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  • Richard Morris
    ... Subject: [PermacultureUK] - Low impact / Permaculture + related coverage... Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2005 15:33:38 +0000 From: jms_foresight
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2005
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      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject: [PermacultureUK] - Low impact / Permaculture + related coverage...
      Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2005 15:33:38 +0000
      From: jms_foresight <jms_foresight@...>
      Reply-To: permaculture_uk@...
      To: webmaster@...

      Getting down and dirty in the land of my fathers

      Lucy Siegle abandons the gas guzzler in favour of a course in low-impact
      living, complete with naked ecologist, on a west Wales farm

      Sunday January 2, 2005
      The Observer <http://www.observer.co.uk>

      Persuading your paramour to travel 250 miles to west Wales to attend a
      course on sustainable living, missing a 'vintage' weekend of televised
      sport, is no mean feat. You can only hope that he will be more grateful
      for such an opportunity in the future when, in the face of global
      meltdown, he is able to fashion an eco house from waste wood and glass
      bottles, harness the sun's energy through solar panels and grow his own
      turnips.
      But, enthused by the lively curriculum offered by this short course, at
      Clynfyw Countryside Centre in Pembrokeshire, in how to live more
      sustainably and thus be a better person, the lady's not for turning. So,
      with only a little sense of irony, we set off in our
      fossil-fuel-guzzling car to attend a weekend of talks and workshops with
      titles such as 'The Curse of the Car'.
      Located in the Preseli hills, Clynfyw is not an easy place to get to by
      public transport, but it can be reached via train and bus - although
      this might be more comfortable in the warmer months so you won't freeze
      to death standing at bus stops. However, the good news is that if you do
      drive, once you've arrived you can forget about your car.
      After the day's lessons in the converted stable block between the main
      house and the farm, you can amble down a bridleway to the Camra
      award-winning Nag's Head for supper. And you could combine a visit with
      a trip to other local eco-attractions, including the Centre for
      Alternative Technology's farm exhibits in nearby Machynlleth, or the
      newer Eco Centre at St David's, which has walking trails and exhibitions
      of farming and food technology.
      When you're learning how to be good to the planet, where you stay is as
      important as what you learn. It would be counterproductive to spend all
      day learning how to minimise your ecological footprint and then retire
      to a luxury pad with manicured lawns (grown using herbicides and mown
      with petrol mowers) where you might be encouraged to commit eco sins
      such as wallowing in a deep bath (showers use half the water).
      Clynfyw is the real deal. Waste water is purified through reed beds, the
      holiday cottages are heated by biomass burners, which use waste wood,
      solar panels power the electric fence around a field of Welsh Black
      cattle and there's even a home-grown charcoal project to fuel barbecues
      in the summer (95 per cent of charcoal is needlessly imported, wiping
      out mangrove swamps all over the world).
      But worthiness doesn't have to equal discomfort. Accommodation at
      Clynfyw is very comfortable; former stables and outbuildings have been
      cleverly converted to make four self-catering holiday cottages, with
      full disabled access. There's bed and breakfast in the main house, which
      easily sleeps 16 and can be hired in its entirety.
      Clynfyw is a family farm. Jim Bowen, who manages it with the help of his
      cousin, Piers Heneker, traces his roots in the area to 1041, and the
      family has farmed here since 1750. In the world of biodynamics this kind
      of heritage is important.
      The theory is that the longer you've farmed a piece of land, the more of
      a link you have with it. Having worked for Voluntary Service Overseas in
      Kenya for a few years, Bowen realised he wanted to re-establish this
      link. He was also increasingly worried by society's lack of connection
      to the natural world. The final straw came when he took a school trip to
      France and one of his charges asked if a goat was a type of dog. Bowen
      returned to Clynfyw, started organic conversion in 1998 and worked on
      creating a holistic education centre.
      Although I managed to avoid similar faux pas during a farm tour, I was
      thrown by spotting three giant horses. They were, it transpired, Shires,
      working horses, still pulling their weight on the land. Clynfyw also
      runs a working horses in woodland course. Keen to seize the opportunity
      to play farmer, I also signed up for some extracurricular pig farming.
      At 8am on a drizzly Sunday morning, I was out feeding the Duroc and
      Saddleback pigs feeling partly virtuous, partly relieved that I was only
      a pretend farmer.
      Our course is one of the newest additions to the farm. In a converted
      stable block local experts took us through a ideas and solutions on how
      we might leave less of an ecological footprint.
      These people practise what they preach, a point driven home when
      apologies arrive from a speaker trapped at home by the sprout harvest.
      Organic, seasonal produce waits for no man, or woman in this case, but
      Dot the sprout farmer sent her husband Bob to deliver the lecture on the
      shortcomings of supermarkets and the merits of organic production. Then
      there was the guy who brought traditional Zambian beehives, hollowed out
      of tree trunks, used to produce Fair Trade honey. We tested the honey
      enthusiastically. There was a couple advocating compost lavatories, who
      sometimes pee on their vegetables. Fortunately, we did not have to test
      their produce.
      We listened to Kaye, a traveller, who has her own portable wind turbine
      and uses biodiesel (derived from renewable sources such as vegetable oil
      rather than fossil fuels). A permaculture expert told us how to grow our
      own food with an inspiring line in eco-philosophy. We got the lowdown on
      alternative and renewable technologies from Pete, an expert from the Eco
      Centre, and advice from an engineer who can convert your car engine to
      run on vegetable oil.
      There was an interesting mix of people hungry for instruction on how to
      live more sustainably, some with strong views, which made for lively
      question-and-answer sessions. There was a youth worker from Cardiff, an
      environmental scientist and an artisan breadmaker who was trying to
      become a politician. Pleasingly, a few of the people on the course are
      from the original vanguard of Seventies 'downshifters' who moved to
      Wales to live the good life. Their guru, John Seymour, writer of The
      Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, lived down the road until his death
      at 90 last September.
      Thanks to this heritage and its alternative infrastructure, Clynfyw can
      call on local celebrities such as Tony Welsh to give us a talk on
      'extreme eco-building'. Welsh has pioneered the building of natural
      roundhouse homes, which avoid ecologically damaging materials such as
      cement (preferring cob wood, lime, sand and clay mortar, and straw for
      insulation) and biodegrade in about 30 years. His own roundhouse, which
      merges into the landscape of Pembrokeshire National Park, is the
      antithesis to a blot on the landscape. Nevertheless, the county council
      seems intent on pulling it down, much to the chagrin of viewers of the
      BBC's Countryfile, who recently voted for it to stay. He is a true
      believer in the alternative lifestyle and is apparently often to be
      found as nature intended - according to the lady sitting next to me, who
      remarked: 'The last time I saw him he was completely naked!'
      But to understand how well a roundhouse can work, you need to see one up
      close. Clynfyw has its own, built by Tony and team at the end of a
      sculpture trail which weaves through the fields. It's a winner; totally
      sustainable, impressively put together and beautiful. It could bring out
      the alternative in the most conservative citizen.
      The same could be said for Clynfyw in general. In place of
      finger-wagging, and apocalyptic climate-change scenarios, there was
      boundless enthusiasm, expertise and interesting solutions. Belching back
      up the motorway, heads spinning with thoughts on sustainability, my
      husband was talking about running the car on vegetable oil, the missed
      TV sport a distant memory.
      Fact file
      The two-day sustainability course on Low Impact Living, at the Clynfyw
      Countryside Centre <http://www.clynfyw.co.uk> (01239 841236), costs
      from £40 per person. B&B in the main house costs £25 per person,
      including an organic breakfast. Self-catering cottages, which sleep up
      to six, cost £150 per cottage for a three-night weekend.

