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A Conservatory for Wales
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Billhook



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 820
Location: High in the Cambrian Mountains

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some time has passed since this thread got new posts, so in hopes that people may be seeing the need to get started as increasingly urgent,

and that there may be new members to whom it will be of interest,

it seems worth bringing it to the top.

One bit of positive news is that rural planning constraints in Wales are coming under increasing pressures for reform, given the Govt.'s national house-building targets.

On a less positive note I'm afraid the Lammas group that Pixie kindly linked (who hope to get 150 acres and start leasing building plots in 2008)
are pretty staunch and somewhat evangelical vegetarians - to the point of leaving crops of some of the best hay in the Gwaun Valley to rot down as a means to grow potatoes.

Each to their own of course, but in a society based on cattle, sheep, pigs & ponies vegetarianism as community policy puts quite a question over integration and trade with neighbouring farms.

And yes, I personally greatly enjoy a moderate ration of fine fish, flesh & fowl. Particularly brown trout filletted and smoked over oak twigs . . . .


regards,

Bill
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Tess



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2709
Location: Truro

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Memo to self. Reply to this thread when I get home from t'office.
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Tess



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2709
Location: Truro

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:45 pm    Post subject: Re: A Conservatory for Wales Reply with quote

Billhook wrote:

Are you looking for a commune of likeminded well-intentioned people, such as turned into ghettos and failed by the dozen in the seventies ?

Or are you looking to serve, learn from and integrate with one of the existing dispersed rural communities, such as they are in Wales ?

Do you see the need to build for more than merely our own survival, so as to be able to contribute to society's wellbeing overall ?

If you're used to making a living in the country, then for how many years have you done so ?

How many years experience of a practical sustainable production skill do you have, or are you learning one at present ?

Ditto for non production skills (eg astronomer, midwife, lawyer) ?

Do you have financial capital that you'd want to invest in land and/or accomodation ?

Are you willing to learn to speak Welsh ?

Do you play any musical instrument ? Acoustically? And how well ?

Do you have enough respect for country people to reconsider any contempt for say their foxhunting, their chapel and their opposition to wind turbines ?

How fit and healthy are you, and do you have dependants as an enduring motivation in life ?


Fine bunch of questions, can't imagine how I managed not to reply to them earlier.

As I said earlier in the thread, I think Wales is the perfect location for this sort of endeavour, and I've always taken an interest in any communal attempt to thrive in this environment that I come across. Alas most of them seem to be long on idealism and short on sustainability and I think thus far I've made the right choice by not committing my future to such an endeavour.

That said, given the right bunch of intelligent, committed, emotionally mature and hardworking individuals I could always be persuaded to throw in my lot. Not that I'm particularly a great catch for such a project - my practical & sustainability skills are frankly nonexistent. On the other hand the shame of being so useless does make me well-motivated to learn, and I do have a fair wodge of capital to invest in a worthy project.

As to whether such a project could extend from sustaining our own survival to 'contributing to society's wellbeing overall', that is an interesting question. When I look at C.A.T. I find myself wondering if it's still a community at heart, or 'just' a business and educational centre. Perhaps the former should always be incidental to the latter. Certainly I have a preference for pragmatic economic decisions to take precedece over ideology, even though I am a very spiritual person* and would view the whole experience in that light. I will soon have an MBA - maybe that counts as a useful skill for sustainability? Smile

As to being willing to learn Welsh - of course, I'd love to.

Instruments... I used to play flute fairly well... not for years though. Have some basic composing ability... studied music until I was 18. I miss it really, especially doing gigs, nothing quite like performing.

As for strange rural practices such as chasing small furry mammals, I've seen the foxhunting (and badgerbaiting) videos and the kill is pretty gross and not at all 'clean and quick' like they propagandize; but the lies aside, life is messy and I understand that the thrill of the hunt is intoxicating and the social communality is rewarding, and I'm sure I'd love it too if I put the savagery of the kill to the back of my mind.

And wind turbines are gorgeous except when they stick up across a certain view of the landscape that you've known and loved since you were a child, in which case they become as ugly as a coal-fired powerstation.

Am I fit and healthy? Ah, not as fit as I would be if I was working a farm to be sure, but fit enough for someone in their mid thirties. Smile I am dependent-free - not really my preferred outcome but the choice is out of my hands now. Always happy to mess up someone else's kids if they wish.

