The Burnside tea room


The Burn Bun area, early 2020

During several volunteering days dating back to about 2015, an overgrown area halfway along the eastern edge of the Burnside site began to be cleared to make way for a new communal space. The area had become very overgrown and had, for many years, been a dumping ground for a variety of waste and scrap, including a large old rusting farm trailer, tractor tyres and rubble, much of which was only discovered as the area was cut back. The ground was cleared and levelled, which resulted in a mound of soil towards the north east corner. In the centre, a gravelled, concrete edged circle was created for the Burn Bin. Eventually a layer of compost was applied, and turf was laid, resulting in a space resembling Teletubbyland, exactly as envisaged. With the addition of some picnic tables and a bench, the space became the site’s picnic area. Over time a corrugated steel covered wood store and a small shed for tables and chairs have been added. The first Burn Bin was a great success, proving the concept of a hot, fast-burning, communal fire. It is additionally fuelled by scrap timber from around the site to dispose of any tenant’s non-compostable waste. All of this with no nuisance to other tenants or our site neighbours, which had been an issue in the past. The Burn Bin consists of a large, old, round, commercial, galvanized dustbin, with triangles cut into the bottom edge to allow air into the fire. This first Burn Bin had a little too much metal cut away, so after a few burn sessions, due to the loss of the galvanising from the heat, it started to rust and disintegrate. Thoughts of using the Burn Bin heat to cook some food, and the need for a replacement, led to the creation of Burn Bin No. 2, with its integral oven. Since 2017 many Burn Bin sessions have taken place with all sorts of food cooked in that oven. Whole chickens, baked potatoes, fish, sausages, baguettes, camembert, baked beans, Yorkshire puddings and more. The addition of engineering bricks in the bottom of the oven allowed for the hugely successful cooking pf pizzas. However, on too many occasions the weather had deteriorated during the day resulting in eating huddled, under tarpaulins, or having to decamp to the Store. Also, making hot drinks during the burn session, and after, was never easy, and the space around the Burn Bin has proved to be too small.


The Grand Plan for the Tearoom

A larger green space. A building of some kind, to contain a stove and sink with running mains water. Plus a covered hard area, both for shade in the summer and for those drizzly afternoons. Thus, a Tearoom, to include all of the above, plus solar charged batteries to power lighting, and maybe a fridge and an extractor fan. At the end of 2019 the half plot opposite the picnic area, which had regularly been part “borrowed” for these events, was acquired and re-designated as communal space. 


Starting preparation

2020 has of course been a very difficult year. However, the allotment has been a great place to go, but with a very limited number of Burn Bin sessions and certainly no communal food, and no volunteering days, which of course are ostensibly jolly communal get togethers. The tearoom is really the vision of Andy, the site manager, with most of the work now being carried out by him, hence “Andy’s Tearoom”. The groundwork has progressed well as follows:

  • The slab base for the building is done
  • With help from volunteers a trench from the building base to the nearest water trough was dug. A water pipe was laid and connected, and the trench was backfilled
  • The planned grass area has been cleared of weeds, rotovated, trodden and raked level and grass seeded
  • By the end of October, the whole of the slabbed area had been completed
  • Even though much of October was horribly wet, the grass seed had taken and greened up beautifully. It grew nicely over the winter and early spring; it has now been cut twice and looks great.


The soakaway is required to take water from the Tearoom sink, plus the overflow from the rainwater butt.

  • A large deep hole was dug several metres away, and the sides were lined with spaced scrap bricks.
  • With needed help from a willing volunteer, a 2ft x 3ft council style paving slab (one with a corner missing, so no good for the paved area), was then lowered by rope to lay it on top.
  • The waste pipe went into the trench which had been dug between the soakaway and the tearoom.
  • The whole thing was then backfilled.

A lot of essential hard work, but it’s now almost invisible. 

The building

  • Just at the right time a Burnside tenant was looking to dispose of an old summer house from her garden. A building which had seen better days, but which could be re-worked to form the core of the envisaged facility
  • Another Burnside tenant, this one with a large van, volunteered to transport the now dismantled summer house to the Burnside site
  • The building needs some extensive repairs and an increase in height. This work is gradually taking place in the Burnside Store:
    • Floor – repaired – READY
    • Back – repaired, raised, window added – READY
    • Roof – repaired, modified and improved – READY
    • Side 1 – repaired and raised – READY
    • Side 2 – repaired and raised – READY
    • Front – repaired and raised – READY
    • Doors – height increased; just a small area of cladding to complete
  • All the parts, except the doors, have been transferred to the tearoom site and are covered with a tarpaulin

Covered area

  • The front portico cover will be made from a large old greenhouse acquired a few years ago
  • The rear will be of corrugated tin and corrugated clear plastic, all of which has been recovered from other dismantled buildings on the Burnside site
  • Once all the slabbing had been completed it was clear that a single blue bin, the type often used for water butts on the Burnside site, would not cope with the amount of water that would be gathered from the total covered area. Two linked bins are now planned. They have been acquired and are being prepared.
  • 6 extra slabs were laid to take the water butts, and the whole area was levelled off and tidied
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