Kudhva Cabins: North Cornwall'S Off-Grid Hideout

Kudhva Cabins: North Cornwall'S Off-Grid Hideout

Posted Feb 26, 2019

Last year we ran a piece about Kudhva, an off-grid ecolodge nestled into the brambles and raw greenery of North Cornwall, England. On a recent visit to London, I hopped on the train and dashed out there for a couple of nights. Having seen plenty of photos, I had visions of the treehouse-like wilderness cabins, of the mills and towers of the old slate quarry that once inhabited the space, of campfires and cold Cornish waves. The pics, I discovered, don’t do it justice. The place is wild and spectacular. What the founder, Louise Middleton, has created is grand, bold, and visionary, as much a lifelong art project as an ecolodge. Here’s the conversation we had last year…

“I surf, and I wanted to get a piece of land by the sea so that I could carry on surfing. I got really lucky and managed to come across this 45-acre old abandoned slate quarry. I wanted to build something incredible, something I wanted to go to. I commissioned an architect friend of mine, Ben Huggins, and we set about designing the Kudhva together.

Kudhva means ‘hideout’ in Cornish. They’re basically hideouts, or wilderness cabins. There are four of them. The places are on stilts, so it feels kind of Eastern. They’re seven meters tall—you can feel the elements when you’re in them. We’re 100% off-grid, so you’ve only got carbon-free candles and solar-powered torches. The architecture is quite simple, so your head feels quite clean and clear when you’re in them. There are big windows and no curtains. Because you don’t have computers or gadgets you end up talking more, reading books. We’ve got amazing small-scale architecture, agricultural, and environmental books in each of the four Kudhva.

In the reception there’s a massive long table that can fit 24 people, with gas rings at the end so you can cook. Outside there’s a fireplace, and that’s a big part of being there. We built the world’s first waterfall-powered and solar-powered bar, with Carlsberg, so we’ve got that building on site. And we’ve got a grade 2-listed engine house on site.

Kudhva is high up on the hill. It has a 180-degree view of the sea. We’ve got three surf breaks near us and they’re all amazing. I’ve had Kudhva for two and a half years and I’ve only just understood just how special that is. In that part of Cornwall the Atlantic hits it hard. It gets pretty windy. I always think the people in Cornwall are pretty wild, and I think it’s because of their environment. It feels like there are no rules.”

Kudhva is a brave new world. It’s got that static charge. You can be free in your thoughts.

I felt the static charge. And I definitely felt free in my thoughts — Kudhva radiates a boho, DIY spirit. I stayed in K-1, which was the prototype for the Kudhva. It had a real treehouse-y vibe, with dashes of eco-modernism. At night I saw the stars in all their pin-pricking glory, and I heard in my head a Silver Jews song: I believe the stars are the headlights of angels / Driving from heaven to save us / To save us / Look in the sky / They’re driving from heaven into our eyes. I spent a long time looking up, and across. Straight out from K-1 is a flat plain that meets the night sky in a dramatic shadowy horizon line. It looked heavy and mysterious, and I plunged into deep ‘dark night of the soul’ thoughts. There was no threat of my phone buzzing me. My quotidian concerns seemed several light years away.

I slept fantastically well. And heard the muted roar of surf, a soothing amniotic sac of a lullaby. In the morning, soft blue light crept into the Kudhva, illuminating the natural woods and pillowy coziness. As a child I loved cubbyholes and tree forts and tents and hiding under tables — wombish stuff, you might say. The Kudhva gave me that. I felt light and mischievous. Ready to hunt dragons. I heard scampering above my head, and then a dissonant chirping. It was not your average melodic birdsong; it was far more avant-garde. I thought, Ornette! My name for this bird is Ornette (as in Coleman). Ornette serenaded me for a while, then I heard more scampering and the flapping of wings. It seemed like a blessing.

I spoke with Louise about her plans for Kudhva…

“We just started designing a tent, which looks very much like the Kudhva. It means that we can take Kudhva outside of Kudhva, and then bring people in. The tents sit above the ground, and the exciting thing about it is canvas in the UK sits on the floor, so bell tents, teepees, yurts — they all sit on the floor. And the English climate is really damp, whereas the tents that we're looking at building will have air circulating around them, so the canvas should be lasting a lot longer.

We've also been looking at managing the land, and working with a really good gardener who wants to make an iconic garden in his or her lifetime. There's an area at Kudhva that has a 40-foot waterfall running into it, and it could be just an incredible Garden of Eden. It has a climbing wall on it as well, and a huge cave at the back of it, with views of the valley and the sea. You can watch the sunset from there.

And everything is long-term. It's all slow, organic, and really well thought out. The idea is that anyone who steps inside a Kudhva will feel inspired and heightened, so that they can either create there, or when they walk away. It’s about entering a really good headspace.”

For a closer look check out @kudhva.

Pack light for your next off-grid adventure. . .

Posted Feb 26, 2019