Project Description

The Forest School idea is very potent concept
around a theory that whatever children can do
inside they can also do outside. Ecclesall
woods, the ancient woodland within the city
boundary has an old Sawmill site. The site
has exciting new plans for developing a centre
for innovative use of timber and has a number
of small businesses and enterprises already on
the site. At the moment the Forest School site
has outdoor play area and a teepee. They
would like to develop a “structure” to allow for
some additional facilities – to be decided but
most likely an “outside classroom” and the
aim is to build the project.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Wet Wet Wet

Lets be honest here, not everyday is a Sunday. We had a pretty frustrating day today no thanks to the weather. Probably the worst day so far ever since we started on site, weather wise. The day started off ok with Pete and Steve finishing off the step they were making. Jo and Willie finally finished the platform after technical delays (shortage of screw fixings). Olly, Abbie and Tim were on a road trip to get more materials. Chris and Kyle were working on getting the fixings onto the columns. Aditi followed Tom into the woods to get some round sections of dead oak. Caitrina carried on with polishing off some of the poles making them look sweeter....

And then the weather took a turn and started pouring. Things we had to do during the afternoon:
1. Get platform on site which involved 8 people. (in the rain)
2. Trying to figure out a way to get columns fixed. (in the rain)
3. Sorting out timber for the floor decking, storage unit. (in the rain)
4. Debarking poles ( in the rain)
5. Digging, digging and more digging (you get the idea)
6. Transfering oak round sections from woods to site (yup, no change here)

Not all bad news though. Thanks to Jo and her sources we now have sufficient timber to finish the decking by Monday hopefully. The road trip guys managed to get our concrete and ply and other materials. And the best thing of all, we're all still going strong. (tomorrow onwards, T&C applies)

Fun competition for today. Who can guess what Olly was doing in the picture above?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


Can you spot Willie in the photo below? If so you win a prize to come work on the Sawmill with us! Happy searching!

S**T the bed?!?!

After a painful 7am start this morning we were greeted by an annoying alarm and plenty of frost on site.
Once we finished admiring the frost on the ground we were ready to start work. Kyle and Tim set about helping Tom cut the base of the structural columns into square sections for fixing into ground support.

Whilst that was going on, other members of the team were busy laying out the sleepers which would form the base of our outdoor classroom. Due to the sloping nature of the site, there was a lot of trench digging, moving and re-digging and moving to get the sleepers level.

Olly and Abbie make sure the sleepers are level

Whilst the girls are busy with labour intensive work, Kyle is getting friendly with his local tree....
Kyle: "this one is my friend..."

With such an early morning start, we all begin to feel hungry pretty soon and decide to stop for lunch. Whilst having our lunch who comes to accompany us, why its only our mascot robin!

Robin our friendly mascot

After lunch, the afternoon was a pretty laid back affair, with some of the highlights shown below:

Olly sports her latest bikini design
Abbie and Aditi make tea...again
...and play "see who can balance longest on the sleepers"...Abbie obviously lost :p

but the best game of all was.......

>>>>>>>> look at the next post

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Tuesday's highlights

After an early start on site we split up into 3 construction teams. Here are some photos showing the day's highlights...

Olly and Jo measure up the huge storage unit...

...there is an awkward moment when, during a design meeting, Chris and Pete realise they are wearing the same outfit...

...the poles are paired up and marked ready for cutting on thursday...

and Steve helps Scott with a bit of sawing.

All in all, a productive day.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Holes, rocks and mud

With just two holes left to dig, the team were feeling positive. This was of course all before the massive unmovable rocks that appeared in the ground. Steel poles, pick axes, shovels, spades, blood and sweat were all required to get the job done!

Kyle attempts digging a hole using the magic steel rod only to be surrounded by smoke...

Willie attempts to get a massive rock out of the ground....without success.

A weekend full of rain meant the ground was in perfect condition for getting our boots nice and muddy...Whilst the girls attempted to solve the problem of the slippery quicksand-like ground, the boys were busy with levelling exercises.

Design evolution as we build

A rare treat for you on the blog, it is indeeda rough design preview of the Outdoor Classroom which we are now in the process of constructing. I should warn you, it has changed slightly since our meeting with Arup's this morning, but you'll get the general gist...

Design team meeting at Arups offices. You can't tell, but Chris actually wore smart shoes!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The comedy of the fish

So Jo mentioned that digging through top soil and hardcore to get to the rewarding layer of clay between 400-500mm down is hardwork. She's not lying. We've completed 8 of the 12 holes, but sadly haven't found and treasure chests, ancient tombs, or more minutes for £30, but instead i've decided to reward your persistant blog checking with some comedy photos from a Friday on site...

Willie and Kyle strip the bark from what will be our column timbers, whilst desperately trying to avoid the intense ray of deadly sunlight from 'Die Another Day'.

Aditi climbs into a finished hole, and promptly halves in height.

Ground littered with hardcore; bricks and stones slow us down, this is the biggest we have found yet. We were very pleased with ourselves.

