Post image for The Hobbit House at Highway Farm

When I visited Highway Farm in October, the Hobbit House immediately grabbed my attention. It is a beautiful, bespoke structure. Naturally I had to find out the story behind its existence.

At Highway Farm Activity Centre – where there is an out of school club and an outdoor nursery, children are active participants in decision-making about the place and how it develops and moves forward. The development of the Hobbit House exemplifies the approach taken. If the children really want something to happen, they have to help make it happen.

Post trampoline MB

It all began with a trampoline. Several years ago, those big circular trampolines were all the fashion in everyone’s back garden and the children at the Out of School Club and Holiday Club were desperately keen to have one at Highway Farm. The staff weren’t overly enthusiastic because they knew it would bring rules and conflict, both of which are sparse at Highway Farm. So they challenged the children to dig the hole where the trampoline was to go. To their amazement, the children set to work and completed the task over the summer holidays.

HH Construction MB

The trampoline was initially extremely popular. Lots of children wanted to go on it and arguments ensued over whose turn it was. Quite a few accidents happened too. After a while the children realised it was not really working out very well. So they decided to remove the trampoline. Only the problem was the presence of the huge hole in the field. A few ideas began to spark such as creating a swimming pool, pond or swamp. In the end  the Hobbit House won, inspired by the scenes in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films.

Window frames MB

The construction was a prolonged affair. With a zero budget, it meant that every item had to be sourced by donations.  The children helped Martin and Andy carry and wheel barrow every log, bit of sand (for cement), bit of turf needed for the build! And got the blisters to prove it!

Wall construction MB

It took a year to complete due to the high amount of recycled material used. The children and staff had to wait for it to become available before each of the construction stages could be undertaken.

Turfs On MB

The last bit was the turf roof which came from a local primary school who were having work done 🙂 “We paid £10 for all the rocks”  but Martin and Andy had to go and sift through rubble to get them. The centre also paid for the board for the roof for the turf to sit on. Apart from that, all the materials were free or recycled. The children helped dig the path leading to the house.

Path & Roof MB

Andy Byles provided advice and support to build the hobbit house so that it is structurally sound.  He also helped with the design process. As you can see from the photos below, there is creative detail which makes it unique and special. Check out the glass bottles that make up part of the wall.

Hobbit House 5

I could have spent hours inside, examining the patterns on the logs and the attention to detail in the design.

Inside finished MB

The glass in the door comes from a washing machine…!

Hobbit House 2

The fireplace was designed to fit the gas canister perfectly that Andy recycled.

Fire Pit Construction MB

It is the perfect recycled wood stove!

Gas canister fire MB

During the dark or cold afternoons over winter, the hobbit house is well lit up by candles too.

All lit up MB

Even Santa Claus now makes a visit as it is such a perfect grotto to rest for a wee while and hand out a few more presents to lighten his load. A snow machine provided the snow for the Christmas family day!

HH Santa's Grotto MB

Even before it was finished, the structure was being used on Family Days for story telling and other events.

Family Camp Story Time MB

All-in-all the Hobbit House is providing a much-loved and valuable gathering space for the children and their families to share and celebrate events.

Hobbit House 1

The time and effort invested by the children, parents and staff in constructing the Hobbit House has paid off. There is no doubt that external contractors creating this feature without this high level of involvement would have meant a quicker result but one that has less meaning and memories. Every glass bottle and wooden stump in the Hobbit House has its own history. Collectively all the bits have fitted together to create a wonderful collaborative jigsaw that further develops community and a sense of belong to this special child care setting. Memories have been built into the Hobbit House that will also last a lifetime for all involved.

Many thanks to Martin Besford who kindly supplied almost all the photos for this blog post. 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Keitha February 14, 2015 at 13:36

I love this project. How wonderful to get the children involved in every stage of its constructions. The details of the house are amazing. Thanks for sharing. I hopped over from Country Kids.

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Juliet Robertson February 16, 2015 at 10:19

Thanks Keitha – the story behind this house is great and hopefully it will inspire other education establishments to consider similar possibilities.

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76sunflowers February 14, 2015 at 20:05

Love the whole ethos behind this build and the centre as a whole!

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angela February 15, 2015 at 10:17

Wow, I love it! What a lovely project for the children to be involved in

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Mama Herself February 15, 2015 at 13:29

I strongly suspect that 80% of the fun of this is in the building of it. Once this ‘generation’ of kids moves on they’ll have to build another one! Although I suspect it’s the sort of place that often has a project on the go.

Cool!

#CountryKids

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trisha July 12, 2016 at 20:20

This is amazing need to see more things like this made and built around other communities and nursery’s

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