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.
“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.”
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.
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.
Back in the early summer of 1983, a young Iain McNab went to Broomlee Camp south of Edinburgh with most of his primary school class. They stayed there for a week, playing in the woods, being bussed into Edinburgh and off to Melrose Abbey, doing treasure hunts and an orienteering course around the grounds, and sleeping away from their families for the first time. It was also the first time I stepped into a wooden hut, never mind lived in one for a few days. A couple of years ago I visited on a damp April day just before they opened up for the season and took these photos.
The Broomlee Centre, as it now is, is one of the three Scottish Outdoor Education Centres, and first established in 1939 as part of a network of schools in the countryside for children evacuated from cities to escape bombing during the Second World War. After the war they were converted into residential education centres, used by schools and urban youth groups like the Scouts, as they still were when my school took us there.
BBC Two is currently showing a six-part series “Win the wilderness” in which British couples are competing to “win” a log cabin and the surrounding land in Alaska. It’s really an extended selection process to allow the American couple who built the cabin in the 1990s to choose who would be best suited to taking it on. More on the BBC website.
Last month (March) I was able to visit Walden Pond in Massachusetts and the site of Thoreau’s hut in the woods from 1845 to 7. I’ve posted about it in detail over on the Centurywood.uk blog. (I went back in September, and took more photos and videos of the pond, hut reconstruction and the wider area.)
I’ve posted to the Century Wood blog about a five day stay in the log cabin this month to start on the drying barn, which might be of interest to some hutters: https://centurywood.uk/2018/06/18/five-days-at-the-wood/
“A last hurrah for plotlanders, Britain’s interwar guerrilla housebuilders.
In the chaos and poverty of interwar Britain sprang up a hardy breed of guerrilla homebuilder: plotlanders. Foreshadowing both trailer parks and modern squatters, they constructed semi-permanent dwellings on land not needed for agriculture – near motorways, in woodland, on cliff edges. Godfrey Holmes celebrates the spirit and ingenuity of true property pioneers” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/a-last-hurrah-for-plotlanders-britains-interwar-guerrilla-housebuilders-a7715176.html