BSBG Workshop – Hawkland – Intro to building with bales

The practical workshops are a massive part of the Big Straw Bale Gathering. A chance for you to learn the hands on skills necessary to build your own home, or brush up on some of the latest techniques.

Workshops are included in the ticket price, and will require signing up on the morning of the workshop (Don’t worry there will be plenty of sessions!).

First workshop up is:

Intro To Bale Building

From resizing a bale to notching a post. Build a complete wall, straighten and prep for plaster. Prefect Beginner session.

Workshop led by: Hawkland Ecological Building

Get your tickets now!

Keynote speakers – Ed & Rowena Waghorn

We are so pleased to add Ed and Rowena Waghorn as keynote speakers for the Big Straw Bale Gathering. Their Episode of Grand Designs, which took over 10 years to complete, is a work of art. We are delighted they are coming to share their views on building a home.

Name:  Ed and Rowena Waghorn
Talk Title:  Building a home – enjoying the circuitous route
Brief description :  We will concentrate the talk on how we are taking our time and being resourceful with what is around us and how we make building our home part and parcel of our family life.

Emma Appleton – Speaker at the BSBG

Emma Appleton speaker at the BSBG

We are so pleased to announce Emma Appleton’s talk at the Big Straw Bale Gathering.  Emma is a very talented straw bale builder and heritage woodworker. Warm, bright and just enough is her design mantra.

Tickets are on sale now for the reduced price (thanks to European funding) of £75. Get yours now!

Name: Emma Appleton

Organisation: Emma Appleton

Lecture title: How can our businesses be anti-capitalist? And is that even possible?

Brief description:

A discussion that tackles the way natural building (and the small businesses that have built up within it) can be, and are, a part of this surge to create something new and outside of patriarchal capitalism. We will explore ways we can  transform our relationships to money, work, the earth, and our bodies that further challenge the status quo. And try to determine what can we do to push the boundaries that will tip the balance towards a community minded economy?

Speaker Bio:

Hello. My name is Emma Appleton. I am a builder and community facilitator.

I build houses and community buildings which are warm, bright and just enough. I am inspired by buildings that have a simple beauty and work just perfectly for their owner. The ease of functionality of a space has an inherent attractiveness. Warm, bright and just enough is my design mantra to help me focus on the things that really matter.

I am a trained carpenter and joiner I specialised in Heritage woodwork following an apprenticeship with the Princes Foundation. It is inspiring to work on buildings that tell stories of their history. I was taught by an incredible master craftsperson who leaves a relief of a lion’s head cast in lead in each of his projects for craftspeople of the future to discover as their complete their own repairs.

James Shorten from Regenerative Settlement Trust

james_shorten speaker at BSBG

We are incredibly pleased to add James Shorten to our massive list of speakers for the Big Straw Bale Gathering. James was the main author on the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development guidance. He is a planning expert and will be talking about regenerative settlements.

James is part of an all star natural building lineup giving talks and presenting workshops a the Big Straw Bale Gathering – Get your tickets from the online store now! 

Name: James Shorten
Organisation: Regenerative Settlement Trust
Lecture title: Regenerative Settlement – A New Paradigm For Planning and Eco- Development
Brief description:
Regenerative Settlement is a new way of thinking about development – that development can make things better, not worse, which is what is generally assumed. Nearly 30 years of planning work have led to the formulation of this recipe for sustainable communities which also ticks the planning boxes. An introduction to the concept, our live projects (including a 100 house ecovillage).

Speaker bio: Planner with 25+ years of experience in Low Impact Development. Main author of the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development Guidance. Runs Geo, a consultancy specialising in sustainable rural development projects, large and small.

Peter Beresford and Henrik Saarinen speaking at the BSBG

We are very pleased to add Peter Beresford and Henrik Saarinen from Structural Solutions to the lineup for The Big Straw Bale Gathering. Structural Solutions were the engineers for the Down To Earth Roundhouse that is our venue for the weekend. Their tag team talk is entitled : ‘Structural considerations in straw-bale construction including foundations, stability, framing, floors and roofs.’ 

Get your tickets now for the newly reduced price of £75 at our online store.


Peter Beresford and Henrik Saarinen


Structural Solutions Management Ltd. Bristol.

Lecture title:

Engineering Aspects of Straw Buildings

Brief description:

Structural considerations in straw-bale construction including foundations, stability, framing, floors and roofs.

Speaker bio:

Peter Beresford BSc CEng MIStructE (Director)

Peter graduated from Bristol  University in Civil Engineering and joined Buro Happold for 8 years, gaining experience in the design of steel and concrete structures, in the UK and the Middle East, before starting Structural Solutions 23 years ago. Since then he has been engineering smaller but equally exciting buildings; using a broader range of materials, including straw, timber, masonry, glass, steel and concrete; for a variety of clients, from self-builders to property developers.


Henrik Saarinen MEng (Hons) CEng MIStructE (Senior Engineer)

Henrik graduated in 2012 with a First Class degree in Civil Engineering from The University of Bath. He  has already gained a broad experience of projects ranging from a few thousand pounds to tens of millions, in the residential, commercial and educational sectors. He is interested in balancing structural efficiency and the practicalities of construction. Henrik joined Structural Solutions two years ago and has been responsible for the engineering design of Down to Earth’s new residential building, as well as a number of straw-bale and reciprocal roof roundhouse projects.

The Big Straw Bale Gathering Speakers List is out!

The majority of our speakers for the Big Straw Bale Gathering are below. We still have a few special guests in the pipeline which will be announced as they are confirmed.

