Huts provide haven for eco-conscious Sussex families

Huts provide haven for eco-conscious Sussex families

A young Sussex craftsman is combining modern sustainable manufacturing techniques with 16th century construction skills to build traditional Shepherd’s Huts for people looking to live off-grid.

Rob McFagan has seen a marked increase in the number of enquiries for Shepherd’s Huts to be fitted out as a practical and green solution to providing living accommodation that is eco-friendly and won’t become a long-term money pit.

With the cost of goods in the UK increasing faster than household incomes and homeowners struggling to make mortgage repayments, many are turning to a more cost-effective and sustainable way of living – one that doesn’t need a mortgage or a year’s salary just to pay the utility bills and has a low environmental footprint.

Rob formed Holmes Hill Shepherds Huts in 2019 and with no formal training in carpentry built his first commercial timber-framed Shepherd’s Hut as a labour of love aged 21.

From building that first hut, in a rented marquee on an industrial estate in Holmes Hill, East Sussex, Rob has moved to a 3,200sq ft unit to craft more of the iconic rumbling wagons that used to roll through the UK’s country lanes and fields.

Built on four iron wheels and with corrugated iron tops, little has changed in the exterior look of the traditional timber-built huts. They were handcrafted by skilled carpenters to be used as a practical place for shepherds and farmers to shelter and stay over while raising sheep and guarding flocks.

“In recent years Shepherd’s Huts have become the go-to-choice for a bespoke home office or work studio, upmarket glamping accommodation, children’s play den or cosy garden room,” explained Rob.

“But we’re seeing a marked increase in the number of enquiries for huts with a more practical use as sustainable living accommodation.”

Such as for the Sussex family who were facing a costly and undesired move after planning permission for an extension was refused. The solution to finding an extra bedroom for one of their teenage sons was to buy a Shepherd’s Hut. He now has his own space in which to sleep, study and store his things.

“A Shepherd’s Hut ticks all the right boxes,” added Rob. “They are bespoke and built to offer the owner an off-grid, self-sufficient lifestyle, with solar panels to power the electrics, composting toilet system and en-suite bathroom, a water heater that runs on a gas cylinder and a wood log burner for heat.

“I’m currently working on a design for a couple who have just bought a small plot of woodland on which they want to locate a Shepherd’s Hut for them to live-in.”

Using the money from his first couple of commissions Rob invested in new woodworking tools and state-of-the-art technology to visualise the custom-built huts his clients envisaged. And in just three years Rob and his team have built more than 60 Shepherd’s Huts.

“Through a combination of responsible material resourcing, the latest computer technology and skilled workmanship, we are able to produce products to a very high spec and from just £25k they offer a real alternative to traditional houses,” added Rob.

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