The best shepherd’s hut in Britain isn’t in David Cameron’s Oxfordshire garden, it’s up north and was designed and built by a father and son team. Sharon Dale reports.
News that ex-Prime Minister David Cameron has bought a shepherd’s hut for his back garden threatened to overshadow the election campaign recently. The excitement and envy that ensued shows just how desirable a rustic “room of one’s own” has become.
The growing popularity of the pimped-up shepherd’s hut is what led Alun Moore and his son Christopher to build their own at Beacon Hill Farm, an award-winning holiday idyll at Longhorsley, near Morpeth, in Northumberland.
First though, they took themselves off on a hut odyssey to check out the competition. They thought they could do better, even better than the hut that promoted itself as “the best in Britain”, and they have, thanks to location, clever design and exceptional attention to detail. “We went to stay in some shepherd’s huts to see what they were like but most were very basic and there were issues,” says Alun.
The first problem they spotted was the traditional corrugated iron roof, which was not conducive to a good night’s sleep. “When it rains you can hear the hammering inside,” says Alun. who opted for a Sarnafil product of ply topped with welded rubber. The body of the hut is in marine ply, packed with insulation and topped with larch cladding. It all sits on a cast iron chassis.
Some of the huts, the Moores checked out were draughty, so theirs is sweltering with a wood-burning stove, a boiler and three radiators. “Getting piped gas here was more expense but important. People want mod cons,” says Alun, who describes his shepherd’s hut as “uber-glamping.”
The interior, painted in Farrow and Ball, is rustic and luxurious and includes an open-plan living area that is a lesson in small-space living. The dining table for two is strategically placed under a window with the most sensational view. The kitchen area has an oven, hob and fridge and there’s a separate shower room. The bedroom includes a raised bed with storage underneath and a headboard topped with a shelf for the lights, radio and books. There is also a wall-hung telly, though the view from the bedside window is far better.
A chip off the old block, Christopher is a natural designer and builder and made shelving from old scaffold boards and the dining table from oak floorboards and table legs. He also sourced the industrial lighting and found a copper worktop for the kitchen after Alun spotting something similar in a trendy Newcastle bar.
Father and son have managed to fit everything you’d find in a regular holiday cottage into the hut, which is remarkable, as is the specification, right down to the Dialit kettle and toaster. “We could’ve put a £20 kettle in but we bought a little Dualit one because it looks better and should last longer,” says Christopher.
Most impressive of all is the location, which is best described as “a little piece of heaven”, something Alun recognised when he began his farm diversification 32 years ago. After suffering life-changing injuries in a road accident, he realised that farming was no longer an option. He let out most of his 360 acres and came up with the idea of turning his farmstead and surrounding land into a holiday retreat. This has allowed him to indulge in his love of self-building and from one small cottage, he now has 15 holiday lets, an indoor pool with gym, a stargazing observatory and a fishing lake.
Like all the best people, he hasn’t forgotten what it is like to be a child and so there is an adventure playground, a tennis court, football field, an indoor play barn and a teenage room with TV and table tennis. Children are also encouraged to go “Swallows and Amazons” with equipment for cooking on campfires in the nearby wood.
“Even when it’s full with families, it feels peaceful and most of our bookings are repeats. That is the key to success in this business and that’s why I tell people, ‘you can’t put quality on thinly. You have to put it on thick,’” says Alun, who is also a holiday property consultant.
His shepherd’s hut venture is partly to satisfy his building addiction and partly to tap into the zeitgeist and he plans on having three. “After that I quite like the idea of building a wooden house on stilts with its own hot tub,” he says
The Moores don’t sell huts but if you desperately want to “do a David Cameron” and have one in your garden, they start from about £12,000.
* Beacon Hill holiday cottages and shepherd’s huts are at Beacon Hill Farm, Longhorsley, near Morpeth, www.beaconhill.co.uk.
Shepherd’s huts are popular with those who want a retreat, home office or writing studio in their garden and there are now a number of suppliers. The Yorkshire Hut Company is a specialist with long experience. It makes huts to an eco-friendly, traditional design. The Yorkshire Hut Company is at Copmanthorpe and its huts are made from FSC timber with cast iron wheels, energy-efficient glass and sheep’s wool insulation, tel: 01904 270707, www.theyorkshirehutcompany.co.uk