Dorset Society features Shepherds’ Huts

Jane Dennison and Richard Lee are featured in a major article – entitled "Get far from the madding crowd in a shepherds' hut all of your own" – about Plankbridge's Shepherds' Huts in the Dorset Society magazine this month.

It all started when Jane and Richard fell for the charms of a ramshackle shepherd’s hut close to Thomas Hardy’s Cottage near Dorchester. Richard decided to make one and then, after a few years, sold it and started on another.

These days there are more than 170 Plankbridge huts in existence, each costing around £14,000, with several more under construction and a healthy pile of orders waiting to go. Jane still struggles to comprehend their success.

“We initially thought we would be making them for the steam fair crowd, we had no idea they would turn into these high-spec homes and even saunas,” she said.

“They make lovely garden retreats, somewhere where you can get away from the world, but people use them for all sorts of different things.

“There are a couple that have ended up in the French Alps as spa huts, some people use them as holiday lets or somewhere where their teenagers can go.

“We are currently making a library van which will look lovely when it is finished – imagine sitting in there, the wood burner going, the walls lined with beautiful books.”

In the article, Richard pays tribute to the support they received from their Dormen mentor.

“I always knew I needed a product to make and design.

“Before now, I was working in people’s kitchens where it was very hot and I knew it was not what I wanted to do. I wanted my own product and a workshop and to be able to deliver something fully done.

“When we started in 2000 I didn’t think we would be where we are now.

“We had a workshop at home with just two bays and I thought that would be it, that it would do.”

It isn’t always easy combining the artisan romanticism of creating a shepherd’s hut with a need for hard-edged commercial sense, but Jane and Richard have benefited from the experience and advice handed down by Tony Garvey from Dormen, Dorset’s business mentoring service.