How to Build a Simple All-Purpose Shelter

Steven Golemboski-Byrne
Tuesday, 10th June 2014

Lackan Cottage Farm have built an easy, all-purpose shelter to keep their visitors shielded from rain and wind whilst still enjoying the fire and the outdoor experience.

One of the most loved spots on the farm is our fire pit, but given our Northern Irish climate, there aren't a huge number of days when people can sit around the fire. We really needed a space where visitors could sit out of the rain.

The solution came in the form of this Mike Abbott designed shelter, which is beautifully simple and yet wonderfully stable and effective. It is high enough to maintain a fire under (within reason) and yet keeps the worst of the weather off. We've also transported it to craft fairs for pole lathe turning demonstrations, so it is genuinely all purpose.

It consists of 8 poles - we have used birch, as it grows plentifully on site - but any straight poles will do. Two pairs of poles are bolted or tied together and support a ridge pole. A tarpaulin then passes over this ridge, and is attached to an A frame.

The tarp can be attached to the frame with rope, or (as in this case) ball bungees, which stretch to keep the cover tight, and are easy to attach.

We also pin the feet to stop the shelter moving around. It has stayed up in the worst of winds, and remained rock steady.

The secret of this stability is two ropes, fastened diagonally across the back of the shelter, which prevent it from moving from side to side. We have drilled holes in the poles to pass the rope through and to secure it.

Visitors love it, and it gives the feeling of being undercover and yet still very much outdoors.

Lovely as it is though, we have visitors to the farm on a weekly basis all year round, and so are planning to build a more permanent space in which to hold classes and talks. In order to achieve this we are raising money by crowdfunding, and as well as offering rewards ranging from planting a tree for everyone who pledges money, to places on day courses, and a weekend in our tipi, we will be using the build to give people a chance to try their hand at a range of natural building techniques.
You can find details of our campaign at

Steve is co-owner of Lackan Cottage Farm, a permaculture smallholding in Co.Down, Ireland, where he and his family live as lightly as possible on the land and offer the opportunity for visitors from all over the world to volunteer and learn. Visit for more information.

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