Sunday, 10 February 2013

Wild Hut 16

Pacific Quay, Glasgow

I noticed blue lights flashing and through the rain I could see an ambulance parked awkwardly in the road and a man being held by the throat against the building opposite. A typical Saturday evening in Glasgow I thought! The rain was fairly heavy and had been pouring all day. I decided this was a perfect night for a wild hut adventure.

I had noticed that building work had begun on my favourite little plot of land on the Clyde-side. 25 years of woods and wildlife had been scraped clean in less than a day, revealing old cobbled roads and retaining walls. The new Masterplan for this area includes strategic routes, hotels and office buildings (View part of the design). The thing that struck me was the maturity of the trees that were being cleared. For an inner-city site it looked like commercial forestry at work, with trailers full of heavy timber ready for the sawmill.

I followed a familiar little trail through the undergrowth until I arrived at the edge of the destruction. I remember following a little fox along this wooded trail with the surrounding branches full of screeching Magpies and Wood Pigeons. The Grey Herons who once stood like concrete statues in the tall reeds will never return. It looked like a tsunami aftermath – just thick mud and a tangle of broken trees.

I don’t like to get sentimental over one patch of scrub-land but I think urban density needs to be tempered with negative space - areas for wild resurgence. On the plus side, there was enough chopped materials here for all 100 huts so I wasn’t complaining for long.

The Build:
I decided to build quite an elegant triangular form. It consisted of two simple A-frame structures, which supported a triangular sleeping platform with roof above. Both the sleeping platform and roof tapered back to a single point. This reduced the material requirement and made it quite a quick and efficient build.

I constructed two free standing A-frames and strung the bed and roof structure together in super-quick time. I was slowed down considerably though as groups of screaming youths passed on the road above every few minutes. I felt really exposed with the lack of ground cover and crouched down behind stacks of timber like an animal shunning human contact.

The rain hadn’t stopped all night and it would be safe to say I was pretty wet. I was knee deep in mud through much of the foraging and could feel my face was caked in it too. It felt a bit like commando camouflage but I knew I would feel stupid walking home. I had the look of someone who had attempted to drink a puddle.

I laddered the roof with straight lengths of wood, using gravity to hold them in place. I then used upturned moss and turf to form a skin over the roof timbers and hold them in place. This ‘wattle and dob’ style roofing was quick and extremely effective. I built a short windbreak with some broken evergreen branches and the full hut was complete in only 3.5 hours.

Roughing it:
The rain hadn’t stopped all night and I pulled off my squelching wellies and wriggled onto the sleeping platform. It was a good test for this little hut as I’m sure even my tent would have packed in during such a heavy and constant downpour.

I put on a hat and snuggled down into the sleeping bag feeling the odd drip find its way through the layers of debris. The wind seemed to change direction from west to north-west, but the windbreak was well positioned around my head. I wondered how I would fall asleep – I was wide awake and there is a row of glowing flats on the road above. Taxi’s sped past every few minutes and people laughed in the rain on their drunken walk home from town.

Before long I was fast asleep and only woke to the sounds of birds chirping the following morning. I opened my eyes to see a black shape darting around the mud below the hut. It was still dark and I was sure it was a rat. It moved again and to my relief it was a blackbird searching for the early worm. It was odd to see bird-life in the darkness. It was almost 7am and the sun had not yet risen.

I watched the blackbird dart around the ground instinctively and wondered if it was following the same route it had done for years through the old forest? I wondered if by studying the bird’s movements you could build up a picture of how the forest was arranged before it was destroyed a few days earlier. I wondered if the residual mental maps of these birds could reveal the historic forest landscape through their confused movements, like a ghost or x-ray. Animals are highly adaptable I thought. Which is lucky as their eviction notice came in the form of a chainsaw.

It was soon light and as I walked home I felt like a travelling mud-wrestler. I passed about 10 people who looked at me with some concern. I checked my reflection in a car window and realised that my head looked like a chocolate truffle with bed-hair. I cleaned my wellies in a puddle and felt a lot better.


  1. 15 Huts done already.. 100 seems suddenly very achievable!

    Do you have a favourite so far?

    1. Hi Jon Yeh, at 16 now with 17 planned for friday, (depending on weather and material). I don't really have a favourite - as each night out has its own character. Quite like the last 3 or 4 though, can build them bigger and better with more people lending a hand.

  2. I am loving following along with your advetures, especially since im a yank and your slang is hilarious. I never knew there were so many ways to build shelter in the wilds, i will be forever impacted with this blog!! Thanks!