Goodbye Compost Lodge, Hello solar shed

Sheddie Kevin has been a great supporter of readersheds and Shed of the year for many years – I saw a video of him and his shed that he posted up on twitter the other day and thought you sheddies may be interested in his shed, so I ask Kevin to give me some details about his  Solar Shed and the history of his love of sheds and Shedaoke- so here it is… so grab a mug of tea or something stronger.

Within minutes of arriving at the house back in 2004, we knew that this was the place for life. Three generations, all under the same roof with enough space to grow our own food and start a new life on the banks of the River Great Ouse in Norfolk.

The River is Tidal with a massive range and the house nestles into the River Bank as it has done for over 500 yrs. It was once home to the village fishing industry and has a slipway in the garden. Lurking at the bottom of the garden is a small collection of ramshackle outbuildings, greenhouses and sheds.

As soon as we were ‘settled’ I took ownership of the Shed and due to the size and fact there is a massive greenhouse only accessible from the shed, I renamed it ‘Compost Lodge’ and this particular Shedman came to life.
Up until moving from London, I had been no more than an aspiring Shedman with my unusual assortment of small sheds. One was down the allotment in Sydenham, South London where I lived whilst a serving Police Officer in London and the other was at the house. That was, in its own right, a small shed marvel as it was a ‘roofed – space’ rather than a shed.

My old house was a new-build and it was L shaped as it was built around an electricity sub-station. The shed was L Shaped and about 20ft long and 4 ft wide narrowing to a point where the house and sub-station met! Shed nights in those days consisted of me and couple of mates who would filter in and stand side by side as there was no room to ‘huddle’ as man in sheds do.
Compost Lodge, however, is an altogether different type of Shed. More a ‘social shed’. So when I discovered, I was one of the first to put some pics up for others to see and share their dreams of solitary isolation at the bottom of the garden.

I was dumbfounded when back in 2005 I was contacted via email by a bloke who claimed he was making a short ‘Inside-Out’ regional prog about men in sheds and wanted to come over and film Compost Lodge on a shed night. I thought It was a wind up by a mate from work but went along with his request and that Friday the Fenland Shed Society were joined by the BBC film crew who I am confident have never had such a surreal assignment!
Time has passed, and the shed has evolved and become home to Village events and live music sessions. The term ‘Shedaoke’ was first coined in Compost Lodge for my 40th Birthday celebrations where we had a Karaoke party……… in the shed!
Shed nights are good for the soul, and it was about 4 yrs ago during a shed night that i drunkenly suggested i would try and make the shed as self sufficient as possible. So i started by harvesting rainwater and now have over 1000 litres of fresh rainwater for the greenhouses and other water features. Outside the shed is the garden kitchen which comprises of a big barrel BBQ and cooking area.

There is a small solar shower hanging up outside Compost Lodge so we can wash and brush up whilst cooking or to wash hands after getting the coal for the fire! Last year, I had 100 yrds of black hose pipe coiled up, over the roof of the sheds, which was ‘solar pumped’ with water from the kids pool. This kept the water warm enough to use at our leisure for about 6 months last year.
And then, at last in July this year, i finally saved up enough money to purchase 2kw of Solar PV. This is the electricity generating solar rather than the heat generating solar. I already have those panels on the house and they provide all our hot water so when the UK Government introduced the feed in tariffs last year, i just had to get my electric panels up.

The shed roof faces North East and as you are only allowed one feed in tariff per electric metre I opted for the shed as although the house has a perfect south facing roof, i am leaving the domestic electric meter to feed back into the grid any surplice i generate from a tidal barrage i am designing. (I own about 50 metres of tidal River Great Ouse)
So Compost Lodge has become Solar Shed. There it sits generating about 5 kws a day (a decent positioned 2kw system will average 6-7 a day over a whole year) The shed is home to 5 freezers and fridges where we store the food we grow for the winter and spring.

The shed uses more background electricity than the house so we get free electricity during the day. I have the freezers on timers so they go off for a few hours overnight so i don’t use any power when I am not generating it! The money I receive from the Feed in Tariff pays for ALL my electricity in the house so I am in effect ‘without bills’ for the rest of my life with regards to electricity!
As I am in the Solar Trade, i have now set up shop at home so customers can come and visit and see the power of the sun before they actually buy the systems and as the shed is open beamed, they can see the fittings and wiring and all that goes with it.
So after only 7 yrs, the Shed has become a focal part of our life. It is a hobby room, an office, a chill-out bolt hole and a place for rather unusual parties. It is also doing more than its fair share for the environment and the community.

To date the shed has been home to about 5-6 charity events where over £3,000:00 has been raised for McMillan, Help for Heroes, The Blue and Gold Trust, The Village Hall and other good causes. It has featured in the local paper, regional TV and is a talking point in the Village.

This year it also came 3rd the Unique sheds category in Shed of the Year competition. Now that the panels have gone up, Solar Shed will be entered into Eco Shed next year and if there is any justice in the world Sarah Beeny will visit me with the winners award next year!


By Andrew Wilcox

I love sheds Founder & judge of Shed of the year - Wilco writes mainly about sheds. About the blog Enter your shed into #shedoftheyear