Category: blog

Last chance to get lucky ‘Win a week stay”

We are giving away a free week long holiday in one of our yurts in conjunction with The France Show where we exhibited last month.  The competition closes on the 28th February so click on the link now to enter.

Hint: if you don’t know the answer to the qualifying question take a look at the page “Yurts” on our website!

Why not like us on Facebook at the same time so that we can tell you when we have any special offers or let you know about our next competition!  You’ll also be able to see lots of new and lovely photos of each of our yurt retreats there too. Our facebook page is here.

Good luck to everyone who enters, you have nothing to lose!

La Cabushe Mark II

Our lovely friends from Purton, Sophie and Alex left yesterday to get back into their normal lives, Sophie as the wonderful caterer for the rich and famous and Alex as a splendid organic veg grower and master wood carver! They have left behind a beautiful yurt which will be the new La Cabushe in a couple of weeks – it is now down to me to get on with the sewing!

Alex carving the Quirky Camping sign

Sophie making the yurt walls

It is always a bit of a daunting task to start a new cover, I fetch my roll of very heavy canvas (all 80 metres of it, very heavy!), my scissors, chalk and measuring stick and then I just stare at it all on the table and I wonder how on earth I am going to do the wooden frame, always so carefully crafted, justice! But as soon as I get started it is really enjoyable and very satisfying – each time I make a cover I find better ways to finish it to ensure a tailored fit – I’m pretty fussy and have to get it to sit perfectly along the contours of it’s frame, so it is quite a challenge as no two yurts are the same as you can imagine when you are working with natural wood in the round.

Alex’ door and Sophie door furniture

La Cabushe’s new tono

But that’s a job for next week (or maybe the one after) there’s plenty of time for thinking about it (ha ha!) as La Cabushe doesn’t open for another three weeks!

In the meantime we just want to say a massive thank you to Sophie and Alex and Jen a friend of theirs who also helped in the initial stages of the yurt build, for all of their hardwork – they battled the elements to continue working on the yurt through the worst of the winter, and have made an amazing yurt to be very proud of amongst lots of other things.

C’est la Saison d’Amour

1st of October, Chilli Joe our handsome Jacob ram was introduced to the ewes, it’s the season of love in a Barry White kind of way for our flock. It’s the first time Joe has had to “work” so we are hoping he’s not a Jaffa (seedless), always a risk when you are only using one ram. The gestation period for a ewe is approximately 147 days (same as the highest break in snooker), so we need to be looking at the ewes closely towards the end of Feb.

All the yurts except the Bodgers’ have now been taken down, cleaned and put away safely in the barn for the winter. Our lovely new neighbours at the bottom of the hill helped us to pack away the decks, they’re the only things we need help with as they are cumbersome and heavy, so thanks guys! The Bodgers yurt will have to come down later so we need to make some space in the barn. I’ve done my best to make all the water pipes safe from the cold by draining down the system and lagging the brass fittings, last winter we lost a lot of the brass connectors to frost in our harshest winter here to date.

We’ve been busy bottling, pickling and preserving anything we can from the kitchen garden before it’s too late. The chillis seem to have done well so that should keep us warm on those cold winter evenings!!

We managed to get down to the roundhouse for our halloween celebrations – it was very beautiful down there and it’s nice to reflect and raise and glass to all the people who helped to create this lovely space, that period of time will always be a special memory for me. Thanks again xx

Back on the Craft Show Circuit

Earlier in the summer I was invited to demonstrate at the Abbaye de Boschaud near Villars for the Fête “Flânerie Artistique”.  This has become quite a well known and well attended show in the area and I was fortunate enough to be able to set up my stand in the old abbey. I have to say that in my time I have given demonstrations in some fairly amazing places around the U.K. (stately homes, palaces, castles, including Windsor Castle, and some beautiful woodlands too) as part of my work with Living Heritage and the RHS in the 1990’s but this place was really special. I set up beneath the partly fallen down dome of the Abbey and hoped that none of the precariously positioned cut stone would cut short my demonstration!

Matt demonstrating at the Abbaye de Boschaud

It was a very hot, sunny day which was only intensified by being within the white stone walls of the Abbey and this may have been the reason why nobody stayed around long enough to buy anything! Although this was possibly one of the worst shows I have done financially, it was one of the most rewarding emotionally!

