Why the sheepish shed is our most desirable garden building

Shepherd hut from the Yorkshire hut company
Shepherd hut from the Yorkshire hut company
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Office, retreat, bedroom and holiday let. There are many uses for the shepherd’s hut. Sharon Dale reports.

The popularity of “posh” sheds has reached epidemic proportions and they come in many guises, from the simple wood hut to circular pods and sophisticated architect designed buildings.

One of the most sought-after is the shepherd’s hut and it’s easy to see why. It has rustic charm and perfectly captures the spirit of the great outdoors, even though it might be parked on a suburban lawn.

Built on four wheels, it is also has the benefit of being moveable, which makes planning permission less of an issue.

Pennie Lordan, of the Yorkshire Hut Company, based in Nether Poppleton, York, says: “Planning approval isn’t usually required if the hut is within the curtilage of a house but if they are used on holiday or heritage sites, they are classed as mobile, which helps with gaining permission.”

She and husband Kevin started the company seven years ago after they returned to England from France, where they had a furniture making business.

They were asked to design and make a bespoke shepherd’s hut for a client who liked their work.

“We based it on a traditional Yorkshire design, as it seems the first shepherd’s huts may have originated here,” says Pennie.

The couple have made many more since and, thanks to the quality of their materials and craftsmanship, the huts have sold all over Britain and as far away as Rhode Island, America.

They are constructed from FSC timber, with cast iron wheels and handcrafted doors and windows fitted with argon filled planitherm glass.

In a nod to their original use, the huts are insulated with sheep’s wool, which makes them cool on hot days and cosy in the depths of winter.

You can have them off grid with a wood burning stove or they can be fitted with electrical sockets and underfloor heating.

They start from around £10,000 and are put to a variety of uses from office, craft studio, playroom and retreat to gardening hut, writing space and spare room.

“We get a lot of writers and artists buying them and they are popular as a sewing room. The feedback we get is that they are peaceful, a quiet space away from it all,” says Pennie.

Writer Arabella Cornelius, who lives near Thirsk, opted for a Yorkshire Hut Company shepherd’s hut rather than a “shoffice”, due to portability.

“The fact that it’s a moveable structure appealed to me as I know I can take it with me if I move. It’s a safer investment.”

Arabella, a copywriter, has a deluxe version with underfloor heating, a log burner, sink, a fold down desk and a bed. It is, she says, the subject of some envy.

“People love it. It’s designed to be multi-functional , so I use it as an office but it can also be a spare room or a playroom. The bed can also be taken out, so it could be yoga room in the future. I spent more on having heating installed because I knew if I didn’t I wouldn’t use it year round.”

Amanda Owen, best known as The Yorkshire Shepherdess and star of ITVs The Dales, , uses hers as holiday let after buying it four years ago. She and her husband Clive , who have seven children, run the remote 2,000 acre hill farm, Ravenseat, at the head of Swaledale.Their shepherd’s hut sports a bed, table and chair, wardrobe, bookcase and a wood burning stove, and is hugely popular thanks to its idyllic location by Whitsundale Beck. The blurb on Amanda’s website, www.ravenseat.com, is compelling: “You can wake to the sound of sheep, cows, hens, dogs, tractors and free-range children and enjoy a traditional cooked breakfast in the comfort of the hut or, weather permitting, outside on the riverbank with a view of the waterfall.”

Hundreds have “yes” to that, even though it is basic with a toilet and shower facility 150 yards away.

“I bought it because I wanted something that would fit in with the landscape. Up here, there are lots of old wood and metal railway huts used as winter feed stores for the sheep. Farmers bought them cheap in the 50s and 60s. Traditional shepherd’s huts are similar, even though they were never used up here. They are a southern flat lands thing,” says Amanda.

“It’s simple but people love it. It’s by a waterfall and very romantic. We’ve had quite a few proposals and honeymoons down there.”

The origin of the huts is unclear, some say they originate from Dorset and others say Yorkshire. Traditionally, farmers used them to care for their flock during lambing season. They had a bunk, medicine cabinet and a wood burning stove to keep themselves warm and revive poorly lambs.

“Options now range from underfloor heating, shower, toilet and micro kitchens, to quirky inclusions like porthole windows and time capsules,” says Pennie. “We’ve just done a quote for someone who wants to use one as a sauna.”

*Useful Contacts: The Yorkshire Hut Company, Upper Poppleton, York. Launched by furniture makers Pennie and Kevin Lordan seven years ago, the company makes bespoke huts.

The couple also run and facilitate various art and craft classes at their workshop. Contact: tel: 01904 270707, www.theyorkshirehutcompany.com. Amanda Owen’s shepherd’s hut at Ravenseat, Swaledale, is open May to October. It is £30 a night per person, including breakfast. Visit www.ravenseat.com