My yurt

DSC_0010.JPGIt must be around 15 years ago that I first went to qigong camp in a damp and windswept field in Devon – on the edge of Dartmoor. I set up my tiny nylon tent and as I lay in it¬†– cold and a bit miserable –¬†I saw a woman draw up in her estate car, laden with poles and canvas. I barely paid attention but when I roused myself an hour or so later I saw¬†this magnificent construction and peeked in the doorway to see her reclining on a pile of sheepskins¬†¬†in front of a roaring wood stove. I decided on the spot¬†that if I ever came back I’d be in one of those.

Over the next couple of years I made two yurts. Two because the first one wasn’t much good – though in my defence the only instructions I had were a few brief and incomplete pages. By the time I made the second, I knew what I was doing.

I coppiced ash poles in Stanmer ParK, close to Sussex University. The woods there Рlike so many in the UK Рwere filled with abandoned coppiced trees. Coppicing Рthat marvellous working relationship between human and tree Рonce produced long straight poles for numerous purposes (fencing, tool handles, charcoal making etc.) and massively extended the longevity of the tree. I cut poles, stripped the bark, shaved the ends and Рwhat a joy Рsat by an outside fire as my homemade steaming box slowly softened the wood, allowing me to bend the roof and wall poles, and wrestle the roof wheel round a steel hoop. Then the poles were drilled, corded and varnished numerous times with fragrant linseed oil and true turpentine. Finally I measured every dimension, sent the numbers off, and a few weeks later received a purpose-sewn canvas covering.

I confess it’s hard work loading the yurt poles and canvas on top of a car, stuffing the boot with wood stove, chimney, tables, cooking stove and enough bits and pieces to furnish a small house, and then unloading it all and erecting the yurt. But when it’s done – as I think these pictures testify – it’s the source of profound comfort and deep joy.