      <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/travel/story/0,6903,1381896,00.html>
      http://observer.guardian.co.uk/travel/story/0,6903,1381896,00.html

      If you liked the sound of that... try these

      More low-impact living holidays

      Sunday January 2, 2005
      The Observer <http://www.observer.co.uk>

      Lay a hedgerow
      Hedgerows have all but disappeared in many parts of the country. From
      its picturesque centre at Flatford Mill in Constable's Suffolk, the
      Field Studies Council <http://www.field-studies-council.org> (0845 345
      4071) teaches a course in hedgerow laying every autumn. This year's runs
      from4-6 November and costs £143 for two nights full-board.
      Build with straw
      The three little pigs weren't so stupid after all: building houses from
      wood and straw is a very ecologically sound method, and perfectly
      strong. The Centre for Alternative Technology <http://www.cat.org.uk>
      (CAT) in Machynlleth, Powys (01654 705981) runs a 'Ecological building
      from new' course from 11-13 March. It costs £295 for high-wage earners
      (low-waged, £210 and unwaged, £150), including tuition fees and B&B.
      Contruct a dyke
      For centuries, drystane dykes (drystone walls) criss-crossed Scotland
      and Ireland. The British Trust <http://www.bctv.org.uk> for
      Conservation Volunteers (BCTV; 01302 572244) runs a course in building
      drystane dykes on the Dougarie Estate on the Isle of Arran in the Firth
      of Clyde, running from 5-15 October and costing £100, including tuition
      fees and full-board accommodation in cottages overlooking the Mull of
      Kintyre.
      Dig up the past
      Brush up on trowel techniques and learn about your ancestors at an
      archeological dig in search of the lost Kingdom of Craven in the
      Yorkshire Dales run by <http://www.earthwatch.org.uk> Earthwatch (01865
      318838) and the University of Leeds. There are two courses this year -
      17 June-1 July or 8-22 July - for £1,185, including full-board and
      training.

      http://observer.guardian.co.uk/travel/story/0,6903,1381640,00.html
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