November 29, 2008

Wednesday 26th November

Job for today: build shelter for the ad hoc kitchen area.



Ken arrives with more materials and we make a light weight, temporary structure out of what we’ve got: bamboo, scaffold poles, plastic sheeting, a plank of wood, palettes and wire for lashing it together.






The frame is pretty strong but will need reinforcement to stand up to wind and rain! OK for today – just! Better than the gazebo anyway.

11.30 First meeting on site with Niel the Lea Valley Green Space Manager, Ranger Helen and Adriana (senior producer / curator, LANS).


We’d been looking forward to meeting the Rangers – they have a wide knowledge of the Lea Valley and Helen has seen the landscape of Gunpowder Park evolve since it opened in 2004. The land around us was flat before – hillocks were made for the planting of indigenous shrubs and trees.

She told us that if we walked to the left of the site we would encounter an old bunker thats been converted into a hibernaculum. They are hoping to attract the 9 species of local bats here for winer hibernation.

During the summer the Rangers organise night time bat spotting walks.

Helen gave us lots of local tips about allotments and remembering when the view from the site was like the sea – ‘there was an ocean of greenhouses’. We’re gradually gathering info about local food production. Today a passer by told us about a farm near Waltham Abbey with 4000 free range chickens. On the road to Sewardston yesterday we passed a farm selling eggs, honey and potatoes…

Enthused about Energy Cafe, Helen encouraged us to talk to the rest of the Ranger team. Seem like the word is spreading – they are on the look out for construction materials too.

She suggested we use some of the resources from the park, including;

Cutting the Willow trees and other young trees on the lower levels (they can’t root properly – due to the remediation of the contaminated land).


A reminder that we are based on a made-made artificial layer.

And sometimes you can really feel it… as it rains the site gets muddier and puddles form, the water is rising here.


A lot of areas in the park are currently fenced off to the public – suspected mine shafts appearing…


Helen suggested we could use some surplus fencing for building – or could make a giant grill.

Lunch Break




Started organising donated kitchen crockery and utensils. Sorted out the outdoor workshop, tools etc.


Making a wood store for the firewood… the sun stove needs feeding every 20 mins.


Cooked a big pot of chili and rice for supper.


We’re not quite off-grid yet but we’re working towards it. Our little encampment by the road makes us feel like gypsies. We are at the beginning of making an off grid cafe… and learning all the time… for the future… shifting into another kind of life…

The constant drone of traffic is a nightmare, one tries to imagine its the sound of the sea…but there’s a kind of dull low frequency humming that doesn’t go away. It could be traffic mixed with the sound of the Sainsburys distribution unit.


Light pollution gives the sense that dawn is rising constantly, it’s never pitch black. We have positioned the kitchen so that we shelter from the glare of the lamposts at night. It would be better if they were turned off. No need for them here. At the moment we are fine with torch light and fire glows.

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