David Reeves, a retired teacher, tells us about the volunteering work he is doing alongside four other enthusiastic volunteers on the RSPB event stand for the BBC Countryfile Live show, taking place at Blenheim Palace (2-5 August 2018).


 Thursday; Hope Farm; building the RSPB stand for BBC Countryfile Live. A large empty barn is the starting point. Last week we marked out the dimensions of the marquee on the floor with masking tape strips and started to move stocks of wood and other materials up from the over-winter store. Derek said, “we need the old trellis”; Ken suggested the bag of pool liner from last year would be useful; Jeff thought about the need for exact dimensions for storage boxes and whether we had enough plywood from last year; David was amassing large quantities of four by two in his arms and I grabbed some white paling fencing which had been made for the town garden last season. Three trips backwards and forwards later we stopped for doughnuts and tea – a weekly ritual. Elaine, from the Events team, willingly aided and abetted us by bringing the doughnuts (only raspberry jam will do!)


A central feature of this year’s stand will be the ‘Tardis’ – a large hexagonal display structure to depict six areas of habitat, so that needs some thought. We’ve got the recruitment desks; made three seasons ago from pallets mostly. The point is everything that can be made from recycled materials will be and that’s why some of the wood we’ve just lugged up from the lower barn is maybe in its eighth reincarnation! Certainly that’s the case for 

the beehive I made last year – a couple of planks from a shed which sadly is past it’s best (and far too heavy!). This approach does lead to a sort of scavenging mentality, but it’s amazing what a bit of lateral thinking can achieve, using the most unlikely materials.

Several visits on and the weather has turned a little warmer. No longer are we wearing six layers and working with the big doors closed. Jeff is beavering away in one corner, constructing activity tables with storage boxes built in; very technical. On with Tardis building. Six three metre by two metre panels fixed together with fabricated aluminium fasteners. Then partitions on the outside to divide the display into the habitats. Cliffs for the coastal habitat will be of recycled polystyrene packing, as will the dry stone wall for the uplands. Ken’s gone off down to the lower barn and comes back with some wire netting, a couple of old wooden poles and a bit of scrap wood. After lunch he’s made a sheep fence to separate the farmland from the upland. David and Derek have finished the insect hotel – lovely piece of work, no new wood used.


Now, how to fashion a dry stone wall from more recycled polystyrene packing, hmm …….?


It’s March already! Elaine comes by and wonders if the upland section could feature a stream. Of course it can …! More polystyrene packaging, recycled from the Lodge, the liner from last year, a dash of imagination - no problem! At this rate we should be finished in time for Farm Open Day, on        

10 June 2018, when the barn has to be empty. Now, where’s the paint ……..