The North Pond Hermit

Last week I read Michael Finkel’s book about Christopher Thomas Knight, the “North Pond Hermit”, who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years from 1986 with only two incidents of human contact. I wasn’t so much interested in Knight’s way of life, but rather the description of the community of cabin owners that he stole food and basic supplies from.

I’ve found it very difficult to find photos that I can use of Knight or his ramshackle encampment of tents and tarpaulins hidden amongst a cluster of huge boulders in the woods. However, this short video from a news report shows the state game warden and the state trooper who caught and then arrested Knight, and his encampment.

The Michael Finkel also has a page of photos on his website about his book about Knight, “The Stranger in the Woods“.

Anyway, with that out of the way, what was the area like? This Google aerial photo shows:

Most of the cabins targeted were around North Pond, with some also by Little North Pond. Knight’s camp was to the west of Little North Pond, and in fact only three minutes walk from the nearest cabin. Knight lived there for the whole of his decades in the woods, within earshot of his neighbours voices at times.

He only ventured out to steal from occupied cabins, eventually becoming an expert burglar, able to get in and out without leaving obvious signs. He chose midweek nights, ideally during rainstorms, to cover his tracks and avoid accidental contact with cabin owners. But people gradually became certain that the food packets, propane bottles, and batteries that they were certain they’d brought were in fact stolen and not just forgotten. This led to a huge amount of nervousness and fear, and for many people spoilt the joy of owning a weekend cabin by the lake.

He also regularly stole from Pine Tree Camp, which provides outdoor education and experiences to people with disabilities, and that’s where he was eventually caught, after a silent alarm set of Sgt Terry Hughes, a Maine state game warden, woke him up at home in the middle of the night. Reading Finkel’s description it sounded very like Broomlee that I went to myself as a child.

Finally, this documentary video has interviews with several cabin owners, showing their cabins, and giving a sense of what the community there is like: a mix of locals and regular weekenders who know each other as neighbours.

Lego Log Cabin rebuilt as Thoreau’s cabin

I’ve always loved Lego and this time of year is a great time to build things together. We have the 5766 Log Cabin set from 2010, and have been building the three different huts it has instructions for. I’ve also rebuilt it as Thoreau’s cabin in the woods by Walden Pond. As you might expect, I photographed the whole lot.

You can see the three official designs here, as Lego’s own description says: “Escape to the LEGO countryside in this 3-in-1 Log Cabin! Packed with great details, including an open fire with rotisserie, wooden logs, tree and opening doors and windows, this log cabin is an ideal wilderness getaway. Minifigure included and ready for backwoods adventure, with backpack, paddle and canoe. Rebuild into a country retreat or a river hut.”

Next is the Log Cabin itself in more detail, with lift-off roof, canoe, and joints of venison roasting above an open fire!

The second design is the Riverside Retreat, and is hinged at the side so you can open it up and see inside.

The third design is the River Hut, with a A-frame design and a bridge over a stream. Again this has a lift-off roof.

Finally, my Thoreau cabin built entirely from pieces in the set. It has a lift-off roof again, and I reused the tree design from the Log Cabin instructions. The last picture is the base layout to get you started if you want to build it yourself.

Here’s a slide comparison of my effort in Lego vs a reconstruction of Thoreau‘s:

Even though the Log Cabin set is discontinued, Lego still have a page about it with PDFs of the instructions to build the three official designs. If you have a good Lego collection already, you may be able to put it together without the set – especially if you have lots of sloping roof pieces. Second hand sets can be found on eBay and here are links to Amazon for some similar sets and the Log Cabin itself – I get a percentage of Amazon sales, which helps pay for the website 🙂

Mountain Hut 31025

Log Cabin 5766

Log cabins on YouTube

The cabin-in-the-woods is part of the folklore of North America and it’s not surprising that there are a lot of videos about them on YouTube. Some are quite conventional second homes that just happen to be built of wood, but at the other extreme are basic log cabins built by the owners using the surrounding forest. This post is a collection of some of those YouTube channels that are worth looking at, and that might be relevant to woodland hutting in Britain.

