Glamping – radical roots

The radical housing solutions of the 70s have inspired today’s cool, glamorous, and increasingly mainstream holidays; what began as a D.I.Y. creative alternative for eco-friendly, often cash-strapped, folk is now offered ready-made for the more affluent.

Most glamping abodes are associated with a simpler way of life from far away cultures and  dwellings of the past.

glamping at Bodrifty, Cornwall

In 2010 I made decorations and customised soft furnishings for Bodrifty Roundhouse which is now part of a “collection of beautiful and quirky places of a luxury camping kind’.

I enjoyed being in a roundhouse again!  While chatting to Fred Mustill it transpired that he had used a Castell Henllys book that I’d illustrated (see below) as part of his research for building. Fred built this authentic replica Celtic Roundhouse in 1999; it’s impressive and atmospheric with a well considered construction and style.

….with eco-friendly decorations

The fringed flag garlands, used in the promotional photos below, are world-inspired & timeless and were especially designed to compliment such earth-friendly structures.

Curtains for the Roundhouse four-poster bed, dressing room & Garden Quarters, plus matching cushion covers, were custom-made by Green Swan using the customers own fabric. The colourful appliqued embellishments and the designs on the banner echo the curvilinear Iron Age designs of South Western Decorated Ware pottery found locally; they were made with salvaged fabric including vintage silk and some elements were hand dyed to match the interior.

time travel at Castell Henllys

Castell Henllys is an archaeological site near Eglwsywrw, in Pembrokeshire National Park, Wales. It has several reconstructed roundhouses on site.

This is the children’s educational publication that I illustrated in 1996 with the help of archaeologist Phil Bennett.

from the US – alternative architecture

This is my ancient copy of  ‘Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art’ first published in 1973 and still available.

Handmade Houses is full of photographs of wooden houses inside and out.

alternative architecture in West Wales

Whilst living in Pembrokeshire I was privileged to visit the many wonderfully creative abodes in West Wales – one very discreet dwelling was built into the dunes and almost invisible at Poppit Sands near St Dogmael’s; sadly I have no photos.

Here’s the former home of a friend – photos taken in the 90s. It’s a wooden cabin added onto a caravan set in it’s own veggie plot and built on her friend’s land at Cenarth.  There were many enjoyable gatherings here.

Apart from the Tipi Valley dwellers who were some distance away, all of the folks mentioned below socialised together at some truly memorable parties.

The imaginative use of salvaged materials made an ‘earth friendly’ dwelling.

living the dream at Tipi Valley

Further south of the Preseli Hills is Tipi valley in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire; the community began in 1974.

Full time living in tipis and yurts….not just at high days and holidays!

Shelter‘ by Lloyd Khan

Published in the same year as ‘Handmade Houses’, 1973 (also still in print) – ‘Shelter‘ by Lloyd Khan. Find out more here

This ideas in this book have served as an inspiration for much alternative architecture built since and included structures such as huts, tents, yurts, tipis, baled straw houses. There is a large chapter dedicated to domes, also several Dome books published by Shelter Publications. Richard Buckminster Fuller, “Bucky”, was the guru of the geodesic dome and he first developed a domed building way back in the 1940s.


An old friend, Geoff Garratt (known in West Wales as Geoff the Dome) first began making geodesic domes in 1975. He later developed a company called Geodomes; more info on Geoff here and here.

Betty’s bender geodome at Gilwaun, Pembrokeshire (above); simple, lightweight and ingenious – perfect for festivals. (pre-digital photos!)

Here’s a wooden dome made many years ago by Geoff at Gilwaun, Tegryn, West Wales.

Sian’s dome had a porch, back extension dome and sleeping platform.

……became Geodomes

Geoff’s canvas Geodomes – on the move.

I once helped Geoff sew a huge dome canvas whilst he rattled off measurements which he just calculated in his head! A very hospitable, talented and creative man…

Geoff is now found at Racquety Farm where you can enjoy wild camping.

That Roundhouse

I was introduced to the  ‘Shelter‘ book many years ago by Tony Wrench of  That Roundhouse.

Prior to building the Roundhouse Tony built the Cone…where the band Rasalila were recorded.

the Cone

‘Free Range’ was recorded live in the cone in Pembrokeshire, West Wales 1992 (photo of 1992 cassette below).

Rasalila lineup at that time were: Dave Starkie, Tony Wrench, Gem McSwenney, Pete Linnett, Adam Barley and Emma Orbach. Emma & Julien Orbach set up the community Brithdir Mawr in 1994.

This is Cone 2 – also used for recording.

architect Chris Day

A gifted organic architect, author and sculptor, Christopher Day, also lives nearby. He is best known locally for designing Nant Y Cwm School (Steiner).

around the Preseli hills

This area around the Preseli hills is full of creative and eminently practical people who have worked hard to make their dreams a reality.

more Radical Roots – books of the 60s and 70s

Here is the original cover of ‘Shelter’… and some other influential publications that emerged out of the counter culture of the late 1960s

1  ‘Shelter’ 1973 cover                                      2  ‘Domebook’ 1971

3  ‘The Whole Earth Catalogue’ 1969             4 ‘Garbage Housing’ by Martin Pawley 1975

….. closer to Mother Earth

During the 70s Goddess Spirituality emerged as an international cultural movement developing into ecofeminism; James Lovelock proposed the Gaia hypothesis in ‘Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth’ 1979 and Joseph Campbell compared Eve, Mary & Isis as versions of the Goddess.

It followed that the desire for a more healthy & sustainable relationship to the planet was echoed by the desire for healthier inter-personal relationships; the cultural revolution of the 60s led to the 70s consciousness-raisinggroups of this second wave of feminism with an emphasis on the sexual politics surrounding the female body.

1      ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

2      ‘Spare Rib’ magazine UK 1972   –     second-wave feminist magazine

3      ‘Getting Clear’ bodywork for women  by Ann Kent Rush

4     ‘The Massage Book’ also by Ann Kent Rush & George Downing

The concept of ‘Personal is Political’ addressed the artificial split between personal relations and the more public world of work and politics. Sexism, racism, ageism – all the isms – were being tackled and benefited from consciousness-raising.

……and organic Self-Sufficiency

As far back as the 1920s Rudolf Steiner promoted biodynamic agriculture; there is a biodynamic farm in the Preseli hills at Plas Dwbl, Mynachlogddu, Pembrokeshire.

In 1962 ‘Silent Spring‘ by Rachel Carson raised awareness about the damaging effect of pesticides and pollution; her book helped launch the environmental movement.

In the 60s John Seymour moved to Fachongle Isaf near Newport in West Wales and by the 70s self-sufficiency was attracting many downshifters and his ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency‘ was very influential.

Small really is Beautiful…….

Small is Beautiful‘ by E. F. Schumacher 1973 promoted a philosophy of enoughness and critiqued the energy crisis and the emergence of globalization; ‘Fritz’ Schumacher is widely acknowledged as one of the original architects of the whole sustainability movement.

Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.”

is it sustainable?

Yet another radical venture was established in 1973 – the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) was founded on the site of the disused Llwyngwern slate quarry near Machynlleth, in mid Wales. ‘CAT is concerned with the search for globally sustainable, whole and ecologically sound technologies and ways of life‘.

They have lots of practical advice on how to make your eco-friendly lifestyle a reality.

Let’s hope that those among us who enjoy glamping can take something more than just a pleasant memory back home …..perhaps a yen for a simpler, more sustainable life?

“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness

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