What is a yurt?… the short answer
The modern yurt in the UK has evolved mainly from the Mongolian ger, a nomadic roundhouse that reindeer farmers have used for thousands of years as a home that can be dismantled and transported easily following the migration of their grazing herds and the Turkic (or bentwood) yurt that uses steam bent roof poles to create higher walls and a steeper roof pitch and more commonly found in the West of Central Asia. The round shape of the yurt makes it the perfect structure to deflect wind from any direction and keep the family warm inside. Even today in the 21st century, yurt villages are commonly found in outlying areas of Ulaanbaatar (more familiar to us as Ulan Bator and the coldest capital city in the World) and many other large communities in Mongolia and elsewhere throughout Central Asia.
The Yurt of Today
Today in the UK, we’ve taken that ancient design and developed it to suit our climate and modern requirements. The result is a fabulous, versatile structure we use for so many purposes from a low impact eco home to a glamorous and glittering wedding or event setting. Yurts have become especially popular with crafters and hobbyists as the basic materials for the frame can be sourced from most local woodlands and a coppiced yurt can be made from all manner of local woods from ash to hazel, chestnut and even oak.
The lack of good wood is a problem for Mongolian yurt makers and the wood can be lightweight and flimsy whereas we’re spoiled for choice with our climate and range of quality hard and soft woods. In our workshop we’ve chosen to build our yurts using ash and oak, two woods that go beautifully together and show off their individual features really well.
Our yurt hire business starts in the woods surrounding our workshop where we source our basic materials and begin the time consuming process of turning the felled timber into a beautiful finished yurt. Whether it’s for a wedding, a great party or a luxury glamping experience, each and every one of our yurts is a celebration of the craftsmanship and the many hundreds of hours that go into the making of each of them. Although we do occasionally sell our yurts, we’re much happier keeping them and thinking up useful ways of having them gainfully employed!
Creating the Wall Trellis
The wall trellis for all our yurts usually comprises of three or four interlocking sections which form the circle when attached to the door and our ash trellis is steam bent to follow the shape necessary to form a smooth curve and fold neatly down afterwards…when you’re out on the road putting up and taking down yurts every day, you need a yurt that is robust enough to withstand a lifetime of use… something that a well made yurt has done for centuries.
The Knotting Process
Once they’ve had time to dry out, it’s into the workshop to be sanded down, topped and tailed and holes drilled ready to be all hand knotted together. The knotting process can seem never ending as the trellis gradually gets longer and longer, it’s time consuming and sometimes quite laborious but each of our yurts is hand crafted from start to finish and although we’ve seen wall trellis knitted together with all sorts of things from plastic tie clips and plastic string to nuts and bolts, we prefer our old fashioned methods and the result it produces.
The next thing to do is to try it out for the first time! You always question the mathematics when you put it up for the first time..will it be the exact size you measured it out to be…will it bolt together and form the perfect circle and it’s always a great relief to find the maths works out every time!
Constructing the Yurt
Where each wooden trellis piece crosses at the top of the wall, an ash rib is attached and rises up to the roof or ‘crown’ wheel as it’s more commonly known. Each rib has an angled tenon that fits snugly and securely into the crown wheel and as more and more ribs are added you can feel the structure begin to gain a strength and rigidity that belies its light airy frame. The more the components of the yurt go together, the more downforce is produced and the yurt’s inherent strength becomes more grounded and sturdy. That, coupled with the rounded shape of the yurt allows it to easily deflect and withstand storms and high winds that can create havoc with other structures.
Surviving the Storm
Several years ago we travelled to a remote estate near Gairloch in Scotland to repair a yurt sited high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. During one of the many ‘named’ storms that regularly visit the coast, the yurt had blown off its high perch and ended up in many pieces on the shore below.
We discovered the lovely Mongolian yurt in a sorry state but over the next couple of weeks it was painstakingly put back together and the deck was strengthened…the yurt hadn’t failed…but the deck had. The yurt was resurrected and with a much improved deck that would stand firm in the face of the fierce Atlantic storms, the yurt is still standing proudly to this day and its spectacular location is enjoyed to the full.
The Finished Yurt
A completed frame shows off the beauty of the woodwork before the canvas cover goes on. The yurt still goes together and fits together much the same way as it has done for centuries. Even though in the 21st century we’ve updated and re-imagined the ancient nomadic home, we’ve kept true to the spirit of a structure that has given shelter and warmth to countless generations and a modern, welcoming and vibrant yurt for family and friends has been born..and one that lives in peace and harmony with its surroundings. A yurt is the perfect structure to make a great party venue in the garden or as an additional guest bedroom when you need more space. Easily assembled in a morning, there’s plenty of time to decorate and furnish the yurt before the guests start arriving for the party.
A Symbolic Structure
So from the Steppes of Mongolia as a warm and safe refuge and family home for the nomadic reindeer herders to the gardens, orchards and fields of Britain, our yurt has evolved into a thing of beauty with so many uses in our day to day life and in quite a few instances, it’s even become part of the family and home.