Balnacra Arts & Pottery by Vicky Stonebridge

The Great Treehouse Challenge for TV

I blogged back on the 11th July about our community pitching for a TV programme to build a dream tree house, and that i’d drawn up the initial design sketches. Well we got it and 3 days later the TV film crew are here starting work on the programme.

It will be called The great Tree house challenge. It will be aired in November on Sky 1. There will be three projects, one in England, one in Wales and ours, one hour programme for each tree house. The programme will be fronted by architect and presenter Charlie Luxton ( DIY SOS,  Build a New Life in the Country  and many others ).
Something like this will always be a whirlwind, things have moved so fast, there has hardly been time to get the word around the village. The idea is to get everyone involved, its our community, we have the opportunity to create a wonderful space for community use. As soon as cameras are involved some people shrink away and others come out of the woodwork, there can also be some cynicism ( I don’t have basic television never mind Sky! ). One of the many problems in small communities is that there will be people you don’t like or get on with. Do we want to live in communities or in our own houses in minimised family units? If we want to be part of something we just have to make compromises, be civil to people we don’t like, get over it, build bridges… or in this cases treehouses. Some of you may remember I had a long legal battle with over my building at the Smithy Heritage Centre site, it was messy, but its over now. The building is sold to the new committee and has a new tenant preparing to move in, the site is getting tidied up at last and things are moving forwards. The Heritage site was once a lovely space for visitors and locals alike. I sincerely believe this TV project presents an opportunity to lift this site and the whole area and create something special. I hope as many people get involved as possible. You can’t complain if you don’t try to make a difference yourself.

So Tuesday night various people went to the Strathcarron pub and hotel to meet the film crew, architects and producer/ director. The idea was to create the first footage of the community discussing why we want a treehouse, what the problems of the area are and why this project will help. We also needed to get ideas on paper. I prepared a slideshow of treehouse designs on my laptop to stimulate ideas and went armed with flip charts, aided by our local Development officer Kristine who has been doing all the hard work coordinating and organising this. People were shy and unsure at first of what to do but after a round of drinks and waiting about for the lights and cameras to be set up, people started talking. The presenter Charlie walked around and talked to us, asking various questions. It was good to see that nothing was rehearsed, all was spontaneous and genuine. I settled down with the flip chart and a couple of others came and we started drawing out the ideas. Architect Alex came and joined us. While he and Charlie are the experts, they are keen to understand what we want, what we need this building to be used for, to be led by our ideas. 
( the original sketch for the treehouse by the river )

( Charlie and Alex talking about the designs )

Out of my three original design sketches, The two large trees by the river seem to be the best ones to build with. I’d originally thought of a long thin rectangular building going inbetween the narrow space between the two trees and overhanging the river.  Talking with people though the idea of a circular crannog/ round house shaped building seemed to be the preference. On stilts. lots of windows. making use of a natural raised bank and reaching out over the river.

We were thinking small but architect and tree house specialist Alex was thinking BIG! Six meters across? so we’d need to actually build the trees inside the structure! My Neighbour Bart had a great idea for angled supports ( i have no idea of the correct terminology! ). Director Jeremy asked if we could draw up the new ideas on a big sheet of paper to film. So after the pub, at midnight I quickly scribbled out this version of the river house;

So Wednesday morning bright and early a few folks met on site. For the purposes of the programme they have focused on one person to do all the on camera interviews/ discussions. George Hendry ( Author of books on Ticks and Midges and champion of many community causes) had been selected to brave the cameras and was doing a brilliant job of spokesperson.

( Bruno starts work clearing the site by helpfully shifting a small rock )

Myself , Alex and Bart had a chance to look properly at the river site while George was getting filmed talking to Charlie and discussing my drawing. We soon realised that the sketch would need changing. One tree has three large boughs which would interfere with the roof shape, and the trees are too close together to be in the centre of the structure. To keep the height, it would be possible to push the whole building area back, have a walkway and the trees as the entrance with a 6 meter circle behind right at the edge of the river. Digging in the foundations into glacier rubble, with no vehicular access will also be a challenge.
Next the designs will be drawn up properly, a materials list will be produced so that we can source as much as possible locally. Then planning, site preparation, pre fabricating, and later in the summer a the structure will get built in FOUR days!  All hands to the decks!  watch this space.

One comment on “The Great Treehouse Challenge for TV

  1. Lunar Hine
    July 25, 2011

    Best of luck, and I do hope it builds the community as the community builds it.

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