Humble shepherd huts now sought-after Norfolk holiday accommodation
- Credit: Archant
They were once used as mobile shelters by shepherds guarding their flocks and nursing sick lambs on cold nights. But now shepherd huts are increasingly becoming sought after holiday lodgings across Norfolk.
The popularity of these humble huts is said to be driven by the short-break staycation market wanting an affordable, yet unique holiday experience.
Ben Wong, a manager for Norwich-based The English Shepherds Hut Co, said the huts were becoming popular with holiday businesses looking to offer a unique form of accommodation.
'They are still quite innovative and very niche,' he said. 'The quality of the huts is high and it's like having a hotel room.' He said the company had seen a notable increase in demand for bespoke huts as part of farm diversification projects or as holiday cottages. The business had grown about 28pc year-on-year over the last five years as demand increased.
'We're probably building about 20 a year for the holiday market right now,' he said. A 'more traditional' hut costs in the region of £18,000 to £25,000 while something with a bathroom and kitchen will set you back between £25,000 and £35,000.
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Zoe Dunford, the owner of Hut-next-the-Sea located near Wells Beach, said that as Britons chose staycations over trips abroad, many were looking for holidays that offered something different.
'Shepherd huts vacations meet those needs very well,' she said. 'They are unique and offer privacy and seclusion that you maybe wouldn't find when camping. They are also affordable – not as cheap as camping but also not as expensive as staying in a hotel.'
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Flick Hindley, the manager of a North Farm Cottages near Aylsham, said their hut was mobile and could be moved around the farm according to conditions in summer and winter. 'We got it about three years ago and its modelled on a 1920s version of a shepherd's hut,' she said. 'We've definitely seen an increase in demand for it and they seem to be popping up everywhere now. I think they're popular as they offer all the loveliness of camping without the need and hassle for all the kit. A lot of people see it as a really affordable short break option.'
The history of shepherd huts
Shepherd huts played a crucial role in Britain's agricultural history.
Traditionally used during sheep raising and lambing, they were simple wooden or corrugated iron constructions featuring thin walls and wood burning stoves.
They were built on iron wheels so they could be moved around as needed. Their use reached a peak in the late 19th century and dwindled in the 20th century with the advent of mechanised farm machinery.
Today's top end huts constructed for the holiday accommodation market are much more luxurious affairs. They come with comfy double beds, televisions and kitchens and bathrooms. The walls can be insulated and ceilings, floors and double glazing make them cosy all year round.
Their versatility is one of their greatest appeals and they can be located just about anywhere. Their size, dimensions and moveability also makes planning permission relatively simply to obtain.
Another strong year for staycations
Holiday resorts are gearing up for a busy summer as 55pc of British adults said they would be holidaying locally making 2017 another strong staycation year.
Travelodge's annual holiday index found a jaunt to the seaside remained a favourite destination while a third of those surveyed reported they would be taking taking a rural break this summer.
The top destinations are the Lake District, Scottish Highlands, Norfolk Broads, Yorkshire Dales and Peak District. The report, which has surveyed 3,000 British adults for the last seven years also found holidaymakers will be splashing out on average £599.80 on their break - giving the UK economy a boost of £17b.
However, there is a drop of three percentage points in the number of Britons holidaying at home this year (55pc), compared to last year, which was 58pc.
The report also revealed a drop in spending of £130 on summer getaways compared to 2016 when the average spend was £729.80.