A plan of what we we're building, quickly labelled on the spot for our meeting with Scott, using charcoal from burnt potatos.

And a little time wasted; a few of the original holes we dug turned out to be marking out more of a trapezium shape. Our bad.

There's nothing like a bit of manual labour...

We've had a successful, if exhausting, week on site this week, getting to grips with pick axes, billocks, draw knives, hardcore, blisters and mosquitoes. We have finally finished stripping the bark off our structural sycamore columns, marked out their locations, more than once, and began digging holes to place them in, which was not made any easier by the soil conditions, or more correctly the lack of soil and surprising amount of hardcore in the ground. Luckily none of us are worried about getting our hands dirty and we've made a promising start.

Team taking a well earned break to take in the fresh air and reflect on our hard work.

Roadtrip round Yorkshire to collect wood...

After driving over 120 miles around the countryside looking for all the scrap wood we could possibly lay our hands on, we returned to the site with a van full of useful timber. Thank you to Atkinsons and Jenx for their generosity.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Tractor time!

Ok...enough sitting around in the "warmth" of the studio...its time to get on site! Three of us: Willie, Chris and I head down to the site on Monday to start clearing out a space for our outdoor classroom. Thankfully Tom was on site with his tractor to help us move the massive pieces of wood.

Tom and his tractor
But once the tractor was gone, it was all down to some hard core labour...and after a good few hours of that the site was ready to be used.

Chris and Willie use their muscles to move a massively heavy cut log

Monday, 20 October 2008

Back to the drawing board.....

After the meeting on site on Friday we re-grouped back in the studio. Above is a diagram of the quantities of wood which we have. We furthered our design and looked intosome products which we may decide to use. We are considering using wooden pallets for the base, in a kind of raft type floor.

Below: Abbey and Jo modelling our ideas.

Sunday, 19 October 2008


An early start on Friday for everyone in the group. I saw the sun rising as I rushed down to meet the group in the arts tower at 7.45am. We were preparing for a design review with Prue on site, followed by another design review with Ted, Scott and Sarah. The meetings were very productive and we established a design which we will take forward and develop further. The meeting also raised a few questions as to the extent of enclosure required, with Sarah pushing for a design with a large degree of enclosure and shelter.  We must answer the question, are we to design and construct an outdoor classroom or as Sarah would prefer, an indoor classroom outdoors? What is an outdoor classroom.....

In the afternoon we went down to a designated area in the woods and started felling trees. We cut down about 10 Sycamore trees! We were assisted by Tom Collier on the Chainsaw.

We started preparing the site to enable constriction to commence on Monday. We removed the existing Tepee, which was rather shabby and loss there!

The day concluded with a tour of the ancient woodland with Ted and Sarah, followed by a de-briefing with the live project team.

The Site

Just a couple of photo of the site from our first visit. We have better, but, well I don't!

The site as you approach it. There is currntly a large fireplace, and a teepee present. This area is pretty open, and has links good links to the neighbouring stretches of woodland.

The fireplace again, and a flimsy construction which they currently use to hoard the children through to slow them down. They thrown a taupalin over this for shelter. Its pretty basic, and works for them.

From beside the teepee, this shot looks back down towards the main entrance to the site.


Over the last week we have been going round and round the circle of design and back to the start so many times, but I now get the feeling that it is starting to pay off. The project is complicated in so many ways, mostly because of the wood which we have available, and the limitation on our own timber skills.

We hope to begin construction on our currently unfinished design this week, and create the project through more of a 'design and build' method. Keep checking this blog for pictures of our hopefully health and safety conscious construction phase. For now, i'll upload some photos of the site as it stands at the moment...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Our project so far

It occurs to me that we, group 8, are being a bit lax with the blog for our ‘Outdoor Classroom’ project, and whilst other groups have flowing blogs, ours looks derelict and untouched, which wouldn’t be far from the truth. It’s a bit of an injustice really, especially considering the potential that this project has.

The first 2 weeks have been very up and down. It has been almost impossible to get a hold of our client to question the brief, which has delayed many aspects, particularly the conceptual design and development, as we have had nothing to inform the direction from which we tackle the design, and the information which we had been given was partially incorrect – the bit about the purpose of the structure!

It took us until the middle of the 2nd week to be able to clarify from the client, Sarah Blackwell exactly what she wanted, and to say that her aims were ambitious would be an understatement. Sarah pretty much wants a lockable building with heating, water, solar powered electricity, toilets, preparation areas, but doesn’t really expect us to be able to do much. There’s nothing like have the confidence of the client!

We had a meeting at the end of week 2 with Ted Talbot, who refers to himself as the client’s agent and works for Sheffield City Council. This meeting kind of threw our plans into disarray, with news that we would have to fell trees and create wood sections to predetermined sizes before we have even come up with a design. It’s not ideal in anyway, but at this moment in time, I remain optimistic that we can create a beautiful and lasting structure on site which meets Ted’s vision for the Sawmill and at least some of Sarah’s requirements.

Check back for a steady flow of information, with pictures to be posted soon!