FED UP with huge mortgage payments, one family decided to take matters literally into their own hands and build their home from scratch. Armed only with a chisel, chainsaw and hammer Simon Dale moved his family to a hillside in Wales and started digging.
The result is a fully sustainable house constructed in just four months, for an astonishing £3,000, using scrap wood for floors and diverting water from a nearby spring.
Nestled: The moon rises on the house which is roofed with grass and blends in to its woodland surroundings.
Cosy home: The house is heated by a wood burner and a solar panel provides power.
Sustainable: Simon Dale, who had no experience as a carpenter or architect when he started the project, used lime plaster and wood from the surrounding area.
And while Mr Dale, who has no experience in carpentry or architecture, was building the house his wife Jasmine Saville and their two children camped in the nearby countryside.
He said: ‘Being your own have-a-go architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass-produced box designed for maximum profit and the convenience of the construction industry.
Woodland view: Mr Dale put the timber frame up first, then the roof, so his family could be sheltered while he carried out the rest of the work.
Hobbit house: The finished article sits in the Welsh hillside and is almost hidden from view.
‘Building from natural materials does away with producers’ profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.’
The owner of the woods they were building in was keen to have someone living there, taking care of the forest, so they didn’t have to pay for the land they were building on.
Starting by digging into the hillside, Mr Dale, with the help of his father-in-law, put the timber frame up first, then the roof, so his family could be sheltered while he carried out the rest of the work.
Woodland home: Simon Dale, with wife Jasmine Saville and their two children outside their home, just four months after starting work.
Growing family: The entrance porch and conservatory where the family grow their own vegetables.
Winter wonderland: The house snuggles deep in snow, with its wide window giving fabulous views of the rolling countryside.
The roof has a layer of straw bales for insulation, plastic over that to render it waterproof, and earth on top. Materials were gathered from skips, builders’ yards and donations. Then the family made a straw bale wall inside, with the bales stacked on rough dry stone walling and staked together with hazel sticks.
Once the walls were up a sub floor made from palettes was put down, with floor boards laid on top.
Window on the woods: The cosy sitting room looks out through the conservatory to the surrounding woodland.
From scratch: Simon Dale building his ‘hobbit house’.
Foundations: The house takes shape with palettes laid as a sub floor, ready for floor boards.
Helping hand: Simon Dale’s son helps out gathering wood.
Family task: Simon Dale moved his family to Wales and started building.
Through snow and falling temperatures Mr Dale inserted windows. Ms Saville, writing on her husband’s website, explains how the project started.
She said: ‘Some past experience, lots of reading and self-belief gave us the courage of our conviction that we wanted to build our own home in natural surroundings.
‘For us one choice led to another and each time we took the plunge events conspired to assist us in our mission. Looking back there were times of stress and exhaustion, but definitely no regrets and plenty of satisfaction.’
As well as being made from sustainable material the hobbit house, as it is dubbed by locals, has lime plaster on its walls instead of cement, a compost toilet, a fridge cooled by air from under the building’s foundations and solar panels for power. Running water is supplied from a nearby spring.
Mr Dale said: ‘This building is one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This sort of life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology.’
Plans: Drawings for the hobbit house.
Insulation: Straw, membrane and earth make up the walls.
And since building the house in 2005, Mr Dale has moved on to his next project in Wales’s first eco-village. He is building the first home in the Lammas Village project, with the design similar to the hobbit house.
For more information on building low impact homes, visit simondale.net
An interview with Simon Dale from 2009