All posts by IntentSpirits

Of Yurts, nomads and glamour and the traditions of the sedentary.


Making yurts is something that happened out of necessity for me, not a love at first sight, as I held them in second place to tipis, lacking a central fire.

Years ago I lived in a community in South Wales, called Tipi Valley,
or simply the “Valley”, as it is called by its own people, a green valley in Carmarthenshire, covered in big oaks, with a small stream running in its centre, separated into three main areas, “the bottom”, “the top”, and “middle earth”. In the years I have lived there it was undergoing some fundamental changes. For years before, the people that lived down the bottom, who were also the people living closest to the earth, only lived in tipis, moving up the hill each summer, they each lived in a field of their own for the duration of summer, usually next to a small garden, in which they grew their food. Each tipi was in a small green ocean of bracken and almost hidden from the rest by hedgerow and oaks, the trees have grown wild and big through the 25 years the community have lived there.

They would move back down into the valley for winter, into two communal fields, The village field and the triangle field, situated at the valley floor between a bog and the small stream that run down from “the top”.

The “Big lodge”, a 25ft tipi was pitched in the middle, a communal space, allowing visitors in, it was where parties were held if the weather was bad, it also served as a sort of screening place for new people, because most people wanting to come and join in and move to the valley, had to spend a period in the big lodge, and through a long period of being harassed by the kids, and interacting with the community their character could be ascertained.

I have always loved tipis, they are alive, having an open fire in the middle, and the constant flow of air coming from under the canvas, makes life in a tipi unique, now days, I find it hard to go into one, because they hold too many memories of another life, I find myself overcome by emotions sitting by their fire, its like visiting a past which still lies too strong inside me.

Tipi valley was going through a period of change, people were slowly moving away from some fundamental laws that kept the community dynamic. For 20 years no field belonged to any one person, although obviously people kind “vibed” a certain place, it was where they built a garden or a workshop, so it was unspoken rule that they had the first dibs on that specific spot, if they chose not to go there in the summer, when everyone moved back up he hill, it was open to anyone else.
In the winter the sunnier spots by the river were held back for people with kids, and the older generation, the other side of the field was referred to sometimes as the “north pole”, as the north facing slope would not get any sun somedays, leaving the frost of winter on the tipi canvases, it was an unspoken way in which the community looked after each other, the stronger young people took to the less desired spots without having to be told, the pregnant, the old, and the single mothers got the morning sun. 25 years of living in community has taught them a tribal system, and in Tipi valley I could see how easy it would be for us all to come back into the the fold of the tribal, rituals and organisation was born naturally of necessity, living in tipis in the green wet hills of Wales.

But things were changing, to begin with the whole of the land across the river was in the process of being bought, which opened up the whole of the other side of the valley, and the south facing side at that. Much more than that was taking place though, yurts have arrived to the valley, and more and more people were living in them. Living in a tipi was still deemed purer, but years with acrid pine smoke and kids, nappies going black by hanging inside on the washing line because they froze outside in winter, had taken toll. The convenience of a yurt was alluring, living without drips and smoke, not needing to be as fussy about one’s wood were some of the reasons.

So I guess it stuck with me, I have always lived in a tipi, and seen yurts as secondary, felt like they were for people when they get soft. It is not that anyone can discredit them, having small kids you need to be dragging through the bog on dark afternoons and arriving home to a wet and smokey tipi could discourage one.

I have this dyslexia for meanings, and in regards to yurts, this dyslexia deems them as the harbinger of a more sedentary life, because now people started living in yurts, and that first unspoken rule that everyone should lived in a tipi has changed, other things started changing too, to start with people stopped going up the hill in the summer, something that was an underlying concept in the community, that followed with people not moving at all, and building cabins on given spots and claiming it as theirs, with claiming a spot came a more territorial approach, and the underlying flow has been disturbed. For a few golden years the two great tents of two great nomadic peoples stood side by side, yet for me it was the yurts that started the community on its sedentary phase.

It was like 4000 years of evolution distilled into a period of three years, the years I have lived in the valley.
I always seem to live in places when they change, I even thought for a while, in some sort of paranoia, that maybe it’s actually me that change them, but that would be crazy.

So from then on yurts stand for me as the reason for the decline of the warrior spirit, warriors live in tipis, and single mums and the elderly in yurts, and living in them means the end to nomadism, its doesn’t totally compute yet its an imprint that stayed with me, it was my direct experience.

Architecturally, a yurt seems to me like the fuller expression, there is nothing else like it. One can see the progression of concepts, starting with laying straight poles on each other, covering those with skins or felts, historically the first and simplest shelters were like that, and the tipi is the epitome of that initial design, given two smoke flaps to direct the wind away from entering the smoke hole, given a shorter cut at the back to sustain it with winds so it can always be pitched with its back towards the direction with the strongest winds.

A tipi is designed around the fire, not the other way around, and that makes it the best open-fire tent. Living with an open fire does not compare to anything else. Its a symbol for transformation or even the human heart, and having it right in front of you means you have to keep in touch with you personal transformation. It keeps a person a live, the food always tastes better, the smell of hazelnut wood, the crackling of pine against big oak feeders that burn into glowing red ambers. Having the most dynamic of elements right in front of your bed, there really isn’t anything like it.

From that basic straight pole shape, lying on each other in a cone came the second evolution, when someone took those straight poles, but raised them up on vertical ones, creating a straight wall shape, something that tipis lack.

Having straight poles with another set of poles set on top of them at an angle is very unstable, unless the vertical poles were driven into the ground and so creating a hut rather than a movable tent. That shape could not have laster for too long not as part of the life of a moving people. In order to give this form stability someone came up with the trellis walls, the first step must have been to lay the vertical poles at an angle and have them cross each other for strength through triangulation, and later tying the sticks to each other on permeant basis. Having the sticks tied like that meant that the shape again could not be moved, yet in a stroke of genius someone drilled a hole through both sticks at a regular spacings, meaning the wall is collapsable, so that new shape could be transported and erected again with ease every time. We can say that even architecturally the yurt in its design process must have had a short sedentary phase already, but now with the trellis it was movable again.

The new wall shape fold down neatly, and hold their shape when erected as long as they are held by a tension band or rope all around. This is how the yurt came into being. Finished with a central wheel, so restricting the roof rafters from being able to push further, and eliminating the need for trying them together, each rafter was held in its place by a square socket in the wheel, the top of the wheel was given a small dome that continued the bend, the bracing in it created a sun like design, at least with the mongols and the Turkmen.
And it was given a wooden door, in a collapsible frame.
It is really a work of art, each part is integral to all the others, and all holding together in tension. It is much more transportable because the lengths of the pieces are shorter. Although it would need a camel to carry a full yurt. But one did not end up with long poles dragging behind like the tipi.

There were some earlier forms for the wheel, of a circle of sticks that were tied together in a circle, in a ring of knots, so creating a wheel without one. But having to hoist the whole roof in one go was heavy, and only allowed for smaller tents.
The other form was dispensing with the trellis, used by the Sahsevan in their tents, with only the straight ribs going into a wheel, the Turkmen also had a similar shaped tent, one that was made out of old yurt rafters, and was either a cooking tent or used by poorer people who could not afford a trellis tent.
There was a village called kotuk, in which the Turkmen took that tent type called a gotdikme, they have given that tent shape longer rafter, and so it can have a wooden door now, the rafters were straight for the whole wall section, and then bent to create the roof, It is a very elegant tent, but again it created longer roof poles that created issues with transportation and again it needed to be pegged to the ground.

That is why the yurt seems to me to be the most complete architectural statement, the most advanced, and I do not only refer to tents because, timber framing, or even houses, never got anywhere close. Keeping to a simple a frame design, sticking to the straight poles balancing each other with some cross bracing, it is as if yurts have taken tent architecture into a circular dimension, while every other building form was still stuck in straight lines. It is complete and elegant, nothing more can be added, and nothing can be taken away. It is easily movable, yet its a craftsmanship feat of engineering, needing skill to bend each part after heating it in a dung fired stove.

There are two main yurt types, the Mongol and the Turkic, the first is usually made out of pine these days, and has straight roof poles, and the other uses willow in most cases, and has bent roof poles. There are other differences in the wheel construction and the trellis.

There is not as much known about nomadic tents as one would hope, Peter Alford Andrews, who we got to know and friend, is a humble Scholar who has spent years documenting nomadic tents in various locations in the middle east and central Asia. His work is unparalleled. He made it his life mission to preserve the knowledge of nomadic tents.
His work is also, even if indirectly, the reason for choosing the bent wood shape for what has become – the UK bentwood yurt.

In Felt Tent and Pavilions he takes us through the whole history of yurts, from their origin through a voyage of thousands of years into their interaction with the princely tradition. One follows the journey of man through structure, taking the nomads of Asia through a voyage of unparalleled romance, and change.
From being tribal groups, that lived in a special type of camp, with symbolic and ceremonial rules for each aspect of those enclosures, to being the rulers of empires, at which stage they also owned cities, yet a traditional thread was kept, a crimson trellis tent, a yurt in a colour which the ruler kept for himself, pitched in small city of other tent forms, awnings and pavilions, with cloth screens and walls, market places and harems.

Timur who saw himself as Genghis Khan’s heir, although not a direct descendant, still tried to invoke the former’s legacy, his tents were works of art,
It was as if the nomadic tradition was now elated to a symbolic form, poetic design, the trellis tent, the owning of which as always deemed to mean wealth and social standing, especially symbolised by the trellis, because that is what differentiated it from other tent types, was still kept as the seat of royalty, it was no longer just a tent, it was a symbol, or maybe we should say it was the home of nobility, because the seat of the emperor was usually in another sort of tent.
As if even being emperors, the nomadic roots we still taken to mean home.

Every part of the nomadic tradition took took deeper meaning with those rulers, the camp itself and its regulation, the nomadic was revered as a sort of poem of being, and each aspect was taken into a new high, with built in symbology, and meaning, the use of rich material, and design. The nomadic tradition has intersected with glamour.

Ruy Gonzales in his embassy to the court of Timur writes about enclosures and tents, describing 11 different enclosures or small camps separated by a street. Four of those enclosures supposedly were reserved for Timur and his household. In each of these camps there stood a trellis tents, a yurt, some as big that it used 200 rafters, which I guess will make it at-least 10m big, but potentially up to 15m or even 20m, although I will not think it was that big because smaller spacing on the trellis was usually used than what we are used to in the UK today.

Each of those camps belonging to Timur, his wives or his family was made in a different colour and style, with his own tents the most beautifully adorned, golden thread and arabesque work, windows and screens, the camp pitched in a circular plan. And if I make it out right, it seemed in some of the enclosures we also see adjoined yurts, but I cant not totally make heads or tails of all the descriptions, and in fact I would defer anyone interested in the subject to read Peters books, because no one has done the subject as much credit as he, and even trying to quote from his own work, I can not come close to describing the grandeur.

Describing Timur’s move to Bagh-i Shamal in Samarkand in the spring of 1397 he draws attention to how deep heavenly symbolism was brought into the life and court of Timur – “At the beginning of spring, when the sun in Pisces had moved from the southern half of the zodiacal sphere to the northern side, he occupied the noble and felicitous place of pleasure, and fastened the guy ropes of the imperial enclosure from under the Pisces to the power of the Ram.
In that Peter Alford Andrew draws our attention to the importance of astrology and symbolism, and how the heavenly and the earthly intermixed in the life and moves of this great tented nation.

Although they had cities of their own, the Moghul emperors in turn, direct descendants of Timur, still preferred to live in an encampment of tents, taken to even greater heights of richness and sophistication now, one their nomadic forefathers would never imagine, more royal tents and enclosures, moving with the seasons to the place of their choosing. It was said it took a thousand people three days to put up some of those cities of tents, It was like Burning Man festival in Nevada, a modern day art festival that comes into the desert every year and builds a whole city just to take it away, that is if we were to draw a modern day equivalent to allow us to try and understand what it must have looked like. Unique because it was a city of tents, with a richness never seen before or ever after, Yet still connected though an umbilical cord to a nomadic tradition, with the trellis tent, as the actual navel.

That Splendour was reflected best in the court tents. Each of the Moghul emperors commissioned his as a show piece, almost as if he tried to outdo his predecessor’s. The peacock throne, heavenly tents, canopies and pavilions, their tents bejewelled and embodied, with mythical creatures and scenery, sewn in gold thread, and speckled with precious stones.
The royal tents were made in crimson colour. We can try to imagine their lives, their love of art and architecture, the poetry and ceremony, we can see that reflected best in Shah Jahan, most notably remembered perhaps for the Taj Mahal that houses the tomb of his wife. Yet with all the riches and architectural genius, the amazing stone temples, they still loved tents, it reminds one of what the huns used to say about tents and stone structures, they say buildings made out of stone function only as tombs, and would not go into them, for them home was a tent.