Whilst demonstrating in front of crowds, sometimes large, in the U.K. it was very rare that I ever heard a question or comment that I hadn’t heard several times before. I always had a stash of comical, witty responses that would generally make everyone laugh, I went with the crafty idea that if they were smiling and happy they would be more inclined to put their hands in their pockets!! (I’d worked with a few knarly old timers who taught me some tricks of the trade!)

     Matt chatting up the locals

At the Abbaye I recognised many of the same old questions and comments in french and was able to respond, I got them chuckling and created some banter which was great. Obviously there is still work to be done as nobody was parting with any cash. I’m hoping that had more to do with the economic crisis than it had to do with my french or the quality of my work, but it was a start!!

The experience has re-invigorated me to do more weaving which is what got me started on this journey all those years ago. Happy Times!

Make Hay While the Weather’s Fine

No time to stop and stare, no sooner than the Roundhouse and Bodgers’ Yurt were up and running we had to crank up all of the machinery related to haymaking.

Acrobat / Les Soleils

There is a farmer at the bottom of the valley who I’ve always privately been amused by for being the worst farmer in the shire (it’s a farmers’ thing!). He baled his first cut of hay about five weeks ago, I’m just doing mine, so what does that say about me!! It takes a long time for an incomer to be accepted into a farming community and I thought I was making good progress, even as a beardy weardy eco warrior, but this has put me back ten years!!

We have had a much bigger crop of hay this year so the sheep should be fine this winter and I managed to bale up some straw directly behind the combine (for the price of half a butchered lamb), so all bases have been covered.

View from just above La Cabushe Yurt

Everybody on the island is eating well, with plenty of pork and lamb in the freezer, Wendy’s homemade pork sausages have been a big BBQ hit with friends, family and yurties alike, good old Itchy and Scratchy! We also have eggs popping out of chickens like there’s no tomorrow, not to mention the kitchen garden which is producing more salad, fruit and veg than we can shake a stick at, there will be some bottling and preserving to do. Make hay while the weather is fine!!

One of Sam’s spectacular summer salads
Antje busy in the kitchen garden

Thank you, thank you, thank you, you lovely people!

Thanks so much to everyone who helped to create this amazing space! The memories and friendships which grew out of this build will last longer than the building itself, it’s all about the people you meet along the way, as always.

Big love, Matt and Wendy xxx

Finding the right spot – October 2011

     Levels and holes – November 2011

    The Henge – April 2012

     Raising the roof celebrations – June 2012

     All done – relaxing with a beer – July 2012

     Finish Exterior of the Roundhouse Kitchen

Finished Internal of Roundhouse Kitchen at the Bodgers’

The Chez Dev Rap!

Four lovely teachers have just left us after a five day stay in Les Abris and I wanted to share their entry in our visitors book as it made us giggle – wish you’d had time to give us a performance but we know you “museoes” are a bit shy!!

Anyway here it is along with a couple of inserts from arty guests!

     The Original Chez Dev Rap

The Chez Dev Rap!

Spending five nights in a couple of yurts,

Four English girlz   ~

We’ll tell you what we learnt………


Hip hop, a hip hop hap,

Giving the Meers the Chez Dev Rap.


Weary travelers in need of food

Wendy’s lush cooking uplifted our moods,

Served so well by a trio of dudes,

Who were even willing to refresh our loos!


Hip hop, a hip hop hap,

Giving the Meers the Chez Dev Rap.


On our trip to Aubeterre we had a minor mishap,

Navigation’s not our strong point (in fact we’re pretty crap)

Thankfully we found our way to Riberac,

And we couldn’t have done it without your trusty map.


Hip hop, a hip hop hap,

Giving the Meers the Chez Dev Rap.


We’ll miss the shower and we’ll miss the sun

We’ll miss rustic livin’ and alfresco fun,

We’ll miss the garden and all you’ve done,

We’ve come to the end….. We wish we’d just begun!


Hip hop, a hip hop hap,

This is the end of the Chez Dev Rap.

