A New Moss Hut - Reimagining Wordsworth

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Posted on March 10, 2020

... space for reflection, writing and connection

In autumn 1804, Dorothy and William built a Moss Hut at the top of the Garden Orchard at Dove Cottage, their home in Grasmere. It was inspired by rustic ‘fog houses’ they had seen during their travels in Scotland. Described by Dorothy as a ‘little circular hut lined with moss like a wren’s nest’, the Moss Hut was Wordsworth’s escape from the busy world, a place where he could write, reflect, talk with friends and enjoy the view over Grasmere to the Lakeland fells. For Dorothy, the Moss Hut was ‘the sweetest place on Earth’, a study out-of-doors for creative and sociable pursuits.

mosshutblog3.jpgChildren from a local Primary School were eager to help build the form (jig) for the Moss Hut

This year, as part of the wider Reimagining Wordsworth programme, which celebrates 250 years since William Wordsworth’s birth, the Wordsworth Trust were looking for a team to create a new Moss Hut. They wanted something that could offer a space for contemplation and wonder: a unique place from which to enjoy the natural world and the poetry it inspires, and would embody the Wordsworths’ wish that people live in harmony with nature rather than destroying it. 

We're totally delighted to be collaborating with wood-worker extraordinaire, Charlie Whinney.  After several meetings when we talked about the natural world, the Wordsworths and our own feelings about the poetics of place, an idea was born. The shape and detail of the circular hut have been inspired by Dorothy Wordsworth's description of a nest, by the close partnership between William and Dorothy , and the desire for a sense of connection with the natural world.

mosshutblogmodelsquare.jpgCharlie's early model of the Moss Hut

Charlie is using Cumbrian oak to build the hut, choosing wood that has fallen naturally in this winter's storms. Using a process called steam bending, Charlie will coax the oak into shape to form the frame (the complex jig pictured here offers the form for the frame, but will not be part of the finished hut). Oak shingles will then be fixed to the frame, to form the hut's shell.

Inside, the hut will contain elements of surprise that we will be designing - these will reflect the natural world, the work of the Wordsworths and ideas from local residents. The hut will contain inspirations for poetry and tools for exploring small natural wonders. Through 2020 the Moss Hut will become a repository for new poems, stories and artwork, and a space for conversations, readings and reflection.

The Moss Hut will tour around Cumbria from June 2020, resting at Dove Cottage between tours. It will also be the stimulus for a network of Moss Huts - small spaces, anywhere in the world, where people sit alone or in company, slow down, share stories, and feel more closely in tune with the natural world: huts for inspiration, friendship, poetry and connection.

mosshutblog4.jpgWordsworth Trust's curator, Jeff Cowton, visiting the studio.

Unlike the Wordsworths, we won't be adding any moss to this hut. It's yet to be confirmed but if the Moss Hut comes to rest after its 2020 tour, it will gather its own moss covering over time: the oak shingles are a perfect growing medium for moss and, let's face it, so is Grasmere.

We'll post updates on this blog but do watch our Twitter and Facebook feeds and look out for #MossHut to see what we're up to. 

‘From earth to man, from man to earth:
- it is the hour of feeling.

 One moment now may give us more
Than years of toiling reason:
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.’

(William Wordsworth)

Milling the oak into thin shingles that will form the outer shell of the Moss Hut


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