The Moghuls loved to travel, although their nomadism was more like a sort of tourism now, they moved their city to special places in their empire that they loved, although obviously ruling the empire also meant they had to be in certain places, and fight wars, but they had spots in which they like to camp, to hunt, and hold court, moving with need or for pleasure, under the guidance of the stars themselves. We can see in their camps the nomadic form elated to a ceremonial high.

We can say that Glamping was invented by them.

Going back for a minute to their court tents, I would like to focus on what I think is their most amazing yurt palace. We have seen they had adjoining yurts for their own use, Gonzales wrote how in Timur’s royal enclosure he had a series of adjoining yurts, that is if I understand his description correctly.
The most amazing yurt palace though belongs to Humayun, who was somewhat of a dreamer I would say, rather than an organised ruler. An astrologer, he created his court tent as a miniature of the actual cosmos, built with 12 yurts in a circle representing each of the zodiac signs, covered by a larger canopy that was symbolic for the celestial sphere itself, it was called the trellis tent of the Zodiac, Peter Alford Andrews quotes Kwandamir in his book Felt Tent and Pavilions writing about this amazing tent palace:

“And among his inventions another is a trellis tent, which comprises twelve towers, to the number of the signs of the zodiac. And these towers are contrived with windows so that the light of the stars of fortune can shine through their holes. And the star of beauty of its arrangement and form shone on the pages of the events of the universe: the light of fortune shining through its windows, couriers of power hastening from its doors.
And another trellis tent like the sphere of spheres, which encloses the sphere of the fixed stars, surrounded the trellis tent on all sides, so as to to fall on it like a cover. And just as the crystalline sphere is free from the patterns of the fixed stars and planets this trellis tent also is bare of windows and trellises. Whenever they wish, they can separate the outer trellis tent from the inner, like the parts of the moving palace, and carry it from site to site. And this enchanted trellis tent is also coloured in several taints. A high platform has been constructed, divided into several fine pieces, so they can put those pieces next to one another whenever they wish; and when the trellis has been raised above it it finial, is lifted to the zenith of Capella”.

One can not conceive a more amazing yurt palace, so although Humayun was perhaps not the best at keeping his empire together, he did take the trellis tent, the yurt, all the way up to the heavens, and with that he completed the journey those amazing tents took in the lives of nomads, into a new position, an unimaginable romance of mythical proportions.
Unfortunately I feel like I better stop talking about the history of yurts as I am constantly unsure if I have got my informations correct, quoting Peter Alford Andrews seems to only belittle his giant, and the more I try to talk about the historical references the more likely I am to make a mistake. I have tried to make his argument a little more available to us all, in order to dramatise the significance of the yurt, yet I can not do his work justice, I feel that Felt Tents and Pavilions is a must read for anyone who wants to understand yurts in full, and his Nomadic Tent Types in the Middle East, should be a bible to any yurt maker.

The story of yurt making in the UK really started with Hal Wynn Jones, it was he that inspired a whole family of yurt makes. Being the first to make yurts in the UK, and also a good friend of Peter Alford Andrews and perhaps thus building on his work in documenting nomad tent types, it was Hall that gave the UK the bent wood yurt. These days people refer to it as the British yurt, which makes me laugh, its like some kind of Brexit debate, “we make local, hand made British yurts”, but it shows that this traditional craft is now practiced by local crafts people, and in a way these make some of the world’s nicest yurts, although I need to admit that the Karakalpak yurt makers have made much nicer yurts than we all do.

Hall taught a whole line of people how to make them in turn, and those have become the pioneers of the yurt making movement. People like Steve Plaice, and Toby Fairlove. Hal also made the first yurt palace in the UK, by inventing the Multi-yurt, its a shape the joins yurts like flower petals, each is two thirds of a yurt, open to the inside, something like the Zodiac tent of Humayun, except that the yurts are not completed on the inside facing part.

Toby Fairlove made a couple of those multi yurts with Hal’s permission, I remember seeing his first one on his website whilst we were still living in Israel, I told Lucy I would love to sew the cover for that yurt, and luckily enough when we arrived in the UK, we wrote to Toby, who brought his multi-yurt to a field in Wales where we lived, and we made his cover. We had to use a tractor instead of scaffolding in the middle. And so began our own love affair with yurt palaces.

Another person who we need to thank for the invention of the UK yurt type is someone who gave us the distinct canvas cover design. In the first days of yurt making in the UK, Alan Wenham, who later established Albion Canvas, was the designer of most of the canvas cover architecture we have come to know today, the distinct star cap, the way the tension band was made, turn buttons and D rings, sliding bar buckles for tension bands, and the whole construction of the roof and walls and their respective tying systems, he kind of invented of perfected them all.

Through the years as a company we possibly made over 500 new or replacement yurt covers, which just gives one the idea of how many yurts actually exist in the UK currently. We did take yurt canvas cover technology a little further ourselves, perfecting seams and certain elements, we also taught many other yurt makers how to sew, and although this resulted in us loosing business, it also saw the level of yurt covers in the UK reach its current standard.

Another person who contributed a lot to yurt making in the UK, was Paul King, and the fact he wrote the complete yurt handbook, which took an amazing amount of people into making their own yurts, simply by following his instructions, for years we used to laugh at this phone call that we kept getting, “hi, I have just made my 16ft yurt following Paul Kings book, can you make a cover for me?”. This book also saw the rise of an independent line of yurt makers.

There are others of course, many others, companies like yurtshop, who earlier on perfected the sawn wood yurt, through the use of spindle moulders and combination machines, making what I used to consider the best sawn wood yurt. Each area in the UK seemed to have his own local yurt maker, or it used to have one, because with the advent of online marketing, some companies came to dominate through google advertising.
It meant that some of the older yurt makers, who were the pioneers, relying on word to mouth and making sometimes a yurt a month, suddenly had no orders.
But yurt making is a tough business, because although it could be good money at times, revenue isn’t exactly assured, everyday a new yurt maker sets up, and competition seems to take out another company. So the companies who managed to survive had to diversify, and many of those have gone into yurt hire, seeing the rise of some of the most amazing yurts in the world. Big 42ft yurts, barn yurts, the country is now full of them, the biggest of them all to my knowledge is a 60ft yurt made by Castle Yurts. A giant wedding yurt.

Obviously even though we have been part of that world for so long, I do not know all the players, and I know that each company or person in this sector, brought something unique, they created the way that festival tent hire is run, the way campsites are designed. It’s a strange family of tent makers that seem to have changed the way people go on holidays. I do not think there is another country in the western world that has so many tent maker companies in this way. So the story of yurts in the UK is also very unique.

I think yurts came to Tipi Valley were I was first introduced to them, and the tent makers of tipi valley soon learned to make their own. Irish Steve who was a self taught tent maker, became the authority in the valley for yurts, it was him who taught me how to make them, although in truth, what he said to me when asked if he will teach me was “I’m not going to teach you, I’m just going to tell you what to do”. And so he did. I made my first yurt frame in under two weeks, setting a sort of record in the Valley, but everything was all ready, the wood was sawn, and all I had to do is follow Steve’s instructions. I kind of hated yurts because of everything I said at the beginning, so I never tried to remember everything I did. These days when I teach others, or work with my volunteers and they ask me to teach them, I just follow in Irish Steve’s footsteps, and tell them “I’m not going to teach you I’m just going to tell you what to do”, it seems to aggravate them to no ends, but I feel that in this way I honour my own teacher, even if he didn’t mean to teach me, it’s my attempt to impart some of the values I got from this great man.

It wasn’t until years later, when we were on the road and I decided to try and make another yurt that I needed to remember it all, but it was body knowledge, and so I realised that he taught it to me in a deeper way. I did have to reinvent the cover part, because we never made a cover for that first yurt, as we used a second hand cover from a bigger yurt. I had to teach myself how to make them from scratch, I couldn’t even remember totally all the different parts and how they came together, tents were just what we lived in, I never gave them the attention due. So I would say that yurt I made on the road was really the first yurt I made, I bought nothing to make the frame, it was kind of a challenge I gave myself, I used rope I found in a scrap yard, and coppiced beech. I stole a metal wheel from some abandoned building, to use as a jig to bend the ash on, and using an ads I hewn the planks out of an actual tree.

By then we lived in trucks, and although we still held the dream of living on the earth in tents again one day, I would say I preferred life on the road, and so I gifted that yurt to a friend, I felt more at home in a truck.

With the introduction of yurts and tipis to the UK, a new type of campsite and tourism was also born. None of us ever imagined that the whole of the holiday industry would follow suit, once upon a time we were hippies in a field, living under canvas, no one thought our tipis and yurts will pop up by castles and estates, that every person who retired to the country side would have their own little yurt encampment. Yet this is exactly what happened.

Talking to Jeni, who I lived with for over 7 years, one day in a small Agriturismo in Italy, I was asking her about Tipi Valley which was were we both lived together. We were speaking about the core mechanisms and the driving forces behind the community, what she said really opened my eyes, because I used to romanticise it a lot. She said the thing with Tipi Valley was that it was kind of funded (not founded) by the government, because everyone (or almost everyone) used to get child benefits or were on the dole. It was not really a self sustainble community on that level, I guess when I lived there and not being from the UK, I couldn’t get my money this way, so I kind of missed out what was going on.

So in order not to romanticise community living too much, although we lived in an amazing reality back then, with kids running naked into the small stream, and older people waking up in a wintery morning to rush into the snow, with smokey fires and communal meals. The question is about living on the land in a sort of direct symbiotic relationship. Indigenous cultures are now all conquered, and there is a sort of question if going back and living in tents, like native Americans or Mongols, is actually a way forward. In my mind in this “government funded experiment into tribal living” as Jeni put it to me, we have lived in a closer relationship with the land, the energetic rules of being a tribe seem to have arisen by themselves. A community that was not governed by any set of rules, yet followed guidelines of common sense.

Now years later the story of yurts and tents in the UK has moved on into a new format, it’s always a story of certain individuals, and how they affected the whole. Some of those individuals took the tents away from Tipi Valley and into festivals, into their own farms. And a new industry was made, maybe it is a sort of payback to mainstream society, from a group of people who lived on its benefits, maybe their gift was those tents. Yet with the advent of yurt campsites, and festival tent hire, the world of living in tents as a way to going back to nature started to disappear.

We ended up with a multi million industry, for people to go on holiday. Glamping was a word that was made out of two words, camping and glamour. It is not completely clear why it took hold so strong in the UK, after all the weather is not really that great for camping. Yet this new trend of camping in style seems to hit a chord. Living and working on a sustainable tourism programme in Italy I say that the way the country side is perceived is very different to the way we approach it in the UK. In the UK the countryside is seen from the upper classes point of view, even by people who actually work in it every day, so our holidays look something like an estate owner surveying his estate, we go to take the air, and walk the dogs, we want to live in style in a sort of mini estate, on which the grass is manicured, and where we can go back to nature like on a safari.

But are we really going back to nature?, in Italy, having tried to convince endless people that sustainable tourism in tents is the way to develop the countryside, I came across a very different approach, to the Italians the countryside is not where you go to holiday, its where you grandmother lives, its the symbol of poverty. Trying to convince them that they can keep their farms from falling into ruin, and diversify is hard work, because for them a holiday should be on the beach, eating good food in piazza. Not in a tent, and they do not want to go back to nature, they still try to run away from it, yet it was the Italians and especially living in the time capsule of the Abruzzo mountains that taught us the solution – Peasant farming

Another things that has made the countryside so illusive and desired in the UK is that our building and planing permission laws do not allow to build directly in open countryside. In Italy anyone with enough agricultural land can build almost any size house, so the restriction has meant people can not live in the countryside, and so it is more desired. I think and more integrated approach to going back to nature and tents, would be to develop the countryside in integration, using Glamping as sort of doorway to living and farming in the country, and to change our planning law to allow people to build directly in the open countryside.

Currently Glamping has peaked into such an extent, that people can own a second home, and put it to work for them earning money as a mini holiday resort, the touristic offer has to constantly get better, and so people expect much more these days for the same amount of money, and competition is very high, hot tubs and saunas, treatments and spas to name a few of the elements we have come to expect. I think that following the money has led this industry somewhat astray. I would have it go back to nature.

To me the whole romance of living in a tent is about the tribal, the primal touch, of living closer to the elements, we seem to have followed suit in the footsteps of the Moguls and now we have built yurt palaces, and glamour, people get married in massive yurts that may shame all the emperors of central Asia, except of course Humayun, as no one can shame his yurt palace.

I would have us all consider a different direction, in which those small campsites take us back to a feeling, one which we need so badly, the feeling of the camp, of being a part of a tribe, of belonging to the land, I would see Glamping go back to nature, in a sustainable system for rural development, because those are actually our own traditions.

