Updated: Dec 28, 2020
January 2020 was wet, wet, and more wet and our ground was oozing, with water lying in pools and seeping out of the hillside. The new camping field had to have some fencing to divide it up and Fred the fencer came for a couple of days, complete with tractor plus dog and his Bro to hump and fetch.
At the same time my mate Bernie came over and set about levelling of the old quarry below the base of the wind turbine to create extra parking spaces. His JCB was missing a track so we had to hire in a small digger from Mascos, the local hire shop. Whilst here Bernie also levelled off 4 camping pitches down across Janes field so tents can be erected on level ground. The finished result was great although after he left, and before nature took charge the field did look a bit like the Somme in 1916.
Meantime I had made a start creating the base for Norwegian Wood our glamping dome. The details of the dome tent were finalised and an order placed with the Polish manufacturer. Delivery was set for the 1st week of April so the clock was now running and I hoped to be all set for opening by the bank holiday weekend (end of May), little did I know.
Norwegian wood is set on our hillside in the centre of a small conifer plantation. We planted the Christmas trees about 15 years ago and have sold a few off each year to provide some bunce to pay for presents etc. The trees had mainly been sold and taken from the centre of the plot leaving a suitable area for the dome to be sited. A few years back I had levelled of a plinth in this area so as to put up a small shed and now it was to be repurposed. Long term planning eh!
With access through the repurposed quarry the first job was to create a path in through the trees and up to the work site. The ground was still really slick so a safe access path was a must and was carefully landscaped and levelled. The ground was covered with weed suppressant then covered with a thickness of wood bark courtesy of a local saw mill; which makes a superb non slip and attractive finish to the path.
To make a level platform I used Metposts to set up vertical support posts without using any concrete. The metposts have a 600mm metal spike which is driven into the ground and a 75 X 75mm socket that takes the posts. Having got posts into the ground then a timber frame of 150 X 75 can be built that carries the floor joists and decking. Rather than use expensive pre formed decking boards I managed to obtain a large load of scaffold boards which were used to make the deck.
I’d ordered a new shed to become the boiler and shower room for the dome and this was delivered in February and manhandled across to the site. It had to be in position before the dome arrived and although I could easily knock up a shed I figured it was better use of time to sub the whole job out. The quality of the delivered from Caerfegu products was excellent and well worth every penny.
With the shed in place I could bring power and water across from the nearest point on the site, about 50 metres or so and I let Katherine dig a trench across from the garage to bury the pipe and cables in. The services terminate in the boiler room for connection on to taps lights etc.
By early March it was becoming clear that the dark (Covid) clouds on the horizon could impact on my ability to complete the project so I took steps to stock up on as many of the materials I was likely to need to complete the project. So bathroom fittings and plumbing gear and pipes where stashed on site as well as basics like screw s and adhesives.
The dome was due here 1st week of April and all paid for. I did begin to wonder if we’d ever see it but to be fair the manufacturer got in touch about the 20th of March to see if we could still take delivery; of course I said yes. They sent the 3 boxes, each about 1500 X 1500 X 1500 out on a lorry from Poland and it duly arrived down on the local trading estate (9th April). By this time virtually every one was on shut down of course. The local animal feed store was running on short hours and the owner was persuaded to come out with a fork lift to help unload the 3 boxes and put onto my trailer to move on up the road to Redwood retreat. Thanks for that.
So with 3 large boxes here on a flatbed trailer, finally the build could go on. Inside one box was the heaviest single item, the wood burning stove about 250 Kilos or so. I set up some ramps and eased the stove down onto the ground then we used a sack truck to get the stove in place across on the decking where the dome will be. It was easier to get the stove in place before building the dome so that’s what’s inside the cling film in the picky above.
The dome is constructed from a frame of bolt together steel tube then a shaped cover goes on. An insulated lining is then fitted to keep all inside cosy. There is also a solar powered ventilator to keep occupants cool in summer.
The cover also has an enormous panoramic window looking out across the valley through the Norwegian Wood. Access into the dome is through a zippered “diamond” shaped door around the back.
The dome took about 3 days all in, to get in place, covered and secured. Before any internal finishing could take place the floor had to be put down. Initially I used the Stirling boards that the packing cases were made from to get a sealed finish over the decking. Ultimately this was then covered in a “clip together” wood veneer floor which came courtesy of Rhayader Building Supplies (RBS) who had just reopened and did me a super deal on some stock flooring. Katherine made a really good job on this.
Meanwhile I was fitting out the bathroom. The new shed was partitioned off to create a boiler zone and all was insulated and lined inside to make a cosy dry bathroom. Again RBS helped out with an ex display shower wash basin and loo to help keep in budget.
With the flooring laid the wood burner could be unwrapped and installed with its twin wall flue.
Originally I had hoped we’d be able to open for business by the end of May bank holiday but that wasn’t going to happen. There was no sign of the lockdown ending and some materials were being hard to get.
Kitchen units where next on the list and here Covid 19 really made things difficult, but I did finally track down some good base units without driving out of the county. But pricey!! A new gas cooker came along fairly easily and I used some 2mm chequer plate to make a surround linking up to the extractor fan. Then smoke detectors could be fitted.
Meantime we had been sourcing bed and bedding on line and Katherine and I were determined not to let the quality slip in spite of things. Again mail order but we set up a bin at the end of the track so carriers didn’t have to come to the house and could keep safe.