Elly (Kettering), Lucy (Bristol), Lydia (Harpole), and Rachel (Cambridge)  22nd – 27th July 2012

     La Cabushe

     The Pole-lathe down at the Bodgers’ 

Bienvenue Bodgers!

Our first Bodgers’, Susie and Ben have been and gone, but what a journey to get here!

With the help of my little digger I have managed to landscape around the new shower so that it is completely submerged. It has always been my intention with this project that it should have a very low visual impact, my hope is that people will walk along the farm track just above the roundhouse and not even notice it this time next year, when nature (in the form of ivy and periwinkle) has started to take over again.

 Ben sorting out the shower

The straw bale walls have compressed and settled very nicely but they were in need of a haircut so that we could have a good key for the render, so this was done using an old pair of sheep shears, the Bengineer turned hairdresser for the day! The render is a lime and sand mix which for the first coat was pushed and massaged into the straw (gloves on), before the second coat, using trowels and floats was applied. It could then be smoothed off to give you something that resembles a wall. It was great to see Adam, our middle son (aged 16) getting so involved with this alongside Ben and Sam.

 Adam lime-rendering the straw bales

While all of this was going on I was busy cutting up our firewood stockpile to give us materials for making cordwood walls, not sure how we will be heating the house this winter but needs must! All of the walls that won’t be buried will be made from chestnut cordwood, logs cut thirty centimeters in length and laid on mortar like bricks.  Aesthetically these highlight the timberyness of the building which I like.

 Cordwood Wall

Ali’s new project was to line the inside of the shower with sheets of OSB (large boards of chipped up wood – the OSB apparently stands fororrible shitty boards!).  Being a boat builder we thought he would be good at keeping things water tight!! This was a very complicated bit of carpentry, turning a very curvy organic structure into a cube that sits on a shower tray and fits perfectly together with no leaks.  In the meantime Ben was cracking on with his second fix plumbing, putting the sinks and shower tray in place and organising hot and cold water and all of the drainage.

 Shower constuction

All work had to stop on the roundhouse for a day so that we could transport Ali’s deck down to the woods and put the yurt up. It all went without a hitch but needed some muscles to carry the deck down to its plinth.

Laying the deck floor

 Putting up the Bodgers’ Yurt for the first time

Once sat nicely and bolted together we could put the yurt up and organise the canvas and all the rope work. The whole area was really starting to look amazing especially when you consider what we started with at the end of last year, but we didn’t have long before the first punters were arriving!

The Bodgers’ Yurt is complete

Inside the Bodgers’

 The Roundhouse Kitchen

On the big day when Susie and Ben were arriving, the morning was spent furnishing the yurt and roundhouse, clearing up everywhere, getting rid of two months worth of rubbish and accumulated tools and fixings, all the left over pipes and plumbing fittings and off cuts of different membranes. Then in the afternoon it was all hands to the pumps, putting down woodchippings on the pathway, terrace and pole lathe areas, gravelling the kitchen and doing all the final bits and bobs.

As our first clients arrived down the cleft oak steps, made and fitted so beautifully by Matty, Ali was leaving the area in the opposite direction having just finished sealing the shower and still covered in white mastic. Ben was driving the tractor off with a trailer load of stuff and helpers , Wendy and I were there to greet our first Bodgers in an atmosphere of complete serenity. Between us all we have created something truly beautiful!

 Terrace at the Bodgers’

 Bodgers’ Yurt and Roundhouse all ready for guests!

Susie and Bens’ comment in the visitors book when they left pretty much sums up what we are about and why we do what we do and reads as follows:-

“thank you for such a wonderful few days, it has given us time to relax, admire the views and to think. Your hospitality has been perfect. The ginger cake and breakfasts delicious! We are honoured to have been the first in the Bodgers’ Yurt and look forward to coming back for future holidays in these peaceful surroundings. It will be a shock arriving in Hackney later!”(Susie and Ben)

It has been a pleasure to have them both here as our first bodgers!

Best wishes, a relieved and happy Matt x

Work on the Roundhouse

The deadline for the Bodgers’ yurt is today and unfortunately we are not ready!  Thankfully my lovely wife is much more realistic and organised than me so she has secretly kept another yurt available in the event that we might need to juggle bookings around – not ideal but I can’t see anyone minding being in the Grand Abri yurt but especially at the moment as the sunflowers are out in the field just below, so the view is spectacular!

