Another cob workshop in Norfolk


As you may or may not know, I got serious with all this cob building in 2012, and went to a four day house building cob course in Norfolk with the wonderful Kate Edwards and Charlotte Eve of Edwards & Eve Cob Building. Since that was fabulous, I went there again this year in August, dragging bringing my SO along with me! He totally needed to get some hands on practice as well as someone else to tell him that yes, things can be simple and building round shapes and a whole house doesn’t have to cost a fortune… So we left the kids with their grandparents for a week – a holiday, a real holiday! – and travelled to England together.


Once more I met the loveliest, coolest people ever, and I had the time of my life messing around in the mud. I just love cobbing, end of story. And although I’d done most of it before, I also learned loads again! For example, we did some wattling and daubing this time around, which was fun to do and does come naturally once you’ve got the general hang of working with clay mixtures. And there were many details and small things that I noticed more this time, and Kate had a sample roof tile that was made to look like slate but actually consisted of recycled tyres! I’d been ogling those on Pinterest for quite a while, and it was really good to be able to take a close look at the real thing. They’re definitely an option: lightweight, super easy to install, and they do look great.

But the most important thing for me happened when Kate told us about her ideas of using more bales to pass next year’s increased insulation requirements. We were talking about that for the next couple of days and all the way home: Why not build a cob shell, sort of, for the load-bearing and easy window fitting, and back it up with a full bale, non-load-bearing insulation layer attached? The only reason I can think of so far is that the wall’s going to be HUGE. Like, a metre thick or so. But really, that’s the only disadvantage I can see. This idea, if it’s feasible (still finding out about that), would totally solve my longstanding inner debate of cob vs. straw bales. (I’ll write lots more on that, hopefully early next year.)

I don’t really have that much to tell you about the actual course: Just go there yourself, much recommended! We talked about every aspect of building a house in great detail (the morning we spent on UK building regs had us sighing and moaning all the time – you guys have it pretty easy you know!), which is pointless to repeat here because it’d lack Kate’s inspiring presence, and there’s plenty of good books. And as to what we did in practice, the following pictures will tell you more than a thousand words! Huge thanks by the way to Chris & Lucy, who let me use quite a few of their pictures here.

First day (Friday)

Nothing much to see here. I was surprised to find we’d be working on the very same garden studio I’d already put a window in three years ago! Turned out that Kate had been worried about not having anything for the people in her courses to work on, so she stalled work on the studio for a bit, and the north wall which had originally been made of bales had to be redone in cob after continued exposure to the weather. I think we worked on that wall on the first day, but I don’t seem to have any pictures.

Kate’s own cob extension, now fully rendered and paintedThe slightly weather-worn studio, with many practice patches of clay plasteringThe compost loo with a lovely view on the BroadsRoughly the view from the looKate letting us try to take down a cob wall (a good demonstration!)Several strong folks hardly made a dent

Second day (Saturday)

On the second day, we split into varying groups to work on several things at once: We fixed an outdoor sofa that needed a roof (Kate promised she’d put one up after we had made it all nice and smooth again), we also patched up some stairs around a tree (same story), and finally built new stairs around another tree out of a massive lump of cob, with a wattle and daub railing.

The existing stairs around a treeQuite high, and quite worn down in placesThe sofa, full of washed out rubbleEverybody’s busy rolling (and taking pictures of) their mud pilesMaking a ball for testingYes! A perfect sample of elephant dung!Poo-proudFolks patching the sofaDragging piles of mud to build the new stairsPlonk!Uh, we need loads more cob. Get some clay out of that pit.Treading and rolling some moreHey, that plonky lump has shaped up!Me watching Kate explain wattle and daubFirst bit of wattleI won’t tell you just how long I was working on that stick.First bit of daubing, Kate adds a handrailScrew screwStairs looking quite nice alreadyMe, wedging in some cobMe again, apparently a little critical of what I’d been doing

Third day (Sunday)

On Sunday we mostly worked on a small playhouse (the one we’d tried to take down on the first day), putting in windows both with and without a frame. To be honest, we botched the frameless one a bit as we didn’t give it enough time to dry in between layers. Consequently, much of it had fallen off again by Monday morning. Additionally, Kate told us all about straw bale building, like how to cut them in half, and how to stake them for a load-bearing wall.

Making two round windows out of one rectangular window pane Kate shows us how it’s done: Make a shape with sticks...... and put some mud around them!I think this is where she told us about needing to let the cob dry in between.Me, goofing aroundPeople working on the frameless windowsHm, still needs some work methinksI was having a pretty hair day apparentlyugh this looks so messy, cleanup and fixing stuff however is really easy with cobmudding in the window frame on the other sideKate, smoothing out the window sill to show just how nice it can be madeKate, getting carried away a bitok straw bales!You need stakes and a heavy mallet...... drive them in like so...... then let someone else sweat it ;-)Driving in the baling needle

Fourth day (Monday)

Monday was the only day where we got rained on a bit (quite a bit though). It was also my favourite day for two reasons: clay plastering, which is just the best, and pizza for lunch!

Sifting the sand for the clay plasterMe, whipping up some lovely clay slipSifting the clay (this takes ages and really isn’t fun, avoid if you can!)Clay plaster is so LUSH, it’s great to mix with bare feet!Fluffy bits of goat hair to mix inMostly sticks to your feet, to be honestGoat fluff everywhere... *singing*Touched by the Hand of CobMixmixmixRefilling the clay pit for the next groupChilling at the endEveryone gets a certificateAnd I didn’t even goof up that picture?!

Okay wow, now that’s finally written up I’m actually a little sad. I miss cobbing with other people… I am so looking forward to working on the outdoor kitchen in summer!!