After many years helping others to develop social enterprises, I craved the creative freedom to start a family business. The vision was to build a unique and beautiful eco-holiday-home that would invoke inner peace and offer soul nourishment. It would blend seamlessly into it’s natural surroundings and offer a little something “different” for visitors to experience.
I knew what needed to be done and set to work making it happen with the help of family and two mentors. One who specialised in natural building, the other in ethical buisness development.
Hobbit Hideaway was registered as a business in 2017 and the planning process began. We chose to build in harmony with the natural environment, using wood, straw, clay earth and stone which were all plentiful, renewable and locally available. We used local trades whenever possible with the exception of Hartwyn, our lead natural builder. Their values were aligned with ours, they understood our vision, would live and work on-site, and provide natural build learning opportunities for students as part of the build process.
From June to September 2018, we created a pop-up “Learning Village” which consisted of a camp-site with a central marquee, which provided working and living spaces, for 2 lead natural builders, an apprentice, 11 students, a cook and a photographer & film maker. This for me was a highlight of the build. It enabled me to capture and share the build process in weekly photo albums with Get Rugged, a charity I run.
The materials we used were roundwood for the frame and straw-bale for the walls and insulation. The render (wall coating) was made from earth from the site with a high clay content. It consisted of a proportional mix of the clay earth, straw and sand. This mix was used in various consistencies to create the clay render for the straw-bale walls, the internal wall partitions for wattle & daub and lath plasters, and the beautiful earthen floor. The insulation consisted of straw for the walls, perilite ( a volcanic rock) for the roof and glaypor (recycled car windscreens) for under the floor.
As natural building is very labour intensive (the majority of the work is carried out by hand as opposed to using machinery) having so many willing and eager hands enabled the build to progress smoothly, in addition to providing a fun and enriching opportunity during one of the best Scottish summers we can remember!
The strawbale walls were coated with a clay plaster to protect them from damp and any gaps were filled using a light clay-straw mix. The outside wall was given an additional coating of lime wash to enable greater weather resistance and protection from the likes of driving rain. The inside walls were painted white using a natural clay paint.
Due to the nature of the materials we used, the walls are able to breath, allowing air to flow gently through them. Moisture is dealt with naturally, being absorbed and released to create a healthy living environment. The large quantities of earth used in the floor, walls and cob-seat, provides a thermal mass. This is likened to a storage heater that stores and releases heat, enabling a constant temperature in the home all year round. Keeping it effortlessly warm in winter and cool in summer.
We completed a spectacular build in February 2019, adding the finishing touches ourselves, with family and a workway volunteer.
Captured on film
Below is the story of the build journey, captured and produced beautifully into a short film by photographer & film maker Dewi Robert. The film was made for Get Rugged who we support by allowing free access to the build for educational and research purposes. Get Rugged is now conducting research into the natural home and its effects on mental health and wellbeing.