Europe, United Kingdom, Voyage
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Barrel Top Wagons is the loving creation of Jo Henderson & Ben Ranson. After owning their own restaurant in Devon and then living in sunny Greece for a year, they made the decision to move back to the UK in 2008. However, with no permanent home they needed somewhere to live, and Ben’s carpentry skills were kicked into action.

Barrel Top Wagons have been making bespoke cabins, huts and lodges from locally sourced English softwood for the last 5 years. Ben’s passion for conscious design has lead him to work closely with Devonshire based sustainable wood suppliers; he disagrees with the importing of slow growing timber from abroad,

“Sustainability and good environmental practice is central to the ethos of our work. There are many offerings within our industry made from unsustainable, imported or low quality materials, meaning they have a short lifespan, require high maintenance and offer not much in the way of comfort and warmth. We wanted to present an alternative that was both beautiful and sustainable.”

Barrel Top Wagons low impact architecture doesn’t stop there. They also compact waste sawdust into Biologs for use in the wood burners, donate waste wood to local crafts people and use recycled Earthwool as an insulator inside the cabins to contribute to this businesses low carbon footprint.

“We aim to source as many of our materials as possible from within the South West – from wood burners to chassis to windows to that all important locally grown wood. This reduces transportation miles and contributes to a healthy, local economy.”

It is because of their caring attitude towards the environment and local economy that Barrel Top Wagons was announced as a finalist in the Devon Environmental Business Initiative Awards!

So, if you’re keen to move away from a traditional build and have a desire to work alongside this inspiring couple to produce a unique and friendly space – you know where to go. We certainly know who will be building jiminy’s future headquarters!

If this little love story wasn’t enough, Jo and Ben’s next venture post Barrel Top Wagons was to create a stunning eco retreat where they could welcome guests and showcase the wooden homes.

The view of the cabin at Devon Dens

The view of the cabin at Devon Dens – Photography by Vicki Salcombe

In 2014 a gorgeous plot of land became available just 8 miles from Dartmoor National Park and the building of their green garden retreat commenced.

I was lucky enough to visit Devon Dens on a sunny August bank holiday weekend. In the time I was there, the world stood still. I don’t know if it was the sounds from the little stream, the beautiful views through the trees or the fact that I had two incredibly welcoming hosts, but when I left I felt so peaceful and calm.

devon dens through the trees

Peeking through the trees at the cabin

Tucked away from civilisation, Devon Dens is surrounded by woodland and wildlife. In order to protect the environment surrounding this off-the-grid sanctuary, they have implemented use of solar panels, a vegetable plot, a compost toilet and reed bed for the filtration of wastewater, which enabled them to be awarded the Green Tourism Award in 2016 as part of the sustainable tourism scheme!

“The woodland is in one of the least light-polluted areas in England and is surrounded by extraordinary countryside. A twelve mile trail is one of many that goes straight past the gate, passing through delightful villages and taking in the cracking local pub”

Devon dens peace

A peaceful view across Devon Dens

Devon dens bridge

The little bridge over the stream


Being such an excellent host with a background in hospitality and a love of meeting people, Jo provides guests with a selection of local produce available to buy, in a basket filled with local meat, eggs, honey, cheese and cider.… AND Oh wait! Did I mention the ginormous hammock strung between the trees?!

As I drove back to my life in the city I couldn’t help but feel a tad envious of their newly arrived visitors about to enjoy a relaxing weekend in the heart of Devon. I certainly know where to head for my next weekend escape. See you there!

To book your stay, click here OR to find out more about Barrel Top Wagons, click here.

Follow Barrel Top Wagon & Devon Dens on Instagram & Twitter



This entry was posted in: Europe, United Kingdom, Voyage


A conscious collective of wanderings by two best friends dedicated to showcasing the best in sustainable slow design, creativity and travel.

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