Sunday, 6 January 2013

Wild Hut 13

Mugdock Woods, Milngavie

Around 12 o’clock I arrived at Mugdock Woods to the north of Glasgow with a good friend Arran Brown for another crazy hutting weekend. Arran had never slept outside and was strangely sympathetic to the notion of building a hut just for the sheer experiential impact. He is currently self-employed so these new skills may have a practical usefulness in the economic downturn. We followed some muddy trails (more commonly known as the West Highland Way) until we arrived deep within the forest and surrounded by plenty foraging materials. It was a gorgeous bright winter’s day and strangely mild for the time of year.

These woods skirt the satellite towns of Milngavie and Bearsden, which results in thousands of jolly walkers filtering through the damp forest from various nodal car parks and leafy boulevards. We picked a relatively quiet place for the build and were instantly confronted by a team of clambering kids who had noticed our unmanned rucksacks and obviously hadn’t noticed us. They instantly veered off in a different direction and were soon replaced by a caravan of dog walkers and their associated unruly dogs that sniffed through our rucksacks like hairy customs officers. The locals were all morbidly inquisitive and over-friendly considering its proximity to murderous Glasgow and the fact I was wielding an axe.  We longed for the tranquil veil of darkness.

The build:
I had sat up the previous night brainstorming ideas for this two-person hut construction but hadn’t finalised the design until the next morning. I had scribbled an irregular shaped triangular pod which all tapered back to a single tree. This should allow plenty head room, fit 2 beds and be fairly enclosed. It was also light on material with only a handful of structural members required. Arran seemed happy with the conceptual approach and we set about arranging the basic structure with some wet mossy branches and garden string.

The basic frame was lashed together in only a couple of hours and we set about bailing the dried bracken for use on the walls and roof. This was time consuming in the rain but by 6pm we had covered around 3 square meters of walling each with only the roof and gable-end still to complete. We downed tools and headed to Milngavie for some food. Many beers later we somehow found the hut-site again in the blackness and set about completing the roof and side panels.

I noticed some random movement beneath the bracken and for the next hour I wondered if I might uncover a hibernating Adder. I had a friend who was bitten by an Adder fairly close to these woods when he was lifting boulders as a kid. Being elbow deep in boulders and moss in the dark is always unnerving as soon as you think about snakes…the beers didn’t help. The fact it was winter though makes a sighting completely implausible. A fear of snakes is fairly healthy though, I have a friend who is scared of cows! How is that possible? We completed the roof and soon laid sticks out for the sleeping platforms. The hut was complete by midnight and the sky cleared to reveal a cosmic array of tiny lights.

Roughing it:
We rolled our sleeping mats out and lay down. The sleeping platforms were completely rigid and the hut façade seemed fairly weather-tight. This was one of the best sleeps yet it has to be said. There was a great feeling of enclosure and the air inside the hut seemed still. We hadn’t bothered spending the extra hour required to build a front door which may have been even better. Still, the structure was roomy and fairly sheltering from the elements.

I jokingly mentioned to Arran that we will probably be woken in the morning by a big dribbling dog peering through the doorway…and with sorry-synchronicity a giant brown gasping K9 face poured itself into the hut at 9am with sniffling intent. I explained to the dog that it should probably best leave and it reticently took my advice.

Other than Arran’s snoring (sorry Arran) it was a comfortable night’s sleep. We packed up our gear and swam against the tide of dog walkers and joggers back to the train.


  1. thank you
    I value this project

  2. It's great that these huts are left for others to ponder over and I bet kids love finding them.

  3. This is my favorite one to date!

  4. Have you thought about doing a revisit to some of the earlier sites, Grand Designs...Revisited style to see if they're still standing or if someone has enhanced them in any way?

    I suspect most will have been vandalised but it would be heartening if they weren't!

    Keep going!

    1. I've had a look back at most huts! - the hut by the motorway still stands proud, the large forest teepee (5 person) is actually alive!...the moss and ferns have taken hold and bound it together like a bio-skin.
      One was dismantled the next morning by a passer-by, one seemed to have been burned down...and hut number 1 has completely disappeared! I had a scout round...not even a bundle of grass pile...(i think someone has it in their back garden!)

  5. Very inspiring, great idea and great writing! The stories around every build really makes all the difference, will be coming back to this page to see whats next...

    Construction wise 13 is my favourite yet.

    Keep going!

  6. Saw you building this one and went back to have a closer look this past weekend - very impressive indeed. All still standing

    Am now planning to replicate this in the Spring - am inspired


    1. Was good to see you Tom,
      It's been a fair while. I'm up for a spring build if your around.(maybe before the midges start). Kidlings could also camp out.
      Hope your good

  7. I was out walking yesterday and came across 2 of your dens in Mugdock and they are both alive and well. Having not known anything about you or your project we were fascinated, myself and girlfriend had a great chat about them and also our own den stories from our childhoods. I was talking about this in work this morning and a colleague sent me a link to todays Sun who has done a piece on you. Well done and really interested to follow your progress.

    1. Morning Gary,
      Glad you enjoyed exploring the huts! Yeh - the sun article was a lot of fun (May be in BBC Arts & Culture later this week also). Cheers for the message.

  8. Went up today to show my kids the hut but unfortunately someone has set fire to it and all that's left are some Charred remains. Keep building though!