South African Design meets West Wales wildernest

Meet Hugh & Jude and their handmade Haven in the Aeron Hills.

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There’s been a fair few times I’ve had to pinch myself over the past year whilst working on Jwrnal, and Monday was one of them. Heather and I were on the lookout for a location to carry out a shoot for my Printed Jwrnal coming out in September (insert shameless plug here). After some research, we found our dream spot. With little fuss and a little faith in what we were doing, we were welcomed to Wildernest. Having pre-ordered tropical weather (you can thank us later) we arrived in Dilywedd with a car packed full of beautifully crafted, handmade products, to find the most beautifully crafted, handmade building to complement them. It was a match made in Heaven. 

 

Hugh and Jude Crawford stumbled across a farmhouse back in July 2008 which was then own and inhabited by a charitable organisation running a spiritual retreat. To their luck, the charity were unable to sustain their business, and the couple became the new owners of a collection of barns, buildings and a range of natural wildlife habitats nestled miles in from the West Wales coast. From then, the Crawford set to build their very own 'Wildernest’.

Well rehearsed directions and warnings of ‘not to follow your satnav’, something I’m finding all the more commonplace the more visits I make in Wales, led me to a gateway, to the right of a wind turbine, simply signposted towards ‘Wildernest’. There are no visible signs from the road of what you may expect to find, and for that reason the suspense was held high. We were greeted warmly by Hugh, Jude, their spaniel and Dalmatian and pointed to the direction of the Stoep. It was just as we imagined, and more.

Having lived all over the world, Hugh and Jude had never ventured to Wales before settling in Dilywedd, which may seem like an unusual place to decide upon, however the more we learnt about their background and adventures, the more it became clear that their travels and experiences have helped to shape their now eclectic space. Influence of Japan and South Africa were subtly referenced, especially in the Stoep where we spent our day. 

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"We designed the verandah (or stoep) as a transition between inside and out - somewhere to sit outside under shelter, in the shade, with the drum of rain and chill air. It induces a wonderful melancholy. There’s a simple table and some lounging chairs and just sounds of nature and smell of wood smoke from the stove. It faces precisely solar south, the view is infinite, across pastoral habitat.”

 

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Hugh is an Architect, and although very different from his professional industry days, the collection of buildings all designed and mostly built by himself, are reflections of his own personality and style. The Stoep, is formed around a hand-built round-wood frame made by Hugh in his workshop and was just finished in January this year. Surrounding the frame are straw bale walls rendered with natural lime-hemp-hair and sheep wool in the roof. To complete, the Stoep is run solely from energy produced by the properties Wind Turbine and is heated by an innovative small evaporator plate heat pump, "and it works!” adds Hugh.

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The couple have designed their Wildernest being mindful of it’s previous owners, it’s historical significance and in respect of the land it lays upon and surrounds. 

"We have endeavoured to reuse these buildings, designed to not only perform well but also, we hope, bring a positive emotional response.”

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It truly is a team effort. The Stoep feature handmade, naturally printed furnishings made by Jude, including lampshades and cushions handprinted with leaves and grasses, and a picture of painted fabrics and hand-stitched embellishments. (This was the icing on the cake)

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We were warmly welcomed to join the couple, along with Spot and Eleri (aka Sea & Slate who so kindly helped to make the day happen) to enjoy a homemade lunch presented by Jude, who turns out is a master in the kitchen! Touched by their kindness and hospitality, and taken aback by the beauty and simplicity of the haven they have created, we weren’t quite ready to leave. Before we did, we had a whistle stop tour of the two other cottages, communal barn and vintage air stream that were all just as equally presented and thoughtfully designed as the Stoep. 

It is the perfect antidote to busy working week and as Hugh puts it, the ideal place to ‘opt-out and switch off’. I’m already clearing my diary to return.

Thank you to Hugh & Jude for a wonderful day.

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Hugh & Jude Crawford, Blaengors Farm, Dihewyd