills?

How to make your home as energy efficient as possible for the least amount of money, in the most beautiful way?

What sort of grants and funding are available? Or how to encourage wildlife into your garden?

Then come down to the Eco-Surgery at the Kingston Environment Centre. No appointment is necessary, just pop in and we’ll do our best to answer all your questions and if we don’t know the answer we’ll find out, or find someone who does!

The Eco-Surgery is the last Tuesday of every month and is totally free, so come down and let’s talk sustainability!

Find us at:

Kingston Environment Centre, Fairfield East, Kingston, Surrey, KT1 2PT.

Tel: 0208 549 2698

Fun at Camp Cob!

Camp Cob!

The Cave team were back out at Camp Cob this May with lots of new helpers!

This visit we were focusing on new foundations to the fantastic new Oak door frame (not a nail or screw in site!), using some of our beautiful cob bricks made last year to plug up some of the more industrious masonry bees holes and starting on the final section of Flint wall to be re-pointed. One of our camp cobbers also made a fantastic Rhubarb compote with the vast amounts of Rhubarb we have on site!

We had the surreal pleasure of turning on our first light at Camp Cob which for the last two years has been a completely off grid, candle light and lantern experience! With our new found electrical capacity the client splashed out on a fridge, so cold beers all round at the end of the day, perfect!

We had ideal weather this trip for working outdoors and had loads of fun making cob mortars, hefting huge lumps of rocks about (thank you team “we move any rock!”) and playing with Lime. The flint re-pointing is under way and will be finished next trip as well as all the cob work to the end gable wall ready for Lime rendering next season.

If you’d like to come along to Camp Cob and have fun in France with mud and Lime then please feel free to email us about our July trip! There are a limited amount of places left and we will be there from July 16th – 31st, accommodation, food and drink are free, you just need to make your own way there… So come and sample the best of the French countryside whilst stamping around on lots of mud!

Free Eco Advice!


Come to the Kingston Environment Centre  on Tuesday 31st May between 4pm -7pm, for this month’s free Eco-Surgery!

If you have questions about how to save money on your fuel bills?

How to make your home as energy efficient as possible for the least amount of money?

What sort of grants and funding are available?

How to encourage wildlife into your garden?

Then come down to the Eco-Surgery at the Kingston Environment Centre, no appointment is necessary, just pop in and we’ll do our best to answer all your questions and if we don’t know the answer we’ll find someone who does!

The Eco-Surgery is the last Tuesday of every month and is totally free, so come down and let’s talk sustainability!

Find us at:

Kingston Environment Centre, Fairfield East, Kingston, Surrey, KT1 2PT.

Tel: 0208 549 2698

Harmony Gardens on site and underway!

Harmony Gardens

After winning the Peoples Millions earlier this year, the Harmony Gardens in Tottenham are now on site and under construction all using the power of community volunteers!

Thanks to the hard work of the fantastic people at Back2Earth, this project is soon to be a beautiful reality. Consisting of two separate gardens; one food producing children’s nature garden and one community growing and recreational garden.

If you’re in the North London area and fancy lending a hand then back2earth would love to hear from you, all ages and abilities welcome!

For info contact:

Martin Burrows or Felix Waterhouse at:

Back 2 Earth Projects, Broadwater Farm Community Centre, 1 Adams Road, Tottenham, N17 6HE.

tel: 020 8808 1829 or 020 8885 4185 or! 07831219032

NEXT ECO-SURGERY 31st MAY, 4pm – 7pm AT THE KINGSTON ENVIRONMENT CENTRE, Fairfiled East, Kingston, Surrey, KT1 2PT.

Just turn up and we’ll talk eco improvements!

Community Spirit!

glass house

Recently Cave teamed up with the charity The Glass-House to help them with a tour of sustainable community buildings, for a collection of diverse community groups who were interested in starting similar projects themselves.

First stop was The London Wildlife Trusts, Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Peckham.

Built in 1992 the centre is an award winning project by local designers Architype Architects. The building was the first to use recycled newspaper insulation in a breathable construction. The building is orientated to have maximum passive solar gain in autumn, winter and spring and natural ventilation and solar shading in the summer. Non toxic paints were use throughout the internal and external areas of the project. The Contract Value at the time was £56.000, so in today’s money that would be something around the £90.000. This building gets very hot during the summer, so some additional shading and ventilation is needed to the South elevation, but the building is well designed in terms of it’s function and aesthetics, just needs a little tweaking! The gardens here are fantastic and are well worth a visit…

Next stop was The Roots and Shoots building in Kennington, designed by Paul Noltey. The eco-building was completed in 2005 and officially opened in 2007 by HRH The Prince of Wales, it is the hub of Roots and Shoots’ activities. It’s a timber clad building with a large photovoltaic roof which generates around 50% of their electricity needs, it has solar water heating, rainwater collection for the WC’s and to water plants and in the cladding there are built-in insect and bird boxes. It’s where the training rooms, office and reception are housed and has a light and spacious hall and meeting rooms. The occupants of this building are really happy with the amount of usable space they now have, making their facility a real asset to the Charity, but feel more consultation during the design process was needed, which could have designed out some ongoing maintenance issues which they now have.