Small sites with three yurts, allowing a family to focus on organic farming, and creating what I call a “silent engine” that gives them extra income, yet not taking all their focus. I would see a deeper integration with tradition and local identity too, farming ancient grains, and local food veriaeties and I would see those campsites as a window that allows visitors to enter into the countryside through a land based living approach, this could be achieved if we in the UK would wake up and realise that we no longer own an empire, and open up our planning law to more small holdings that can develop the open countryside to actually being lived in.

Our own history is not one of being nomads, our roots in the UK are of being peasant farmers, when we lived in community in nature, but although peasant farmers, makes one think of poor medieval people running around barefoot in muddy fields, it was actually a way of life of the highest magic, an integration with the land, in which we have created land races, where we took wheat cultivation to such a high, we made special varieties, we created those through selection, we raised animals in such a way that they had the most special flavours, whole parts of Europe were kept in such a way that our foods and lives were taken into an art form of living in nature, I will try to go into peasant farming in a dedicated chapter, so as not to repeat myself would leave that part now. So what I am saying is that it is amazing we have taken the nomadic tradition and their tents, to help us create a more movable and sustainable approach.

But the deeper truth is that it happened because the planning law is still set, not allowing us to really go back into the country side, and farming, I was on the phone yesterday with an amazing group. They are trying to convince the council to sell them one of their farms, and because its a question of money, the council will prefer if someone came along and turn that farm into a row of holiday cottages, than to have a group of modern peasant farmers take it over.

Yet I think the only real avenue of real rural development is by going back to that art form, and in truth I think that nomadic tents will need to be phased off into more local structures with time, I think that thatched huts are actually the greatest living space for the UK, allowing one to have an open fire and keep warm, they are superior to yurts on that level and reflect the landscape better.

I feel that we are at a cross road now, and that Glamping has gone as far as it can, and now we need to create a new integration with small scale organic farming, councils have woken up, they say in many cases, that its enough with the campsites, some areas have a Glamping site every 2 miles. So we are not really going back to nature, or working on rural development in any way, we are just keeping the countryside from being lived in, we do not help farmers to find new ways to make a living from the land, we have just postponed finding a solution, so although some amazing sites and projects have come out of all of this, I think its time to take it to the next level. To go back to the traditional, and the local, to go back to how people used to live in the countryside only a century ago, and learn from their ways before they are forever lost.

The Case for Sustainability and the Two Drivers of History


Here is an excerpt from a book i’m writing:

I ask myself what is sustainability?

In our field of work, the term sustainable tourism is used a lot, yet I thought before we can look at what tourism is and how it can be sustainable we need to look at sustainability itself, to explore the relationship we have, as Humans, with some underlying forces that seem to interlace through history, weaving in and out of our evolution.

In the beginning of our journey we, as humans, were hunter gatherers. New evidence keeps coming up changing our timelines and new theories pop up almost everyday now, though it is clear we hunted or gathered for our needs, things were simple, and so were our drives.
We made shelters from natural materials, or lived directly in caves and small structures, living in a sort of natural relationship with everything around us. We hunted where animals roamed, and gathered where there were fruit, berries, nuts and honey.
This was our primal relationship in a natural environment.

Our religion or belief system back then was based on nature itself, animism, we venerated the actual phenomena and animals we lived in. We worshipped the sun and stars under which we lay at night. We noted the forces and their affect on us, yet we lived as a direct part of the natural system in which they occurred.

We then started to manipulate nature in an ever increasing degree following a need to create a sort of safety. In order to achieve a plateau of well being, we started not only to store our food, because in the natural stage we did all of that already, like squirrels do before winter. No, we started to manipulate nature itself, to provide us its substances directly without the need to go around and look for it and we invented farming.

The driving force that I am referring to here is the drive to accumulate. In this, our first stage away from the natural, we started accumulating food through the invention of farming and agriculture, in a way that allowed us to become sedentary, or semi-sedentary to begin with, because I guess we still liked to travel. That as a side note was possibly the beginning of tourism, (I am just joking). What I am saying is that in the start we kept on living as part hunter gatherers, part farmers. The domestication of wheat, the social crop, allowed us to become farmers, some mythologies say the gods themselves gave us agriculture.

Around 11,000 years ago as we were coming out of an unexpected mini Ice age we see the rise of strange settlements, like the one in Göbekli Tepe in the Southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey. I wonder what this sudden cooling of the earth for a relatively short period, ending in another global warming in a relatively short period, would have felt like to the people wandering in it.

There are many theories about what caused it, some argue that a massive comet struck the earth and so bringing the start of the Younger Dryas. But whatever the reason is, in Göbekli Tepe we see a people, thought to be hunter gatherers, in the very same area that wheat and grain domestication had first taken place, yet those people had been building temple complexes with pillars of stone 6m high, hewn into sockets they made into the bedrock itself.

Strange animals adorn those pillars, mostly symbolic for star constellations. I personally love to imagine what it felt like for those people. What did the earth feel like to them? Why did they make those temples? What were the importance of those symbols they worked so hard to erect in the enclosures on that hill? Why did they bury it again, and what made them come together as a large group of people, as it must have taken one to build such a thing?

We see people moving out from one stage of living with nature into another social organisation, bigger groups with a different type of belief systems. They are no longer roaming the earth in smaller groups but are now building settlements and temples, which must have meant they lived in the area for a long enough period, and had enough time and people to build such a temple complex. I guess we can try and imagine what the earth looked like for those people, suddenly cooling, possibly going through a massive destruction event, and then warming up again, into a sort of spring of new hope. But in any case we see the rise of a new type of social order, and another relationship with the natural world emerging, and possibly as a result our first ancient grains.

Why did we even want to live in ever larger groups? This question brings us to the other driver force of history: the power that brings people together, a sort of base urge, a desire of sorts, or maybe it is a power in itself.
Maybe we are pack animals, and like wolves, the power in numbers and the subsequent safety was the reason, because as an animal we compete with some predators only because we are better at manipulating the environment around us. I argue that this need we have to create larger groups of people is something inherent in us, primal, possibly more magical than just relating to our safety, and we can follow it as a thread through history. It is a search for power, the power of people coming together.

Yet this driving force is a little harder to highlight – it’s the actual force we feel together as a group. As it is rarely (if ever), spoken about as a thing of its own I need to borrow a term from the 13th century Scholar Ibn Khaldun again.

Ibn Khaldun speaks about Assabyia, the group feeling, the power of the tribe, and argued that it was the “driver of history”, and that nomads, because they practice a purer form of life that is closer to the natural cycle, always have more of it. They have a stronger group consciousness over sedentary people. As they possess more of it, they also find it much easier to conquer other people, and he argued that with time, that force becomes corrupted because nomads become sedentary too after winning over their neighbours. The easier life they practice in turn, because of the spoils they plunder or inherit, makes them vulnerable to a new group of nomads who have stronger group adhesion and consciousness, and so the cycle goes on.

With the advent of farming a new reality was possible and so we started creating villages, which later turned into towns, then cities, calling for an ever larger scale of farming and domestication, allowing a larger food supply to be made in any given locale. We can raise the question here already – was that a sustainable way to live? Obviously it raised issues, about over-using the land, about the need of grazing for bigger herds of domestic animals, about sanitation, about removing ourself from nature.

We can say that people started as small families, turned into clans and then into tribes, and that group consciousness, the feeling of being together, that power that allowed them to do so, or the feeling of an ever increasing body of family and blood ties has become a sort of commodity they started looking to increase on its own. Ibn Khaldun argued that blood ties are always stronger than anything else, meaning that when a person lives with a certain group but is not related to them by blood, his alliance with them would never be as strong, his was a first ever made research of that group force as thing on its own, highlighting what is social power, and how it is obtained.

In our next mutation away from the natural state, becoming farmers and starting to build larger settlements together, we saw the need to accumulate possessions and store food rising to a new high, and with it the search for an ever increasing grouping. So our settlements have grown into cities, so by definition, larger than 10,000, forming a chain of those into civilisations. Grain storage meant we can keep food for longer times, and social organisation over our farming allowed us to live together in even bigger groups, again I would ask why did we even want to live in such bigger groups. Has the drive to have a bigger pack, bigger group identity got so removed that we felt like we needed to be ever increasingly bigger?, was that sustainable?

Again many theories have been put forth, because it is strange how in seemingly a short period time (relatively speaking) we see humanity moving away from being, supposedly, hunter gatherers that roam around, yet a moment later they are not just building temples, they are building whole cities, and now, pyramids to strange gods.

It has been argued that all of this must have been caused by some interference, that the gods were actually from another planet, or remnants of an older civilisation that survived the impact that brought the Younger Dryas forth. That those more advanced people taught hunter gatherers and brought them together, but for whatever reason, and though personally I like to imagine those scenarios and ponder what the migrations of early man would have felt like, something big has changed in us, or someone bigger than us changed us, as some claim.

Civilisations needing us to come up with complex systems of organisation, to ease sourcing our food and farming in order to make them more efficient, enabling us to feed our cities, also saw the birth of whole social hierarchy and a new system of value that transformed actual commodities into units, or into point system, in other words, money came into being. Things were assigned values, a certain value can be bartered in exchange of commodity.

Our belief systems also changed, we moved away from worshipping natural phenomena like rain, and wind, cave and mountains, the stars and the heavens. A sort of abstraction took place, we started assigning governing forces of natural phenomena, something that possibly originated with the idea that the stars as they move through the sky control or affect the things that happen down on earth. We grouped certain stars into constellations because they looked like things we knew, and we gave them attributes, we believed they controlled the way things happened on earth, we were no longer simply worshipping the power of mountain and cave, or special attributions of animals, we started believing in an abstraction that governed those forces.

So if in Göbekli Tepe we brought down the consolations down to earth,
in some strange need to have heaven near us, so we can be amongst the stars that affected us so much, Civilisation in Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and Egypt saw us dividing the sky into equal portions and giving the heavenly powers the earth itself. The gods were now beings that we can see as people, yet they came from above, the sky was split into the 12 sections with the signs of the zodiac, into areas of influence. Each of those “gods” held a power over an aspect of earth, so heaven was portioned and each portion ruled a part. It was a mirror image of the social organisation that was taking place in order to govern over larger groups of people. It symbolises the birth of government organisations, and our first religions were simply that, systems that facilitated unifying an ever increasing body of people under the same heaven, and not the other way around, someone or something, used belief in order to take us into larger settlements as a way to group us in ever increasing body of people.

In Hamlet’s Mill, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend argue that our mythologies and belief systems all originated with astrological constellations, that our first legends were actually the movement of stars that we observed, stories of giants and hunters, Orion and Hercules, serpents and dragons.
We started believing in a personification of ruling powers, that controlled and governed natural phenomena, the birth of our first gods and goddesses, brought down to earth like falling stars to live amongst us.
As we can argue about what came first, our belief system or the social order that they facilitated, I am only outlining their relationship here.

Our new gods and goddesses allowed us to not to be reliant on nature, and it meant we can hold the group unifying feeling through a belief that was removed from nature itself, as after all our new system of belief was ruled by higher forces, it helped facilitate a move away from being nomads that travel the earth, worshipping the powers of the places that they travel through. We invented, or possibly inherited, or maybe even got given by someone else, a new system of faith, with a new pantheon of ruling forces that dominated the natural world around us.
Possibly it was part of us being dominated as well, by some more advanced race, but maybe instead of laying the blame elsewhere, we can simply say that we changed it.

The two drivers of history saw us arrange our belief systems to suit. We did not need the natural world to unify us anymore, we could worship through abstraction, powers that were distilled out of the constellations of the night sky into a race of gods. We built them pyramids and ziggurats, stepped temples, because they were in the heaven above us, and we were here down on earth, so even though we brought them to live with us they were still above us, at the end of a long flight of stairs.
In our newly made cities, now storing mountains of grain, and contemplating our first empires, we could do so much more together, but why did we want to? Was it sustainable for us to build a mountain of stones to gods that were no longer natural?

At the same time, this complex social organisation saw us needing a whole order of people to rule over us, to direct us, and the new belief system helped there too: we needed priests to talk on our behalf to the rolling forces that controlled everything. In an ever increasing pantheon every aspect and attribute was simply assigned a new god, a god of its own. Were those gods really descended from heaven, or did we just start inventing them? We even had a god for wine – was this some sort of early attempt at branding?

We can see how the driving force of accumulating in order to have safety out of the fear of scarcity, has become a force of its own now, a spiralling hunger – not only did we manipulate nature now, we also started manipulating the people that manipulated nature on our behalf, with the aim of amassing more.

