Selkirk-based Caledonia Log Homes completed a project with a difference recently.
For founder Chris Houston built a cabin – the Duck House – on a small island near Earlston for Matthew Goode, a blind teenager who uses a wheelchair.
Matthew’s mum Katriona, a former BBC children’s radio programmes producer, said: “Matthew loves it. He loves the pop and crackle of the wood burning stove, the sound of the lapping water, the splash of the fish jumping as they break the water’s surface, sitting on the deck in the sunshine with the breeze on his face.
“The first time he sat in his wheelchair on the deck, on a sunny autumn day with his shades on, he just sat there smiling.”
Dad John, Katriona and Matthew moved to Earlston from Hertfordshire eight years ago, so Matthew could attend the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh
Cortically blind, Matthew can see up to about 30 cm in front of him. He has distonic cerebral palsy which affects his arms and legs and is fed through a tube. He uses switches to communicate, and to operate an electronic wheelchair, as well as facial expressions and vocalisations.
Chris first made a wheelchair swing for Matthew.
Katriona said: “We were impressed at how skilled and imaginative Chris was.
“So we initially approached him to make a bridge to take Matthew onto the island then we thought ‘what will we do on the island when we get there?’
“When Chris suggested he could make a log cabin, I don’t think he ever imagined it would be on the island itself, but that’s exactly what he has done.”
The cabin’s timber came from a small sawmill near Duns and the logs are larch from the Buccleuch estate.
Chris said: “It’s an absolutely amazing build that looks just brilliant. It was pretty complicated, with lots of angles and compound angles with exposed self-supporting rafters all meeting in a point in the middle.
“We had to get a big 4x4 Hiab with an extra long reach to lift a small digger onto and off the island, then build the bridge first so we could hand-carry all the logs and materials over and start.”
The cabin is a multisensory space, where Matthew can listen to his much-loved music.
Chris said: “Katriona and Paul also wanted Matthew to be able to feel the chair running over the decking, so we picked extra thick boards with wide spacing to give a good bumpy ride. There are also two double French doors that open out, so Matthew can enter and exit easily. It was really great to see Matthew parked up in the sun on the deck, loving life.”
The family have a small flock of Texels in their seven-acre field: “We try and get the first lamb in Matthew’s lap so he’s understanding through experiencing what’s happening, ” said Katriona.
She continued: “We envisage the Duck House as a chill-out space for Matthew, a place where he can enjoy with mum and dad, indoors or outdoors, with doors open even on a rainy day, and where he can listen to the sound of the rain as it lands on the water. A place for him to be with his carers and his friends, in their wheelchairs too.
“We plan to get some multisensory lights and sounds for dark winter afternoons, so it can be a place of therapy also.
“We have created multi-coloured decking lights so that Matthew can see them when it’s dark.
“The rainbow colours make it look quite magical.
“It does feel a very special place.”