And finally, we took our little tour bus to the Manor Park Cafe in Sutton.

The café completed last year, boasts an impressive array of environmental features and was built by the UK’s leading straw bale design company Amazonails following a proposal from Sutton Council. The construction is of rammed car tyre foundations, UK produced load bearing straw bale walls, external Lime and Hemp render, internal Lime plaster, Oak timber framing, and a living roof. The building construction took just three months to complete. This little building is a fantastic example of how well straw insulates, but it does suffer from over heating! This could have been designed out at an early stage except that the architect that originally received the planning approval hadn’t designed for straw or for passive solar heating and cooling, this coupled with time constraints meant that adjustments to the approved designs couldn’t be made so Amazonails had to sustainably build a building that hadn’t been designed to be sustainable! With some external shading to the South this building will be toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.

All three buildings have their successes and failures, but all show what can be accomplished within the community if you put your mind to it. It was a really interesting day out and we met some lovely people, all with fantastic ideas and projects that if they come to fruition will be a real benefit to their communities, so good luck people!

Visit at:

Green roof up and growing!

living roof

Things in the Cave office have been sooo busy this last month, our little Cavey feet have hardly touched the ground! So I have some serious blog catch up to do…

Firstly… If you’d like some FREE! Eco advice on how to save money and the planet come to our monthly ECO SURGERY at the Kingston Environment Centre, Tuesday 26th April, 4pm -7pm. No appointment needed, just turn up! We can advise on how to make your home more energy efficient, available grants and funding and much, much more!

What else have we been up to?

Well, the new porch roof at the Kingston Environment Centre went up last month and shoots are appearing and little Sedums and herbs are growing there as I write.

We had a great team working with us that weekend and luckily the weather held out and we managed to get the roof up dodging the showers. The original porch roof was corrugated steel and we kept to the existing size of this roof and had quite a bit to do, in terms of structurally making the porch walls safe before we could start on the actual roof, as the walls weren’t tied into the building at all!

Once the walls were secured with steel straps we could then start on the roof and the phrase “a workman is only as good as his tools” springs to mind! We had a range of tools from the Cavey office and access to the tools at the Environment Centre, but we were still lacking a few! As we were on an extremely tight budget (most of the materials were kindly donated) we were limited to what we could buy. So, after much head scratching we revised our well thought out plans to meet the limitations of our tools.

After much drilling, sawing, tea drinking and hammering and a suitable ‘A-Team’ style musical montage we had our finished little living roof, complete with Bat habitat! The Kingston Environment Centre team then seeded the roof from their collected seed bank as well as throwing a good number of their magic  ‘seed bombs’ up there! Now that Spring has definitely sprung there is a profusion of life bursting forth on the little roof.

We had some fantastic donations from:

The Butyl Products Ltd Group, Alsford Timber and Wickes, so a massive THANK YOU to our very kind sponsors of the project, they are all stars!

We also had lots of good advice from the Bat conservation trust, to help us build all sorts of happy bat crevices into our roof:

Green roof building fun! 26th & 27th March at The Kingston Environment Centre

green roof

March sees the start of Kingston’s fantastic ‘Paint the Town Green’ festival.

This year Cave are getting involved running a stall at The Energy Event on the 18th & 19th, as well as giving a talk in the Market House about Cave and easy ways to retrofit domestic properties without breaking the bank!

Cave will also be setting up a green roofing group. We’ll be tackling the slightly worse for wear porch roof at the Environment Centre in Kingston and putting a shiny new green roof on!

If you’re interested in coming along, it’s on 26th & 27th March from 9am – 5pm and will be almost free! (except for a small donation to the Environment Centre to cover lunch and teas). There will be talks about green roofs, Biodiversity and Habitat creation as well as the practical how to’s of building your own green roof and of course it will be great fun!

For details of how to book a place contact us at:

We will also be starting up a monthly Sustainable Surgery at the Kingston Environment Centre which will be the last Tuesday of every month starting Tuesday 29th March.

Hopefully by the end of March Kingston will have been totally painted green!

For more info see:

Women In Construction!

in the park

Happy new year!

It’s been a fantastically busy start to the new year in the Cave office. We have been busy with our first Straw Bale extension, playing with adventure playgrounds, working with the Bat Conservation trust and making plans to Paint the Town Green!

Vera and I were lucky enough to be invited to a conference hosted by Suscon a couple of days ago titled ‘Women in Construction’. Wow! What an inspiring day! So many fantastically clever and passionate women all talking about how they ended up in their various jobs within construction. Interestingly enough, all of them either involved in sustainable endeavours or communication…

Did you know that women represent less than 1% of the Uk construction industry? And most of them in admin’! I can only think that if change is to happen it has to start in schools with girls being educated, inspired and told they really can do ANYTHING they want with their careers, instead of being restricted and de-motivated by stereotypes.

So come on ladies, get out there and shout about your success!

Interesting links: