July 2010


You’re probably wondering what’s going on in écovallée at the moment. And the answers are, we are:
o enjoying an unbroken succession of fantastic guests
o responding to up to six availability requests every day
o clearing ground next to our yurt so we can add a second yurt before winter sets in (yes, it’s the middle of July and we’re thinking about cutting wood and insulation)
o still working on the play yurt banister (which will look amazing)
o organising a JCB to finish the access road
o sourcing and refurbishing beds just in time for people to use them
o looking forward to even more fantastic guests
o working for money occasionally (which always feels like a complete waste of time)
o planning the next yurt and yurt camp improvements
o wondering where we can find some more time

Which is why I haven’t been blogging much at the moment. Plus, it’s the school holidays and I hardly ever get the chance to sit at my own confuser.

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Some of the hardest work we’ve done will never be seen by anyone. (I’m not complaining – it’s just one of those things.) The grey water treatment from the outdoor kitchen sink is not a good example – it was really quite easy.

We took a (free) bath and put a load of washed gravel in it:


We laid some (found) weed matting on top:


Then some washed sand:


Some top soil:


And finally some mulch from the other side of the valley.


More mulch was added, and some plants. But you get the gist. Before it gets here, water drains from the sink, through some straw in a box, and along a pipe under the kitchen paving. (The kitchen paving – that was hard work.)

A couple of weeks ago, Her Outdoors got a phone call from a journalist: Would we be interested in being featured in The Observer Magazine on July 18th as one of Europe’s new eco campsites?

HER OUTDOORS: Um… Yes. (If we had money, we’d be advertising in The Observer fordeityssake. If we were going to choose one paper, that would be it.)

JOURNO: Could you email a few photos over tomorrow?

HER OUTDOORS: Er… OK.

Cue montage of scenes the following day, rushing around, spreading sand, weaving wood, moving and erecting the yurt, tweaking the porch, strimming, tidying, putting the cover on, then shooting the pic two posts below, which hides the fact that the wall wasn’t even roped all the way round, the kitchen wasn’t plumbed in and the compost toilet interior hadn’t been built.

We sent the shots over.

I figured I’d have this week to take more shots, add them to the écovallée website, post them on greentraveller.co.uk (who’ve very kindly done a deal with us) and have everything ready for the suspected deluge of interest on the back of said article.

But I was wrong. The deluge started last Sunday, when the article actually ran.

As of this moment, we have one week available until mid September (July 31st to August 7th if you’re interested.) I know (aah bless, he’s fallen in love with the italics button) that wouldn’t have happened off the back of an ad – whatever the size. I am stunned, grateful, excited and a little scared (Her Outdoors will be pleased by this – she says my blog lacks emotional content).

It’s a powerful thing, the press. And in the case of this particular newspaper, which I’ve read has been under threat over the last few months, long may it continue to wield it.

(Oh, I don’t know if it got lost in the ether, but they didn’t use the photo; just grabbed one from the website. Never mind, it meant I had time to plumb in the kitchen and build the toilet before our first guests arrived. Which is a relief.)

UPDATE: That week’s gone now, sorry. No room in the yurt now until mid September – and two people have asked about then!

On July 11th 2010, écovallée was open at last.

There’s that tractor I killed:


That mirror used to be in our yurt:


This guy can hardly draw at all:


Wait until you see the compost toilet. No, I mean it.

Here’s a shot of me just before the guest yurt arrived, preparing the site:


If you’ve read “Mongolian Cloud Houses” by Dan Frank Kuehn, you’ll be forgiven for thinking it bears a passing resemblance to page 62:


I forgive you. (See?)

Credit going where it deserves, I’d like to thank Dan for saving us hundreds of euros we don’t have, by demonstrating how a yurt platform can be made from earth. (I am convinced this is the building material of the future.) We did splash out a few euros on some sand to make it super flat, and we’ve topped it off with a plastic vapour barrier and some carpet, neither of which you can see in this shot:


Thanks also for giving me permission to use the image from his book. A bottle of something special will be waiting for you in écovallée any time, served in the kitchen on the right of this shot:


I love how the yurt sits into the hillside from this angle. Even though I say so myself, it’s superb.