Now that we were so efficient in satisfying our physical hunger, and we did not need to move like we did before as part of the natural system, the driving force that saw us safe through accumulating turned into a sort of endless need, to have more, but how much more is sustainable, what is the point of having an empire? Was it some strange ruling caste that needed to blindfold us, having us believe that we needed to be bigger and stronger, or was it simply us? And the power of being a people-together has mutated into something so big we wanted to be a nation, we wanted to be an empire, but what for? Were we better off? We seem to have lost our conversation with the natural forces at that point, lost nature itself and were now living in stone prisons, each assigned our own cells with walls all around us, worshipping a mountain that we built. Did that natural driving force, the pride and power we felt as small groups of people sharing a common identity turn too into a hunger that has driven us mad?.

We took to fighting and conquering our neighbours, usually people who were less advanced or closer to nature, still living in some sort of tribal grouping, and so smaller. A new type of relationship developed in which our belief system, and our way of life started being seen as stronger then theirs, our hunger to have more, now losing any proportions, could only be satisfied in the quick gain of taking from others, enslaving them. Who thought about this first?.

Were we ruled by some strange elite of survivors from another place? Were they not satisfied with how many of us they had to serve them, they needed us to go around and find more, how much food can one eat? If you already have a pyramid to sit on, and are dressed in gold, how many more pyramids do you need and how much gold is enough? I guess now that we have manipulated all the natural forces we simply did not know what to do with the drive to accumulate, we mutated nature, and our basic natural drivers and desires have mutated in us. Yet they have always been the same core forces. As if at any given point we can just jump ship, let the pyramid fall and go back to nature.

Because of the natural character of that force Ibn Khaldun called Assabyia, the group feeling was always stronger in smaller groups, in tribes that lived closer to nature, with less, holding a stronger cohesion, bound together by harsher living situations, by desert and mountain. And so although empires now have risen through our cunning and ability to organise and group new criteria together, they also fell, becoming corrupted by the excess, by the easy life that comes with wealth, and so we see that the hunger to accumulate and the need to become more powerful people are also interrelated with each other, and seemingly governed by some sort of fail safe mechanisms that regulates them, as if we too, are in an endless cycle of harvest. Our wheat grows into empires and is cut from the sheath, the fields of civilisation seem to lie empty, just to have new crops shoot up with golden grain rise just to be harvested by another people. It seems that no one civilisation reaped its own harvests, it was always cut by the rise of another, made out of groups of nomads, dying to try their hand at the empire game, the game of thrones.

Ibn Khaldun lived in the 13th century, we can see how at points civilisation brought an amazing wealth of well being, he enjoyed a sort of world peace that has never happened before, allowing new schools of thought to develop, yet still with an element of danger. The Muslim world view was divided between the Dar as-Salam, literally meaning the house of peace, also referred to as the house of Islam, seeing the Islamic world reaching from Morocco to deepest heart of Asia. In contrast with the house of war, Dar al-Harb, the world was divided into countries that held a treaty of peace or of non aggression and countries that did not.

Another famous Arabic scholar travelled that world of peace from side to side, over 30 years Ibn Battuta (a Moroccan scholar) saw himself moving from country to country, as a scholar, travelling without the need of money, treated as the guest of honour in every city or village he came through. It was a world of peace, that allowed thought and sciences to flourish. Yet with that the threat of the nomad in the form of the mongol horde still ever present. So It is easy to see how Ibn Khaldun could underline those two different ends of a process and how he came about to identify the group feeling or force as the driver that moves them. After all not only he was an historian he actually sat and interviewed Timur himself, the golden age of muslim thought combined with the dramas of Turco-Mongol conquest has outlined to him the power that makes and breaks empires and dynasties.

He wrote about it as a natural force of sort, and I tend to agree with him, I think that both those forces – the need to accumulate wealth and power, came out of a natural place in us, but as we lost our natural place in the world, those two have also lost a natural character, leaving us with the same basic hunger, but without a natural way to satisfy it, we started suffering from a social obesity, we ate countries and empires to satisfy something, but what?, was it sustainable for us, what was the benefit of it?. Sure we can do so much more as large groups of people, but who actually wants to do all of that. Was it a sort of experiment in trying to see what we can do?, amazing inventions and horizons have been reached, but was our life more sustainable, was our spirit purer?.

This system of exploitation is a simple basic urge too I guess, to take something from someone else, to work less, to have more. Tribal people’s all over the world were forever engaged in a system of stealing and waging war on their neighbours.

If you read about Native American plain Indians, you can see a whole social system that was built around the fighting of neighbouring tribes, that was how one advanced in his own tribe, constantly engaged in war with one’s neighbours. A question that has been asked, was if at any point in history those elements were actually sustainable?, it is obvious any given people were always engaged under those two driving forces, but did any of them learn to recognise them, did they learn to live sustainably with them?. Or was it always just a question of gathering more, having more power just to lose it to someone else?. Did we ever reach harmony with the forces that rule our fates?.

I have to admit that native Americans had a different sort of relationship with that cycle of power and wealth, maintaining some sort of values inside that system, like honour, like being a warrior, like courage, like generosity. The thing that mattered wasn’t so much what you gained, it was the way you went about fighting for it, it was your spirit and how you carried yourself in the conduct of war, how you managed to deal with those two basic drives within yourself, so although one was always going to take from others, one was also elevated in the social system for giving it all away, as if all that mattered was how it built your character, and not what you gained by taking through war.

So that system strengthened the tribal feeling, and because every tribe was somewhat engaged in the same activity it was much more cyclic, almost as if all the tribes have recognised in an unspoken way that they all will keep on fighting each other, knowing no one will ever win, but as a way to keep their young people brave, and their spirit strong, to keep the group spirit and tribal force always sharp and ready, they did not try to build empires, and it seems that their lives were almost regulated through this never ending tribal war, keeping them forever strong as a people.

Although the basic assumption was still that every tribe wanted to become the most powerful, to have more fighting man, to have more horses. There was a sort of recognition of the powers that ruled and worked through the system, the concept of the “giveaway” for example, it was seen to be more honourable to give away your possessions, so a warrior could come back from a raid with 3000 horses, yet keep two for himself, gifting all the rest.

And although farming was practiced, it was kept in balance with hunting and gathering. I do not know if a system that is built on constant war with all your neighbours is sustainable, yet I need to admit that there is some recognition of the values and how they work through the people’s life. So native Americans seems to keep themselves closer to the natural process, and although driven by that hunger to possess more, they gave it away to their tribe, and accepted without loss of too much that their neighbours would steal it back the next day, it was not just a hunger to have, it was a social system that kept their society fresh and strong, yet forever bloody.

Because this could be an endless field of research, and looking for tribal groups and how they managed to keep those drivers of man through history in check, and because I do not wish to have to defend myself out of lack of accurate information. I will just raise the questions here, did we ever know how to live together as a people? and did we ever live in a sustainable way, why do we always feel like we need more?.

James P. Beckwourth has written one of the best books (in my opinion) about living with the Crow Indians, he has even become one of their chiefs, yet as a modern man, although he has risen through the warrior ranks through his bravery, he also speaks about the constant need that they had for war, the blood in contradiction. It holds an interesting sort of conversation that takes place inside himself, because while he lived as a Crow, he was also engaged as a trader, and so through his work one can read the clash of values, with him swaying back and forth in-between two worlds and belief systems yet somehow strangely balancing them both inside himself.

Before we stray too far and as we just spoke about the golden age of the Arabic world through Islam, I think we should look for a moment at monotheism to explore the last mutation of our belief systems.
The rise of a singular god allowed people to group again in a new way. I am interested in it because I believe that it arose first as a sort of mutation, it was not just a direct progress of social order, it seems to be a special criteria.

Judaism was designed around a god that spoke only to the jews, its a perfect god for a people that travel into the lands of other people, so keeping themselves from mingling. Their god, I would say, is a sort of hybrid of that group feeling itself. Maybe in certain situations a tribe or a people has had such a strong group identity, it gives rise to an entity, a god born of the coming of a certain people, it was the sum total of their tribal feeling, their Assabyia, a tribal god. It is a different sort of god, because it is tailored specifically to them, and as they get stronger, seemingly it does too.

Their god takes them to a holy land, their personal relationship with it allows it to guide them through the desert as a pilar of smoke and fire, descending down on their holy tent, only to rise again and lead them again, to a land they are to take from another people. It was a special kind of criteria, although the obvious need to take and amass, to conquer the land of their neighbours and make it their own, is still the same as in other cases. The second force which is the need to amass a group feeling was kept on a certain kind of rein, because their god is only theirs through blood relation, it seems to ignore other people and so it stops them from growing exponentially, maintaining a sort of common factor that has seen them through history, always living in amongst other people, yet maintaining their identity. So maybe some people throughout history have created more durable self identity, but was theirs more sustainable?, even if they managed to keep themselves as a people, or a group, or a tribe for longer.

Jesus saw Christianity take this one-god-one-people and open it to everyone. Anyone who wished to believe in it could, it was a perfect solution to amassing an ever increasing number or people into one belief, yet it lacked in cohesion and national identity. And the same with Islam. The fall of the tribal systems through empires meant that the criteria that grouped people together has also changed radically. The prophet Muhammad in the Quran introduces a new system of faith to the Arabs, in a systematic call to move away from Jahiliyyah, literally meaning ignorance, a pre-islamic world in which people were divided into tribes worshipping idols, or practicing animism was being wiped clean. It is a good example showing us that religion is a sort of progress of human thought, of organisation into a new social structure, rather than a call for belief.

The Quran, meaning literally “the reading” of Muhammad is like a party manifesto for new society, one that is not aligned to the tribal anymore, so away from the powers that control nature or the power of nature itself into one power that controls everything, away from small or big tribes, away from national identity into something new, and like we said before just before the golden wheat of the Islamic world was cut down by invasion of nomads, it gave birth to a golden age with seeds of thought that still sparkle in each of our modern sciences.

So we have those two main themes interweaving and going through history, the magical ability that people possess to group together and form a bigger body, by group consciousness, and the human trait to horde and store things for later date, and the natural process through which they both seem to corrupt under making us weaker and giving rise to another system that is more powerful.

Our need to have more seems to weaken the ability we have to hold being together. Yet after we lose everything, we again have a strong drive, and a hunger, and that force makes us come together and own more again, in an endless cycle. That is the basic relation between the two.

As humans we horde more than we could ever need, we look for the enlargement and manipulation of natural forces beyond a certain point, and from that point onwards those forces go into decline and social destruction. the question here again will be, what is sustainable?. What is it exactly that we need, what are the values we hold and wish to maintain?. We sail through history in our little boats, so it is hard for each one of us to actually see the ocean, it is hard to figure out how to navigate its water, our immediate occupation with needs or the desire to become more has forever stopped us from figuring out how we can balance all the urges and needs and the powers within us and arrive at some balanced shore.

like in the story of the tower of Babel, god is looking down on us, scared we will reach the heavens, and what did we ever want to do in the heavens?, did we want to go amongst the stars that have become our gods?. Was it not enough that we brought them down to enslave us?.
God has given us too many languages and we can no longer speak to each other, and our towers always fall, can’t we see that every-time we build one of his pyramids or mountains from stone they end up falling down?. Cant we find a way that sustains itself, and lives in a sort of harmony with the powers around us?.

In the Old testament the motive to building the tower of Babel was the flood, the people who survived it gathered and decided to do so in order for them not to perish again or actually, scatter all over the earth, but is building towers better than roaming the earth?.

To drive this timeline to the current stage from the 13th century with its golden age of thought as a sort of zenith, to the current which is no longer tribal, nor even a people living in nations, into its final stage, globalisation.

For a while our famous Human drivers went underground, the devastation that came with the mongol invasion affected both the Islamic world and Europe, although the later was affected more through something else that came with mongols, the rats that carried the fleas that brought the plague. So for a while our social order and its voyage into building forever larger units of accumulation was halted, the house of peace was destroyed, and Europe was decimated, again the powerful nomads ran their sword of tribal unity through the soft lives of the sedentary. Laying to ruin a world of science and thought, and plunging Europe into the dark ages alongside in some sort of afterthought. There is this story of a Russian prince visited by an Eastern sorceress, she comes into his court with two warriors, and said to him “relinquish all your lands to me”, he laughed, the next day the mongol horde descended.

But like always, when destroyed we come back, forever hungry for more. With the building of ships that can cross the oceans and the trade wars between the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and English the world itself (like the heavens before) was divided into hunting grounds so to speak, starting with the spice Islands, South America, and than North America, although at the start nothing of value could be traded or got from the later. The Spanish cashed in the whole of the Inca and mayan world, like a cheque they took to their bank.

And so with our new one-god religions, we simply went and took away everything from everyone, systematically enslaving them for our benefit. We made every indigenous society our serfs, we gave them our gods, and made them work for us. Maybe after all it did take us some 5000 years to come to terms with this amazing business plan, all those years to understand what was done to us by some visitors from another earlier civilisation, or as some claim, an alien species of gods, yet now we got it, we don’t work hard, we get someone else to work.

