Having spent most of my adult life outdoors and many years living and working in remote and wild parts of the Africa I have very much become accustomed to living close to nature. Even though I now live half the time in central of London, I choose to do so on Jupiter, a 55ft Narrow Boat.
The idea to build a shepherd’s hut came to me four years ago one wet and windy night in a farmer’s field in the North of England. To split a long drive home from Scotland, my girlfriend and I decided to be true to our instincts (which is to live as naturally and as much outside as possible) and stay in a shepherd’s hut that the farm rented out as a B&B.
With the fire on and candles lit it was not too dissimilar to the interior of Jupiter. Within an hour I was casting a critical eye over the interior, the obvious nail heads and screws were an anathema to me.
It is important to remember however, that shepherd’s huts were very agricultural, simple buildings used by shepherd’s during lambing time. The hut provided portable, but minimal shelter for the shepherd, a store for his tools, a bed for the night and a safe place to store medicines needed for his flock. Also under the bed was “the lamb rack,” a cage for injured or orphaned lambs. With cast iron wheels, the hut could be towed from field to field, depending on where the shepherd needed it.
So once the plans were drawn up and the research done, I set to work on building the hut during the winter of 2011/12. I had decided during the planning that the hut should, at least on the exterior, look agricultural and have the same proportions as the originals. To fit a full sized double bed width ways meant I had to increase the overall dimensions. This also meant I could build in storage, by the way of drawers, under the raised bed and you would still have a usable space.
I sourced all of the materials from local businesses and craftsmen from the hand built chassis that was constructed by our local blacksmiths, Utopia Forge, to the Tilley lamp bought from The Tilley Lamp Co half a mile away.
The steel chassis gives it the needed rigidity; it has a turntable and tow hook which has been put to good use here in Littleton where the hut has traveled across the fields to the farm show at Loseley House. The 100 year old cast iron wheels I found on E Bay (the delivery nearly cost as much as the wheels), which I ground back and re-painted. I suspect they wouldn’t suffer being towed on hard surface as they are too old and brittle now, but it’s nice to have the history on the hut.
The insulated stud walls were made of 2×2 pine, notched glued and pegged, with a 5mm plywood skin over the top which was then covered with a semi permeable roofers membrane.
Corrugated iron sheeting has come a long way over the years, you can now buy it pre-painted to a range of colours and cut to length. The curve for the roof takes a bit of working out, the suppliers had a program to work it out, but it doesn’t take into account the overhang.
The interior is clad in 15mm T&G in two meter lengths, the joins in the ceiling and walls are hidden by White Oak batons. The baton on the vaulted ceiling had to be steamed to fit. This is something I had never done before, with a bit of research, a wallpaper steamer, some PVC and some left over insulation provide enough to make the steamer. A bit of trial and error and a greatly increased electricity bill, produced the right shape to fit.
It has a solid Oak floor; the wood burner I sourced from a blacksmith’s called the Windy Smithy, it’s tiny but produces an enormous amount of heat. It has a 240v feed if needed and a hidden double socket.
The hut has been used by a diverse selection of family members and friends- from an 86 year old to 20 something’s with dogs. The comments from everybody, however is the same – “it’s just amazing, it’s so cosy!” My girlfriend I tested it out with 2 foot of snow on the ground, it proved to be very cosy indeed.