Shed of the Year 2015, grand final roundup

It’s been more than a fortnight since the grand final episode of Channel 4’s 2015 Shed of the Year competition but the #shedoftheyear tweets are still being posted, and there was a lot of newspaper coverage in the day or so after the final was broadcast.

The episode began with the “Cabins/Summerhouses” and “Workshops/Studios” shed categories. For the first category, I liked Teasel’s Wood Cabin and the Pixie Cabin. For the second category, I liked the Cabin of the Green Man, and its mention of chainsaw carving. I always like anything about the Green Man anyway.

My overall favourites were Cormac’s Bothy and the Corrugated Cottage from the first and second episode, but the judges’ choice and series winner was the Inshriach Distillery from the previous episode.

During the programme, #shedoftheyear was again one of the top hashtags for the UK, and this itself generated some confused responses:

Stories about the result appeared across the spectrum of newspapers, including the ones in The Independent, in The Scotsmanin The Daily Mail, and in The Daily Star. The Telegraph produced a gallery of photos from the competition. As a pub shed, the winner was also picked up by the drinks trade press.

This breadth of coverage was itself reflected on Twitter:

Businesses made use of the hashtag, some with interesting content to promote:

As did Glasgow University Archives:

And beach hutters:

Finally, the hashtag prompted this gem from the city of skyscrapers:

Carbeth videos

The Carbeth hutting site north of Glasgow is probably the most prominent hutting or plotland site and is often referred to in media coverage, both mainstream and independent. I’ve collected some of the YouTube videos about Carbeth that I’ve come across in this post.

There’s also a small collection of short clips from the hutters themselves from a few years ago:

Watching the stove vs watching TV

Last week we were at the log cabin for Sunday and Monday, and I brought my computer which has a plug-in TV tuner so we could watch Episode 3 of Shed of the Year. It was good to watch it, but it felt very out of place.

Our log cabin is deliberately simple and it gets us away from the kind of urban, electronic environment we have at home. There are no electricity, water or sewerage services, and very patchy cell phone reception. So we have a wood burning stove, a sink with water from a water carrier,  and camping gas for lighting. Nearby is a composting toilet with another water-carrier wash hand basin. We do have a digital radio for the cabin which we can play music from our phones through too, and it runs off 12V batteries charged by a solar panel.

Once it’s getting dark after we’ve finished whatever forestry or tinkering or sitting in the sun we’ve planned for the day, entertainment in the cabin has been a mix of reading, listening to music, cooking and eating and drinking, listening to the radio, and above all talking to each other.

It’s hard to explain but really simple things like keeping the stove going and boiling a kettle become interesting: when it’s more than just flicking a switch and waiting for the click, because you have to split the logs you set aside a year ago, then keep an eye on how they’re burning, and wait for the slow build up of the whistle. Everything in the cabin is at a slower pace and we manage to enjoy doing nothing in particular for hours on end.

But as I said, last week we had television as a guest for an hour. It was like having one of the visitors that come to the wood, say hello, have a chat, and then head off  in their car as soon as they can. The ones that don’t want to get muddy and wander off through the trees.

So we finished watching “Shed of the Year” then put some music back on, and later the radio. Radio seems to “get it” somehow. It doesn’t expect you to look at it when you’re messing around with the hotplate from the stove for a start. It’s usually our only connection to the outside world while we’re there.

Sunday was the day of the Greek bailout referendum and we tuned in to hear what was happening. No fancy graphics and footage of leaders getting in and out of cars. Just one person at a time talking to you over the airwaves about what’s going on. Very fitting for the log cabin again. Before the midnight news on Radio 4 was Mark Tully’s “Something Understood” about “Desire Lines”. It included Peter Seeger singing “Little Boxes” in 1963 which starts:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Which is very much what we’re not about too.

Shooting huts on Ickornshaw Moor

Hut on Ickornshaw MoorIcknornshaw Moor near Cowloughton south of Cowling in West Yorkshire has several wooden huts visible from the Transpennine Way. The land is a grouse moor with shooting rights held by the villagers, and the huts provide for early morning shooting. The villagers have held the hunting rights from the 16th century, and had to defend them in court in the 19th century.

The Geograph page for SD9641 includes several other photo of the huts.

Hilary Jack’s InsideOutHouse

InsideOutHouseManchester is currently having its biennial International Arts Festival and there are lots of events and exhibitions that are either formally part of the festival or coincide with it. One of these is Lost Gardens of Manchester at the City Art Gallery,  and in a small courtyard off a street alongside the side of the gallery is Hilary Jack’s InsideOutHouse. Hilary Jack’s website says:

InsideOutHouse explores themes of sustainability, industry and the outsider. Built from found office furniture with its own “smoking chimney” InsideOutHouse for Barnaby Festival 2014 was located beside Macclesfield Town Hall. InsideOutHouse embodies the romantic spirit of the homesteader, and the work ethic of “the shed” while acting as an antidote to the arrogance of corporate expansion and misguided town planning decisions.

