How to escape: Why a cabin break can refresh the soul

The Guardian - Apr 10, 05:30 GMT

Simplicity is key to a cabin stay and while few of us go the full Thoreau, retreating to a spartan, isolated setting is more appealing than ever A few years ago, I lived in a cabin for several months

Simplicity is key to a cabin stay and while few of us go the full Thoreau, retreating to a spartan, isolated setting is more appealing than ever

A few years ago, I lived in a cabin for several months. It was in a glade at the bottom of a steep-sided cwm (valley) in the Black Mountains, south-east Wales. The single room was furnished with a bed, a table and a chair. Water came from a nearby spring, and I had a wood-burning stove, a gas ring for cooking and an outside, composting toilet. The front deck overlooked a brook, which provided the ambient soundtrack to my dreams.

I lived a pared-down life in a pared-down house. I woke at first light and went to bed at sunset. I cooked everything in one pot and chopped my own firewood. There was no electricity and no wifi. I couldn’t even tune the radio. I had to cross a fence and walk 200 metres up a bracken bank to get intermittent mobile reception. Quietly, I cut myself adrift from all forms of media – and who doesn’t feel like doing that these days? There was, correspondingly, a lot of time: time to read, observe the birds and watch the trees “dreaming out their old stories to the wind” as Thomas Gray wrote. There was time to listen to rain on the tin roof and, for me, time to write. I left with the first draft of a book.

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