As you can see we have a broad spectrum of speakers lined up, speaking on a wide range of topics.

Get your tickets now / Find out more about the Big Straw Bale Gathering




Barbara Jones

School Of Natural Building

Straw Trek: The Next Generation – A journey through time and spaces

Judith Thornton

Aberystwyth University

What’s in a bale and why it matters

Peter Shubert

Capital [A] Architects

Straw and other regrowing building materials for multi storey housing constructions.

Craig White

Modcell / White Design

We Can Make – Affordable Homes Renewable Materials

Emma Appleton

How can our businesses be anti-capitalist? And is that even possible?

Chris Vernon

One Planet Council

One Planet Development: an opportunity for straw

Paul Jennings

Criafolen Permaculture

Permaculture Design: Survival and Beyond Sustainability

Peter Beresford & Henrik Saarinen

Structural Solutions

Lecture Title TBC

Pete Walker

Bath University

Lecture title TBC

5 for 5

Open to all BSBG Attendees 

5 photos in 5 minutes – Have you done something you want to share, have an idea or problem in your build you want to discuss? Here is your chance to show your 5 slides, in 5 minutes.  

Tickets - Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.


Paul Jennings is speaking at the Big Straw Bale Gathering

Name: Paul Jennings

Organisation: Criafolen Permaculture

Lecture title: Permaculture Design for Builders

Brief description: Permaculture design offers a whole site and beyond basis for builders looking to fit their projects sensitively and sustainably into the landscape and community. This lecture will provide a brief look at the application of Permaculture to building, site and settlement design.

Paul’s Bio:

Having trained as an academic in Modern History, I realised that I’d be much happier growing lettuces than working in a university. Thanks to a well placed Permaculture course or two, I moved into organic agriculture and worked for a number of vegetable growing operations and organic gardens over more than a decade. In that time I also built with my partner Sarah my first straw bale house, a very low tech place, and I achieved my Diploma in Permaculture Design.

We moved to  France in search of land in 2007, and spent 6 years building in stone and slate,  and bringing a mountain farm back to life. One Planet Development brought us to Wales in 2013, and we now live in our second straw bale dwelling, a little bit of an upgrade on the first one, but still built with an eye wateringly low budget. We’re developing our project, Criafolen, as a Permaculture teaching and demonstration site, working on a range of crafts and growing plans. I write  fiction, non-fiction, teach Permaculture whenever I am invited to do so, and can be hired out at a very reasonable rate for Permaculture consultancy.

Next Members’ meeting: Friday 23rd March

Picture by Hartwyn


Our next members’ meeting is: Friday 23rd March, 11am-3pm

Venue: The Briar Rose (in the upstairs meeting room)

Address: Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5RE.

New members are welcome & can join on the day:


Barbara Jones will be speaking at the Big Straw Bale Gathering

Barbara Jones speaking at he Big Straw Bale Gathering

Very excited to announce that Barbara Jones of Straw Works and The School of Natural Building will be sharing her wealth of knowledge with you all at the Big Straw Bale Gathering.

Speaker Name: Barbara Jones.

OrganisationStraw Works and The School of Natural Building.

Talk TitleStraw Trek – The Next Generation.

Talk description: A journey through time and spaces

Speaker Bio: 

Barbara pioneered the idea and inspiration of strawbale natural building in the UK in 1994
and has led the growing movement to improve our built environment and speak out about
the problems and health risks of certain manufactured products and practices that are
widely used today. She is internationally recognised for her work in developing the design of
strawbale buildings using only natural materials, speaks at International conferences, and
has a wide network of colleagues and contacts within her field.

She designed and built the UK’s first Council houses out of straw, the first 2 storey loadbearing strawbale houses, the first terrace of strawbale houses and the first strawbale Hotel. She works closely with self-builders to design affordable homes and mentor them through the build process, and has been involved in over 500 builds. She has also designed several options for cement-free foundations, all of which are approved by UK Building regulations, and are increasingly being used by other architects and engineers. Currently she is designing pre-fabricated straw panel houses for housing developers.

Alongside her passion for building, Barbara is also internationally acclaimed for developing a
unique and empowering way of teaching practical skills on building sites. This method has
resulted in an unheard of number of women learning practical construction skills, proving it
is not the job that puts women off, but the way it’s taught and carried out (in construction
there are at present less than 1% women working ‘on the tools’, but in the School of Natural
Building there are over 60%).

All this has been achieved in novel ways through collaboration, skill sharing and community participation. Most recently she is part of the team that successfully secured the Asset Transfer of a Community College in Todmorden, that she will help to run as a Centre of Natural Building, agro-ecology, and community ventures.
She is the author of Building with Straw Bales, a manual for architects and self-builders, that has been continuously in print since 2002, last revised and updated in 2015.

Tickets - Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.

Judith Thornton from Aberystwyth University is giving a talk at the BSBG

How into bales is Judith? Well, she just bought her own baling machine to play with!

Name: Judith Thornton

CompanyAberystwyth University

Talk title: What’s in a bale and why it matters

Talk description: General discussion on what affects straw bale degradability, alternative straws, potential for bale redesign.

Judith’s BioJudith is Low Carbon Manager in the BEACON project at Aberystwyth University. She works with companies on innovations relating to plant-based building materials. In 2017 she was part of the team building the world’s first straw bale house built out of Miscanthus. She is interested in the relative merits of different straw types, and in optimising bale production for the straw bale building industry.  

Tickets - Big Straw Bale Gathering 2018

SBUK are proud to present the inaugural ‘Big Straw Bale Gathering’ – a gathering to discuss and learn straw bale construction and share the latest and best thinking within the industry.