Cambridgeshire

Isleham's self-build church The Ark 'progressing well'

The first phase of a self-build church and community centre has been completed in Isleham, Cambridgeshire.

The Ark is being constructed entirely by members of the congregation of High Street Church who began the project in 2009 by building themselves a sawmill.

A 2.5-tonne green oak hammer beam was lowered into place to mark the end of phase one of the building, which is now about 25% complete.

The Ark is believed to be one of the largest self-build projects in the UK.

Members of the church decided to build a new place of worship when the congregation outgrew the 19th Century chapel in the village.

Image caption The green oak church and community centre is designed to resemble a traditional Cambridge barn

Paul Hedger, project manager and church leader, said that finding the skills necessary to build it from within the congregation had enabled work to begin before all of the money needed had been raised.

He has worked with timber for more than 30 years and built his own home 15 years ago.

'Cracks and twists'

The 2,200-sq-metre (23,500-sq-feet) building is being made from green oak - wood that is felled, machined, processed and jointed before it is seasoned and dried.

"It's a very traditional way of using wood and medieval houses were built this way," Mr Hedger said.

"It improves as it dries. What people think of as cracks and twists become 'character' after that and it takes on a nice warm, gentle, old feeling."

Mr Hedger said he expected the building's frame to be completed within "a few weeks".

He said: "Hopefully by Christmas it will be sealed and protected against the weather and then we'll decide where we go from there."

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