We have created pockets of wealth under that business plan, a system of organised plunder, pockets that were taken thousands of years to develop, mined from the earth, collected from a million of slaves, all those small units on our barter system put into a cache. Yes it had been happening all along in many different ways, empires have been doing it all along, tribal people were doing it all long, farmers were doing it all along, even hunter gatherers did, just that now we got stupidly good at it.

We ended up with a globalisation system, and a sort of command that we must modernise any people not taking part in it, maybe we are jealous that we lost our contact with nature and our own tribe and they still have both, maybe we see that they live a simpler life, and that they have values, they do not run hungry without the ability to satisfy their hunger. They are hungry but then they eat, we eat endlessly but are never fulfilled so we have become fat.

In our clever barter system if the value of money is one unit, and if we need to each have say, 100 units to live well, what does it mean that we have amassed pockets in which we store a trillion of those units. What can even be done with so much?, sure they are in gold, so they will never rust. But what is sustainable?. The gold was in a pocket in the earth to begin with, and now it is stored in a room that is locked, and no one can go into this room, the person who owns it will never need to use it, so was it not better that we left it in the actual ground to begin with? What is the big difference, between it being inside a mountain where everyone can get it but with effort, and it being inside the belly on the earth in a cellar in which no one can get to it and it is just stored, is that actually so different that we needed to enslave half of the earth for it?.

Did we want to lose any unifying identity, did we want to lose contact with the natural forces that surround us? what is actually going on? are we still angry that we couldn’t reach the stars? That our towers always fall?

In any case I have gone through this timeline in order to highlight the two main forces that seem to have been driving us all along, mutating into their current form as – wealth and political power.
In order for us to think more clearly about what is sustainability I thought I best ask it as a series of questions, because like I said at the start of this timeline, when people speak about sustainability it seems they can only think about curbing carbon emissions, but the whole conversation of what sustains us, and if we can live with it in a sustainable way evades them. Can we find harmony with the cycles and powers that rule our lives?

Bringing A Sustainable Vision to Glamping

This is a longer version of an article which was featured in the June edition of the International Glamping Magazine.

As a result of the number of different campsites we work with we have gai ed a unique insight into the Glamping industry as a whole. People often talk to us about their business ideas, about what structures work for them, how they set up, and also about their issues, even on an emotional level. Its quite eye opening, a lot of it is because we treat them like family, some have been our clients for over ten twelve years, so the trust goes both ways. We see the industry like being part of a large family and at times we feel like we bring them all together, because whilst they compete with each other (so to speak), we are their tent makers. 

So as we are trying to view this whole industry as a family we can look at it this way, the structure or tent makers keep selling their dream homes to others, and the site owners are selling their dream lives as a product, so Glamping is a product that we all provide, an experience of a dream life we create for others. 

As early as 2008 I was talking to a campsite owner woman in what was one of the most renowned sites in France, and the picture she painted was, that the success of there site, having been in the papers, turned it into a constant stream of people visiting, she said they were like vampires, all wanting to find out about her, and telling her how she is living the dream, but in reality she felt broken, like they sucked the joy out of that dream life, as if she was actually selling her life, and they came to her campsite for it, rather than to enjoy it, so what started as a really nice small campsite that enjoyed families with young kids and open attitude, lost its charm and she felt it also lost its appeal as far as she was concerned, and eventually the site was sold. 

 I am over dramatising a point, because this industry works with people in their best moments, when they holiday when they get married, or at a festival, so usually there is a general positive vibe, and people are happy, although of course people complain about tents and being in nature etc, but the case im trying to highlight is of where we all were and where we saw it going, as a vision that is somewhat lost in interpretation. 

Cornish Tipi Holidays: one of the original Glamping Sites in the UK (even before the word ‘Glamping’ was invented.

The Heartland programme starts with us all as a family, whilst trying to bring back the focus of sustainability to the thing that matters most, our own lives, and our dreams, as tent makers and as site owners, it seeks to bring back the values and meaning and the feeling of being one tribe, to create a reality that sustains the owners and tent makers, and one that has environmental sustainability as a core.  

For many years all of this was just something that took place while we made tents for our clients, we tried to make some changes and influence the industry as a whole as early as 2009 when we made the world gathering of yurt makers, it was meant to be followed by a similar event for site owners. But like other things running a small business and our own way of living took precedence and so although we felt strongly about all of this we did not take it further, everyone seems to be occupied in running their sites, and trying to hack a living from this new life style business. 

The Industry has grown exponentially since then, and we try to do our best by holding some kind of centre for it as a family, helping our regular clients with support and advice, because we are all in it together. We focus a lot on collaboration because it allows us to do more, and we like taking part in more projects. 

It has provided a good livelihood for us, one that is hard work, but allows us to see the results immediately, sometimes we reflect on a tent we are making, realising that some 800 people are going to have amazing experiences in it, so its rewarding, although at the same time we feel we have been doing it for so long, especially in the run for Easter, when we have to wake up at 4am for months to catch up with all the new covers for another spring rush, all our campsites clients are opening up needing those new covers. We hold our breath for some 50 different covers to match the frames we tailored them to. Every client needs his covers yesterday, and its demanding meeting all of their different needs at the same time, but we enjoy it, and having got to know so many of the site owners on a personal level, its like a game we all play once or twice a year, and it works.

 What we want to talk about in this article is are own unique vision for this industry, and so our story takes us to an exciting country, Italy.  We have branched out into Italy to start our own campsite because we felt like the UK is a little saturated and the land based link and vision with rural development was broken, as a whole, we felt like something was missing in all of it, a meaning. 

 Here was a perfect chance to influence a developing market in a more integrated way. Upon seeing where the country is at and especially in those marginal mountain villages that are spread along the dragon backbone of the Apennines, we decided to try and do something much braver than we set out in the first place. We decided to try to tackle the Italian depopulation and rural abandonment through the tools of sustainable tourism, and the truth is that it was not all easy.

 We have found first, that Italians do not understand the back to nature approach, and why should they, everyone has some nona in the countryside, this is where you go to get bored, not to holiday. There is so much to choose from, the whole country is up for grabs and especially in the mountains. In the UK you can’t buy 5 acres of land to develop, in Italy people were offering us castles for maintenance fee only. Yet they themselves will prefer to go and holiday by the sea and eat lazily into the piazzas, so it took some convincing to get them ignited, to get them to understand why people want to go and live in a tent where there is nothing. 

To further explain this issue, we need to look at why camping is so sort after in the UK, and the reasons to me are two, one is that as a trend the country side is seen as somewhere to enjoy, and although this is admirable it stems from the countryside not being available to live in, the UK planning law makes it really hard for people to go and build in the open countryside, and so prices in the countryside have become extremely high, and it is as if nature is a commodity we can only see but not live in. The other point is that the trend or attitude we have to the countryside in the UK is taken from the upper classes. People do not see the country as somewhere you go to work yourself to the bone, it is seen as somewhere you go to enjoy, to holiday, to take the air. 

Victorian view of Camping

Italy is almost the opposite, anyone can build in the open countryside if only he owns enough agricultural land, but one hectare is enough, the countryside is mainly lived in by lower classes, who view it as some sort of old life they must shed. I know I am again over dramatising a point, because I have not met any people who love their land as much as Italian farmers, but the general trend or view is of disregard to the amazing natural beauty, as if they need someone form the outside to come and help them appreciate it, this point is also why Glamping has not caught as much in Italy, and of course there are many other factors, like the amount of amazing properties available to renovate in the countryside, or simply to buy and move into.

After 4 years of work thorough the Heartland Association, and endless meetings we now run a successful programme in this amazing country, born out of a simple idea to have our own site in which we offer a special sustainable tourism experience, but turning into a whole system for rural development through sustainable tourism. 

The program aims to treat the owners as the first circle, so we try to help people to build smaller sites, with about three units. We prefer to encourage people to open up as an agriturismo, because this amazing Italian scheme is more flexible than setting a campsite, and less restricting, but its the meeting point of organic farming, and using the site as some sort of local engine selling and showcasing the local surrounds, through food an activity, it creates a steady stream of visitors that can have a high quality, slow tourism experience, and it allows the site owners to live comfortably in the countryside, and enjoy it because a small family can run three units easily by themselves, where if those were ten, the focus will be on running the business and not on the lifestyle. 

yurts italy
Yurt at the new Cerchio Del Desiderio Glamping, Abruzzo

We focus on elements like transformational events, special forms of farm to plate of organic produce, and integration with local community and tradition. One example is the ancient grains of Abruzzo, something we tried to promote as a link to health and the tradition of local farming, We have fallen in love with some of the local wheats, and have some exciting ideas about bringing those into the UK, but that is a matter for another time, every place in Italy has its own produce, its own olive oil, and its own cooking, so its easy to see how this system can work.

Another thing we focus a lot on is volunteers, so getting young people from all over the world to come and take part in our project, to learn new skills and have a cultural exchange, and in a way this part was also the most successful one as far as I am concerned because I have found that getting to people at a certain stage in their lives, before they even get to University and showing them another way can change them forever. Seeing some of those young people change from one end to the other, showcases to me that being exposed to an alternative lifestyle can make so much difference, so those are the elements of this program, its a call for slower tourism, more linked to experiencing the real location, helping the site owners enjoy a country lifestyle.

Because we can not actually meet the needs of all the projects we work with, as we run all of this alongside our tent making, we have gathered an impressive array of structure manufacturers, names like Outstanding tents, Featherdown farms, hot tub, sauna suppliers and log cabin builders. We contacted estate agents in areas that we deem are of special natural interest and of need of rural rebirth, mainly in the Abruzzo region that we love. So we now also have lists of amazing properties to develop that we can offer clients and people interested in moving abroad, and it’s a way for us to help people find properties that they will not have access to otherwise, because we have found that while a lot of people dream of that house in the sun, upon coming to the country they face one estate agent and potentially miss out on their dream home, and its a shame because moving abroad is already a big step, and it should be done correctly, But all of this is also an important part of this program, its collaboration, because we run all aspects with a larger body of others, it helps create cohesion, at times sites even help each other, and people use the same architect, and structures from the same suppliers, and it creates more cohesion and a level of respect for each other’s space of operations.

I guess at some point like any successful venture this whole system has taken wings of its own. We developed this system around a simple model, a small campsite that becomes a shop window for the local community, it sells organic end product on the site, and so the ssite’s own product is actually an experience of a sustainable life.

It creates a system of small sites that have their owners well being and country living at heart, their sustainability and economic well fare first, than they also become something of an ambassador for the local village or town, working with farmers in bringing back old fruit and veg varieties that were grown in the past, weaving it with the traditional food and tradition that Italy is so rich with, and of course bringing a steady stream of visitors to place of amazing natural beauty with historical interest, and in Italy that is the main tool to fight depopulation and abandonment by creating a steady flow of visitors, yet here too the flow has to be sustainable, because otherwise it overwhelms those small local communities and they become overrun so to speak, losing their unique rural footprint.

A beautiful site for a Glamping in Abruzzo

With the success of it all some new questions came up, and being part of the industry for so long in the UK we asked ourselves, why don’t we apply some of this in the UK too? We always wanted to do things differently, to focus on a more sustainable approach, to bring this family more together. Glamping used to a be family of people we knew, something that has now grown into a massive Industry, yet lost for direction, a common vision, a purpose in the larger scheme of things.

The question is how can we bring it into a role in rural development, and how can we reconnect all of its elements into a larger family that moves in a similar direction?. We have now decided to try this program in the UK too, because we see a call to create a system for sustainable rural development and regeneration through tourism.  

As a first step glamping sites can simply create a list of add-ons that are sourced locally and sold to the client, from food to craft, exploring the tradition, history and nature locally, and a lot of this is already happening. But what could happen much more, is using glamping as a window to living in nature full time, not just as a holiday, because if you like doing it for a week, why not find a way to do so all year round, it could be like a revolving door taking more and more people into sustainable lifestyles, homes in nature.

We feel that this way two things can happen, people who run sites can find a common ground with their visitors and actually focus more back on the dream that took them into such a lifestyle business to begin with. The point is that talking to a lot of our clients we feel that through working with so many visitors they have had to distance themselves from the site, some owners (usually the ones who run the bigger sites) do not even go on site anymore. And I feel that the initial dream they set out with is lost. What if they could play a role in taking people back to nature on another level too, they could support rural economy by creating a shop window for all the local growers, and more than all they could bring themselves to be sustained in their own dream, because when we speak about sustainability that is the aspect that is ignored most of all, the human element, the person behind the program, the person who runs the business.  

So our vision is for some kind of synergetic system that can develop, allowing people to start building small innovation and business and enter into country side homes from a more sustainable point of view, build small campsites that support local communities and are sustained by a small yet steady stream of people visiting with a possible aim to also, in turn, move to the the countryside in similar way themselves. 

