Posts Tagged ‘thrift’

The Gumtree shed…

October 11, 2017

When we got our allotment, it didn’t take long to realise that a shed would be an enormous asset. The site is just under a mile away from home; close enough to walk up there, but not to run home to escape a shower. And that’s quite a way to carry tools; if we didn’t want to drive up there all the time, we needed somewhere to store them. In true Permaculture style, it would fulfill other functions, too; where we planned to put it, it could act as a partial windbreak, as we are in the southwestern corner of the site, where the wind whistles in over the river meadows, partially screened by a blackthorn hedge, but partly exposed. The roof would be a raised surface for capturing rainwater to store in our (wombled) water-butts, too.


New allotment with an “open aspect”…

The maximum size we’re allowed on site is 8′ x 6′, on a slab base; no concrete, no decking. But we didn’t really want to give up that much growing-space, as our plot is an odd shape; triangular, with the hypotenuse facing south-west into the prevailing wind. We don’t have any power tools to store, just secondhand manual tools, so security wasn’t much of an issue. So an 6′ x 4′ wooden shed would be plenty big enough.

But a new shed would cost at least a hundred pounds, which kind of negates the money-saving aspect of allotmenteering, even if it’s a one-off investment. So I started looking round on Gumtree, allowing myself a budget of around £30, thinking there’d almost certainly be money to be spent getting whatever I found up to scratch. But most were far too big, and I kept missing the smaller ones that were offered. Except one, which was offered FREE as “might suit someone for firewood!” Half of one long side was missing, replaced temporarily by the door, but I went to see it anyway as it was only a few hundred yards away. Not great, but surely, salvageable… The lovely young couple giving it away had decided to replace it with something intact and also bigger.


The Head Gardener surveys a pile of potential shed…

So we hauled it across town, the end bits, the door & parts of the framework inside my van, and the sides lashed to the roof-rack of the Head Gardener’s estate car. It sat for a week or so in a heap, beside where it was going to be put back together again, whilst HG laid & levelled the slabs. Then we spent a merry afternoon puzzling out what should go where, and screwing it all together; it had previously just been nailed. Some bits are a little rotten & have been replaced, and the roofing felt needed replacing altogether, and our allotment just isn’t quite the same shape as the ground it sat on before so the roof just wouldn’t quite sit properly, but hey! we have a shed, all screwed together firmly, and it hardly cost us anything!


Oooh look, a shed!

It just so happened that a friend had recently had her conservatory roof replaced with something more permanent. It occurred to me that a piece of ex-roof triple-wall polycarb might just plug the gap in the wall and make a rather good window; Head Gardener moved the remaining slats down to the lower half, I cut the polycarb to the right length and lo and behold! it just slotted over the slats perfectly. Screwed into position gently, the windward side that looks towards the water-meadows actually lets the light in now.

The structure was probably never the sturdiest, and strong winds might have been an issue, exposed on the edge of the site. But HG had a stroke of pure genius; why not use some of the pallets that I’d wombled to make composters to brace the shed, inside the structure, instead? So there are three strong & heavy pallets resting on the floor slabs, screwed to the wall supports & each other, and acting as shelf supports & tool racks.


A pallet serving as a brace and a tool-rack

There’s a triangular shelf made from pallet-wood at the end for all the things you might need a work-surface for, like potting, or making a cup of tea, and two shelves running across the end over that for all those little pots & tins of stuff we seem to need. Like biscuits…


Pallet-wood shelves, and conservatory-roof window!

There’s a shelf at the bottom of the window; whilst it doesn’t let full daylight in, I think there’s enough light to start the odd window-box propagator-tray of seedlings in there. There are hooks and nails to hang small things like trowels, string, netting and dibbers, and I’ve even cobbled together a somewhat flimsy welly rack from an old curtain pole and a spare bit of wood. It’s not “finished” yet, in that we have yet to trim the roof felt, put up the “bug box” and add the guttering; in fact I’ve yet to source some of that. And it’s far from luxurious, and there are no gingham curtains or bunting (yet!) but we haven’t found a single drip of rain inside, and it’s stood up to winds that have brought branches down elsewhere in town. So, so far, so good!





Not following the crowd…

April 9, 2017

I’m just back from a delightful mini-break in Cornwall, with my second darling daughter. It was only a couple of days, but we had a lovely time and great weather. We walked a lot, and explored a few old haunts and new-to-her corners. On the way back, we stopped at Cotehele House, a gem of a medieval manor house in a stunning setting that I’m well-familiar with, having grown up very close by until my early teens. It was pleasantly uncrowded and relaxed, despite the glorious sunshine. When the time came to leave, I took the little back roads up to cross the river at Gunnislake, to the north…


Cotehele House

We passed mile after mile of glorious green hedgebank, splashed with primroses, violets,  campions and the odd late daffodil, nodding drowsily in the sunshine. These are mostly single-track roads, with passing places, but there are also plenty of wide verges where it would be perfectly safe to park out of the farmers’ way and spread your picnic cloth, as we used to back in the Dark Ages when I grew up there. Kites and buzzards wheeled lazily overhead, spooking the well-fed pigeons, and cock-pheasants wandered along the roadside, gazing at the van in mild perplexity. Despite it being school holidays for most of the country, we hardly saw another car, until we reached the main road.

Then – mayhem! Almost the first thing we passed was a roadside hostelry, with a well-packed car park and a long queue to get into it, reducing the road to a single track at a most-inconvenient point. Grizzling children who’d clearly spent hours cooped up in a car, and mightily-stressed adults obviously on the verge of tearing their hair out. Yet within a couple of hundred yards, there’s all the lovely countryside you could wish for. I know it doesn’t come equipped with loos and hygienic hand-driers, but hedges take no harm for a bit of extra watering, and taking your own picnic means that your children do get to eat what they like, and your money gets saved for more worthwhile purposes than yet more chips for lunch. A wet flannel in a plastic bag keeps hands just as clean as a well-used public tap. Just remember to respect the country code; clear up after yourselves, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints, as the saying goes.

It’s something we often notice here too, living in a holiday area. The main roads are jam-packed, sometimes gridlocked, in summer, the “attractions”, well-known beaches and eateries full to bursting and not much fun at all. But stray a little off the beaten track, and you can walk for miles in some of the loveliest countryside these islands have to offer, liberally sprinkled with ancient monuments, and hardly see another soul. Visit a beach that doesn’t have an ice-cream kiosk, equip your kids with I-Spy books, buckets, spades and shrimping nets, or teach them to skim stones, and enjoy some space and peace. (Possibly even without anyone whining that they haven’t got a mobile signal.) Go to a stately home, rather than an over-priced adventure park with hour-long queues; they’ll have play areas, quizzes, and farm animals, and quite probably proper food at not-unreasonable prices rather than burgers, fries and nachos. Almost certainly there’ll be somewhere congenial to eat your picnic, too,  and plenty of space to let off steam.

I’m the first to look at Tr1p Adv1sor before going anywhere new, to get an idea of the area & what’s available locally. But I also look at physical maps, and “drive” around a bit on Google Maps, to recce likely stops and shops. Following the herd and sticking to the main roads means safety and convenience, but also crowds, queues, stress and noise. Straying a little off the beaten track often leads to delightful surprises and unsuspected loveliness…


Primroses & violets in a Cornish hedge-bank…