Thursday, July 3, 2008


Huts are my favourite. Whenever I travel I am always on the lookout for photogenic huts. They can be great reminders of places visited and often they have their own story to tell.
I invite you now to come with me and visit a few of my huts.

Ah! If these stones could but speak. What tales, intriguing and wonderful, might they tell. Which unfortunately would not be terribly comprehensible to me for they would be speaking Italian. This solid stone structure with its tiled roof would suggest some former importance – perhaps even present-time importance. But what it is remains hidden to me. What might be housed within its walls? Alas, I do not know. I only know that it is standing on a stony hillside in Umbria, Italy, hoarding its secrets behind the securely locked door. Nor do the infertile surroundings give any suggestion as to its purpose. This is the Umbrian Enigma.

Unlike this delightful log cabin in a fertile little valley (Kötschachtal) feeding into the Gastein valley in Austria. Its purpose is easily discovered. The cracks between the logs allow a peep inside to see the remains of last year's grass harvest. Could it be called a 'grass' hut? The wonder here is that such a plain hut, serving such a mundane purpose is sited in such a magnificent landscape. Long will I remember hiking up the valley, and resting, with a fine Austrian wine, at the foot of the snow in the background.

Whereas people might pass these first two huts without noticing them, my third hut draws people to it. This is St Govan's hut. This small stone hut is nestled in the cliffs of Pembrokeshire in Wales, on a coastline of rugged beauty. A hut? No, not really a hut today, but previously....

Govan was a monk from Ireland, born in the sixth century, whose work took him to Pembrokeshire. Legend (or history) has it that once when he was fleeing from pirates, a rock miraculously cracked asunder here on the cliffs and allowed him to hide from the pursuers. (The more pedestrian among us would suggest that he simply hid among the rocks on the cliff-face.) As a token of thanks, he remained here, living in a small stone hut and ministering to the local people. One can just stand in wonder and contemplate the inner forces which compelled a person to live in this stark isolation. Mind you, the view FROM the hut is quite spectacular! The present structure was built in the thirteenth century as a chapel and only small parts of the sixth century hut remain.
This is also King Arthur country. Another legend - and the countryside in Pembrokeshire abounds in legend – claims that Govan is a corruption of Gawain. Sir Gawain was a nephew of King Arthur and lived here as a hermit after King Arthur's death.
Whatever the history, and it is difficult to ascertain facts from the sixth century, what can't be disputed is that the chapel (hut) remains for all visitors to see, some 70 rough steps below the top of the cliffs and numerous rough boulders from the ocean below.

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