The problems started when we decided that the shower had to be positioned outside the roundhouse perimeter which involved digging another section out of the hillside.  This in itself wasn’t a big deal but by creating a cubicle we had our first corner, and therefore, stress point in the roundhouse. To overcome this we needed strong chunky carpentry again not a problem, just time consuming, so thanks Wendy for giving us that two week cushion!

To say that the last month has been busy is a massive understatement but it has been an absolute joy to see the building come on so quickly.  Once the main timber framing was finished, I went off in search of old car tyres, which lead to yet another classic french moment of me trying to explain why I wanted old car tyres, (well you try explaining about hobbit houses and earth-ship building to the man at the garage) it all ended with that gallic shrug and a mutter of “comme tu veut”.  Once in place they were rammed with stones forming the foundations of our straw-baled walls and they were then all compressed and spiked (with pointed willow rods) as best we could. 



The protective and waterproof membranes and also the land drainage were then carefully fitted as it is critical that the straw bales stay dry. It was decided at this point that Sam was the skinniest person around so he had to climb down between the bales and the excavated rock to organise membranes, drainage and careful placement of the soil, which was then filled up to henge level, compressing the bales still further and giving them a real feeling of strength and solidity.

With the bales in and safe from the elements, we could concentrate once again on the roof. After much deliberation we decided to use large willow wands in a swirling pattern (almost like french randing a basket) which had the effect of smoothing out some of the deviations in the rafter levels, creating a neat look to the underside. We could then carry on pulling the protective and damp-proof membranes over the willow before the soil went on  the roof – it took about 7 tons for the building to be sufficiently buried but the resulting structure instantly had a more cosy feel to it!

In the meantime Ben was busying himself with the first fix plumbing involving three hot and three cold water feeds, plumbing in our home-made solar panel and fitting it on to the roof to get optimum sunlight. 

And whilst everything has been busy down in the woods, Wendy has been tailor making the yurt cover up at the house. The walls are reasonably straight forward but the roof can be awkward and used to require several fittings.  Nowadays Wendy seems to be able to throw the part-made canvas on and make a few deft marks with her chalk here and there which makes no sense to me, bringing a mass of material back to her machine and turning it into a snuggly fitting roof cover with only three or four fittings, it’s a bit of a Harry Potter dark art.  She has also been very busy as ever sorting out all of the furniture for the yurt and roundhouse which involves lots of cleaning and restoration and painting as most of the stuff has to be lovingly restored having been found at vide greniers or brocantes, or donated for reuse!

Two weeks to go and even with the extra time it is going to be right down to the wire to get it ready for the first Bodgers!

Got to go and get on, next time I write it will all be done!

Matt x


The things you can do with an old tyre!

The roundhouse kitchen is now moving along at a rapid pace out of necessity – it feels a bit like build up at Chelsea or Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, all hands to the pumps.  Long, long hours being put in by all but no-one seems to mind, the atmosphere is great, with lots of good humoured banter – it’s turning into a really exciting project and everyone can see where it is going now that the henge and reciprocal roof are on.

We are starting to organise the landscaping and terracing of the outdoor space and we’ve discovered the delights of earthship building, using old tyres from the local lorry park – a great way to turn slopes into terraces in double quick time, and it looks great now let alone in twelve months time when it is covered in greenery, added to which it’s strong, long lasting and is recycling at its absolute best quite apart from being free.

The mains water pipe is now in place and I am so happy that I have convinced the Bengineer that he should take a temporary break and become a plumber for the next little while!  I’m not sure how keen he is but I’m so so relieved and it will be a good challenge for him!

The stone pillars are now in place for the yurt platform and Ali, the boat builder, is up in the cart shed busy building the platform. It’s a complicated structure that has to be built in four pieces for transport reasons so you end up with lots of angled cuts in the timber – hopefully it’ll fit together neatly at the end and marry up to the pillars down in the woods!

The yurt which was started by the lovely Dave and Alex back in January is almost complete. This is no indication that they are slow yurt builders just that they have got involved in so many other projects in the past five months.  It will however be worth the wait as I think that it’s going to be our best made yurt to date. And so it should be as I strongly believe that if you don’t go into a project with the view that you will improve on previous work perhaps you shouldn’t start in the first place!

