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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World-inspired bunting flags

The design of Green Swan bunting echoes the simplicity and free style of these handmade prayer flags from Cambodia and Laos. The abundance of colour and texture has a universal and timeless appeal.

1 & 3   Cambodian temple prayer flags             2    Cave flags in Laos

4   Handmade flags, Cambodia           5   ‘East’ world inspired silk bunting by Green Swan

6 & 7   Green Swan  cotton  fabric bunting –  medium and small sizes


8 & 9   Zhong Dian prayer flags

10, 11 & 12   Green Swan mini bunting – Brights

13, 14, 15 & 16   Green Swan fringed flag bunting – detail showing different fabric textures including silk, cotton, crepe & satin.

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World-inspired bunting

These world-inspired fringed bunting flags are full of texture, colour and movement. A contemporary yet timeless alternative to traditional English bunting designed to compliment such venues as Kata tents, Tipis, Yurts and geodesic domes. They also add a progressive touch to celebrations held in marquees and other traditional settings and structures.

The raw edged and free style of these fabric flags is an antidote to more commercial mass-produced products; their aesthetic has more in common with pre-Christian celebrations, Tibetan prayer flags and folk customs than an English garden fete.

Fringed flag bunting is available in longer lengths, with matching streamers, for your celebration, event and garden.

Happy to customise where possible. Green Swan fringed bunting flags are available here.

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more eco-friendly decorations

For people who love colour!
Colourful upcycled handmade bunting available from Green Swan online shop. Brings colour and movement to any space that needs a festive touch.

All fabric is made from post-consumer waste.

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eco friendly decorations

Eco friendly mobiles made with recycled & upcycled paper, card and fabric; elements are suspended on invisible thread or cotton cord strings. Timeless carousel style with a festive touch. These mobiles bring movement and colour  into any space.

1 & 2  Comic book circles on plum purple cord      3 & 4 Falling silk petals on invisible thread

1 & 2 Blue paper circles on blue cotton cord  3 & 4  Psychedelic paper circles on red & orange cord

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Montol and the Mock

I’m looking forward to Montol …. our very own Midwinter procession with guise dancing, lanterns and music – more Saturnalia than Christmas. There will also be the lighting of a Yule log – the ‘mock’, a Cornish version of the pagan tradition. A beacon will be lit on top of the ancient Lescudjack Hill Fort too. We like beacons down here…
Guising ‘ the spirit of misrule…’ is a Cornish winter tradition.

Last but not least – Penglaz and Teazer.

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Green before Red

Midwinter, Yule, Christmas….   winter holiday celebrations here in the UK are a hodgepodge of native and imported customs and myths. The identity and appearance of the central holiday figure known as Father Christmas has changed significantly over time. Even in Victorian Christian imagery his robes were always green…

It’s not difficult to see a connection with the pagan god Odin as they both have long beards and a penchant for sky riding as did Odin’s son Thor and many other pre-Christian gods.

Father ChristmasUncle Holly

As a child I visited Lewis’s department store in Birmingham where Uncle Holly was a familiar and popular figure at Christmas time. Uncle Holly Circle badges were issued by the Lewis’s owned Selfidges in the 1960s.

On the wild side

There are links with the Wild Hunt and Cernunnos too. ‘In many Celtic-based traditions of Neo-Paganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him. The Holly King then rules until Yule, when the cycle continues.’

Echoes of the Wild Hunt and a seasonal battle can be found in the role of Krampusse and Sinterklaas. After losing the battle with Saint Nicholas the horned Krampus, or demon, was enslaved by the bishop; surely a vestige of the struggle between Christianity and Paganism?

Krampusse, Sinterklaas

Nikolaus and Krampus.You’d better watch out…”

The Krampus is a servant helper of Sinterklaas or Nikolaus and his role, along with a ‘long black birchen rod’, is to scare children into behaving well. More sinister is the emergence of Zwarte Piet, Black Peter, as the minstrel substitute for the devil. We now have little green clad elves…


These days however Father Christmas aka Santa Claus has red robes…  Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas,  was a Greek bishop of Myra, (Turkey), in the 3rd Century. His long white beard, bishops robes and secret gift-giving tendencies closely resemble the modern version of Santa Claus. In the UK we hang boot-like stockings for Father Christmas identical to the tradition of the Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot).

A Bishop Saint and Coca Cola

The image of Santa slowly evolved and his current image and redness first appeared in America in Harper’s Weekly 1863; the interpretation of illustrator Thomas Nast. Haddon Sunblom’s Coca Cola version appeared much later in the 1930s.

I’m happy to know that Coca Cola’s can’t take credit for the shift from green robes to red – they simply copied. In the UK the colour seems to have changed in late Victorian times – who knows why.  I will be bringing holly, ivy and mistletoe indoors to add to my decorations in the age-old style – I love green!

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Prayer flags

I find inspiration in the colour and movement of prayer flags; it’s not surprising that they are used as a blessing and to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. According to wikipedia, “The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

This echoes the sentiment of the Cornish motto “Onen hag Oll“, ‘One and All’, something that I’m often reminded of during the many inclusive celebrations that we are privileged to enjoy here in the far west of Cornwall. It seems that flags have literally been part of the fabric of Penzance for a long time; the promenade on a windy day is full of life and movement.

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GREEN SWAN Creations are eclectic & contemporary designs – handmade using reclaimed materials from unwanted, discarded and vintage products.

Salvaged goods made from textiles, paper and other materials are transformed and reworked into original and eco-friendly creations.

Unique products for those who want to reduce their ecological footprint without sacrificing style.

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