Monday, 27 July 2020

Recent Review

Simply amazing! We would go back in a heartbeat!

"We had the most wonderful week in Cornwall staying here - campfires to toast marshmallows on while listening to owls and watching shooting stars at night, to then wake up to stunning views over the Cornish countryside and the sound of birds in the trees. A truly peaceful, wonderful holiday with some many varied activities nearby, and the pub in walking distance, what more could you ask for?! Tim is a wonderful host who has thought of everything to make the holiday perfect. The woodfired bath is a must, as is experiencing having a solar heated shower whilst overlooking a forest wilderness. An amazing experience and we would heartily recommend!"
Jul 25, 2020 by Abalena22

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Cornish Yurt Holidays Availability

Although we are almost booked up for the summer, we still have some availability in July and August:

Oak Wood Yurt (pictured)(sleeps 4 on two doubles) Friday 31st July - 7th August OakwoodYurt

Green Man Yurt (sleeps 2) Friday 21st August -28th August Green Man Yurt
Both of these are for weeks stays only

There is also good availability for the yurts in September for short or weeks stays.
You can still book under the Covid scheme which asks for 20% first payment followed by the balance 10 days before your stay. For a Covid related cancellation you can rebook any time in the next 18 months.
Any queries call Tim on 07974633320

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Yurtworks Is Changing!

There have been so many great years making beautiful yurts, but this year Yurtworks is changing!  After 22 years of professional yurt making we have decided to hang up the draw knife and turn down the steamer. We are no longer taking new yurt orders*, or doing hire for outside events. Instead we will be concentrating on Cornish Yurt Holidays here on the farm and developing other exciting circular projects which we will announce shortly

We shall be updating the website over the coming weeks and posting updates on social media, please bear with us - the new phase will be bringing together all we have learned about living in the round  in radical and exciting new ways.

A big thankyou to all the lovely people we have met and worked with in this yurty world, and to the customers and visitors who keep coming back. Wishing you all the best for the new year and looking forward to seeing you again in the coming months.

*Important news for existing customers. We will still do our best to help and support existing customers maintain their yurts with repairs and replacement covers for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Beech Life

There has been a lull in the weather  recently, almost enough to make you think that Spring is  around the corner. Then, just when  the first celandines  flowered in the woods and wild garlic was in the air, another blustery wind blew through with driving rain and hail, and we were back slipping through the mud again.  Despite this, we have got off lightly, the land is not underwater and it has even been possible to get a bit of tree work done between the squalls.

Back in the late 60's they felled most of the trees here that had any timber value, leaving any that were gnarly, forked or badly barked by the cattle that wintered beneath them. Some had been pollarded, perhaps to feed the cows in late summer and are now growing thick, multi stemmed and greedy for any available sunlight.
We over- wintered our cows here in '95 and '96 and the neighbour's pygmy goats used to be frequent visitors, leaping the fence to feed on anything and everything that grew there. Add  red deer, roe deer, wallabies and hordes of marauding grey squirrels and it's a wonder that there are any trees here at all.

Natural England suggested we took down all the beech trees as they were not native to the area and they were keen to see a return to ancient woodland species like oak and thorn, but beech trees bring something else to the woods, not least the luminous green moss that coats their trunks like velvet socks.

Although we have decided not to follow Natural England's advise, some of the beech that have been most damaged by the squirrels are starting to shed big limbs. Beech are also notoriously shallow rooted and so we have started to take out some of the weakest trees opening up the canopy to let more light in to the woodland floor.

Some of the trees were leaning over shading out the younger trees beneath
 We have also started running our Bushcraft and Nature Awareness sessions here and it is important for obvious reasons that the weakest trees are made safe.

The long crack running up through this trunk makes it ideal insect habitat.
Taking out some of these big old beech will let plenty of light into the wood, giving other species a chance to survive. The beech woods are beautiful especially in May when the bluebells are out, but they can be cold, windswept places in winter giving little protection or cover for the birds and other wildlife. Even at the height of summer they are dark almost gloomy places, shading out any new life that tries to establish itself.

Beech was traditionally used for furniture making up around the home counties, but this beech wood has a distinctly Cornish character to it and doesn't easily lend itself to fine woodwork. It would be shame though if it was all to end in the wood burner, so there are plans to make some big bowls and a wooden spoon or two.

Sunday, 9 February 2014


It is not always easy feeling optimistic in February, the farm animals are hungry, the birds and other wildlife too, are short of food and shelter, and the gales have left the land looking battered and worn out. Spring still feels some way off, but it is a time when the bare bones of the fields, hedgerows and woodlands reveal most and it is a great time for seeing what there is, stripped of all that verdant summer overgrowth.
Daisy the cow tree climbing on an old tumbled down hedge
 It's the time we tackle the last of the hedging and fencing work before the birds start nesting. Most of the hedges around here are traditional Cornish* -  earth filled, granite faced and topped with blackthorn, oak and hazel. They are a bit tumbled down in places, generations of cattle sensing that it's always greener on the other side has taken its toll. Countless rabbits too, have burrowed into the heart of the hedges so they sag and slump.

Hedge before laying
We are slowly trying to put them back up if they are not too far gone and wherever we can we lay the trees and shrubs that grow along the top. Hedge laying or steeping is  a practice that has gone on for hundreds of years  although it was never that common in these parts. This hedge in particular doesn't look like much but there could well have been a hedge of some sort here for a 1000 years or more. I like this about hedges, they are  easily passed by but like old bones they are remnants of a very long ago past.
S. on the last stretch 
I learned to lay hedges with the help of the Devon Rural Skills Trust and used the skills for  several years in combination with post and wire fencing work. Back then it was rare to see a hedge laid in Cornwall and if you did it was usually lashed down with orange baler twine. Most of my jobs came from Devon and even then it was not always easy convincing customers that a laid hedge was the way to go. Nearly 20 yrs on the situation hasn't improved much, and although awareness about the value of hedges has grown, few people can make a living from this old craft. My hedge laying skills are a bit rusty so Steve, a local hedgelayer, took the job on.

