August 14th, 2013
I have always felt very calm in round dwellings. In fact, they do not even need to be round; just cornerless. They smooth off the jagged edges of your day and hold you in deep sleep. I have a couple of friends who have lived in yurts and have been so fond of the beauty in their structure, the crown that can open to the skies, and the smell of lanolin in the wool insulation.
It is with some excitement then that I took up my second prize offered by Virgin Experience Days, with my mother who came all the way from Kenya to join me for a few footsteps of this journey. It was the perfect way to smooth off the slight confusion of suddenly being in a completely different county, having taken the train from Cumbria to Devon that morning – the furthest distance I have travelled in a day for a long long time.
Even more I love to sleep in a place lined with story. ‘Glamping’ sites have become rather ubiquitous of late, so I was very heartened to hear the unusual and meaningful way these yurts came to be in this field in Little Hempston as the owner Liz Jeffery showed us to our yurt. It was the first yurt they acquired, and so the beginning of their story with them…
“Our yurt camp has evolved into the holiday business following inspiration from a book I read called ‘The Horse Boy’ by Rupert Issacson (now being made into a film). Based on a true story, it documents the journey through Mongolia of a family who have an autistic son, in their search for healing from spiritual leaders, or ‘Shamans’. They travel all over living on the land, riding horses and reindeer and staying in yurts whilst looking for the Shamans.
Liz showing us the hand painted doors, which symbolise prosperity for those who pass through them.
I felt a great deal of empathy for the family as my youngest son Myles, who is 15, is autistic and very similar to their son Rowan. I would have loved to emulate their journey. However, it would never be possible for us, as we have too many commitments to be able to sell up and live a nomadic life in the same way. Eventually we decided to buy an authentic Mongolian Yurt and bring it to our home here in Devon.
I wanted desperately to bring a small piece of Mongolian spirituality to Devon. And it is not an easy task to bring something half way across the world. Yurts arrive on a boat taking three months to be transported from their homeland. I love and enjoy our yurts with a passion. I feel the very essence of their spirituality, which is enshrined in the organic structures that they are. My imagination allows me to feel at peace with the world when spending any time in them, and my son Myles loves them too. He has a great dislike of interaction with people, preferring to associate with the horses and to remain insular. Such is the life of someone with autism.
The idea of a holiday yurt camp was primarily to share both the yurts, and the stunning rural location where we live with others, and to make it a viable commercial venture.”
We had arrived late the evening before and only seen the area in semi – then absolute darkness as we found our way to (and less successfully back from) the pub! There was no moon, you see, and the hedges were high. All the landmarks I had noted simply disappeared on the return. Rather embarrassed, I gave in at 11.30pm and Liz’s husband kindly came and rescued us from a place where “‘Ere be dragons!” as he put it.
In the morning, I got out my map in the dining room, which is a converted stable, to somehow align my cells and my senses with my new location. We ate a breakfast of boiled eggs, courtesy of Liz’s free range hens, while Liz regaled us with tales of her predatory badger neighbours who can stand on their hind legs (she now has a video camera on the chicken run!). She also told us of the fine walks in the area, and so in the fine sunshine, we donned our boots, and headed off to see what the shade dappled lanes and high hedgerows were going to show us.
It was a wonderful way to slip into Devon and I am grateful to Liz, her husband and Virgin Experience Days for making my first night in a new land such an intriguing one. You can read Liz’s blog about her various visitors – furry and otherwise here: http://www.devon-yurts.co.uk/1/post/2013/08/a-wayfarer-and-a-dark-night.html
11 Responses to “A Night in the Round”
Leave a Reply
Sarah Thomas is Penguin's Wayfarer and she'll be walking and writing for us all summer. Follow her journey here!