The Eden Project is a pioneering organisation that aims to transform places and lives, stimulating, educating and empowering people to live in harmony with nature. We like to think that we share those values, and so we were very excited and honoured to be asked by The Eden Project in January 2022 to build a Cob Beehive.
The brief was to build a hive of about 3m by 3 m, in the shape of a traditional beehive. It would house an actual beehive full of native black Cornish bees.
The first step was to dig a trench, and then to fill it with gravel which acts as drainage foundation and prevents damp. On top of that went a base of lime and then a wall of local flintstones that fitted together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
When that was dry we mixed up clay, gravel, sand and straw to make up the gorgeous cob material, piled it on top of the wall and sculpted it using wood saws. This was the tricky bit – the law of gravity means that walls should be vertical but a traditional bee hive is not shaped like a box so it was essential that we caught the cob at just the right time of drying out. Not too wet that it would fall, but not too dry so that it wasn’t malleable. This was a challenge, not least because of the crazy Cornish weather, wind and torrential rain which meant that the beehive took several months to complete.
Next came the beautiful dome roof, made up of metal rods, willow and just the right amount of cob.
And then Interior Design. This was after all the Ritz of beehives and we wanted to make it special for the beautiful creatures that are so essential to our own eco-system. We decided on clay plaster for the wall, textured cob on the ceiling and gravel on the floor. We like to think it’s what the bees would have chosen.
We plastered the outside wall and washed it with naturally pigmented lime and installed a beautiful cedar shingle roof topped off with a bronze and copper topknot made by Penny Spedding, who is a prop builder for the Globe Theatre.
Finally, with the help with the team at Eden and a natural bee expert we installed the bees in their new home. What a buzz that gave me. (Sorry 😊)
This stunning beehive now sits proudly in the Wild Cornwall Section of the Eden project, overlooking the biomes.
Cob is SUCH an amazingly flexible material to build with. There are so many exciting structures that you can build with it. Get in touch if you have an idea that you’d like to bring to life. I can do it for you or even better I can teach you how to do it, on one of our Cob building courses.
Find more info on the Cob Building Courses here
We'll soon be adding a link for people interested in the technical aspects of the build
Thank you so much to all who helped (including my lovely son Wilf), Jim Downs and Santiago Barker and a massive thank you to the team at Eden who were extremely helpful and generous with their time and advice especially Jim Sargison and Claire Worral.