The famous German architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, adopted the phrase “Less is more” to describe minimalist design during the Modern Movement of the early 1900’s. Today the phrase is still widely used, in many different contexts. This phrase was particularly pertinent to my last week, spent with my family in Wales on holiday.
We spent the week camping (well ‘glamping’ actually – glamorous camping) in West Wales, in a remote field called the Yurt Farm. Our objective was pretty simple; to get away. Properly away. The place was around eight miles inland from Aberaeron and was definitely remote. There was limited mobile signal and certainly no sign of 3G or WiFi! Its also completely off-grid in terms of electricity and gas. Perfect. There’s only one way to approach this sort of holiday; embrace it.
The Yurt Farm is simple living, but actually very well considered and crafted in lots of different ways. Its been carefully created by a local farming couple called Laurie and Thea (with their three young children). You leave your car at the gate and walk around 250m to your Yurt. There are a collection of wheel barrows to transport your stuff. These were also useful for shifting logs and our 3 year-old daughter! There were five Yurts in total, and a small converted train carriage as well!
A Yurt is a tent structure which is portable, but very strong and actually rather spacious. It originates from Central Asia and is still used widely in Mongolia for dwellings. They are cleverly designed. You can watch a great little video of one the Yurts on the farm being built here. Inside they have a wooden floor, a small wood burning fire, a double bed and a bunk bed (both hand crafted from local wood). This is called glamping, but actually this is proper camping! Apart from having a proper bed to sleep on, you live in a very simple and sustainable way. Heat is provided from burning logs (we got through plenty of them!), light is provided from a large circular window in the centre of the roof (and tea light candles at night). Outside we also had a fridge. This was a small wooden container with a deep cover of earth on top (which has herbs in), it worked!
It’s all really very liberating and feels authentic and natural. Quite the antithesis of my very urban life of frenetic movement around a largely man-made environment.
Living is equally as simple as the sleeping provisions. There is a communal kitchen/ lounge which is a beautifully crafted timber structure (a sort of rural Barcelona Pavilion – architect reference!) This has a big old Belfast sink with cold water provided from a local source. The Ty Nant spring water company is located just a mile or so away so this water hasn’t been through seven humans already! Hot water is provided, via solar thermal panels situated in the field, for both the sink and also two fantastic showers at the end of the building. The window/ vents in the showers are made of Ty Nant bottles – very clever. There are electric points for charging phones etc. These are powered by a small wind turbine and a solar electric panel in the field. Four on-site chickens roam freely in the day and provide fresh eggs. The farm also provide fresh organic fruit, vegetables and meat. There is also a great covered Al Fresco dining area which has a homemade Pizza oven! Finally the toilets; these are small carefully crafted wooden structures which (to my daughters amazement) didn’t have any flush! You simply ‘cover up’ with sawdust as you leave. Sound dodgy? These were really pleasant and didn’t smell. At nighttime they have solar powered fairy lights!
This is vernacular architecture arguably at its best; following nature and being very sustainable in many ways.
This was certainly a holiday with a difference. It’s not for everyone, and I’m sure some people get drawn in to the ‘idea’ of doing this, but would perhaps struggle with the reality. My advice is; go for it, embrace it for what it is and you will love it. Its a superb experience and one I strongly recommend, especially for families. We’ve got some great memories of our adventure, far more than you might get from a more conventional holiday.
For me, it was refreshing and exhilarating. It was also good to be a Human ‘being’, not a Human ‘doing’! It was great to escape for a while from urbanity, work and technology!
The Yurt Farm is great – visit their site here for more information.