Of course there are plenty of groups in Wales and Devon and Scotland and so on trying to achieve some kind of sustainable existence. I stayed at one in January 2001, got very cold & my feet froze. Unpleasant. A couple of other places I tried to visit were abortive. One group (Grimstone Manor nr Dartmoor) sold their business just before my visit. Another (a farm in Wales) came across so fundamentalist about their communalism (shared income and everything!) that I was put off going near the place. I have some doubts that such communities can survive long-term without turning into dysfunctional ghettos or simply becoming temporary digs for drop-outs looking to bum their way to a work-free existence. I would prefer to see something with a more professional business focus, but then I am MBA-girl so you'd expect that.

Anything else?

Oh yeah. Of course if I was in a position to up-sticks and decamp to the countryside I probably would have done so by now. Truth is I'm committed to working in the City for at least another couple of years and probably 3. After that, I'll have paid off the mortgage and be looking to retire to a Real Life for a change. I imagine you're probably not going to be hanging around that long...

Well, anyway, there's how it is.

* Before anyone gets on my back... When I say spiritual, I mean in the same sort of way that you can see Ray Mears having a spiritual experience every time he becomes one with the landscape, or shows deep respect for some ancient indigenous survival skill. (though i do have a certain fondness for Islam, alhamdulillah)
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Tess



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2709
Location: Truro

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 9:42 pm    Post subject: Re: A Conservatory for Wales Reply with quote

Billhook wrote:
3/. Left London in '70 for country life, so its about 35 years now (an slowly getting acclimatized).

4/. Took an apprenticeship in wheelwrighting and horsdrawn-vehicle building, and started my own shop in '76. Ran for 7years until Thatcher's recession, then spread into boats, green oak, etc. In '87 began desk-work campaigning which has since become main focus. Sundry rural skills of coppice, wine, sheep-dressing etc may be of use.


I was merely a twinkle in my parents' eyes in '70.

Sounds like you have a fine collection of skills which I hope you've had (or will have) the opportunity to pass on...

I seem to have an irrational respect for any woodworkers I come across. Quite the most beautiful skill. Wish I had three lifetimes to learn and practice such things for myself.
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Billhook



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 820
Location: High in the Cambrian Mountains

PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tess - thanks for your reply - many interesting points in common I think.

Over the matter of community and mission, I guess the two are interdependent, in that communities without some greater focus
appear often to decay rapidly into ghettos and degeneracy,
while without strong community spirit the contribution to society overall loses its orientation, ethic and dynamism,
and in turn decays into mere profit-maximizing commercialism.

For this reaon I'd hope that beside producing (and wherever possible value-adding to) a surplus for 'export',
we should also look to providing scarce services locally (e.g. herbalist ?, primary school ?, fleece processing ? etc).

In addition, a confident and equitable sustainable community could have a lot to offer in terms of visitors & volunteers / trainees,
let alone at the level of political campaigning, photo ops., seminars etc.

With regard to matters spiritual, this seems to me an area so fundamental to each person that the only code a community could sensibly lay down
is that of mutual respect for diverse beliefs.
Personally, beside dedicating a sizeable grove to flourish without our intervention, I'd be happy to put effort into something on the lines of a Mihrab,
being a place of prayer and contemplation, for those who would appreciate it.
No doubt an ecumenical approach to its use would serve the community better than any individual creed could hope to achieve.

With regard to temporal skills, while you must have both serious nous and discipline to be getting an MBA,
meaning that you'd no doubt acquire more rural skills (beside the flute)without too much difficulty,
it seems to me that "Business Administration" is one of the key skills lacking in too many of the last few decades' attempts at new communities.

Supposing we are able to assemble the right bunch of people with whom you were (easily persuaded) to throw in your lot,
I wonder about your commitment to the city for another 2 or 3 years.
If I might guess that someone in their mid-thirties were now 35, then to usefully quantify the period in question,
2 years equates to 5.71% of the accustomed span of three score years and ten,
which seems an awful lot to lay out on completing a mortgage rather than getting out while the going is good ?
But maybe there are additional ties ?