InsideOutHouseMany of the wooden items used to make the walls are internal fixtures or parts of furniture, which gives the shed it’s inside-out feeling. When I saw it, the button to make the smoke was missing though. This second photo shows the shed in its courtyard between two buildings of the gallery. Passers-by can walk into this space from the side street, so it’s a very accessible exhibit.

Shed of the Year 2015, Episode 2 roundup

Last Sunday Channel 4 showed the second episode of this year’s Shed of the Year competition, with the “Unique” and “Historical” categories. For me the Treehouse and Anglo-Saxon Garden House stood out, but the Corrugated Cottage above all reminded me of the kinds of buildings put up by hutters and plotlanders in the 1920 and 1930s. A few of them still survive today – although more often in wood rather than corrugated iron. #shedoftheyear was trending again on Twitter during and after the programme, with thousands of people posting tweets with that hashtag, as I blogged about last week. During the week the tweets have continued, and some of them have linked to stories and blogs that are well worth a read: Next Sunday, episode three has the “Pub” and “Budget” shed categories.

South Gare huts on the River Tees

Alen McFadzean has written blogs in 2013 and in 2014 about the South Gare at the mouth of the River Tees and its huts. The South Gare is a little spit of land following the river out into the North Sea, with a road, sand dunes and remnants of wartime defences. The ground is artificial land built with slag from the furnaces of Middlesbrough in the nineteenth century to protect the port from storms and better channel the flow of the river. In the distance, you can still see the towers of the steel works.

Set back from the shoreline, behind the dunes, is a cluster of a hundred “South Gare Fishermen’s Association” huts in a grid that stands out in this Google aerial view. If you zoom out with the “-” icon you can see the wider context and how isolated the South Gare is.


Looking closer you can see the huts are all painted the same green, but they’re not all identical. Some are windowless sheds with double doors, but others have a single door and windows – even net curtains. A lot of them have metal chimneys and stoves. Inside they have chairs, and sometimes even sofas, beds and little kitchens. It seems as if the huts are a bit like an allotment but for part-time fishermen: somewhere for men (mostly men) to go and tend to their gear, or to head out in boats from, or just to get out of the house for a while. Some of the replies on Alen’s blogs suggest they were also a well-loved playground, where children and grandchildren first properly encountered the surrounding nature on the beaches and dunes. The last of these six photos shows some of the other huts on the shoreline in one of the sheltered habours.

All of these photos were taken by Alen, who generously offered them when he came across the blog.

Ian Forsyth posted photos on a blog in 2010 with interiors of some of the huts and more about the fishermen and their stories. There are also some pictures by other people on the Geograph page for NZ5527.

Grizedale Forest

Grizedale log cabinThe log cabin photo that I use as the header image here and on Facebook is one I took at the Forestry Commission’s Grizedale Forest not far from the visitors’ centre. Grizedale is between Coniston Water and Windermere in the Lake District and covers two and a half thousand hectares. It’s one of the most wooded landscapes in England and even on the high ground you’re mostly looking out across trees.

Here are another couple of pictures. First showing a dead tree against the backdrop of forest going off into the distance. And then a windblown tree showing how shallow the root plate is and how near the surface the rock is.

Grizedale is a very accessible wood, with lots of provision for car parking at various points, and well mapped and sign-posted walking and cycling tracks. It’s also been the location for outdoor sculptures since the 1970s and there are now about 50 of them. You can track them down with the map of them you can get from the visitors’ centre or website, or you can just follow the tracks and come across them unexpectedly (but risk missing some of the harder to spot ones though!)

“How to build your dream cabin in the woods” by J. W. Fears

How to build your dream cabin in the woodsThe full title of this book is “How to build your dream cabin in the woods: the ultimate guide to building and maintaining a backcountry getaway”. In some ways it’s quite similar to “Cabinology” in that it’s about design decisions and fitting out a log cabin rather than the detailed plans of “Rustic Retreats”. However, “Dream Cabin” is squarely focused on much more modest and hut-like cabins of a similar scale to “Rustic Retreats” and a bit bigger, with just one, two, or three rooms.

There are introductory chapters devoted to cabins of increasing size, from the three-sided Adirondack shelter up to a wilderness club house for a hunting or fishing group. Subsequent chapters deal with kits vs custom builds, options for toilets, heating and cooking, lighting, beds, security, water supply, managing woodlands, legal aspects of land ownership, setting ground rules for visitors, and choosing a name for the cabin. Some of these details are specific to North America but many are applicable to huts and cabins in UK woodlands and other off-grid sites too.

You can read more reviews on the book’s Amazon page.