Hobbit-holes, not just for hobbits anymore

Geoff Weathersby


If you’re like me then a small part of you wants to live in the Shire. There’s something very settling about how hobbits live. Tolkien made them very communal beings that didn’t waste much. Everything they took they gave back, and then some. Last year, I was fumbling around on the internet and happened to find a group of people who made real-life habitable hobbit holes. Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued.

They guy behind it all is a man named Simon Dale and he calls his creations “low-impact woodland homes.” For Simon, it’s all about environmental sustainability. He says that we need to start taking real action to cut off our dependence on fossil fuels and he says we can do it by relying on land as we did before the industrial revolution. This, he says, is the answer to the climate change problem. We need to establish self-reliant local networks that operate both mentally and physically closer to the land. He writes, “Climate change is a clear imperative to curtail our fossil fuel use.” He suggests we do this by planting edible perennial food, eating less meat, using wood for fuel by setting up lots for rotational wood harvesting, and learning basic handiwork skills. By doing so, we will create communities sustainable within themselves that take a whole lot less from nature and replace a whole lot more.

 To the left is a view from inside one of Simon’s low impact homes. It was made with a hammer, chainsaw and a chisle, cost 3,000 pounds, and took about 1500 man hours. It is 50 square meters in size, which is just under 550 square feet from our point of view. It is heated by a wood burning stove, gets water that flows down the hillside, is naturally lit by a skylight seen in the picture, and has solar panels that provide electricity. You can’t get much more sustainable than that.

I believe this has special relevancy for our class given our focus on the interplay between human life and our planet’s many systems. These low-impact homes, in a way, embody what I believe the take home message from our class to be. Earth is a closed system and we must plug into it. Burning fossil fuels, as well all know, is not a sustainable practice. As it is speculated that we have reached our oil peak, we all have to take a little responsibility in the quest for alternative energy. In the meantime, we need to look at how we’re currently living and examine how much we take that we don’t give back.  This is what drove Simon’s work and it needs to drive ours as well.

3 thoughts on “Hobbit-holes, not just for hobbits anymore

  1. I had a go at this website and I must say that I was not unimpressed. Low impact homes seem to be one of the most sustainable ways to build and live we have seen yet, but also let you do it in comfort. The allowance for solar panels makes this kind of building very attractive as you can live sustainably while not having to live like a barbarian, foraging the countryside for fuel wood. I also found it particularly interesting how Simon has a link on his website allowing you to contribute to the building process. This contribution can be monetary if you prefer an inactive lifestyle, or Simon gives you the option to actually prance out into the lower-wet county and lend the lad a mit in building one of these hobbit holes… inefficiency be dammed.


  2. These innovative architecture projects using the natural environment as the medium are a fantastic idea in my opinion. They are aesthetically appealing (looks way nicer than clearing an area for a suburb subdivision) and the low-impact and green functions of the house make the house even more attractive. Hopefully these projects gain speed and popularity in the future so we can make less of an imapact on the Earth and feel like we live in the shire simultaneously.


  3. Wow Geoff,

    I loved reading about these hobbit-like homes for many different reasons. As I drive home from Richmond to Charlotte, I always pass one of these hobbit houses and I have always been curious what purpose they serve. It’s amazing to see that not only are they using natural landscape to their advantage, they are creating low-impact homes that are beneficial to all involved, especially the little woodland creatures and plants. It’s amazing to say that the hobbits really had it right when they created these homes, but I can’t say I am surprised by their ingenuity. Great site, fascinating advantages to these little homes!

    Pat jones

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