Your Ovens Featured Part Two: Richard’s Oven in Cambridge, England.

Pizza Oven

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Richard Green built this incredible oven last summer which demonstrates how varied the designs can be. The use of an insulated layer, the lead work and then the outer layer of corrugated material are fabulous and add so much to the functional practicality of the oven. Awesome work Richard! Here’s what he had to say about it himself:

Obtaining the clay was an adventure. We went to Clayhaithe, north of Cambridge, which sounded like a good place to start. After a fruitless search for clay, I was sat by the river bank wondering what to do when a passing dredger stopped and pulled out half a ton of clay for me to fill my buckets. I weather-proofed it and added a bit more insulation. The only change with the next oven I make is that it will be bigger.
We’ve had great fun cooking pizzas, stews and all kinds of dishes. But on Boxing-day, we cooked a whole shoulder of pork for 25 people. It cooked for 14 hours and was magnificent.  Thanks for all the help.
Thanks for sharing Richard – she’s a beauty! I challenge anyone to look at the picture, below, of the pork roast and not drool – even vegans! Best wishes, Simon.

An Elephant Poo Oven – Seriously!

I recently received an email out of the wilds of Africa from oven enthusiast Mark Spicer. He works in a game reserve in the Limpopo Province in South Africa. Basically Mark wanted good pizzas to feed himself and the hungry crew of volunteers who work for a organisation out there called Galagos Wildlife Conservation. You can find more details here:

Mark’s oven is slightly different in that it doesn’t utilise a chimney, oh and it is partially made from elephant poo!!!! If nothing else this is a great example of using the materials you have at hand to construct an oven – great work! I’ll let Mark tell you all about it, and post some photos for your enjoyment.

For some reason I can’t get this old Monty Python gag out of my head: Question – What’s brown and sounds like a bell? Answer – DUNG! [sorry!]

Beforehand Mark said:

I’m on a game reserve in South Africa, in a continent obesessed with concrete. I’m trying to build a clay oven for pizzas. We have a volunteer programme here at our place. The reserve manager is as obsessed with concrete as everyone else, and has built a pizza oven; I’m trying to build an oven out of local and reclaimed materials for our camp. At the mo we’re making sub-standard pizza in a well below-heat oven. I was a helping run a snowboard chalet last year and we made great pizzas ( so this is all a bit troubling. I’d like to use elephant poo mixed with clay as the insulation layer because we have access to a lot of it. We’ve sourced what we can in the way of clay-like material from a natural water hole here which was dry, although in the national park over the road from here they have great clay the locals made pots with 800 years ago; sadly, if i went into the park to nick clay I might end up getting shot. We’ve pulled down some of one of the old farmhouses here for locally made brick, so we are almost ready to start. I’ve been talking about it for three months and want to get into action – there are lots of things online but the ebook seems to be so well regarded that it would be handy to motivate my boss, the volunteers and the reserve manager!

And in a recent update:

Here’s the pretty much finished article. We jigged around with dimensions a little (door height) and structure (no chimney) but here it is. I love it. The boss loves it. It looks right here in camp. There’s a fire flickering away at the moment, and once we get some mozzarella from town (a 450km trip…) I’m hoping to start trialling pizzas. Nervously. I am also waiting to take a picture with an elephant in the background – they kindly donated so generously to the build it would seem right and proper. In short, and so far, she burneth well – I read something about the door opening being 63% of the internal height, so worked it around that, and I can get a fire going inside easily enough…..I can’t stop looking at the creation – it’s amazing. Sincerly, many thanks again for your help and input.

Meet Archie the Finnish Clay Oven

It’s amazing what can be achieved when a group of people with a shared passion come together.

Earlier this week Katharina posted a message on the blog to share the story of an amazing clay oven she and a group of friends have built in Finland.  They have christened him Archie!

Archie was built as part of a project called “5” which, in Katharina’s words is:

“to inspire thought about culture, identity, and the objects we consume, with a shared experience of eating. Food as an ephemeral product, consumed by our very own bodies, represents an everyday experience that connects people and memories. We are what we eat – so who are we?”

All good stuff I’m sure you’ll agree!  What I really love about this project though is the fact that most of the volunteers who came together to build the oven had never met before.  I believe that most of them had heard about the project through online social networks and decided to get involved out of curiosity and a shared passion for food and the issues of local food production/ food security.

The other astonishing thing is that the oven is built in a very urban area of Finland which goes to show that clay ovens have a place in cities as well as rural areas.

Katharina has pulled together a blog and uploaded lots of photos so please have a look, be inspired and send her and the team some clay oven love!

The Blog:
The photos:

Archie with his makers

Helping out with a Community Schools Project

This Saturday I am winding my way down to Margate (you have to sing that line Chaz n Dave stylee!), in Kent to help out on a fabulous project which aims to bring together local school kids and older people and develop community cohesion.

The project is called the Quartet Community Allotment Garden which is part of a broader inititiave called Quartet in the Community, “a partnership of Margate schools and children’s centres, working to improve the lives of children and the community[1]”.   The allotment project is the brainchild of Nicola Wood, a senior extended schools coordinator at Hartsdown Technology College, a secondary school in Margate.  The partnership received £3,000 from the Kent Criminal Justice Board, “as part of a national programme to use ill gotten gains, confiscated from crooks, to fund worthwhile community projects[1]“.

The money is being used to tackle the problem of youths loitering in the streets outside the homes of older people, causing friction and antisocial behaviour. A new group will be set up to bring older members of the allotment and the local community together with young people to work together at the allotment, pass on their knowledge and build relationships. The idea has been backed by the local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)…who believe this scheme will help to bridge the gap between the generations in the area.[2]

The Community Allotment Garden is now developing nicely.  Over several weekends, local young people have worked together with members of an existing over 50’s gardening group to get the allotment going.

So where do I come in?  Well a few weeks ago Nicola stumbled upon this blog and asked if I will like to help facilitate the building of a clay oven on the plot.  I just couldn’t say no!  I really love the idea of the project and so will be spending the next three weekends on-site helping the group to build their own oven.  I think it will be great fun and if it helps to bring these seemingly disparate groups of people (the old and young) closer together then that’s a fabulous bonus.

Last weekend Nicola and her team of helpers started the oven project by building the plinth and oven floor following instructions from this blog.  On Saturday we will be puddling lots of clay/sand in order to build the first layer and, if we have time, the oven entrance and chimney.  The final two weekends will then be dedicated to adding insulation and building the final layer, hopefully leaving time to fire the oven up for a transgenerational pizza party!

I’ll be posting some pictures and updates as we go along.  Keep your fingers crossed for fair weather!!