Well, we did in fact get the dome completed by about the 10th of June although we still had landscaping and such to do outside. In February Katherine had planted up about 250 bedding plants and in spite of some late spring frost most of them survived, she got loads of tubs planted up and more perennials planted up about the dome.
Quality Unearthed are a booking agency who specialising in promoting unusual glamping pods were appointed to market the dome; now named Norwegian Wood and in late June Polly Lovegrove their photographer came over and spent a couple of hours creating a portfolio for the marketing team.
Quality Unearthed went live on the booking site on the 1st July and within a day or two the floodgates opened as the lock down in Wales was released and bookings were coming in most days. Our first visitors came and much to our relief they loved everything. We had invested a lot of heart into setting up the dome, and only with the positive feedback could we begin to relax knowing we’d got most things right. Our first feedback read like this.
" Katherine and Andy have created a great retreat here - up in the hills with the wildlife (and a few sheep) for company. They seem to have thought of everything, from the super-comfy bed, well-appointed kitchen and off-grid facilities, to the splendid breakfast package and the fluffy towels.
The real star through is the location. The dome is cunningly positioned at tree-top height, so there are marvellous views across the valley. The trees provide privacy so you feel really tucked away from the world. We were able to watch Red Kites souring overhead while we breakfasted on the terrace. Don’t worry about feeling cold; the wood-burner keeps the dome warm and cosy when the sun goes down."
Of course then the work really started as visitors coming and going every two or three days with only a few hours to do the turn around and make everything Covid secure was another new challenge.
One lovely couple who shall remain nameless forgot that they were due to leave and were still here at 11 AM on departure day they loved it so much, so we forgave them.
And Paul is a graphic designer and we found this beautiful piece he’d left behind. My hand written scrawl looks like a drunken spider.
We had got booking through until November but of course back came the Covid restrictions. With the start of the cold weather, even after we were unlocked again we decided to close for the winter. Even with the wood burner going in the dome we decided to take a break until the spring. But with the huge popularity of Norwegian Wood we’re going to add another dome right across Jane’s field to be used as a chill out zone with some added features and landscaping, so watch this space.
With no more visitors coming until April next year I’ve been able to get on with some jobs about the place. A couple of items on Norwegian Wood that I feel could be improved upon were first on the list. The biggest job is the outdoor decking area below the dome. When I made it in March I was constrained by the quantity of timber on hand so the sitting area was a bit limited. I’ve now extended the decking out by an extra metre having put in some more posts and timber bearers.
Underneath the deck all the support posts and
bearers are exposed so I plan on closing them off with some surplus boarding. I’ll take pot luck on a load of saw mill off cuts from Whitney Saw Mills. Ostensibly I get the 2 tonne bundle for fire wood but always find a lot of useful stuff and usually oak, which gives of a lovely smell when fresh cut.
Finishing of odd jobs on Norwegian Wood is first on the to do list so that we’re all up and ready for visitors in April Corvid permitting. But there is a much bigger list (which keeps growing) all to do with getting a further dome up across Janes field for next season.
As members of the Greener Camping Club we get given young trees to plant depending on our visitor numbers. So earlier in the autumn we received 15 Silver Birch and 15 Oak to plant, to which we have added 100 or so willow whips, 2 Hollie trees and a Crab Apple or two. During November I strimmed the grass back really short on the planting sites. And now Katherine has got everything planted out across the hill side and the access path to Janes’ field.
For the larger specimens we’ve added in stakes and 2nd hand tree guards that we had salvaged from a previous hedge planting scheme a few years back. I doubt we’ll be here to see the Oak get too big but the Birch and Willow grow fairly fast here so fingers crossed and someone will surely benefit in the future.
Last week I got a trailer load of timber up from the saw mill and as usual there is a nice mixed bundle. As well as some waney edge board which I’ll keep by for agricultural building jobs and a good dollop of off sized posts, there was a rake of square edge oak boards, far too good to burn. I’ll use some for closing of under the dome and the rest I’ll put by and air dry for a year or two. If it doesn’t warp I’ll be able to use it for furniture or shelves.
December 28th 2020.
It does appear that we are going to end the year with ground conditions identical to those in January, the ground is again totally saturated and we woke this morning to find 2 inches (50mm) of snow lying. So now it’s horribly slushy underfoot and the ponies are well pissed off.
I do like to get jobs finished in spite of any evidence to the contrary so just before Christmas I set to in spite of the rain to complete the extension to the decking around the dome.
On the front face and underneath I used some of the nice square edged oak boards that had come from the saw mill. As these were to be nailed on with galvanised clout nails I pre drilled the holes. I used galvanised nails as the Tannin in the Oak will very quickly eat through ordinary steel nails. To the side of the deck where the steps are I used some rustic finish waney edge boards that run to about 300mm wide.
The last job to complete in this area is underneath the deck on which the dome actually sits. I plan to alter some of the existing cladding. In the autumn I removed a couple of panels and stashed the barbie and deck chairs underneath the dome. I plan to make that particular panel hinged like a door so access to the summer kit is easier at any time of year. I will add in a couple of bearers to the individual pieces of upright board and then hinge that section. I’ve got my eye on some 70mmX30mm oak in the stash.
Today’s gardening tip. We’ve been repurposing a load of used carpet tiles down in Jane’s field. A 50mm hole drilled out in the centre and a cut from there to the edge and the tiles make a superb weed suppressant around the newly planted trees. It will save weeding next year but allow some moisture in and in a couple of years they can be lifted and reused for another planting session.