Camping and the Compost Loo

P1050737Before there was Leeks and Neeps there was Harry and Livy Chandler going about their business in a quiet but determined way.   Whilst the B&B business came to an end in 2011, the camping has continued and there is a steady stream of folk looking to enjoy the semi-wild pitches on offer.  There are no hot showers or concrete toilet blocks here, no  plastic children’s play parks or on-site takeaways.  What you get instead is beautiful green and secluded pitches, lakes in which to swim and explore and of course the utter tranquillity that you would only otherwise get whilst wild-camping. 

The outside toilet at the house has always been available to campers as an alternative to the somewhat primitive earth-loos in the woods but, as part of the house renovation plans, we will be ripping out the toilet to make way for a new kitchen.  We run off a private water supply which can get low during summer months and so we are keen to develop an eco-friendly alternative closer to the camping field.  The Swedish Toilet design seems ideal as they do not need a power or water connection.  It works on a urine-separating system whereby the wee flows away through a pipe and is filtered through a drainage system into the ground.  The poo is collected in a wheelie bin below and within 1-2 years will all break down to make compost, or “humanure”.  It’s safe to use on veg patches but we will most likely use it in the orchard.

I love a bit of wild-camping but some things are just essential so the compost loo is the first thing on the to-do list.  The design, whilst crystal clear in Amy’s mind, was rather ad-hoc.   It started by digging out a large hole in the side of a bank where the wheelie bin would sit.  It was then staked out with fence posts and reinforced so that the bank would not collapse in the rain.  Next was the frame for the base and then the frame for the structure.  We opted for waney edge boards to surround the frame and give it a more natural look.  Topping it all off are clear plastic corrugated sheets for a roof so that there’s lots of natural light  and finally there’s a good sized gap around the top of the structure to allow air to flow.  It’s now tried and tested and all ready for use.  As with everything we will do here, projects are on a budget and we’ve re-used as much wood as possible.  The outcome is a rather marvellous mix-match of materials old and new – very functional, sort of pretty in it’s own little way and a big tick at the top of the to-do list.  Job one done!

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Just a quick not from Amy: I was inspired in the loo design by Paul at and I purchased the urine separator from them. They make very beautiful toilets and furniture. My approach was a bit more rough and budget… quite a lot of the timber is recycled, the remainder is fencing timber from our local farmer’s co-op. The waney edge board is locally sawn by G&T Evans and the corrugated plastic, wheelie bin and waste pipe were found on ebay. The cash cost was about £250 and it took me about a week to construct.

Our design is very focussed on being light and airy and spacious. I think some compost loos can feel a little bit squishy and smelly even if they aren’t stinky just because the room is dark and small and not that well ventilated. I left a great big ventilation gap all around the top with the roof overhanging generously to keep the rain out. The roof is clear corrugated perspex which was fairly cheap and lets a lot of light in. It’ll need cleaning in spring though as it sits under a tree.

As you can see from the pictures the bin is very much open to the air. I think a lot of compost loo designs try and seal the bin in under the seat to reduce flies. Our has been quite OK though. I thought it was easier to go for ‘very airy’ over ‘very sealed’.

Our first summer has come and gone and the loo has performed really well, it’s pretty fresh and clean and we have nearly a wheelie bin full of humanure already. A neighbour of ours suggested using a garden spray bottle with a few drops essential oil to scoosh around the urine bowl which is quite nice. The waney edge board was fresh so it’s getting quite warped – I like it, let’s call it “rustic”!