In the search for new and different garden buildings the yurt has gained in popularity since a number of companies began manufacturing in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. They can be made from natural materials which fit with increasing ecological awareness.
What is a Yurt?
Yurt is the name given in the western world to these circular wood and felt homes best associated with the Mongolian steppes, where they have been the traditional home for nomadic tribes since well before the time of Genghis Kahn.
The word ‘yurt’ actually comes from the Turkish word for the depression left in the ground after one has been removed, and in Russian means ‘shanty’. They are known as ‘gers’ in Mongolia. Yurts are not restricted to Mongolia, they are to be found all over northern parts of Central Asia such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and to this day about a quarter of the residents of Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, live in yurts.
Yurt Construction Basics
The traditional form comprises a wall made of an open wood lattice framework in two or three panels. Wooden roof ribs are attached to the top of the lattice wall with a bridle and reach up to a circular crown. This frame holds all the roofing ribs and provides a hole for smoke to escape the interior. Larger yurts will often have roof poles in the middle to support the crown but some designs with a steeper roof and smaller crown can dispense with these.
A rectangular door frame of three timber poles (two uprights and a cross piece) is strapped in place and the door can be wood or canvas on a supporting framework. Once the frame is up the whole building is covered with a thick fabric covering, traditionally canvas and felt with an inner liner of decorative fabric. Many yurts then also have three strong ropes that go around the cover on the outside, holding it all together.
Moving a Yurt
Yurts have traditionally been temporary structures, designed to be taken down and moved around the large open spaces of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan as an essential part of a nomadic lifestyle. The key to this is the lattice wall panels, which fold up into bundles. Even so a yurt is still heavy and cumbersome to transport, much of the bulk and weight coming from the cover. As an example a yurt that is around twenty feet in diameter would need a trailer ten foot by six foot to move it.
The traditional felt and canvas yurt cover has evolved to deal with the harsh winds of the steppes and many yurts in the UK only have a canvas cover which makes them easier to move. This is usually adequate for summer use but a thicker cover is advised for all year round. A yurt with a single waterproofed canvas cover will take between half an hour and an hour to erect, depending on the size.
Putting a Yurt in Your Garden
As far as planning permission is concerned a yurt is no different from a tent although if you leave it up permanently you might get a knock on the door one day. You need a flat surface for a yurt and some models are best placed on decking to provide ventilation for the floor and lower edges of the cover. You can use a woodburning or gas stove in a yurt but where it is sited depends on the type of yurt, so do take care and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
There are a number of different companies manufacturing yurts in the UK and others importing them from Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. A quick internet search will bring up plenty of results.
Try a Yurt on a Camping Holiday
If you are unsure about whether a yurt is the right garden building for you, why not take a camping holiday in one? There are a number of sites around the UK and Europe where yurts sit alongside caravans and permanent tents. A week or two in one of these will help you make your mind up.
But bear in mind that they are usually the most luxurious versions with all mod cons. So make sure when you decide to get one for home or travelling that you factor in all those luxuries or you might be in for a bit of a shock when you hear the price.