In fairness, Dave went off to do aid work in the Congo for ShelterBox for a while and Alex has single handedly transformed the kitchen garden.  Sadly they are heading back to the UK, Dave is hoping for a permanent position with Medicine Sans Frontiers, so good luck to both of them, they will be greatly missed, thank you so so much you guys, you have been fantastic company and we hope to see you here again sometime soon.

Well we have a bit of designing to do as we don’t think the shower should go into the main part of the roundhouse as originally planned, it would mess up the yin and yang of the internal space so I think I’ll have to do a bit more digging to create extra space, but it needs a bit more thought so I’ll sleep on it!

Bonne nuit! Matt x

Here We Go Again!

The yurts are up and we’re ready for another season! The actual putting up of the yurts is the easy bit, it’s the moving of the decks and setting them onto their plinths which requires the most effort, luckily we have my trusty steed (Massey Ferguson 135) to help and with the aid of a few willing volunteers we can set up pretty quickly. It’s always a very teamy thing with plenty of buffoonery and laughter and a celebratory drink at the end of the day.

Many of the willow poles that were cut and graded in the winter have now been peeled and are drying ready for yurt building this coming winter.  We find that you can avoid lots of the fungal, mildewy problems if the poles are well seasoned before you start. In order to keep the poles nice and white, after cutting in the winter we stand them in water (the right way up) and leave them until the spring when they will begin to burst into life.  At this point using a shave horse and drawknife we can easily remove the bark revealing the beautiful white wood beneath. If the willow is dead the bark is much more difficult to remove and tannin from the bark is released into the wood giving it a buff colour.  When cleaning the poles I like to leave pimples and knots, worm zigzags, bumps and wrinkles and any other natural imperfections, as I believe that this tells a story of the wood’s life. Sometimes you can trace a woodworm’s life through the marking it has left behind and the route it has taken may end in a hole where a woodpecker has found the worm underneath the bark and eaten it!  I like the fact that we are not producing uniform broom handles with very little character even though it does make things more complicated further down the track when joining everything together, for me it adds to the overall beauty of our yurts.

Crickey I do go on a bit, sorry I’m just excited about willow!!

In other news, the kitchen garden and solar summer bathroom are coming along nicely.  We are already getting salads out of the polytunnel and the new pathways in the kitchen garden have really tidied things up – I knew all those wood chippings would come in handy!  I’m going to stop now before I start banging on about the joy that is willow again!

Time is Marching On

Well the daffs have flowered and faded since my last blog, which is an indication of just how busy we have been. All the willow that needs to be cut for this year has been cut and we have plenty of poles for yurt building which are now waiting to be peeled ready for next year’s yurts (we’ve even got long roof poles for 6 metre diameter yurts, which I hope to build one day). We have had a really good crop of Salix Purpureum for basket work and the Salix Triandra isn’t too bad considering the drought we had last summer and as a bonus we also have lots of willow chippings for mulches from all the off cuts as well.



We managed to run a couple of living willow bower courses down at the plantation, always a good day with a big three course lunch and wine to break up the physical and mental strain of forms, shapes and weaving techniques. It’s always a bit comical to see the bowers leaving on top of peoples cars at the end of the day, huge voluminous baskets precariously balanced heading off down the hill!!

Work on the roundhouse is gently moving forward, all of the verticals have been cleaned up and oiled after the worst of the winter weather and the henge is basically made but not fitted and all of the rafters are ready to go on.


We have done a mock-up reciprocal roof on the lawn to try to work out angles and spanning and the central opening size, it seemed to slot together well and was very strong, all reassuring stuff! The Bodgers’ Yurt composting toilet is now in position and a beautiful thing it is too, thanks Kit, great work!


The lambing is all but finished now with just one more expectant mum in the group, mainly singles this year but at least we’ve had a few more ewe lambs than last year to bring some young blood into the flock. Males in agriculture, as in life some would say, generally have a bad time of things ending up on the plate much sooner than females!

It’s not long now until the yurts will be up and running again, it all seems to have come round very quickly as usual, I shouldn’t be surprised anymore!

All the best, Matt