There is a saying in these parts that you can’t have enough outbuildings. It has also frequently been said that what we need is an Eden-style glass dome across the whole valley. With so many wet days we require as much shelter as possible. If for nothing else it’s good for morale. Trying to mix compost in the rain can be such a messy business and mud everywhere is awfully dispiriting. Simply having hard paths to walk on is such a luxury. It’s worth remembering that every barrowful of concrete is another square yard that doesn’t need weeding, so as soon as the crops are ticking over it’s time to crank up the cement mixer.
Glasshouses are key to the garden’s development and these need to be substantial. Timber frames are attractive for a while but soon succumb to the damp and the roof is always a maintenance liability. The New Peach House construction method has been the template for the later glasshouses, with block built walls and columns finished in rendered sandstone. The side elevation window frames are made of red pine and again have a more traditional feel. Here we’ve designed a method whereby the glass sits directly on to the slabbed window sill, thus removing the problem of rotting frames. It’s quite ingenious. We can make them ourselves and cut glass to fit, and all easily replaceable without compromising the building’s structural integrity. As for the roof the plan was to use clear box-profile corrugated sheeting, which may not have been very pretty but would have sufficed for our purposes. Then a few years ago the project gratefully received the donation of a large commercial aluminium glasshouse and this has changed everything. We plan to divide it up and build perhaps half a dozen smaller greenhouses.
Clearly the most important project is the rebuilding of the Old Greenhouse. The old place was right at the heart of the garden for so long that its absence is keenly felt. The plan is to build two smaller houses with a grass quadrangle in the middle. The Cacti House and Back Shed are approaching completion, the Alpine House is taking shape and the Oakhouse Conservatory foundations are all set out. It is also hoped this year to make some more progress with the Walled Gardens.
But looking to the long term there are also the two plots at the far end. Next to the road is an area of open storage and for some years now we’ve had plans for this site. Variously known as the Steadings, or the New Barn, or possibly even Tara House, there is a lot of potential here. In the opposite corner by the copse there is another tantalising site. The latest plans for here have been for an octagonal summer house with a small workshop tucked in behind, though what with the rest of the garden to take care of this could well take a few years. But it’s good to have plans.
In the main buildings projects list that follows the first six have their own web page links to the left. The remaining six buildings are described below on this page.
Under the instruction of HE Tai Situpa this statue was sculpted by the Venerable Gyamtso and is the lesser-known upright two-armed Chenresig Buddha of Compassion. It is set in the middle of a small circular pond that will eventually be covered with a copper pagoda roof set on four oak posts. There are connections for a wind-powered fountain providing a gentle stream of water from the bumpa, a jug-shaped vessel. Unfortunately this is no easy job and the project seems to have ground to a halt. The joinery work alone is complicated and the copper work would require professionals. So we’ve temporarily filled the empty pool with gravel and will plant it up with chocolate water mint until something happens.
Alpines wouldn’t have much luck outside in the damp but in a greenhouse there’s huge potential. So an Alpine House is under construction at the courtyard entrance to the walled gardens. This south facing greenhouse will blend in with the ruins and have mortared stone walls and rendered columns. It would be good to complete all the masonry work this year, if there’s time.
Through the double doors at the southern end of the Oakhouse there is a square plot of land (6 x 6 yards). The plan was for a magnificent two storey high conservatory with a balcony upstairs with a spiral staircase down to the vegetation below. Maybe even the Bodhi Tree that Rinpoche wished for all those years ago. But now all this seems unlikely and we’ll probably make do with a lean-to conservatory, not that this needn’t be rather splendid in itself. It will be constructed in the same style as the New Peach House and could be a cosy heat trap to sit in on a bright chilly day, hopefully generating enough passive heat to percolate up into the big house. It could even house a collection of dahlias, something we have dabbled with over the years.
Backing on to the café and with a pleasing view across the herb garden, the bench in front of the small shed has for years been a treasured spot with sangha and visitors alike. Seldom does a day go by without somebody slipping through the gate and settling for a while, hopefully catching some sun. It is astonishing to remember that the shed has previously been a cosy home to more than one volunteer. But it has also been quietly rotting away. So it is planned to replace it with a small stone shelter with a slate roof, and perhaps a pair of rounded end elevations? We shall see.
Over the years there has been plenty of discussion about this site. Currently used for open storage the original plan was for a large barn to house all the stuff piled up outside. But if ever there’s a building with a roof space then it makes perfect sense to lay floorboards and make good use of the loft? Ideal as a bunkhouse for volunteers, this idea quickly developed into a hall of residence for students of Tibetan Medicine and Horticulture. Downstairs
there would be a couple of workshops and plenty of room for storage. The building would need to be heated so there would have to be a log-fired community heating system, and while we’re about it why not heat any other neighbouring greenhouses as well? Clearly a building this size would need looking after, so a caretaker’s flat would also have to be included.
It had in the meantime become clear that the Oakhouse could be used to dry herbs, but wasn’t big enough to provide a separate laboratory to process them. After more discussions with Akong Rinpoche it was decided to extend the hospitality of the Steadings to the Tibetan Doctor and include a laboratory and surgery. Once again this idea developed and it soon became a self-contained unit with a flat upstairs. By the end we had workshops, seven study bedrooms including a disabled room, a surgery and laboratory, the doctor’s apartment, a caretaker’s flat, plus all the usual utilities and a rather attractive balcony-cum-fire escape with views over the gardens.
Perhaps it had all got rather out of hand. Things have cooled off a little now and we seem to have returned to the idea of a simple barn, but constructed in such a way that it could be developed at a later date. To begin with it would be good just to build the boundary wall and complete the enclosure. It is scheduled for 2020 though this feels a little optimistic.
As you walk up the path and through the walled gardens it feels as though there needs to be something in the far corner. A focal point to draw the eye, and preferably something substantial. Tucked in against high walls and hedgerows this will be the final building plot. Railway sleepers have become a trademark material for the garden and one plan is to build an octagonal summer house-cum-workshop, this time using clean fresh sawn sleepers. There could even be lighthouse windows under the eaves and a conical roof. The plans are still in their formative stages but this is the where we are at the moment.
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