In a village in North West Leicestershire, an exposed apex timber frame sits awkwardly on the bend of the street, surrounded by scaffolding and bits of timber. Unlike the usual building site that may be waiting on a delivery of Kingspan and brick, our host Lloyd informs us that we are waiting on five pallets of hemp shiv to join our current inventory of hydraulic lime shipped in from France.
We go across the street the Lloyd’s current abode for a hot drink where we meet his wife Caroline and our strange outfit of volunteers travelling from far and wide, willing to get their hands dirty and learn about the exciting construction process that is Hempcrete.
We are joined by Alex and Jasper from UK Hempcrete as on-site consultants (and general handymen) who help oversee the site and mixing process. After a few plumbing, scaffolding and shuttering based issues, the placing of the hempcrete is underway before lunchtime. We are treated to a buffet lunch, prepared by Caroline, as we all squeeze around the small kitchen table and share anecdotes and ideas. After lunch, we are placing the hempcrete quicker than it can be mixed, so Bex and Aidan take to preparing the next level of shuttering in preparation for the following day’s mixing. The first day ends in good spirits as the team almost manage to do a full 600mm lift of hempcrete around the entire perimeter. We get showered and head on the long sixty-step commute to the pub where Lloyd encourages all to try the local ales and join in with his rugby-tour drinking games. Caroline treats us to a pasta dish with garlic bread before we go to our beds.
The heavy overnight rain keeps those sleeping in vans awake, whilst lulling those in tents into a deep sleep. Having rehearsed the procedure on the previous day, we each take up our stations and construction starts promptly. Lloyd has to make a run to the Builder’s Merchant for more material and fixings, but leaves Caroline in the Project Manager role. The everchanging weather is completely unpredictable and so the operation becomes a little broken. In the heavy rainfall, we find it difficult to control the water content in the mix and we lose a rogue gazebo to the wind. At the end of the day, we manage almost a full lift on the previous day’s work.
With the intention of shooting off straight after the build, we end up staying for a lovely Mexican meal, drinks and good conversation, leaving almost at nightfall. Overall, we had a terrific time, met some great, like-minded people, and were well looked after by Caroline and Lloyd. Bex intends to return in a couple of weeks with Chris to help with the latter stages of the build. We look forward to seeing the progress as it happens and wish Lloyd and the team the best of luck in the meantime.