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Blackdown Shepherd Huts

(6 minute read)

This summer we launch Outside, a collection of spaces blurring the boundaries between outside and in, including six handmade shepherd huts in the Another Place grounds.

Blackdown Shepherd Huts pride themselves on quality of craftsmanship and considered design, with sustainability in mind right the way through the build. We caught up with the team at their workshop in Illminster, Somerset to discover more about the history and story behind Blackdown Shepherd Huts.

Book to stay in a shepherd hut from 1 July

Shepherd hut history

First a bit of context… The first mention of shepherd huts dates back to the 16th century when they were originally made on farms out of whatever materials that could be found. The huts were a simple design to provide a place for the shepherd to sleep and eat when taking care of the flock. Sturdy cast iron wheels meant the hut was often moved to a new location when the sheep moved fields. The space beneath the hut would be caged off to provide protection for newborn lambs.

Today, the revival and evolution of the Victorian designed shepherd huts offers a unique experience for anyone to stay closer to the wild. Log burners to warm you up after a day exploring the fells, and a stargazing roof to spot shooting stars throughout the night are par for the course. This style of living maximises the connection to the surrounding landscape, overlooking sweeping lake views from your own garden terrace, or freestanding bath.

As we anticipate the arrival of six new shepherd huts to our grounds, we visited the workshop to get a taste of the work and care that goes into building each one.

Blackdown beginnings

Blackdown Shepherd Huts began life in 2011 and is the brainchild of carpenter William Vickery. The first huts were imagined in his garage and it’s these humble beginnings that have kept the business true to its roots. Authentic by design, Blackdown huts remain a certain length and width – they haven’t been tempted to oversize them as it would be a move away from the hut’s design heritage. Instead, the option of brace huts has been introduced, giving space for a family with separate bunk beds by connecting two huts beside each other.

Workshop visit

As we move through the workshop it’s a hive of activity. The hum of power tools and the smell of fresh sawdust hangs in the air. Each hut takes around 600 hours to complete and involves a small army of talented and dedicated people to bring the vision to life, including three apprentices who are learning the art of carpentry and joinery.

They begin with the frame and the oak chassis and the signature shepherd hut steel wheels are cast and delivered from a local foundry. A team of carpenters then bring the huts to life as the side panels are assembled and erected, and the wood cladding is added to the outer skin giving a hint at what’s to come.

Meanwhile, in the spray shop next door, window frames hang suspended in the drying room ready to be installed. Arguably and perhaps controversially, it’s the final stages and the joiners who are at the heart of Blackdown’s magic. They transform pieces of wood into stunning hut furniture with a quality of craftsmanship that really sets these shepherd huts apart. Sustainable wood choices such as Scandinavian pine and eucalyptus are shaped, positioned, sanded, oiled and treated before making themselves at home amongst the timbers of each hut.

“They are going to be absolutely charming,” says Will. “And the quality of artisan joinery within these huts – which are made of FSC-certified French oak – is exceptional. I’ve been bowled over by their quality.”

Interior designer Matt Hulme of Dynargh Design (who recently revamped our Georgian suites), has worked closely with Blackdown to combine colours, textiles, lighting, fixtures and fittings that are a natural continuation of the Another Place design philosophy.

Outside includes a large contemporary treehouse with two bedrooms, three family shepherd huts with a bunk room for children and three shepherd huts suitable for two. They are all dog friendly.

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