The other day I was talking to a new cabin maker company from Eastern Europe and while me and her got really excited about sustainable building solutions, she mentioned the housing market too, and although I spend a lot of time thinking about all of those possibilities, I never thought about taking Glamping and turning it into the new housing market!. Coming to think about it, why not?, so I think that this is another possible direction for this program in the UK, because there is a real need for affordable homes. After all why like we said, go and live in an amazing house or cabin for one week of the year if you can actually live in it all year round. Councils can build them as a more affordable and sustainable housing solution too, I can just see it, veering off in your car to the outskirts of a small village and instead of rows of cement and brick you enter a fairy land of wooden houses and gardens, the glamping council estate, that would be something, hot tubs and birds, and kids in wellies pulling carrots up. 

Like I said being in the centre of this big family has given us a unique view into the industry as a whole. Often it is very driven by profit and we all forget to ask ourselves where are we going with it, some part of this big family have become very successful, yet talking to them on the phone some days I feel like we are missing something, that tribal feeling we used to all share in beginning sitting around those fires together. 

I feel that on some level we failed to create an opening in to an alternative way of life that is more sustainable as a whole, and this is what a lot of us miss, that commonality. It like the shoemaker’s kids walking barefoot, I guess we miss walking barefoot  (I’m just joking) Im just saying there is a sell-off and dispersal of the values and life we used to cherish because we all turned them into a product, and so the idea is simple to use the product to take us back to the same place we started at. 

Samara Hawthorn at her land, Bryn yr Blodau, Pembrokeshire

I have a friend who is on the on the very interesting one planet development program in Pembrokshire, she is called Samara Hawthorn, this amazing program in Wales has got some 30-40 families through the application process, allowing them to build their homes in the open countryside, they need to showcase they get 60% of their income from the land and the site directly, and it has a set of parameters for low carbon foot print etc. 

 I think it ended up that a few of those pioneers so to speak, end up working endlessly to showcase another way of life simply by living it, they break their backs to do something which should be more supported, I feel that although planners have done amazing work by allowing people to build in the open countryside that way, and that the scheme as a whole is exactly the type of development we would love to see more of, it could be more sustainable for those families if they taught the life style by creating an experience. Their product can be teaching others to go into similar lifestyle, instead the focus on having to make a living mostly from growing makes the program very hard, because although the land base connection is very important, it creates a reality which is a little like open air museum rather than sustainble, and again the Human aspect is not as sustained as it could be in it, or atleast this is my reading of the situation, and this is a shame because so much good work has been done through this program, and Wales is so proud of it, so I wish we can help planners see it and develop it further, into a more extensive policy of back to nature, and creating small households with an opening to others to enter that lifestyle through those projects, I feel this is a true symbiotic relationship.

Yurt on land in Powys, Wales

Councils can help much more by seeing those sites as education centres for a different way of life, and I wish those projects could gain further planning allowing accommodation into their projects, and so spread the message around, so this is another aspect which I think should be the real future of Glamping, holiday with a purpose, taking people and changing their lifestyles, and possibly taking them back to nature for real. We have now looked at the sustainability argument from the opposite direction and made a connection with creating an accommodation outlet into it. 

In this way Glamping is no longer just a holiday, you come in as a tourist and you end up with a possibility of living it full time on your own sustainable household.

To summarise, the Heartland Program that has run so successfully in Italy, is now coming to the UK market too, and although it’s an older market we feel it’s a chance for us to try and do our part in influencing a more sustainable approach. And through the tools of collaboration and innovation we aim to try and focus on rural development vision in the UK too now, we feel we owe it to this industry and to many in our extended family. I feel that the time has come for this industry to see its role in shaping the countryside in another direction, if we can get planners to understand the scope of it too, so much more can be done, because at times its like fighting an endless battle, with the house market as it is, and farming where its at, I think it is a mistake that a whole flow of people trying to get back into the countryside in this way, isn’t helped more, and that the scope of this industry as a vehicle is missed, the fact that a decision has been made to conserve the countryside and not allow anyone to build in the open, has created a steady flow, a need that people have to touch it, to feel it to be in nature, and that should tell us all, that actually there is an endless need for people to go back to it as a lifestyle.  

So you have read it here first!, and if one day you walk into an amazing housing estate that looks like a Glamping site, or you find a small restaurants in a yurt serving organic food that uses ancient local foods with some forgotten Scottish names, or if we all wake up one day and see a whole network of small campsites that teach a different way of life while they bring people into nature, teach people how to do the same. You will then know this program has taken root. its just an alternative future for us in the UK and it is a more sustainable one. And if we manage to solve the housing issue at the same time then it’s an added bonus, because the technology and the solutions are there already, and as a whole there is an amazing movement going this way and we just all need to help it a little, to find a way to work together like the family that we have become, and remember where we all want to go next. 

That is how we work at least and this what our dream and vision is for the industry as a whole. 

Beltane Magic – a Heartland event.

This is our next event in the Heartland site in Abruzzo, Italy. This gathering is about exploring the link between consciousness and nature. In our events, we aim to take people into a lost link, a sort of tribal mindset. Join us for a week in nature learning to make yurts, green wood work, living in full off-grid open nature in the stunning mountains of Abruzzo.

Burning holes in Yurt Wheel

We have created a system for sustainable rural development, but our transformational events is the core of it all, it’s a way we teach others a lifestyle or a way of being. It’s about dropping the boundaries of separation we all hold in order to survive in western society, it’s about going back to a primal way of being. Into the trance of being a people, a tribe, a family.

We use the tool of group consciousness processing work, at past events we have taken groups right through, touching on inner connectivity to such a degree people became telepathic, they knew what each other felt, learned how to affect the weather through their feelings. We focus on conscious cooking as a way into wholeness and well-being. So those events in pure nature, whilst living as a group is our way of giving back and sharing a very special practice we have been taught ourselves.

The Heartland programme has turned into a small family of people who have been changed forever, and this is also a way we hope we can help them by re-connecting to support the openness they each have experienced and bring it into a sort of platform in which they help us share with others.

This event will take place from the weekend of the third of May until the end of the following week. But you are welcome to join us already on the first of May for Beltane.

You can expect to live in pure open nature, so mud and rain, and living in tents as part of a nomad tribe of others, sharing everything from food through work, to the most personal experience.

Our site is in the foot of the Majella massif, one of the most incredible mountains of Italy, to get here you will have to get a local bus to the town of Torricella Peligna from Lanciano (there is a bus from Stazione Storica every other hour or so). Flights to Pescara airport from Stansted with Ryan air are quite cheap, or to Rome. Pescara has a direct bus to Torricella Peligna every day at 11am (but none after). And from Rome you can even get a direct bus from the airport itself, through Dicarlo bus, or similar but those tend to use a drop just off the motorway and you will have to make your way somehow to Lanciano. We prefer people arrive before 4pm in the day. And hope that people can join us for the duration of the event so not to disrupt the flow. But it is open also if you can only come for the weekend etc.

Sweat Lodge in Italy
Lighting the sweat lodge fire

The event will end with a sweat lodge if we deem that the group is ready. and the whole experience calls for respect and openness for collaboration, because after all we live and work together, and we aim to help people go further into their deepest ability, so please come with that in mind, and with an open spirit.

The Best Campsite Opportunity​ in Abruzzo, Italy

As part of the new program we are running in Italy for sustainable development we are helping landowners and existing projects to realise their goals.

We have made a list of properties that are half-developed or which we believe are amazingly suitable for the creation of experiential tourism. Because this program we are running is geared towards rural development, its not just about connecting owners and buyers, or finding the best site etc, its about taking a whole area and marketing it, helping it become more developed, finding ways to get people to regenerate it.

Our current phase of the program is focusing on two amazing valleys in the heartland of Abruzzo, the Sangro and the Aventino, both of which are at the foothills of the Majella massif, with dotted medieval villages who aren’t touched by time, lakes (Bomba, and Lago di Casoli), and beautiful nature are what you can expect from this area, to us this is one of the best areas in Abruzzo for slow tourism.

The other day I went on a site survey for one of the properties we are looking to help develop, and as it is so remarkable we decided to feature it separately.

Nesteled in a quiet forest area at the end of the Sangro valley, not far from the touristic destination of Castle di Sangro, we explored this secret pearl, maybe the nicest terrain I’ve seen to date in Italy. In its origins it was the hunting grounds for an Italian baron, so its one of the case barronale you can find dotted in areas of extreme natural beauty, the gentry in Italy used to own spots they would retire to for sport, and nature, and this is such a spot.

It comprises of 7 hectares of open meadow with ancient oaks, the landscape reminds one of an English estate rather than an Italian one, there are further 3 hectares of land of forest.

The property was bought as a project that has never been completed, and the large historic villa was sold separately, although it too can be bought separately if of interest.

The site location is also very special, because although Abruzzo is an amazing land to discover, its mountain villages and town are usually little on the abandoned side, but Castle di Sangro boasts an endless stream of tourism, mainly because it is so close to the ski area of Roccaraso and because it lies on the valley bottom. Some of the local hotels are booked all year round and that is with 100 rooms or more, very unusual for Abruzzo.

A project to develop the site was already in place and received planning permissions – it comprises a main two-story restaurant and rooms for staying overnight, the building is of log cabin construction. A further and separate building that was meant to be used as a bar, and two wooden sheds or barns for horses etc.

Another advantage of this site, is that the owner is a log cabin builder, and he works very closely with an architect that already knows all the ins and outs of this property, one who already applied for planning for the site, this means that the long open-ended period of planning permissions and finding a builder to realise the project are already taken care of, and so even if the current project is not what you have in mind for your own site, anything else can be realised.

We love this site and feel it is by far the best opportunity we have seen so far in Abruzzo for a top end glamping site in nature. Having us onboard also means that an array of structure makers, from yurts to cabins, hot tubs and sauna are also available to choose from at discounted prices. Contact us to find out the price and more and hope you too will love this project. We can email the old planning permission and structure plans too for you to consider.

abruzzo land to buy
casa baronale
Abruzzo campsite for develpment
abruzzo land to buy
abruzzo land to buy
abruzzo land to buy
abruzzo land to buy
abruzzo land to buy
casa barrolnale
abruzzo land to buy
flower in abruzzo
abruzzo land to buy
abruzzo land to buy

The Heartland ​Program

We promised some exciting new plans for this year, and we have been working hard. We spent a lovely sun-bathed day putting a new yurt up in Pianella,  Abruzzo for a beautiful new campsite. This campsite is owned by one of our clients in the UK, so it was funny seeing two yurts going up at the same time in two different countries and symbolic in a way for where we are taking the Heartland rural development program, as a land bridge between the UK and the continent, sprouting new projects and sustainable rural development.

Trucks and yurts two of our greatest loves

We are attempting to steer Glamping into a new direction in earnest, and this is how the Heartland program was born. Being one of the main structure providers in the UK, has put us in a central position to influence our campsite clients and learn from them. This innovative  program is running parallel now both in Italy and in the UK. We started working with landowners, Estates, and small holdings on creating a new type of campsite, with sustainable development at heart. Kerry Roy who has become a good friend is a really good example, and we believe in her! She is the rising star of Glamping, everything this woman touches turns into gold, so keep your eyes peeled for her new Italian retreat centre! She manages the successful Camp Katur in the UK too.

Sand and green oak framed 14ft at Camp Katur

It was fun seeing yurts we made by Volunteers and in some of the transformational events we run, go up over the same week in two different countries.

As Italy is a waking market where Glamping is concerned, it has given us time to reflect and design things from the ground up, and what has started as a project aimed to build our own campsite in the mountains of Abruzzo has turned into something much bigger. We now run a full service for people wanting to set up campsites in Italy and have a list of properties we hand-pick that are gorgeous and perfect for this type of venture. We have also chosen some of the most beautiful structure providers with saunas, tents and more, alongside some local log cabin builders etc and of course let us not forget our own unique tents. This is a program that takes new owners, especially people from the UK by the hand through all the rigmaroles of setting up a newly sustainable campsite in Italy. But the success of this program has also brought up some questions for us because we work mainly in the UK.

We asked ourselves why don’t we do the same for rural areas in the UK, help land-owners and investors into a new program of rural development, help the large profile of campsites we work with move into a more sustainable route, and so the Heartland program is now coming to the UK too! Into a big and well-proven industry. So if you are a land-owner or someone wanting to set up a new site contact us for more details. If you want to take your new site along a more sustainable route we have a plug-in model that has been proven, but its also a way we can really give back to rural areas, to help preserve history and tradition, bring personal development and transformational events in integration with small scale country living.

In the meantime here are some nice photos of our yurt going up in Italy.

Kerry Roy loving her brand new yurt

 

The Best Pesto, the Italian Za’atar and the secret for making guys fall in love.

