At Samye Ling there is never a shortage of ideas but in the garden we simply didn’t have the facilities to bring them to fruition. Originally this building was simply to be another greenhouse with an attached shed, probably built of sleepers, but gradually it evolved into something much more substantial. Rinpoche was always very encouraging and in 2003 plans were drawn up for a single storey multi-purpose workshop and greenhouse. We embarked on a fundraising campaign and grants totalling £80,000 were received from the EU Leader+, the Big Lottery, the MacRobert Trust and private donations. The plans were ready and all the finances worked out. We showed the scheme to Rinpoche expecting a final nod of approval, but were aghast when he said, ‘Bigger. Bigger.’ He went on to suggest raising the eaves and flattening the roof so we’d effectively have a second storey. He also assured us it wouldn’t break the bank, and sure enough the project delivered on budget. He had in the meantime initiated the Tara Healing Garden and the upstairs was soon included for the drying of Tibetan medicinal herbs.
In July 2006 the contractors arrived and assembled the green oak posts and beams. The Oakhouse was finally up and running. With the structure complete it was just left for us to plank the walls, fit doors and windows, lay floorboards and slate the roof. Looking back it’s alarming to reflect on just how little we knew when we embarked on this project. Had we been more aware perhaps we’d never have started, but ignorance is indeed bliss. Fortunately there were plenty of builders around to consult and whilst assembling the tools and equipment, slowly but surely, it started taking shape. The finished building has a substantial feel thanks to the hefty oak walls and visitors always comment on the delightful aroma, sadly it’s something we don’t seem to notice anymore.
After nearly ten years the interior is now virtually complete. On a sunny day it’s bright and beautiful, but much of the time it’s a little dark downstairs so we may have to knock out a couple more windows to try and improve the lighting. But that aside we actually now have a base and the makings of a perfect venue. On the ground floor there are workbenches, a kitchen area, and space for a small shop. There is also a huge log burning stove, more like a cross between a steam locomotive and a rhinoceros, and this soon warms the place up. Upstairs there is herb drying in the loft with rows of wires to hang bunches and trestles underneath for when it gets busy. There are also a number of workbenches and cupboards, an office, and a library. One of the plans is to process the crops and produce a new range of attractively presented herbal teas and jams, pickles and dressings, creams and lotions. The shop will also sell cards, calendars and general garden paraphernalia. There is the additional possibility of displaying local arts and crafts.