The Bird Hide was the start of it all, my first foray into project managing the build of an oak structure.
I’d spent the previous six months on The Prince’s Foundation Building Craft Apprenticeship programme and this was our live build project. This would be the culmination of our learning and a test of the skills we’d developed. I was looking forward to the chance to work with the local community to develop a design, and the challenge of working in a sensitive environment.
The ability to build something from the ground up, to solve problems and work with the natural environment, is always incredibly satisfying. But seeing the oak structure emerge from its foundations was definitely a defining moment for me.
Working with oak in the natural landscape
The Bird Hide replaced a previous hide on the same site, on the edge of Llangorse Lake, Llangasty, in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The sensitivity of the natural landscape, and the challenges it presented, meant it was essential that our design and construction methods avoided detrimental impacts on the wildlife and ecology of the lake.
Previously, the height of the reeds on the edge of the lake had obscured the views from the hide. This was one of the key issues the community wanted to us to overcome in the design process.
Our tutor, Michael Romero, an architectural and urban design advisor, commented that the final structure had achieved exactly what the community had asked for.
That principle, of delivering exactly what the client has asked for, has been central to every one of my projects since. An architect and friend once told me not to give clients what they want, but to give them what they didn’t know they could have.
Another aspect of this project that I have carried with me ever since it the commitment to using only the most sustainable materials. When you are lucky enough to work in environments like this, there really is no question of using anything else.
The technique of timber framing off-site in the workshop to make the site-build phase that much more time-efficient is also something that stuck with me. The unpredictable Welsh weather could have made the on-site phase a challenge, so minimising time on site simply reduces the unknowns.
I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work on such an exciting project, in such a stunning location. The Bird Hide really was an incredible place to start my career in oak framing.