What is thought to be the country's largest shepherd's hut was pulled into place at Wilton Windmill on Saturday (March 24), where it will act as a souvenir shop, refreshment area and education centre.
At 24ft long by 10ft wide, the new mobile shepherd's hut is twice as long and much wider than the standard 12ft by 7ft buildings – including the two it has replaced.
At a ceremony on Saturday a 1937 Farm All F20 tractor was used to pull the brand new hut – designed in the style of the originals, which date back 120 years – onto the site, before a modern tractor and winch truck positioned the building.
The shepherd's hut was built by cousins Will Vickery and George Bannister of Blackdown Shepherd's Huts, a business started in Taunton last year by carpenters with 20 years experience.
The sheer size of the hut posed considerable challenges for the craftsmen. “We worked with a fabricator to build a frame and roof arch that would support a structure of this size,” said Will.
“Now we know we can do it, we hope it will open up a whole new market for us – these shepherd's huts look much better than the static caravans you find at caravan parks, but don't cost an awful lot more.
“For tourism in heritage areas, or for the glamping – glamourous camping - scene we can offer something very attractive.”
The hut cost £32,000 fully fitted. The exterior, floors and internal fixtures are all made of FSC certified seasoned oak, and the cast iron wheels were forged by a foundry in the south west.
George explained: “A shepherd's hut is basically a mobile home used by shepherds to provide shelter as they herded their flocks across the land.
“The first evidence of a shepherd's hut dates from 1596 and became a common sight in Southern England in the 1800s as sheep were moved across the light chalky soils to fertilise the land.”
Peter Lemon of the Wilton Windmill Society said: “We are delighted with the hut created by Blackdown Shepherd Huts.
“We wanted something versatile and an eco-friendly venue that would fit comfortably into the Centre and provide a stimulating environment for the school groups to learn. The quality of the shepherd hut is outstanding”.
The hut was funded and equipped through fundraising by the Wilton Windmill Society, the North Wessex Downs AONB and the Pewsey Area Board.
The ceremony took place in glorious sunshine, with enough wind to make the sails of the windmill turn – which won a cheer from visitors. The official Wilton Windmill season starts on Easter weekend, with guided tours and demonstrations from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The season runs until September and the annual heritage open day will be held on Saturday, September 8 from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.
Pictured: Above: Will Vickery and George Bannister of Blackdown Shepherd's Huts (seated) with Wilton Windmill Society volunteers and members Below: Mike Walsh on his 1937 Farm All F20 tractor