Continue reading “Log cabins on YouTube”

“Henry builds a cabin” by D.B. Johnson

“Henry builds a cabin” shows a bear called Henry building a cabin in the woods near a lake, just like the house that Henry David Thoreau built by Walden Pond in 1845. We meet the bear’s friends (Bronson) Alcott, (Ralph Waldo) Emerson, and Miss Lydia (Emerson), and Henry explains to each of them how his cabin isn’t too small because he has the woods to enjoy too. This lovely book has become a family favourite that we now read together in our own cabin 🙂

Woodland Hutting

Once upon a time, people across Britain had the freedom to build a weekend hut or a cabin-in-the-woods on land they rented or bought for a few pounds. All that changed in 1948 with the Town and Country Planning Acts. In Scotland, there is a growing movement to get some of that freedom back. How can we do the same in England and Wales? I think the first step is to start with cabins-in-the-woods and “Woodland Hutting”.

“Woodland Hutting” involves a hut or cabin-in-the-woods which satisfies the following conditions:

  • It is built within plantation woodland or in accordance with a management plan which protects an Ancient Woodland site.
  • It is not visible from outside the wood, or if in new woodland, it will not be visible when the wood matures.
  • It is largely built of renewable materials, especially timber.
  • It has no formal foundations and can be removed leaving little or no trace.
  • It has an internal floor area of about 30m2 or less.
  • It is owned and primarily occupied by the same individual or family, whose primary residence is elsewhere.

These conditions are designed to address concerns about ecological damage and impact on the local environment and neighbours.

Read more on the Hutters.uk page about Woodland Hutting, which covers legal routes for increased hutting, finding land, and next steps.

Log cabin updates from Century Wood

This month I’ve made two hutting related posts over on the Century Wood blog: “Storm Alex in the log cabin” and “A rocking chair”.

“I’d planned to spend most of the weekend at Century Wood before the warnings about Storm Alex started, and after a close look at the forecasts I went ahead. Despite 18 hours of continuous rain, the overnight stay was comfortable and I got a lot done on Sunday which was dry.” more …

“Last month I invested in a wooden rocking chair for the log cabin. There have been benches there for years but on an evening you want something you can sit back in. Henry David Thoreau famously had three chairs in his cabin in the woods: ‘one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society’. more …

Yverdon chalets

Yverdon-les-bains is an ancient spa town at the south end of Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. Near the beach area (“la plage d’Yverdon”) on the bank of the small Buron river as it approaches the lake, are a row of chalets.

In style, they are very similar to plotland chalets and huts in Britain, but with some Swiss mountain cabin styling. Just as with the equivalent huts here, they are not holiday homes to let: they are places where families go at weekends and for holidays, perhaps for generations, often bodged together by their owners. With modern conveniences like satellite dishes, but also chimneys for wood stoves.

The following photographs were taken in the early summer of 2017.

Bid launched to bring hutting back to East Lothian

“An intitiative dating back to the 1920s could make a comeback and see a hut built in a woodland near Gifford. The concept of hutting in Scotland dates back to between the First and Second World Wars. Now, plans are with East Lothian Council which would see a hut built in the southern section of Wynd Wood, to the west of Gifford.”

https://www.eastlothiancourier.com/news/18746209.bid-launched-bring-hutting-back-east-lothian/

“Huts: a Place Beyond” by Lesley Riddoch

Lesley Riddoch has been a long standing supporter of the Thousand Huts campaign in Scotland, and an advocate for a resurgence of hutting. For the past decade she was working towards a PhD from the University of Strathclyde on hutting, and her new book, “Huts: a place beyond”, is her thesis reworked into a more popular format. I think the book will be a very helpful contribution to the movement, but there are some significant problems with it.

Continue reading ““Huts: a Place Beyond” by Lesley Riddoch”

Hill Farm chalets near Bewdley

Back in July 2014 when I started this blog, one of my first posts was about Jonathan Meades documentary “Severn Heaven” from 1990, in which he visited the Hill Farm chalet field next to the River Severn near Bewdley. Almost six years to the day I went there myself and it’s still much as it was when Meades filmed it.

There are bits of the film on YouTube and here’s one of the clips, showing the river and the chalets from the air, with Howard Davidson’s rather rousing music.

Continue reading “Hill Farm chalets near Bewdley”