The Ecocentre

Latest News – September 2017

Currently the centre is empty and up for rent.

We were given notice to quit and left last December – more details here.

The toilets were replaced before we left – and are now connected to the mains.

The willow work, when last seen, was suffering from lack of maintenance.


The Ecocentre is the base for care farm activities on the farm and is designed with sustainability in mind.


The walls of the main room are lime-rendered straw bales on three sides and a rammed clay wall on the fourth. The front room, which serves as a reception area and kitchenette, is triple-glazed, allowing the sun to warm the earth wall. This then acts as a storage heater. Sometimes in summer you can understand what an orchid feels like, because it can get a bit overpowering.


In winter the walls provide first class insulation which allows the underfloor heating (powered by the four panels on the front wall) to do its work. Today (mid December) it is holding 23 degrees C against an outside temperature of 6 degrees. A couple of weeks ago it was 3 outside and 18 inside. The down side is that you rely on people keeping the doors closed otherwise it can get cold very quickly.

The panels also provide hot water.

The roof is covered in sedum, which gives a decent level of insulation. It’s actually the second roof we have had as the first one blew off one day. One minute we had a newish, complete sedum roof, next minute we were standing in a hail of grit as large portions of it blew off. Looking on the bright side, we were given a replacement by the suppliers and we have lots of ground cover plants in the flower beds.


This is the sedum that used to be on the roof – not quite sure what species it is apart from being a stonecrop.

Willow work

These are some pictures of our willow structures requested by a reader from San Diego, California. He’s just going through his fourth year of record-breaking drought while I’m having to apologise for picture quality on account of the rain. Irony, eh?

They are made by the Shipshape Arts team who work out of the farm barns and who are responsible for the green figures you see in my header, the “tree” we use for the activity tent and a number of other things.

It’s early June as I write and they are ready for their annual re-weave and trim. When tidy the dome and arch are about 9 feet high and the hedge is about 6 feet. The arch is on an area where the soil is only about four inches deep – it took quite a bit of watering initially but is OK now – we just give it a feed once a year when it starts to flag. The arch and hedge don’t need any additional attention.


That’s the arch – the black thing is a bin.


That’s the dome – a favourite with visiting kids


This is the hedge

25 thoughts on “The Ecocentre

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      1. navasolanature

        Sounds great. The oldest part of our house is mud and stone but the rest is the darling with Local Spanish builders…concrete. We even struggled with wanting a wooden roof.

  4. James Gielow

    What a beautiful spot you’ve got going over there! Thank you so much for posting the willow structures on my behalf!!

    I am inspired to build one of my own. I’ve read that willow is insanely easy to root and I can get clones from my existing young tree. Have you ever heard of making willow water as a rooting compound? I’d like to try that as well.

    This is one of the main reasons I love writing Mind Your Dirt, the sharing of ideas with other souls that have the same passion as I do. It’s so meaningful to me. Thank you kindly for posting photos! Oh, and if you have some extra rain to spare, perhaps you can mail some my way! My rain dances aren’t effective at all, unless you consider odd looks from the neighbors. Cheers!

      1. James Gielow

        Essentially you take willow twigs, cut them into 4 inch sections and place them in a mason jar and fill it with water. In about a day, you’ll have a liquid rooting compound that you can use on any plant.

      2. quercuscommunity

        Well, I know where I can get willow and I have plenty of water so no excuses for not trying this. As I often say “What could possibly go wrong?” 😉

      3. James Gielow

        Famous last words. Maybe the willows will become our new overlords and that’s why there been weeping all this time. Tears of menace and destruction!

  5. dbp49

    That really is fascinating, and I’m going to have to come back here a few times to get the rest of the story. I worked in construction quite a long time, and this building method is truly new to me. Like I said, it’s fascinating.


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