Straw-walled classroom takes shape at Hautbois Girlguiding centre

A 'house of straw' is rising from a raft of old tyres at a Norfolk activity centre, where it will be the hub of a new eco-village.

Children will use the eco-friendly classroom as a place to learn about the environment at the Girlguiding Anglia residential centre at Hautbois near Coltishall.

And staff and volunteers are learning about green construction methods as they help build the centre on a former camping field at the 28-acre site.

Work began in February laying more than 200 used tyres, filled with shingle and sunk up to 3ft into the ground, to make the solid foundations.

Now 175 straw bales are being piled high and compressed into load-bearing walls which will be topped by a sedum roof ready for a hoped-for opening in the autumn.

Staff are joined by volunteers, with professional guidance from experts Amazonails, to do the work on the 20m by 10m building which have space for two classrooms, and an overhanging roof for an outdoor learning space too.

Regional Guiding deputy chief commissioner Janette Abbott-Donnelly said: 'It is hard work but very worthwhile.'

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The 'eco hub' will be at the centre of a carbon neutral village including wooden chalets, solar panels and windpumps on part of the campus.

'There is no water or power on tap. Children will learning about resources and understand their use in the future,' added Mrs Abbott-Donnelly.

The hub, like the rest of the site run by the Guides for 25 years, is used not just by members, but other groups including schools and businesses.

A legacy from a person wanting the money used for a conservation project is paying for the �35,000 building. Other phases will be added later as and when funds, including grants, become available.

Progress was showcased during the centre's annual family day which attracts up to 1,000 people to take part in activities including kayaking, archery, abseiling, and climbing.

The centre is keen to recruit more people to help, through joining its courses on green building. To find out more call 01603 737357 or visit