Once again, a good turn out of students from Newton Rigg, and other University of Cumbria sites, guaranteed a fun filled, informative, educational session.
Fred Tomlin and I were on site in good time and with a light drizzle giving way to fine weather we were soon able to locate a supply of sand with which to form the dome that the oven is build around. With many willing hands this was soon done and many willing feet converted more sand and clay, with the addition of water, into the lining layer of the oven itself, the sand dome by this time having been covered with a protective layer of damp hessian. At this stage a doorway was constructed from bricks, which were held in place by the clay ‘dub’ or cob. Once this clay and sand layer was in place, a new clay/sand mix was made, this time with the addition of straw, binding the cob together and providing tensile strength whilst at the same time improving potential insulation and reducing overall weight. We succeeded in raising this layer to about half the oven height before running out of materials. This however, could be seen as mixed blessing as it will allow time at this cold time of year, for the cob to dry out sufficiently for the next stage which will require the removal of the sand dome. Once this is removed, a small fire can be lit in the oven to facilitate drying out and completing the second layer can move forward. A third layer will then be added consisting once again of a 2:1 clay sand mix. This can also be dried from the inside out, completing the burning out of the hessian layer. The oven can then be used for baking.
Today’s work was filmed by Nigel Jenkins, providing an opportunity for students to explain what was happening and why it was important.