The peace and quiet of lockdown may inspire even more Scots to join a growing band of woodland hutters, finds Sandra Dick

They have no mod cons. No running water or warm electric showers. No television, nowhere to charge the mobile phone and no traditional home comforts.

But within a few weeks, the first in a collection of very basic huts built in a Lanarkshire wood will be offering their owners an escape from the cut and thrust of modern life and a chance to relax with just nature for company.

“We’re almost there,” says Louise Witter, who nearly two years ago bought Camp Wood, on the outskirts of Lanark, with a vision to create a new kind of country retreat for people anxious to escape the buzz of the modern world.

“It’s looking good," she continues. "We just need to check planning and build a gate. The drainage is done. Then it’s up to the hutters to build their hut.”

The Encampment, 32 acres of wild forest land sandwiched between a Roman fort and motorways with Tinto Hill in the distance, is finally taking shape.

Sixteen plots, each offering space for a hut of up to 30 square metres, have been sectioned off and all but four leases signed. There’s a car park, drainage and a path – and not much else.

Now, with lockdown partly lifted, it’s expected that the first huts – simple structures without frills and definitely no WiFi – will begin to take shape.

It is a sign that hutting, popular in Norway and with its own Scottish heritage in the form of shepherds’ shelters, bothies, holiday huts and Broons-style but and bens, may be set to fulfil predictions of becoming the next big thing.

And with foreign travel largely off the agenda, the “staycation” on the rise and Scots emerging from lockdown with a new appreciation for birdsong, traffic-free streets, peace and quiet, there’s a chance that the appeal of the woodland hut could be set to soar even higher.

“We’re on the cusp of things really happening,” says Donald McPhillimy of Reforesting Scotland, which has been at the forefront of the hutting revival in Scotland with its 1,000 Huts campaign.

“During this period of lockdown people have had the chance to connect with nature, they hear the birdsong, there are no airline trails in the sky and there’s less noise from the main roads.

“Nature is showing us its better side, and you can see the appeal of having a nice little hut that’s comfortable and warm to retreat to.”

The hutting trend has been brewing since 2014 when a shift in planning legislation paved the way for simple countryside structures.

Individual huts have popped up on land dotted around the country. However, it is only now that larger woodland hutting communities are on the verge of becoming properly established.

Lee Paton, who runs Torr Organic Farm near Castle Douglas with her brother Ross, recently established six huts on the land along with one that is a remnant from an earlier collection of huts run by her father.

“There were five huts here in the 1950s but they fell out of use, probably because of package holidays and people going abroad,” she says.

“You’re either a hut nut or you’re not. Most have some insulation, wood-burning stoves, bottled gas for a cooker and solar power for lights – mine is lit with candles and an oil lamp.”

She now has a waiting list of people looking to take on a hut. “I think the ball is rolling now, landowners are coming on board now they understand what it’s about.”

According to McPhillimy there are at least 400 huts dotted around Scotland with many dating to the early 1900s when holidays were much simpler.

“They give people a little stake in the Scottish countryside, especially for people in cities and towns who want somewhere they can go to whenever they want," he says.

“They give people a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle, and to connect with nature.”

A Reforesting Scotland hutting project on Forestry and Land Scotland land at Carnock Wood in Fife attracted 600 applicants when its 12 plots became available.

The leaseholders, including a yoga teacher, an accountant, an architect, a gardener and a foster family, are currently drawing up a code of conduct – laying down rules over issues such as dogs, garden areas and noise levels in preparation for the first huts to be built.

However, lockdown and a series of other hurdles means the first huts are unlikely to take shape until next summer.

Elsewhere, at Cash Strip Wood, off the A912 between Falkland and Strathmiglo in Fife, there are plans for 15 huts on a 50-hectare site. Huts are also understood to be planned for woodlands in Wigtownshire and Aberfeldy.

To meet planning restrictions, huts can be no more than 30 square metres, not connected to water, electricity or sewage systems and be easily removed at the end of their lifespan, ideally leaving no or little trace.

While many are simple structures and intended to blend with the surrounding wood or countryside, some can take on the appearance of small homes, with picket fences and gardens.

Scotland’s “spiritual home” of hutting is at Carbeth in Stirlingshire, established in 1918 as a retreat for soldiers returning from the First World War. It has more than 190 huts and is the world’s largest single community-owned hutting organisation.

The basic huts of 100 years ago, however, will have cost substantially less than today’s versions: huts can cost from £7,500 to £25,000 to build depending on style, materials and construction fees.

Hutters at The Encampment will pay around £1,500 for their plot and choose from one of three styles of hut that already has planning permission, or opt for their own design.

In return, they’ll share their space with foxes, deer and badgers beneath birch trees and alongside the remains of the Roman fort.

“It’s not glamping,” adds Witter, a legal adviser in Aberdeen’s chemical sector. “It’s very low-tech. People will collect their own water, use a pump shower, maybe have a wood-burning stove. It’s a place for people to come to do yoga, write or just watch the animals.”

One hut at the site will be for charity use and another for her – if she decides to use it.

“I didn’t even know about hutting when I started this,” she admits. “I was just looking for an investment that would get me away from my desk, outdoors, meeting people who are different from me.

“I might not like it – it’s not for everyone.”