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Chelsea Green Blog

Real Eco-Living: A Hobbit’s Tale

This has been a secret wish of mine for many years. It is hard for me to admit, so I’ll just come right out and say it….I want to live in a hobbit hole! Judgment be damned! You hear that Mom?! I want to live underground! It could be marvelous! Think of the benefits: superior earthen insulation, the warm central fireplace, the sky lights, the cozy corners, the quite bedrooms, the round door! A round freaking door!

wide.jpg…I could go on for days. But it’s not enough just to live in a hobbit hole. Part of the charm of this housing choice is the hobbit hole community that lives, laughs, and plays together amongst the hills. Think of the community gardens! Well it seems that I’m not the only one drawn to living underground. Simon Dale is a family man who, along with his wife, built a “Low Impact Woodland Home” off in the hills of Wales.

The house, as the photos prove, has been a wonderful success. So much so, in fact, that Simon is naturally planning a community of nine low-impact woodland homes. (Simon doesn’t call them hobbit holes.) Though it seems he’s having a tough time getting approval from the local planning board. He’s written about his struggle on his web site, and he’s soliciting signatures for a petition. If you’ve got a moment, help Simon make this dream a reality and set the precedent that will allow me to convince the jury of my loved ones that they, too, can be happy in a hobbit hole. A green roof! Rainwater harvested and filtered by your roof!

Here’s what Simon has to say about this style of residence:

This building is one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This sort of life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology. These sort of low cost, natural buildings have a place not only in their own sustainability, but also in their potential to provide affordable housing which allows people access to land and the opportunity to lead more simple, sustainable lives. For example this house was made to house our family whilst we worked in the woodland surrounding the house doing ecological woodland management and setting up a forest garden, things that would have been impossible had we had to pay a regular rent or mortgage.


You are looking at pictures of a house I built for our family in Wales. It was built by myself and my father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. 4 months after starting we were moved in and cosy. I estimate 1000-1500 man hours and £3000 put in to this point. Not really so much in house buying terms (roughly £60/sq m excluding labour).

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.



Simon’s site has more great photographs, including some of the construction process. Check it out here.

I’m inspired to indulge my dream of living in a hobbit hole. It’s time to break out my notebook and begin to doodle. I’ll be back.

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