The Hut – 2019

This page is devoted to the views of, and from, a shepherd’s hut type structure which I decided to construct at the top of our upper hay meadow, having developed the idea in autumn of 2017, once I’d sourced a set of antique cast iron wheels on ebay. We collected them on a trip to Devon, and it seems likely that they are of Eastern European origin, probably taken from an abandoned old agricultural vehicle. Their simple elegance really appealed to me. With poor winter weather, apart from designing a box steel chassis and detachable draw bar, which I had made up by the excellent local Teifi Forge in Lampeter for about £300, nothing more happened until spring 2018. Click here for their contact details.

We’d always placed a couple of chairs in this location to enjoy the views at the top of what we call longevity hill, overlooking our developing upper wildflower hay meadow. There were no flowers in this field when we started a restoration project in it, apart from a very few spring dandelions. Just short sheep cropped grass for much of the year. In 2013 we began the process of changing it into a wild flower rich hay meadow, which we cut and take off, semi manually, in phases throughout the summer, to ensure there are always areas of flowers left for the other wildlife which now views it as a home. It’s a real delight how with the passage of time, quite a bit of manual seed introduction and a big change in management, the meadow is becoming more vibrant and florally diverse every year. From the blue/purples and pinks of Violets and Lousewort in spring……To the rich oranges, yellows and purples of Fox and Cubs, Cat’s Ears, Bird’sfoot Trefoil, Betony and Knapweed in later summer…The picture constantly changes, with light, wind and the movement and sounds of huge numbers of invertebrates adding to the appeal. Let alone the variety of multi coloured grass flower and seed heads, which emerge in waves throughout the summer.

A wildflower hay meadow is indeed a place of great beauty.

Over 100 hybrid orchid flowers, a first ever sighting of a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly, and the first rich purple flowers of Betony from seed scattered 3 years ago, have been some of the highlights so far seen in 2019. The photographs of sunrise taken at about 4.30 am from the top of the meadow by award winning Australian photographer Claire Takacs when she visited us in May 2016 for a garden shoot were spectacular.

Some also subsequently made it into a personal selection of Claire’s 70 favourite gardens from around the world, photographed over a 10 year period and published as a book in late 2017 – “Dreamscapes – Inspiration and Beauty in Gardens Near and far”. These images got me thinking about how we could enjoy more time up there, with the far reaching views, big skies, and amazing weather in these hilly Western fringes of the United Kingdom, just a few miles from the Atlantic coast.  

Once I’d got my enthusiasm going as the cold late spring and the “Beast From the East” finally left us, the construction began in earnest. The Celotex wall and floor insulation were left over from another project, the oak floor boards cut down from some oak sleepers for me by Rhidian and Tegwyn, who also cut the plywood roof ribs. All the oak, plywood, softwood, sleepers, chippings and general building materials came from their excellent local family building supplies firm D.Lloyd and Sons of Pumsaint. Founded in 1797, Tegwyn and Rhidian are the 5th and 6th generation carrying on the family business, and providing brilliant personal service in this rural community. Click here for their contact details, and history.

Nearly everything was carried manually up the hill, where construction took place in situ, apart from the chassis and sub-floor, which I gingerly towed up the hill  …

These days it’s easy to get roof sheets curved to pretty much any profile you want, and we’re very fortunate to have a brilliant local firm which can supply these at sensible prices. ( Click here for the Adeilad website – they travel much further afield than West Wales, too). I opted to have a plastisol coloured finish to minimise maintenance.

Very fortunately aided by the incredible dry summer of 2018, the build was finished in August, and as expected it’s proving to be a wonderful spot to sit and watch the clouds go by.

I’m really grateful to William who helped with much of the work and lugging materials up the hill, and a particular morning when Dave and Fiona provided the extra pairs of hands necessary to coach screw the wall panels together, and onto the base.

It will, I’m sure, prove to be a great place to rest a while, and have creative thoughts. The insulation in the floor, walls and roof (aluminium coated bubblewrap) and use of large areas of polycarbonate for the windows means that it’s always noticeably warmer than the ambient outside temperature, without any internal heating. Indeed, apart from a small external PV panel which I fixed in the hedgerow behind, there’s no power up here. An intentional decision taken to allow enjoyment of just the natural sights and sounds, which you can really appreciate from here.

Years ago we were moved by seeing an exhibition by Ahae, staged in a purpose built temporary pavilion close to the Orangerie in Paris. (Click here). The show consisted of a selection made from apparently 1 million images taken over a year through a single window of one property in rural South Korea. Subsequently huge scandal developed around “Ahae” – who he was, the validity of his work, and his other business and religious activities, which I’ve written about before on these web pages, but there’s also a detailed biography of him on line. (Click here).But the concept of observing nature from a single vantage point over a long time frame has always appealed to me. This is partly what has driven me to keep writing and photographing for this blog and website, since I began it in the spring of 2011.

Fiona’s inspired idea for how to close the open-to-the-air window space I’d always imagined in my one and only back of an envelope (since lost) design for the hut, has created many options for framing and enjoying these views. Building the hut was a great project for problem solving as the construction progressed, and particularly satisfying (never having done anything like this before) was flexing the 5 mm roof ply internally and getting it to fit the roof ribs so easily.

Fiona made the fabric cushions for the chairs so it’s now comfy sitting up there for ages, and the colours add to the summery feel I wanted to create inside. Our old stone house has very small windows and is often really dark inside, so it’s great to be able to wander up longevity hill, with an insulated cup of tea and enjoy the better light and views from inside the hut. The photos on the internal walls are all ones I took years ago of moths found locally in North Carmarthenshire – nearly 500 different species, which I’ve put together into a diary of garden moth species, which you can find on another website page, or by clicking here.  (Fiona’s detailed design for eventually rejected more complex end “fan light windows” is shown above). So the hut is easily opened to the air and sound, mainly. Or not, should weather or midges dictate otherwise.

Finally, early in 2019 we commissioned Chris and Justine, from the excellent local firm Cariad glass, of Llandysul, to make us 4 stained glass leaded light shades for the 4 small corner LED lights, themed on the four seasons, to complete the design of the hut. Click here for Cariad’s website, or here to read a bit more about how they did it.

Other than these introductory words, this is simply a page of some of the many images taken through this single window onto North Carmarthenshire, or of the hut from the meadow, and shown in chronological order, to give an idea of the delights of seasonality in this part of the world. It’s a magical place, with wonderful light and constantly changing interest.

The Hut has enabled me to share a little of this magic with readers. I hope you’ll enjoy scrolling through …

Click on any of the views taken below in 2019 to view them in greater detail, should you wish…