WHERE: Our shed is built on Cambridge City Council land in Empty Common Community Garden. It is located fairly centrally in Cambridge (CB2 8DA) but is surrounded by trees and garden so it feels like it is in an oasis of green. However, it is close to public transport stops and is easily accessible for people from various groups around Cambridge who want to meet up.
WHEN: It has taken several years to get permission, funding and to build and it is just finished.
WHO: Our shed has been built by the community for the community. It is a shed for gardeners to relax in and make hot drinks etc. but crucially it is a shed for people from groups in Cambridge who want to come together to work towards transitioning to a more sustainable and resilient future to use.
The permission, funding and building of our shed involved so many people at different stages but special thanks must go to John Hotchkiss and Charlotte Synge for their hard work and dedication to this project.
HOW: We managed to get permission to build our shed from Cambridge City Council because we had created a beautiful community garden on a piece of neglected land. Much of our funding came from The National Lottery Community Fund, distributed by Transition Together. Our thanks go to National Lottery players for making this possible. We also had funding from the local Coop, Cambridge City Council, crowdfunding, garden events and donations. Our thanks go to everyone who helped fund this project.
Our shed has been built from mostly (about 70%) recycled materials. We collected what we could second hand from dumps, Freecycle, builders waste etc. and then designed the shed around these materials. It has taken a few years of fun Sunday mornings for us to build it. None of us were experts so we had a professional builder in for a few days when building the framework to ensure the basic structure was safe and sturdy. Otherwise it has all been built by the community.
WHY: Our shed gives the community gardeners somewhere to make a hot drink, shelter and socialise, but it will also act as a hub and home for all Cambridge’s volunteer groups working towards resilience and sustainability. With the shed and the garden’s facilities combined we will have created more of a mini eco-centre than just a community garden. It is called the Heads, Hearts and Hands Hut because we are a part of Transition Network and we believe that to work and achieve things together we need to find a balance between these:
The Head: we act on the basis of the best information and evidence available and apply our collective intelligence to find better ways of living.
The Heart: we work with compassion, valuing and paying attention to the emotional, psychological, relational and social aspects of the work we do.
The Hands: we turn our vision and ideas into a tangible reality, initiating practical projects and starting to build a new, healthy economy in the place we live.
WHAT: Our shed is essentially a covered meeting space but on top of the “why” of building it, it has many features which make it special. It has:
• a solar powered electrical system so we can have lighting, run computers, charge phones, play music and even show films on the projector screen - which also acts as one of the window blinds.
• a wheelchair ramp for the entrance.
• a small kitchen area for food and drink preparation and storage.
• a cork board for notices etc. and a large whiteboard for talks and workshops.
• a blackboard for children to draw on.
• Bookshelves and shelves for our books, paper, pens etc.
• a lean too area where tables and lots of chairs can be stored.
• an external electrical socket so we can have lighting and electricity outside for events.
• A well designed rainwater collection system which gets as much use from the rainwater landing on the roof as possible. One water butt has a bowl on top which provides a water source for birds and insects but overflows into the butt which can then be used to water the garden. The bowl also makes a great wine cooler. On another corner the water goes into a raised pond and then into a bog garden which then overflows into a buried log ditch. The bog garden provides a new type of habitat in the garden and the buried log ditch makes another new habitat of damp rotting wood loved by many invertebrates. Another water butt also collects water for watering the garden and its overflow feeds into the bog garden and log ditch as well.
• a butterfly hibernation quarter built into the lean-too area.
• a bird box on the back wall which faces onto our wildlife patch.
• a lot of small features (like a bottle wall) which make it both pretty, fun and thought provoking.
So, what makes our shed special? It is in itself a lovely, interesting, well-built shed in a great spot, but more importantly, it is a shed that will inspire and enable so many people to learn, socialise, be creative and contribute towards creating a better world around us.
This shed is owned by Empty Common Community Garden, under the care of Transition Cambridge Community Group