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March 27, 2013

Hutters’ future assured

Given Scotland’s easy access to open countryside, it is something of a mystery that more people don’t take advantage it on a regular basis. For instance, in Nordic countries it’s common practice to be involved in hutting – the building and enjoyment of simple structures (usually wooden) for living, working and recreation in the countryside.   It’s not completely unheard of in Scotland – there exists a small but growing band of supporters of this back-to-nature recreation.  Scotland’s most established colony of hutters has just had some great news.


Hutters’ future assured

Seen as pioneers of the Scottish hutting movement, the Carbeth hutting cooperative near the Campsie Fells has found £1.75m to buy their land, more than 80 years after first setting camp

The Carbeth Hutters, the community of self-sufficient cabin-owners near the Campsie Fells which has helped inspire a national hutting revival, has succeeded in buying all its land and forest from their landlord.

After fifteen years of often rancorous disputes, a rent strike and then careful negotiation with the owner, the Carbeth Hutters Community company has bought their 90 acres of land – valued at £1.75m, after securing a vital loan from the Triodos bank.

The community of more than 140 huts, which varies from modern kit buildings, smartly-painted cabins through to hand-built, idiosyncratic huts, was originally founded in the 1920s and 1930s by socialists and communists wanting an escape from Glasgow and Clydebank.

Its low-impact lifestyle is highly-prized and protected. There is no mains electricity or mains water; just standpipes, gas lamps (some of pre-war vintage) and a motley collection of micro-wind turbines and solar panels.

In a statement issued to announce the purchase, Morven Gregor, the community company’s chairwoman, said:

The future of hutting is now in our own hands. We look forward to keeping hutting alive in the twenty-first century, building on traditions going back to the 1920s. It’s been an exciting 15 years. The next 15 will be equally exciting.

Gerry Loose, its secretary, added: Carbeth can now begin to celebrate its part in Scotland’s history and open its doors to all comers to see how we did it and why it matters to Scotland’s heritage.

Along with several other long-established hutting communities, Carbeth has been a central part of the Thousand Huts movement set up to promote hutting in Scotland as a sustainable way of building rural retreats and low-impact housing.

Across Scandinavia, hutting is embedded in mainstream life: in Norway alone, there are thought to be nearly 430,000 cabins and holiday chalets, perched on lakesides, island and mainland coasts and deep in its forests.

In 2010, the community settled a long-running rent strike with its owner Allan Barns-Graham, who agreed to give them three years to raise the capital needed to buy the forest grounds. The deal includes its lido, an open air swimming pool, and land used by the original “fellowship camp” where the community took root.

The leases is due to be signed on Sunday, at Edmonstone Hall, Blanefield just nearby.

And their success was applauded by the Barns-Graham family, which has owned the estate for more than a century; they said the size of the buy-out was rare given the economic climate. They praised the hutters “tireless” work since 2010 to raise the money needed.

Over the same period and prior to purchase, CHCC has established a very successful track record in managing the hutting operation. This has given their funders, Triodos Bank, the confidence it requires to help fund the acquisition.

This is particularly remarkable because the financing of any land purchase is so very difficult in the current economic climate. There must surely be very few land transactions of this type and magnitude in the UK at the present time.

The Barns-Graham family is extremely proud, as I know CHCC is too, for what has been achieved and together we look forward to see the Carbeth hutting operation develop in the years ahead.