Elmley National Nature Reserve

The Brief

Elmley National Nature Reserve is on The Isle of Sheppey on the Thames estuary, just an hour from London.  It is a remarkable place; 3,200 acres of wilderness surrounded by the sea.  It is the only privately owned National Nature Reserve in the UK, and their conservation approach resonates particularly well with Plankbridge. Owners Georgina and Gareth Fulton asked us to design with them a series of luxury shepherd’s huts to allow others to enjoy staying on the reserve. They are particularly drawn to contemporary Scandinavian designs of boat houses and tiny houses. We have designed and made eight huts for them since we met several years ago.

The Solution

The first two luxury shepherd’s huts we designed and delivered were Little Owl and Samphire.  Both are traditional width Snugs, with double bed and ensuite facilities; one off-grid, both with hot water provided by gas heaters. The electric supply to such a remote place means we have to balance a relatively low electric supply to each hut with LPG water heaters to provide the hot water. The right sort of water heater / flue combination and the design of the plant room cupboard has been a learning experience as we needed to find the right kind of set up to cope with the exposed windy conditions facing the Thames estuary and the North sea.

All of the huts have a wood burner.

The third hut, Vanellus is more contemporary with a pitched roof and tall glazing which runs up the wall at the foot of the bed, seamlessly extending over the roof to allow stargazing from the rustic ash bed. The small kitchen unit is made from reclaimed materials including the internal timber lining from a railway goods wagon.

Huts four, five and six, The Saltbox, The Ferryman’s and Damson are much larger and even more contemporary.  Very much influenced by Gareth and Georgina’s vision of huts with a Scandinavian feel, these are clad in materials as diverse as western red cedar shingles and Siberian larch.  All three benefit from fully glazed ends with bifold doors which make the most of the stunning Elmley views. You can lie in bed and see the waterfowl, hares and owls going about their lives close by. Elmley itself lies in the middle of wilderness but in the distance there are industrial areas, so these three huts have an industrial feel to them too, sitting well both in the rural landscape whilst reflecting the intense industrial areas on the horizon.

More recent deliveries in 2021 – hut seven, The Roost and hut eight, Martha’s Hut are both contemporary designs – one is clad in cedar shingles and the other tin clad with a glazed side with amazing views. Both these huts are a bit of a departure for us, as they are the first we have done not on a wheeled chassis. They are built on a wheeled dolly in the workshop and then craned into position using a hiab lorry. This makes the huts much lower profile, sitting about 70cm / 28 inches lower than a hut on wheels. A decking area to the side adds outside living space.

These two huts mark the evolution of Plankbridge into the world of Tiny House Movement design, and moveable but more static structures. We have since, in Summer 2021, designed and made a large hut for Farmstead Glamping in Dorset which has a taller pitched roof, slate grey aluminium fenestration, no wheels, and a Hay Loft mezzanine deck as a bedroom, crafted from a green Douglas Fir timber frame. Still made in the workshop and delivered complete to the site.


The popularity of the Elmley huts, together with so many positive reviews from guests and the press, makes Elmley a flagship Plankbridge site and one of which we are extremely proud.

It’s a real pleasure working with Gareth and Georgina at Elmley and their amazing websites reflects their hard work and vision brilliantly.

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