Demand for shepherd’s huts and cabins soars over lockdown

Claire Hayhurst, PA
·3-min read

Demand for shepherd’s huts and cabins has soared throughout lockdown, according to one business.

Plankbridge, based in Dorset, has seen a jump in orders as people look to create home offices or turn their land into a glamping spot.

The company began creating designs inspired by the original Victorian shepherd’s huts around 20 years ago and now offers a range of huts, cabins and bespoke options.

Their cabins on wheels can feature double beds, bathrooms, and kitchens as well as hot tubs and covered areas outside.

Richard Lee, owner of the company, said it initially shut for three weeks during the first lockdown in March 2020.

“I felt it was the right thing to furlough everybody and shut down,” Mr Lee said.

Richard Lees, owner and founder of Plankbridge
Richard Lee, owner and founder of Plankbridge (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“All of our suppliers shut down too. During that shutdown, it felt like the demand for home offices and glamping had grown.

“We came back and we hit the ground running.

“Half of what we are doing is people wanting more room for home offices or for an extra bedroom because they are at home.

“Half is people setting up glamping sites or expanding existing sites.

“Many of these are people who have had the time to think and re-evaluate and decided to run a glamping business.

“The demand is there and people are feeling it and seeing it and going down that path, which they probably wouldn’t have thought of before lockdown.”

An employee removes tape from a window in a shepherd’s hut in the workshop of Plankbridge
An employee removes tape from a window in a shepherd’s hut in the workshop of Plankbridge (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The company has experienced such demand that it has employed a further eight staff, with the local team growing from about 19 to 27 people.

Each hut usually takes between three to four months to make but Plankbridge is now at capacity, meaning orders placed now are likely to be completed in July or August.

“I’m really pleased that we are busy and employing more people but I am fully aware of how tough it is for people out there,” Mr Lee said.

He hopes that hotels and accommodation providers supplied by Plankbridge will be able to open smoothly when restrictions are eased.

Each hut is a self-contained space, with guests having access to their own facilities.

Breakfast and meals can be left outside the hut for a contact-free experience.

Employees at Plankbridge have their temperatures taken each morning and are able to work in a socially-distanced way due to the company’s large workshop.

Plankbridge shepherd’s huts
The large workshop allows for social distancing (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Mr Lee has been giving Zoom and FaceTime tours of the showroom and huts to prospective customers across the country, as the premises is closed to visitors.

He was inspired to start the company with partner Jane Dennison after coming across an old Victorian hut while walking by Hardy’s cottage, where Thomas Hardy was born.

“It sowed the idea of a house on wheels or a room of your home on wheels,” Mr Lee said.

“The idea is what we do all the work in the workshop and all you have to do is plug it in and plumb it in.

“A few years ago people thought a shepherd’s hut was maybe a bit dark and cold but these are warm and dry places for people to hunker down in.

“We are led by what people want and need, we are catering for that and really enjoying it.”