Za'atar
The Italian Za’atar

Three years ago I have planted some Za’atar (Origanum syriacum) in the land we have in Italy, this is a native plant in Israel and the surrounding countries it is also the main ingredient in the Za’atar spice, made with sesame seeds and ground sumac. However, as we have been talking about our latest inspiration with food and rural development strategies this time I would like to go on a little journey into Italian food.

We All love pesto, originally a paste from Genova made with Pecorino cheese and pine nuts, Basil, garlic and olive oil. However like many things on our table, we make pesto from whatever herb grows plenty, so Thyme, Oregano, and even Rosemary. Instead of pine nuts, we use whatever nut is in the cupboard. Walnut is a good choice although it can add a little bitterness, Brazil is also a great choice, but as those don’t grow locally I prefer walnut after all the trees are just a little walk away, and so are almonds (although in this case, they came from the bag in cupboard which is quite local to the kitchen).

So back to our thread, in tonight’s cooking blog entry I would like to explore a very simple and potent mix, and what we think now is actually, the best Pesto.

We started with a load of Za’atar herb, at this time of year it has a strong new growth, usually I like to transplant a lot of the herbs by using cuttings, but at times one of the bushes does so well, and using it in teas doesn’t do it enough justice, because the amount exceeds what we can consume fresh. Although come summer we make pesto every third day, if you prefer Basil all you need to do is plant a few plants and keep picking the top leaves only, each leaf will sprout into two new ones so your plant will never go into seed and turn into a mighty bush, at least until winter comes.

Best Pesto

Here is the recipe –

100g of fresh picked Za’atar herb, (you can use Oregano if you can’t get any because you live in northern Europe, although it is like 20% of the strength).

100g of organic Almonds (this makes for a sweet counteraction to the intensity of the Za’atar)

100g of Pecorino cheese (I prefer Sardinian mature pecorino to the Abruzzen ones, although at times you can find a really good homemade one locally).

Olive oil – We use the local veriaties of Intosso and la Gentile most as they are strong and flavourful and those are the trees we have locally.

3 cloves of garlic (you may want to use less if you don’t like it to strong) I prefer the local red garlic of Sulmona, as we grow it in the garden.

pesto ingredients
Pecorino Sardo

To make the pesto put all the ingredients, but starting with the nuts and herb only, in a strong blender, we have an omniblend V. Having now owned it for 5 years we use it daily, it’s good enough to make flour out of grain so the nuts aren’t a problem for it. Once it is all mixed till its a paste you add olive oil, garlic, and the cheese, at this point if your blender isn’t strong its motor has just burned out!, which is a shame as we can not make balck chickpea Humous or even Falafel (also known as blender killer).

This is a short way to making a great dinner because it takes all of 5m, and if you are a pasta lover you can simply cook a great pasta and serve with pesto only.

For the pasta part we use Ancient grain pasta. This time we used senatori cappeli. It’s not as ancient a grain as the Solina or Saragolla we love, but it is considered one of the highest quality “grano duro” for pasta. You can maybe be lucky and taste it at a good Italian restaurant in London, but here in Abruzzo we actually see it as the lesser grain, because it was crossed to produce its characteristics. Where the Solina is an older grain, and the Saragolla traces its origins to one of the earliest the Khureshan wheat (it’s Egyptian) and was supposedly brought over to the area by Bulgarians, hence its name meaning yellow grain, but it made for a better picture than hand made pasta.

For sauce we threw a simple red sauce, Italians maintain that one shouldn’t bother with fresh tomatoes, and they simply use Passata, we only buy organic ones, and although I do prefer fresh tomatoes, to do it justice one has to peel the skins off, and as this is all done already in the bottle and the seeds are sieved its a no brainer for a quick meal. If you start from fresh this could be a great way to say your tomato seeds, I just peel, blend and sieve in that case, or if you prefer having bits you can just peel and cook.

I prefer leeks to onions, and for the best pasta sauce I use an old Jewish Italian method that adds the onion (leeks in this case) only after the sauce, it is sweeter that way. I love using rosemary and I use a lot in pasta sauce, but that is also because I need to keep using as much as the bushes give us. You can add some green like broccoli heads (cima di rapa) or similar. Cook it until it runs thick, I don’t like to overcook it, but the rosemary is my guide in this case and I cook until the dryish herb becomes soft and one with the sauce.

Ancient grain pasta served with Jewish Italian sauce and best pesto

Before we leave this meal there is another part that completes a good recipe. Or rather its a way of cooking, so if growing your own food and inventing dishes out of your favorite herbs and cereals isn’t enough, there is a secret ingredient that is the most important in my opinion, and that is conscious cooking. Although the name may be a little confusing, as it makes it sounds like some new age thing that goes well with yoga, it isn’t. But I call it that because its under that name that I was taught it, the idea is that everything is connected, and cooking is an alchemical act, conscious cooking is a lot about feeling, or the alchemy of only putting in the food what is meant to go there.

When I teach it to others I get asked if I mean cooking with love, I don’t. Conscious cooking is the act of being aware when cooking, It is done by trying to feel or sense all the feelings you actually feel at that moment so they don’t slip by and end in the dinner and get eaten by everyone, because most of the feelings we go through should not really be served to others, the same goes to thinking. In my opinion, it is best to simply not think at all when cooking. But if you already are thinking (we seem to not be able to stop) try and stay in touch with it, and don’t start “running it” into the dinner. There is a more advanced part, its about feeling all the feelings in the space even those which aren’t yours and saving the food from them too, but this may be too farfetched for most so lets keep sweet.

Now, I agree that once you master the basics and you can hold it, and if you have a flow of love you can add it to the mix, but I would prefer someone who is angry yet holding their feelings to cook my dinner most days. This is the basic law, it is hard to explain what feeling your feelings in full actually means, but whilst cooking this is the method I follow. Sometimes when I feel like I have a free hand and I can be creative I use consciousness as an ingredient itself, in that way you can actually choose what effect your dinner will produce in others, and I don’t just mean taste here. I had a great friend who I taught this method to, she used it on a guy she liked. She was so good she only needed to make him a cup of coffee and he fell totally in love with her, it’s not that she wasn’t the falling In love sort of material, she was. Its the magic she put in while making coffee, so you get the idea, and we should leave it at that.

So here is the best Pesto Recpie, the best pasta in London (but only one of the better ones in Abruzzo), and the secret to making guys fall in love with you through coffee.

‘Before It’s too late’

My inspiration currently is food, I’m getting really excited about the connection between old vegetables, cereal and legumes and a way of life that is being forgotten. Like you probably already know we do a lot of work in Italy with sustainable tourism. My current hero though is an American chef called, sean brock.

Hence the title (I stole it from him) – he revived the culinary traditions of the American south from the ground up, that is what I find exciting claiming them back before it disappearnd it’s too late. He didn’t just recreate the recipes which he had loved growing up, he went as far as getting people to grow old grains that were extinct, like Carolina rice, in a search after the real taste. I sometimes play with the idea of running a restaurant like that or having a company called “Real Tastes”, finding the real foods that aren’t grown anymore, growing them and making food for people from them. If you end up at my kitchen table that’s the game I play almost every day, and I think everyone should.

My Current hero (with vegetable tattoos)

What excites me about all of this is creating a way to take people into another layer, into an experience. Into the well being of the past, into the rich taste of real stripey tomatoes, black chickpeas. I mean, seriously wherever you live there have been veg, cereal pulse, cheeses, all grown or made in certain ways for hundreds of years, and it’s worth reaching for that taste, finding that old way of being, and weaving it into your life.

What I like about Sean Brook’s work is that he went after taste the wholesome way, and that inspires me. We have been working with cultivating some old Italian Varieties for the Heartland Association, mainly wheat, with the queen grain in my view being Solina, the soft and warm mountain grain of Abruzzo. You wait until you taste a homemade pasta made with this grain (don’t freak out if you can’t find any, just send us an email and we can get some sent to you).

Ancient Italian grain
Solina Harvest
Solina and Spinach pasta

I love taking our volunteers and getting them to help plant the fields, grow grain, harvest it by hand with us, plant herbs and gardens, and I love teaching them about conscious cooking, and the art of Alchemy in food.

Carrying apple cuttings from the red mother tree to be grafted unto our apples.

I am not joking you, eating from your garden is one thing, but eating ancient grains that have been grown in the mountains of central Italy for thousands of years, and getting people to learn how to cook them with magic, eating them with veg and pulses that too have molded to the people and the land over a millennia and simply sitting in front of the fire and letting all of that go in…. it’s like what the locals say about olive oil, “it’s not food, its medicine”. The olives are not only not sprayed, for the better part they have not even been picked for years, seeing no man, but the air and water are pure, and so you end up with – sun, stone. solitude, and silence, as is the olive tree lore.

Olive harvest with an Abruzzan Shepherd of the mountains.

The thing that inspires me, in all of that, is creating an experience. I am working on a new model for sustainable tourism, and developing a new type of campsite experience, and I want to make the Alchemy of conscious cooking one of its main pillars.

Along with all of that, I believe its time we take Glamping, as it’s called, into another direction, I don’t appreciate that it has become this Instagram sort of experience, I want it to be real, I want to combine 4 elements in the campsites we work to create. We already covered food, the second is obviously, open unspoiled nature, the third is the structures themselves, and I have always preferred the tribal ones, although I have seen some amazing spaces that inspire me in other directions. You can inspire people in so many ways by taking them into a setting. I loved staying at the Albergo Diffuso (scattered hotel, as in, it’s not just one building but half of the old village) of Sextantio in North of Abruzzo, it’s like living in an untouched medieval hilltown – the whole feel is 15th century, the houses are untouched and all done in an old way, the restaurant is in a castle cellar, it allows one to drift into another place, to dream..

The old rooms of Sextanio inspire a dreamlike atmosphere

The fourth pillar is inner work. My volunteers make me laugh a lot (even if I make them cry in return) but together we have made experiments in group conscious work, I am their guinea pig and they are mine, and for a spell, we experiment together in another way of being. The setting is wild Abruzzo and you can feel the old Samnite pastoral nomads walking their sheep in the air, and so we too let go and find different ways. I let them explore consciousness and they let me take them to places they haven’t been before, and we keep the process open and shared. We also run events that take people into this process on a deeper layer, and so this fourth element is the one I deem most important. A lot of it is allowing people to share more, and putting things in the centre, but the connection to weather and body and how everything communicates with itself is also important. One of the things that happen when we host for example is that it always rains when new people come, it’s like a rule, we will be enjoying months of Italian sunshine and…. boom, a newcomer and a storm. Explain it to a 21-year-old?!, but the thing is that some of them get it, so much so they kind of control the weather afterwards, so if you end up seeing some really strange weather, it isn’t climate change, it’s one of our volunteers on a wild day, Ok I’m just joking.

Group work in the Sun

I’ve seen our workers become telepathic, and all it took is putting them into the group making process, living in nature, and sharing life together in a tribal setting, they wake up at 4 am in different tents going through the same thing, later they go back living in separate countries and the same thing happens, its like for a spell they are still connected, yet after a while the spell (usually) fades.

Fire time magic and the power of being

I would like to develop this whole system into the campsites we design and work with, that’s what excites me, a framework and experience from the ground up. Lucy is also a fountain of ideas, she has endless experience types, and how to tailor them around a business plan and she makes me really laugh at some of the ideas of what she would like to see in a campsite/retreat experience.

So this is our current focus – we have started designing a whole new type of experience, and its code is going back to wholesome, to the food grown in a locality, to its history and tradition. The magic of being together in nature. I feel quite amazed that somehow all I need to do is choose a new direction and life finds me the people to work with, and suddenly there is this flow of people asking for our help to design their campsites. And here was me thinking we went against the “Glamping” stream, in that we always push for sustainability and back to earth practices. I thought most people just want to turn their campsite into a money-making machine, but I was wrong, and people find us exactly for that, so in order to help, I thought I would write the basics down, good ideas should be shared openly. I can’t say it will be a good idea for everyone but it inspires me, before it’s too late.

The Marriage of the Sacred and the Profane

Portugal 96′ Mike with his axe-pipe

With 2019 at the doorstep, we wanted to share some history with a view to a more sustainable future so in the last days of 2018 I would like to look at some of the history of nomadic tents in the UK, and the role the Alternative movement played in introducing another way of life. 

My Story starts when I decided to leave mainstream society and travel. Yet before I had even managed to immerse myself into a traveling lifestyle, I met a different kind of destination. I was Born In Israel and going to my second meeting of world travelers, taking place in a forest by the hills near Jerusalem I have met another type of travel, a journey of awareness,  I have met a group of people who practiced group consciousness work in that gathering and so just as I was about to take my first nomadic steps, those were entwined with consciousness work.

