Long-time (d)evolutionary readers may remember this image from the project1p website back in 2011:

luke 1p

Briefly for new readers, Luke started that year with 1p which he traded up to see what would happen. (No, he didn’t hear about the paperclip guy until afterwards.) What happened was that he got in the press and on TV and had a rollercoaster of a ride for six months. (His blog has all the details.) We got involved in the project and exchanged a yurt holiday for a custom-made metal object that our guests will know as the frame for the snail-shell shower.

This snail-shell solar shower:


Yes, that’s Luke pointing at a 1p soldered onto the frame. He dropped in on Thursday with his partner and we finally got to meet. Here he is again:

luke - écovallée

(I don’t have access to image-manipulation software at the moment. You’ll have to pretend that this is a good photo. I took some better ones but this is the closest to the original. Obviously I would have rotated it slightly if I could. I hope you’re not too disappointed. I’m disappointed. But I’m coping with it pretty well.)

One interesting thing about this shot is how much longer the shadows are in the Autumn than high Summer.


Just over 12 years ago, I bought a work bench from Travis Perkins. I don’t think it cost much. I used it for the occasional DIY job when we lived in a house. It lived outside (it was only a little house) unprotected from the elements. It came with us to France and still lived outside. The leg braces broke a couple of years ago, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a bit of rope. Sadly, at the end of last year, it died.

I looked at the work benches in my local DIY place and was STUNNED by the prices. Not just that, but none of the benches on offer had wooden worktops (my cheap old one did – which is how it survived for so long). Fortunately, my dad had an almost new leading-brand work bench in his garage which he let me scrounge. I tried to look after it, but eventually it found its way outside for a few days. I also did some round-wood work with it, which is quite normal for us, but which immediately demolished the pressboard worktop. Look:

Absolute crap. Almost certainly designed to fall apart*. For the price it probably was, scandalous.

Fortunately, I had some pieces of chestnut lying around from a failed kitchen cupboard project and knocked up a new worktop in a couple of hours.

I had to do this because I was just about to go to work on the project1p solar shower. And I hope you’ll agree, if you’re going to work on a solar shower that’s been in the making for a Very Long Time and has cost an Eye-wateringly Large Amount of Money, you’re going to need a decent work bench.

More on this, later.

*(For more on designed obsolescence, I strongly recommend you watch Pyramids of Waste aka The Lightbulb Conspiracy (2010). Contains some very surprising information and tells you why that leading-brand printer isn’t working any more.)

Luke Seal started the year with 1p. His goal: to end up with something worth more than one penny by 2012.

Things went very well, very fast. He swapped the penny for some fish, some fish for a guitar, a guitar for a bike, the bike for £50, the cash for 10 square metres of Bulgaria and the land for a custom-made metal object.

Which is where we came in.

Readers of our website will know that, this year, guests will enjoy the luxury of a solar shower. Not some knocked-up arrangement using an old cast-iron radiator, a length of hose encased in plastic bottles or a dustbin painted black. Nor one of those hanging bags that leave your hair smelling like plastic and break before the end of the week. No no. We’re going for a professionally made shower where the temperature can be controlled. (People wanting the more rustic experience can always pour a bucket of water over their heads. We just think they should have a choice.)

And even though most of our guests know each other very well, our new shower needs a cubicle.

Years ago, Her Outdoors designed a cubicle in the shape of a snail shell; it just needs to be held together by a custom-made metal object, like this:


Jumping on the idea like a small child on a trampoline, we proposed a week at écovallée in exchange for the custom-made object and, turning down a valuable wedding cake at the very last minute, Luke said Yes! Our object will be made by corner-of-a-field-in-Bulgaria owner Darren of Darad Fabrications in Atherstone and, if all goes to plan, brought down by friends at the end of the summer.

Our week in a yurt has since been exchanged for a portrait of a man who lost millions of pennies, made out of pennies, by artist Adrian Firth. For more details, take a look at Luke’s superbly written blog here