Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures”
– Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
The place is perfect. Less than 30 minutes drive from our house, a mile from a main road and small village, nestled on a small hillside and hidden from passers-by. The first thing we had to do was meet the farmer whose land we were now renting. The farmer’s son pointed us in the direction of an elderly lady tending her garden who was a little surprised to see us, but seemed pleased we had made the effort to find her. She was indeed the lady in charge of the hut ledger – a well worn notebook with a list of hand-written names beside hut numbers. We found out that the couple we bought the hut from hadn’t actually met her as she still had the previous owner’s details. We asked what we needed to know and she said very little. Look after the land and building, pay rent in the summer (the princely sum of £130 per year) and “don’t go too mad” if extending. There is a bin collection and the farmer needs access to the track at all times to reach the sheep in the bottom fields. That was about the extent of it.
So we made our way down the track to Our Hut, accompanied by bird song, the gentle gurgle of the burn to our right and midges. The only thing that was missing was Ash, my Labrador who sadly passed away last September at the age of 12. He would have loved the place and we would have loved to bring him with us.
We unlocked the front door, stepping through nettles and greeted by a slight smell of damp. The place was exactly as we remembered – maybe even a little bigger. We explored every room, opening cupboards and drawers that now belonged to us. We could have moved in there and then. They had left everything – pots & pans, generators, batteries, cutlery, bin bags, cleaning products, furniture, lawn mower, garden tools… even a brand new cooker and a bathroom suite ready to fit.
We explored the land around the other huts, each one a little different in character, ranging from basic and dilapidated to pristine and modern. There was a static caravan cunningly disguised with wood cladding and a hut with several hundred vinyl LPs surrounding its base, overlapped like roof tiles. We met a few of our new neighbours, one sunbathing in her garden, one renovating his hut surrounded by a selection of old vehicles and others just chatting. We met the farmer’s collie – Ben – and a neighbour’s dog, a spirited little Patterdale Terrier. Ben had escaped from the farm and was being taken home. We introduced ourselves to the neighbours and started asking questions about water, power and extensions.
We were invited into one hut to see their power set-up. This hut had been extended and looked a bit like a Center Parcs cabin. Inside it was decorated like a modern show house; monochrome décor with flamboyant dried flower ornaments, a large bath, modern fitted kitchen and a large television on a black glass stand. It was beautifully done but I didn’t like it.
It felt disloyal, like they had wrapped up the hut’s soul in plastic.
We were happy to get back to our hut and begin planning. Power was obviously the main concern and we talked about solar panels and gym equipment to generate electricity (Exercise machines to power your home?). We talked about what kind of extension we might add and just sat gazing at the hills, amazed this beautiful place was now ours. Housemartins had nested under the guttering and there was a constant stream of birds back and forth right outside our window. They had picked a perfect spot.