Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting to a couple of people in the shop who have interests in Eco Living, and they reminded me of my dream to build a Cob house. The word cob comes from an old English root meaning a lump or rounded mass. In fact bread rolls in some parts of England are referred to as 'cobs'. Cob building uses hands and feet to form lumps of earth mixed with sand and straw, an aesthetic and sensory experience similar to sculpting with clay. Cobbing is easy to learn and inexpensive to build and earth is, after all, God's given gift to us. It has been used for hundreds of years to build housing, even in the coastal areas of England where properties as old as 300 years still stand.
A couple of years ago I donned my pink spotted wellies and headed off to Jill Hogan's Alternative Technology Centre in McGregor in the Cape. My husband, who at the time was a suit and tie man, wondered what I was getting him into as we arrived at this half built 'mud' house in McGregor where we were to spend the weekend, well, building! There was something very grounding (excuse the pun) about squashing mud with your wellies and forming this into something that could be turned into your very own accommodation. Our bedroom had in fact been built by previous 'students' and was actually very nice and even had a built in air conditioning system, so it was warm in winter, cool in summer. We ate food cooked in a solar cooker, which was very basic, but some of the best food I had savored, the ambiance of McGregor adding to this of course.
Cobbing does not have to look alternative either. I read a fascinating article in a UK decor magazine about a couple who had built a cob house (with marble floors), which looked very conventional and was stunning both inside and out. It had cost them (about 6 years ago) Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Pounds to build and once completed was worth three times that price.
Whether my ambition will remain a dream only time will tell. In the mean time I need to get on with restoring our current century old house.
McGregor Alternative Technology Centre
Tel: 023 625 1533