Scooby shack: on an off-grid cabin retreat in west Cornwall

Dixe Wills
·4 min read

‘Give us a shout if you can’t find the bedroom.” As I read through the check-in details before my trip, this was the line that intrigued me most. After all, I was not staying in a mansion with a maze of corridors, but a woodland cabin.

A few weeks later, standing in the cabin’s living room, I couldn’t find the bedroom. I searched in vain for a door or some sort of drop-down staircase. It was only when I took a more Scooby-Doo approach that the entrance was revealed. I shan’t spoil the fun for future guests, but let’s say there’s more to the bookcases than meets the eye.

The hidden bedroom is one of many lighthearted touches at the recently opened Log Jam. The cabin took owners Huw and Bernice three years to construct at Little Menherion, a Cornish smallholding surrounded by farmland and half a mile from the nearest road.

“Our initial idea was to build it as a writer’s retreat,” Huw told me. That explained the 1930s Imperial Good Companion typewriter I found inside. It has been fully restored, and guests are encouraged to get in touch with their inner Highsmith or Hemingway and tap away on it.

In tune with this old school theme, I’d arrived on foot. From the station at Redruth (nine miles west of Truro, 12 east of St Ives and 11 north-west of Falmouth) it was a pleasant four-mile rural walk over low hills. Staying off-road virtually the entire way, I passed by the tall brick chimneys and tumbledown buildings of former copper mines, now smothered in gorse and the occasional palm. On arrival, I handed Bernice my phone and laptop – on this three-night stay I would attempt to slow down and live well.

“We’ve tried to be as environment-friendly as we can,” Huw said as I explored the cabin, “and we’ve used natural materials wherever possible.” Log Jam, with its frame of local Douglas fir and larch cladding, looks at home in the young grove that shelters it. A pair of slender oaks rise in touching distance of the walls, while a silver-barked sycamore grows right through the spacious veranda.

Stepping inside, I breathed in the rich smell of wood and took in the eye-catching steampunk effect created on one wall with the use of wooden offcuts. Across a covered walkway, a separate cabin housed a shower and a swish composting loo.

Despite the call of the typewriter, I ended up on the comfy sofa, reading a great deal from the cabin’s library. There’s a well-equipped kitchen (and even an induction hob – a rare nod to modernity) and one evening I baked, using the oven heated by the wood-burning stove.

Each morning I sat at a table on the veranda to eat breakfast in the company of birds, the most exotic visitors to the copse being great spotted woodpeckers and a lone greenfinch. I took a daily wander around the smallholding, over a brook, beside a pond and up through a series of small fields to apple orchards and a fledgling woodland. When night fell, I climbed up into the high double bed and experienced what is almost a forgotten pleasure: utter silence. The first night I slept for 10 hours. Admittedly, the following night I was awoken by the bellowing of a herd of red deer, but I’ll take that over traffic noise or sirens anytime.

Though perfectly content to potter in my sylvan bubble, I did force myself out for excursions. Borrowing a funky old mountain bike from Huw and Bernice’s collection, I went village-hopping on country lanes thick with yellow and pink honeysuckle and foxgloves. For the first few miles towards the Helford River, I passed more horse riders than car drivers.

Reaching the coast, I walked out on to Dennis Head to watch ships sliding through a calm sea. On another day, I took a stroll on footpaths up the neighbouring Carnmenellis hill for views of farmland dotted with woods, before dropping down for a circuit of the nearby Stithians reservoir, stopping for coffee and cake at the new shoreside Wild Vibes cafe. On the way back, I got goodies from Little Menherion’s honesty shop: fruit and vegetables picked from the organic kitchen garden and, from the orchards, home-produced ciders.

As I lay in bed on my final morning listening to the rain on the roof, and gazing at a scene composed almost entirely of shades of green, I found myself agreeing with something Bernice had told me – this was much too tranquil a place to reserve just for writers.

Accommodation was provided by Canopy & Stars. Log Jam sleeps two and costs from £110 a night (three-night minimum), canopyandstars.co.uk