The following year, having fallen in love with an amazing Sardinian girl and spending the winter in Italy, I have decided to go to another European meeting of travelers. I and that girl have separated during the winter and we agreed to meet in the mountains of Portugal. When I got to the gathering, I met instead, the very same members of that group. The same two people who came to Israel the year before have greeted me just as I arrived, it seemed as if they were waiting for me. I say I traveled for love, as I used to call that Sardinian girl my true love (sometimes I still do), But the point is that destiny had another thing in mind for me, so I traveled for love, but I got the spirit instead, and so I entered the medicine area they were running as a service for the gathering. We treated the sick, and we worked with the healthy. It was a gathering of 3000 people so there was very little time to rest.

It was 96′ and the alternative scene and the traveling world were very different to what they are today. People used to really live on the road, groups like Spiral tribe worked trans into magic. One of our cases was a girl from the spiral tribe who had kidney failure, and the drama around her healing, and the rest of her friends and some of the strange magic that issued when they tried to take her away, were beyond anything I’ve seen, she ended up almost dying and we had to start her treatment from the beginning, but we mostly worked on ourselves while treating others, the biggest changes took place in us, a younger group of people being taught another path.

I have spent 3 months working with that group holding the medicine area for the larger gathering, in the course of that process everything changed, I have been transformed forever. I was taught psychic abilities I dont even know how to write about, and I have witnessed miracles. I left that gathering a changed person, or you may say even, that on leaving that gathering I ceased to exist as myself, There was no continuity, the person I was before had very little to do with what I became.

Photo: Portugal 96′ Mike with his axe-pipe

But the thing I want to speak about in this entry is the work itself, not the medicine work that was carried, but the journey of awareness that a group of young people took under the guidance of the members of the medicine area. A theme that was really strong in that gathering was the separate “medicines” of the different races, many people have heard about the teaching of Native Americans, or their way of life, maybe fewer know of the Chinese esoteric system, and the same for African magical belief systems.  Those are the 4 races: the white, the yellow, the red and the black. It seemed to me that what we were working out was the medicine of the white race, the medicine it has lost because unlike all other races it did not seem to have its own esoteric belief system. We wer not  just treating symptoms, we aimed to tackle the symptom of modern day preception altogether, to open up the western frame of mind, and the experiment succeeded in us.

In that gathering in Portugal we have found the key, by attempting a mass shift of awareness in the general Gathering goers, we also opened up our individual awarenesses. The secret tool so to speak is that by breaking the boundaries of separation within oneself one can take them down in others around. Things like Telepathy, thought forms moving into the manifest, weather control through feeling, and a host of other things, were made available to us, a small group of young people who never had a clue.

You may ask how is this relevant for the here and now, or even where this story is even going. This story is a sort of insight into the alternative movement, and the secrets that it explored. The problem with secrets is that they are not normally shared. All of us that have been there have certain issues talking about what we experienced in the open. We often get psychological profiling or shunned, or even because we do not want to frighten people, so we end up never talking about it. This story is an attempt to point out that parts of the traveling scene and the alternative movement, or you may call it the new age traveler scene had discovered something monumental.

The group that has taught us were all from the UK. it was now a year later, and after a spell of living back in Israel alone, and the atomic meltdown that this group suffered as a consequence of what they attempted to do, I found myself following the call for a working partner, It was as if I reached enlightenment, yet I was alone, more alone than I have ever been, because now I was also different to anyone I knew, I seemed to have been transformed on a really deep level.

I traveled to Scotland to take part in another gathering, in that gathering I have met most of the younger group that we with me in medicine area, we were all young and none of us really knew how to process the experience or even talk about it, I guess we suffered from a post-traumatic syndrome, yet because we all traveled no one really had time to reflect and arrive at some resolutions. 

I’m getting back to the motive behind this blog post now, and that is that in that gathering I met a woman, she was very tall, and she used to walk around with a brown woolen Jallabyia from Morroco, she walked barefoot in the mud and she played her violin by the fire, but what struck me most about her is the way she lived, and the tribe she belonged to from Tipi Valley (a land-based community in Wales with people living mostly in tipis) . In great contrast to the rest of that gathering where the travelers couldn’t deal with the wet wood, the midgies and smoke, they lived in a proud big tipi. Kids were running around a massive fire, and big iron skillets and pots were cooking food for all to share, whilst it felt like the rest of the gathering couldn’t deal with the harsh Scottish weather, those guys were at home, and that home, was a tent.

Here was a group that actually lived on the land year round, I fell in love with her as you may have already gathered, yet in my personal story, there is still another story, the story of the impersonal, the story of the Alternative movement. Traveling later to Tipi Valley in order to “kidnap” her so to speak from the “Indians”, in some sort of modern tribal act, and traveling the world together, we ended up coming back to live there. Bit by bit, the rest of the younger group from Portugal have followed suit and we lived in a sort of fusion of two core elements of the alternative scene, the medicine tribe, and the tipi people: The marriage of the sacred and the profane.

Photo:Tipi Valley winter of 98′ curtsey of Rik Mayes

like I said, we rarely hear about the contribution of the new age traveler scene, people who left their lives to travel like gypsies, living in benders and tipis on the land (this was before yurts were integrated), at best we hear some personal stories of magic and mystery, but more likely we usually hear of tales of failed protest and broken communities, so it is not really understood what this flare did, and where it guided mainstream society, its members now live in the terraced flat next door.

It is said that the new age traveler scene was a bricolage of beliefs with an affiliation with the oppressed, which is a good observation. So in order to shed a little light on its contribution and to share some of its core truths, I felt like I needed to write about the past. To touch a little on what we were trying to achieve, what we explored: a new way of life that had community and magic in its core. The long crystal clear nights of winter when snow lay on your tipi, and big beech fires were the only way to warm up, kids running into the stream and coming out blue from the cold, yet smiling. There is a story in Tipi Valley that Archie Lame deer came to visit when he was traveling in Europe, He told the people of Tipi Valley that they are truer to the Indian way of life than most Indians.

I belonged to the medicine people, and the woman I lived with, to the tent people. In coming together we attempted to bring those two families into one, bring them home, into a vision of living the medicine on the land. Though after a few years, the amount of profane in the community we lived it conflicted with the sacred, or you may say we have not reached a balance of the two. 

So this little family, the small tribe we were part of inside the larger community of tipi people left and started a strange life in trucks on the road, looking for a place we can root the medicine work in the land. There are endless magical stories of travel and community in that period too, the guy who brought us together in Portugal 96′ used to call it “Transfusion”, because we were coming together as a community on the road, fusing in movement. 

Having touched on some of those subjects, not so much in order to showcase, or even reveal, but as an attempt to remind us all about the role of the alternative movement and the lives it led in search for meaning, and touching a little on my journey in order to give this impersonal story a personal touch, I am trying to point out that the tents we make, the life we try to direct others into, are a result of some larger truth, the medicine way of the White race, the alternative.

Years have gone by now, and those alternative truths have been blended and watered down into the mainstream, its a sort of trade-off that we as the people who lived them underwent too in most cases. It is often argued that Margaret Thatcher killed of the new age traveling scene, but I think that as a movement it simply didn’t have a clear vision, kids were born that wanted to go to school and trying to stand tall in protest, made it clear that the alternative scene didn’t really have anything to protest about, it came out of mainstream society and it got swallowed back into it, and the tradeoff of that lifestyle resulted in us  making tents or teaching alternative lifestyles as courses, and it also gave birth to Glamping, a whole new industry, our friends run festivals, wedding hires, its as if the lifestyle got distilled into the everyday, and we have those people living in tents to thank for that, them and their love for the natural, for the tribal. 

Photo: Making yurts on the road in Tuscany

I say it was a trade-off because on some level we would have preferred to stay poor and live those two realities, we would have preferred to bring that marriage of medicine and tent living into a meaning of its own. But in a strange way, we sold off a part of the sacred so we can find a way to live in the profane. Now we all have tent making businesses, and we hold Glamping sites, yet we feel like we are selling a part of the magic instead of bringing it about in full form, as if we are selling ourselves in every tent we make, selling our fire, the tears that we cried by them, or worst still, we feel like the core issue is always missed, that we sell the tent without the lifestyle, as if we bring many others into the community without ever sharing the magic, that we took part in, the secret we hold.

Maybe its also an attempt to remind us all about what all those tents are really about, and the small tribes of nomads who left a normal life in order to live in them, they were not Indians the grew up in London and Bristol. We understand that this new leisure industry and its success isn’t just another way of holidaymaking, it is built on the lives of people who fought to make a difference, and maybe if you end up in one of those tents, you could somehow trace it to the Transfusion that we went through in them. So behind our tents, there is also a secret love story, with another way of living, and that is the one I wish we could really share.

But enough with all the nostalgia. As its winter I like to reflect, to look ahead at new visions and we have been making some exciting new plans, yet before we launch into them I thought some History would help us all to reflect, and remember why this love affair we have with tents, why has this alternative now a million pound industry, I wanted to share some of its magic, and meanings. 

Canvas Troubleshooting

 

If you have canvas tents or are thinking of getting some, you need to know something about canvas care as well as looking after tents in general. Some site owners avoid tents because of the maintenance – one should remember that they are tents after all and you can’t just put them up and not think about them when the Weather Gods are playing or let them sit unheated through the winter. If you want something with lower maintenance, best go for something more solid like a hut but personally, I think the romance, beauty and simplicity of nomadic tents, such as tipis and yurts, is well worth the effort.

tipi drip strip

Looking up in a tipi

So canvas…first I would advise you NOT go for cheap canvas however tempting it seems. A lot of the imported Mongolian yurts are made from a heavy canvas which is made for the dry climate of Mongolia but doesn’t adapt well to damp European climates and the canvas will quickly leak. Our main work is making yurt covers, and have re-covered many a Mongolian yurt barely in its infancy.

spirits intent

Sewing yurt covers

The usual canvas used in the UK is 12oz FWR (flame, water and rot-proofed) poly/cotton, Before 2007 it was cotton that was more popular, but the rot-proofing agent used in the proofing was banned, so a new one was used which was actually water-soluble! It meant that there was a batch of bad canvas around that time and we heard horror stories of canvas rotting after a year. Although a new rot-proofing agent was developed, the industry had moved into poly/cotton as it is more rot-resistant and stronger, with 50% polyester content it’s really a game changer.

It’s hard to say how long canvas lasts as it depends on many factors, so we don’t offer any guarantee on its life, but if looked after, one can expect 5-7 years for a tent left up all year. One consideration in pitching your tents is the choice of location. If pitched under trees, the canvas gets dirty from falling leaves and the run-off from tree sap and this can contribute to it perishing. Trees to be extra careful of are pine and willow. Also, obviously, if pitched in the shade the canvas doesn’t dry out so quickly and generally in the UK, the damp is more damaging than UV (although this summer has challenged that trend!) In hotter climates, such as Southern Europe the UV exposure continent, damages the cotton element of the canvas so it is worth thinking about alternatives to poly/cotton (see below about acrylic canvas).

Our Yurt and tipi garden in Israel

Next …general maintenance… we recommend reproofing the canvas once a year which can greatly increase its longevity. Before reproofing one should clean the canvas with a soft brush and warm water, no soap, no scrubbing, no pressure washing, but as long as you reproof the canvas well it should be OK. Remember that any cleaning will remove some of the proofing. (Obviously, white canvas shows the dirt and mould more than other colours, so many of our customers, when replacing yurt covers are choosing to replace white covers with darker colours, such as sand).

Reproofing is usually done with a paint-on solution when the tent goes up for the season – various products are available, but mostly only contain waterproofing and rotproofing agents. Recently the FWR proofing solution used by the manufacturers themselves has become available. (We can supply this at manufacturers cost). We have heard stories of tent covers being sent to professional cleaners, who have little experience of canvas and come back unproofed and sometimes perished although there are now companies who can clean and reproof for you.

Another consideration in canvas care is if the tents are left standing through the winter, they should be heated at least every few days, usually with a wood-burning stove (or open fire in a tipi) and, if the tents are not being used, they should be taken down when the canvas is bone dry and packed somewhere dry and rodent free. The summer before last we had a mice invasion on our site in Italy and we were surprised to discover that the mice chose to eat through the proofed canvas of the yurts rather than the wool blankets and mattresses inside. No accounting for taste. (Troubleshooting rodents and creepy-crawlies is for another chapter).

More yurt covers

There is a common perception that cottons are more ‘natural’ than synthetic fabrics, but people forget that they are proofed with chemicals. Our customers are choosing to go for acrylic fabrics as an alternative to poly/cotton as, although much more expensive, it is a better investment longterm, it greatly outlasts the poly/cotton as it doesn’t rot and it’s also stronger. The acrylic proofing isn’t in a coating but in the thread itself, thus doesn’t need reproofing the same way. It is a woven fabric so looks almost identical to the poly/cotton, yet feels nicer to touch and stays clean and new looking for much longer.

Acrylic canvas wedding pavillion

We are Spirits Intent, expert makers of nomadic tents and specialists in the canvas side of things, call on us if you need any advice on canvas or need new covers for your structures.