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Journeys | A Conversation With… Louise Middleton
This month we hear from Founder & Creative Director of Kudhva, Louise Middleton. Based in Cornwall, Louise enables visitors to digitally detox and reconnect with nature in her one-of-a-kind campsite. This beautifully challenging space offers a simple way of living totally off-grid for as little or long as you like. Louise’s dream was to create a space which takes you away from the everyday, celebrates the sustainable and encourages you to be creative, all whilst enjoying the rugged landscape that is Tintagel, Cornwall.
Kudhva (meaning “hideout” in Cornish)
Can you tell us a bit more about your journey to creating Kudhva?
I decided to make a campsite that I would, in my wildest dreams, like to stay in. I imagined a place, where you could take a pause from the stresses of everyday life, drop your bags (mental and physical) at the slate gate, and enter another world.
I bought the quarry in April 2016 (or thereabouts). I had a T4 campervan at the time and initially spent a year camping there with my three sons, reading Daphne Dumoriets “Vanishing Cornwall”. I commissioned Ben Huggins, from New British Design, to help me come up with a master plan. We chainsawed the 25 year overgrown track to reinstate it, and went about putting in access and services alongside.
My job is to evoke drama, everything at Kudhva is giant sized; big space, mountains of slate, prehistoric plants, a 40 foot waterfall and an engine house roaring with energy. The sheer scale of the surroundings has this wonderful quality of making you feel like a small child. Then something happens, you get curious and it feels easier to have fun.
I live off grid, often for 8 months at a time. Living high up means we have zero light pollution and being surrounded by the elements makes slowing down inevitable. You become so aware of your surroundings, each footstep becomes more intentional, especially when climbing ladders in the dark of night.
How has food helped you in your journey?
Food is a great way to bring people together, at Kudhva we keep things simple, guests can forage for wild food or join us at our outdoor kitchen. We have some amazing wood fired chefs that come to Kudhva, amongst them is Kiren Creevy, an expedition chef who has a passion for storytelling and wild cooking. His gourmet outdoor recipes are a perfect fit for the lifestyle here at Kudva. Other chef’s include, Beautiful & The Feast, who often cook up nomadic dishes for guests and Tan & Mor who incite a real sense of theatre especially when cooking fish over the fire. The main element to everything we cook is the open fire.
How has travel influenced your life’s journey and are there any tools you use to help you stay on track or off the beaten track?
I lived on a boat on and off for three years in the Mediterranean; I got to a point where I could smell land from the sea, being days away from it, with no visual. I lived in the mountains of France for 7 years and travelled to India when I was 17 which blew my mind. Travelling is incredibly for inspiring for me, from the coffee I drink in a bar, to the most delicious street food. Everything from the beds I sleep on, the pictures on the walls and the way someone greets me is inspiration. I’m off to Mexico in March, especially to get a “hit” of culture for Kudhva.
My kit for staying off the beaten track: A North Face backpack, loads of pockets, notebook, goal zero solar charger, iphone, leather belt with knife strapped to it, decent boots, tentsile hammock, Vietnamese coffee pot, coffee, bottle of Kudhva water, fire stick, third eye head torch, mascara, cash (just in case you come across a pub) and finally a good attitude.
How has your own sense of home influenced your journey and are there techniques or tools you use for making a space feel from home than house.
“Wherever I lay my hat is my home” - Marvin Gaye
My mum was an antique dealer with exquisite taste, we didn't have lots of money but we did have beautiful things. My father was in the military so we moved every year and every year my mother made a new home. I can move around alot, i’ve proved that im flexible mentally, but I also love to call a place home.
Creating Kudhva without my own permanent home has been one of my biggest challenges. Working off grid when you have a home can function really well, but I see people getting stuck, living the same life everyday. Home can be too safe sometimes and you can start becoming risk averse.
I like to have rich colours wherever I’m staying; bed linen, incense, towels, soap, ceramics and plants are important to me. I enjoy the drama of large spaces and large objects that can sit within that space. I’ve just ordered a full size olive tree for my sitting room.
How has developing your own style, whether this be in fashion or otherwise, helped carve out your journey.
I went to Camberwell College of Arts in London to do my degree in ceramics and then worked on Alexander McQueen's first collection. I also had a swimwear label that sold in Selfridges and would say my own style is quite 1990’s warehouse london. I love how colour, proportions, and design can take you out of the everyday and can ultimately influence your mood. I believe that you don’t need money, you just need to be a little fearless in giving it a go.
How do you maintain your own wellness? Through exercise, meditation, reading? Have there been any lessons or tools your have discovered on your journey?
I’m naturally quite fit and i’m obviously outside all the time. I like to walk my dog for an hour every morning which sets my brain up for the day. Alongside this, surfing and yoga helps to create space in my life and also gets me fired up for the day ahead.
Architectural hideouts based on the North Cornwall coast.
Architectural hideouts based on the North Cornwall coast.