The Secret Eco-Village
'Secret' eco-village spotted in Wales
A 'secret' village only discovered when it was spotted by an aerial
survey plane won a 10-year battle yesterday to stop planners tearing it
Villagers living in their 'lost tribe grass-covered eco-community are
celebrating their victory after a decade of inquiries, court cases and
National Park chiefs have finally approved the green campaigners'
hobbit-style turf-roofed roundhouses and other environment-friendly
dwellings deep in the Welsh countryside.
For five happy years they enjoyed simple lives in their straw and mud huts.
Generating their own power and growing their own food, they strived for
self-sufficiency and thrived in homes that looked more suited to the
hobbits from The Lord of the Rings.
Then a survey plane chanced upon the 'lost tribe'... and they were
plunged into a decade-long battle with officialdom.
Yesterday that fight, backed by more modern support for green issues,
ended in victory.
The eco-community in the Preseli mountains of west Wales was set up in
1993 and lived contentedly away from the rat race round a 180-acre farm
bought by Julian and Emma Orbach.
In 1998, it was spotted when sunlight was seen glinting off a solar
panel on the main building, which was built from straw bales, timber and
When the pilot reported back, officials were unable to find any records,
let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village
surrounded by trees and bushes.
They insisted the grass-covered buildings should be demolished.
The eco-community endured a decade of inquiries, court cases and
The 22 villagers fought planners even when they were within hours of the
bulldozers moving in to demolish their eight homes.
Now, however, they can celebrate, thanks to the Pembrokeshire Coast
National Park Authority's 'sustainability' policy.
With green issues now getting a more sympathetic hearing, the commune
has been given planning approval for its roundhouses along with
lavatories, agricultural buildings and workshops.
Community founder Emma Orbach, a 52-year-old mother of three, said
yesterday: 'We are really excited and happy as it has been a very long
'Even when planning inquiries and court hearings went against us we were
determined to fight on.
'The villagers are pioneering a new lifestyle and are determined to
prove it's possible for people to live more simply.'
Tony Wrench, 62, who lives in the original roundhouse with his partner
Jane, said: 'We are very relieved and delighted.
'We have been able to prove to the planners that it is possible to have
a sustainable and low-impact community in the countryside.
'We had to prove we were improving the biodiversity of the area and
conserving the woodland and we did that. It's great that our efforts to
build a community using renewable resources have now been supported by
'The planners have worked miracles in making a new policy which enables
communities which are self sufficient to exist.'
Amid the celebrations over the victory, however, it seems that life away
from the rat race has not run entirely smoothly for the pioneers of
The two founders, architectural historian Julian Orbach, 55, and his
wife Emma are divorced, and the commune has been split into three entities.
The original 180-acre farm was divided up into the area around the farm,
a section around the original roundhouse known as Tir Ysbrydol (Spirit
Land) where Mrs Orbach lives, and 80 acres of pasture and woodland run
by a community known as Brithdir Mawr.
Each community is independent and they co-exist as neighbours in a more
Brithdir Mawr continues to support sustainable living based around the
original farmhouse, with eight adults and four children sharing communal
meals, looking after goats, horses and chickens - and also holding down
part-time jobs to raise the £200 per month rent they each pay Mr Orbach,
who lives in a house in nearby Newport.
The current residents now run businesses such as courses in furniture
making and sustainable living for around £95 a head.
On their website they explain: 'We are eight big people and four little
ones who choose to live here: working, eating, meeting and laughing
together. Being a community is a large part of what we do. To sum up the
rest; we are striving towards a life in which our footprints are as
light as they can be.'
One resident, Ben Gabel, 38, who runs a seed business with his partner
Kate, said: 'It is completely different to what it was. Most people
would consider the set-up quite normal.
'The kids watch DVDs and we run a business from the farm.'
This does reflect a common problem with such places, namely the split up after a domestic breakup.
Most early U.S. commune type places were set up by a single family or patriarch and a common element in these histories is a break up or dissolution due to family quarrels, divorce, infidelity and the rest.
Some managed to overcome this for a while and this Welsh settlement seems to have peacefully broken up into smaller units.
Amazing they went so long without any government notice.
- On 10/1/08, Jesse Walker <jwalkernot@...> wrote:
> http://mysterytopia.com/2008/09/secret-eco-village-spotted-in-wales.htmlIt's nice to hear they had better luck with the regulatory state than
> 'Secret' eco-village spotted in Wales
> A 'secret' village only discovered when it was spotted by an aerial
> survey plane won a 10-year battle yesterday to stop planners tearing it
> National Park chiefs have finally approved the green campaigners'
> hobbit-style turf-roofed roundhouses and other environment-friendly
> dwellings deep in the Welsh countryside.
> In 1998, it was spotted when sunlight was seen glinting off a solar
> panel on the main building, which was built from straw bales, timber and
> recycled glass.
> When the pilot reported back, officials were unable to find any records,
> let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village
> surrounded by trees and bushes.
> They insisted the grass-covered buildings should be demolished.
> With green issues now getting a more sympathetic hearing, the commune
> has been given planning approval for its roundhouses along with
> lavatories, agricultural buildings and workshops.
many other unconventional builders. This is a recurring theme in
Colin Ward's work: housing "safety" codes that would have
criminalized the many large communities of self-built housing that
Ward wrote of, that sprang up in the early and mid-20th century.
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