I first met Alan Briggs, bughouse builder extraordinaire, at the Wild Weekend at Woodberry Wetlands this spring. My friend and I were so taken with his beautifully constructed green-roofed insect houses that she bought one for me and I bought one as a birthday present for my next-door-neighbour. The bees buzzed all summer long in our adjoining gardens. More recently I bumped into Alan again at the Quernmore Road Street Party where he had a stall full of his bughouses, as well as wreaths made of succulents all ready for the Christmas season.
He also donated a combined bird box, bug hotel and butterfly roosting box to the Quernmore Road Project. Here it is all primed and ready to be painted by Lisa of N4 Workshop.
Alan moved to Epping when young, which fuelled his interest in the natural world Moving to the Harringay Ladder he experimented with a green roof on his compost bin. He was pleased with how successfully sedums and succulents grew in gritty compost in an exposed part of the garden. Alan went on to construct garden stores, bin stores and cycle shelters for friends, family and neighbours out of found materials including pallet boards and scaffolding, as well as recycled Victorian floorboards sourced from local forums such as Harringay Online. My favourite construction has to be the shelter he built for a neighbour’s outdoor cat, fully insulated with 50 mm of foam insulation and planted with a green roof.
Moving on to smaller things, Alan builds the prettiest bughouses, filled with little pieces of bamboo, and planted with sedums and sempervivums. “I think I help the birds and the bees,” says Alan. “A block of wood can be home to 50 solitary bees.”
He’s also built larger bughouses for schools and community projects. These have the scope to include bamboo, broken pots and tiles, cut-down plastic bottles filled with corrugated cardboard. Attracting a variety of insects including lacewings, ladybirds, and bees, some insects even overwinter as pupae. He’s also built bat-houses for the Parkland Walk.
In his other life, Alan teaches wood and metal work in schools and so it’s not surprising that he thinks community involvement is vitally important, especially to nurture children’ fascination for the outside world. He can teach them about the importance of recycling materials too. “If I can get children involved they can experience the lifecycle of insects from pupae to flying insects,” says Alan.
Here’s an example of a community project in Carbuncle Passage in Tottenham where the community was involved in planting up the wooden planter.
Always inventive, Alan has now started making tardis-like police boxes and telephone boxes to sell, along with his bughouses and birdhouses, at local festivals and fairs in and around Haringey and North London.
Buy a lovely gift from Busy Bee Alan at the Made in Tottenham Pop-up Christmas Gift Shop at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre from 14-17th December: Thursday and Friday 9.30 am – 6.30 pm, Saturday 10 am – 6 pm and Sunday 11 am – 4 pm.
Alan will be at the Christmas Fair, Earl Haig Hall, Elder Avenue, Crouch End on Saturday 16th December from noon till five.
Briggs Bughouses is now selling on Etsy so do get your Christmas orders in now!