Laid and crooked to hold it in place
One of the reasons for laying this particular length is to lower the hedge line so the butterflies can cross more easily. You would think they would be able to fly over the hedge even with trees on it but the Pearl Bordered Fritillary is not so bold; wary of heights,  they are easily discouraged when they come up against a tall hedgerow.

The hedge will reshoot in the spring

Unfortunately the mechanical flailing of hedges has almost completely extinguished the beautiful craft of the hedge layer. It has also had the same effect on  the wildlife and wildflowers that depend on them. Some say that flailing is good for  hedges on the general principal that a cut hedge is better than an overgrown one, but  there is now plenty of evidence to show that the repeated flailing of hedges is killing off the hedgerow trees and shrubs  and the diversity of wildlife that live in them has suffered as a result. 
Flailing hedges in Devon
It's unlikely that the hedge laying craft will return in a big way any time soon, as it is not seen as cost effective, but when whole species disappear from an area as a result of flailed hedges how much richer are we?

As soon as economics is the dominant factor in countryside management it rarely bodes well for the creatures that live there. Perhaps the more awareness grows of these almost extinct heritage crafts like hedge laying and the benefits they can bring, the tide may slowly turn. After all, the riches of the countryside should continue to be a reference to the variety of life that lives in the country and not to the money that is to be made there.

* The Cornish Hedges website is a great source of information and includes a detailed history of a single mile of Cornish hedgerow from the 60's to 2008 by Sarah Carter. Her 90 page study soon dispels any preconceptions that  flailing is not so bad after all.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Slow Start

 It has been a slow start to the new year but slow, I am sure, is good. We have started cutting, clearing and burning on some land  that has been mostly left alone for the best part of 50 years, so there is no need to rush it.
Gorse bushes grow as tall as trees
It is one of those places where Nature has been left to do its thing. The trees have grown tall and lanky. The gorse, moss covered and luminous green, is 25ft tall in places. Honeysuckle curls and twists around the thorn trees. Granite boulders stick up like giant stepping stones in the bracken. Last years nests are cradled but crumbling in the forks of branches. It is one of those long forgotten corners which a large part of me wanted to leave well alone.

Some of the gorse will be left for nesting birds

"But it's no good for butterflies" said the man from Natural England who had come to assess the habitat for butterfly potential. He cast a despairing look over the hillside covered in a tangle of thorn, gorse and bramble. " It will all have to go, it has almost no wildlife value at all."

Since then it has taken a few years to fully embrace the butterfly project on this patch of hillside but on reflection the  wildness of this place is not ancient, there are signs everywhere of human activity; the old granite hedges, the leats and tailings of an old copper mine, hazel and oak coppice stools, granite boulders split and cut for lintels and gateposts, even an old hammock made from a fishing net 35 years earlier. This is a place that has known people for centuries.

Clearing the scrub around the old copper mine
And as for the wildlife, the trees have grown up in all their beautiful moss covered  lankiness, but it has got darker, damper and the variety of species of plant life, has grown less.  Barely any sunlight penetrates even in winter and apart from a bit of ivy the ground is bare and the understory hollow. What I once thought of as a wildlife sanctuary, has become more and more like a wildlife dead zone.

The cows follow the saw browsing on hazel tops and ivy
Although it is a radical approach, any management, that increases the biodiversity of a place, must be a good thing and although the work here is targeted particularly at the butterflies, I am sure that other species will benefit  as well.

 So now when there is that smell of two stroke in the air and the sound of the chainsaw rips the air,  it feels brutal,  but I know it will bring more, not less, life to this tiny patch of land. After all, the chainsaw work will soon be done, the fires burned out,  replaced by the gentle foraging of the cows.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Yurtworks Update

Welcome back to the Yurtworld blog. It is the last day of the year and I notice that posts have not been very frequent. For 2014  we shall try and be more diligent in covering aspects of yurt life, yurt making, yurt holidays as well as the work on the land here that has kept us busy these last few years.
Our 25ft traditional Kyrgyz style yurt at an event on Dartmoor 

We had a really good yurt holiday season this year, thanks to all those who came and loved the place and the yurts so much.

The conservation work for the Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly is ongoing. Apart from ourselves the workforce is made up of five traditional Hereford cows who have settled in well and are doing a great job foraging through the thick bracken and bramble. Blackthorn thickets are slowly being thinned out, hazel coppiced, and hedges laid.

Down by the river we are thinning out the trees planted in 1995, this is providing us with plenty of material for spoons, bowls, chairs and hopefully a longbow or two. We shall be doing more posts on these crafts as the year goes on.

All this land work has taken us out of the workshop so yurt making has been on a slow burn this year, and will continue to tick over in 2014. I have restarted a yurt book begun in 2005 after my second visit to Mongolia and hope that the photos and research will be available soon in book or online form.

We always used to take on volunteers and plan to start again in the spring, providing a simple yurt for accommodation. The work will be more land based than workshop based but could appeal if you are interested in approaches to the handmade life and working with the land. More details about this will be posted on future blogs and the Yurtworks Facebook page.

In the meantime have a very  happy new year, and hope to see you in 2014.