My own position is about 2/3rds liquid (in that I'm renting accom.) while a third is still in the form of old furniture, pictures and antiquarian books,
which would (if essential) take a little while to sell well.

Given that sufficient land holding appropriate resources is the prime basis for community,
and to do things well (that is from orchards to arable to coppice to livestock to working ponies)
we'd need some hundreds of acres of land and common grazing rights,
I wonder how many of us it will take to put together a sufficient kitty ?
Something up to dozen at a guess, but this is early days.

So I think we need to start looking carefully at the aspiration and at the constitutional stucture to best reflect it,
so as to get a clear outline for potential participants to consider.

Thankyou for your kind words regarding the working of wood - there are so few these days who understand what glorious things it can produce.

Indeed, next time you've an hour or two free in London, if you've not already seen it, head to Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament
and have a look at the oaken structure of the roof. -
Built around 1400 by Master Herland and covering about half an acre, it has to be Britain's great unsung feat of sustainable architecture.

regards,

Bill
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Tess



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 2709
Location: Truro

PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Bill,

Yes I do think we're on the same page.

Billhook wrote:

Over the matter of community and mission, I guess the two are interdependent, in that communities without some greater focus
appear often to decay rapidly into ghettos and degeneracy,
while without strong community spirit the contribution to society overall loses its orientation, ethic and dynamism,
and in turn decays into mere profit-maximizing commercialism.

For this reaon I'd hope that beside producing (and wherever possible value-adding to) a surplus for 'export',
we should also look to providing scarce services locally (e.g. herbalist ?, primary school ?, fleece processing ? etc).

In addition, a confident and equitable sustainable community could have a lot to offer in terms of visitors & volunteers / trainees,
let alone at the level of political campaigning, photo ops., seminars etc.


Agreed! There are numerous ethical and sustainable and important 'businesses' that a reasonably-sized acreage of land could support. Aside from the expected mixture of farmed crops and cattle, you also have the options of managed woodlands, energy farming (wind, solar, biomass et al), B&B/spiritual retreat centre, educational visitors' centre, teaching/educational centre offering courses with teachers both resident and visiting (in subjects from permaculture to renewables to woodworking to bushcraft), political lobbying activities and so on.

But be assured lest I sound like I'm overdoing the business side, the important thing is always to remember WHY we're doing those things. It's so we can live life, and live it in the finest company, in comfort, respecting the land that supports us, and pass it on as a legacy to those who come after.

Quote:

With regard to matters spiritual, this seems to me an area so fundamental to each person that the only code a community could sensibly lay down
is that of mutual respect for diverse beliefs.
Personally, beside dedicating a sizeable grove to flourish without our intervention, I'd be happy to put effort into something on the lines of a Mihrab,
being a place of prayer and contemplation, for those who would appreciate it.
No doubt an ecumenical approach to its use would serve the community better than any individual creed could hope to achieve.


Absolutely.

Quote:

With regard to temporal skills, while you must have both serious nous and discipline to be getting an MBA,
meaning that you'd no doubt acquire more rural skills (beside the flute)without too much difficulty,
it seems to me that "Business Administration" is one of the key skills lacking in too many of the last few decades' attempts at new communities.


I would tend to agree. It's mostly common sense, but the sort of common sense that actually turns out to be quite, well, uncommon.

Quote:

Supposing we are able to assemble the right bunch of people with whom you were (easily persuaded) to throw in your lot,
I wonder about your commitment to the city for another 2 or 3 years.


My commitment is twofold. Firstly, my current employer is paying most of the rather large costs of my education. In return I'm obliged to work for them for two years after I complete the MBA (next January) or pay back about ?12000 in fees. So you can see why jumping ship in the imminent future is not a choice easily taken.

Secondly, I set myself a timescale of 2-3 years to really give myself the chance to get the City life well and truly out of my system. I'm still rather infected by the compulsion to 'succeed'. However, I will say this, given the prospect of following my true dream of setting up a sustainable rural community & business I think such job-conditioning as I still suffer might very well fall away extremely quickly.

You're right to point out that the years are slipping away. I'm aware of that. 3 years is the absolutely limit. Once I've paid off the mortgage, at the very least I will rent it out and use the income to spend time at the various sustainable projects already going on in the country, working in exchange for the experience and any tuition and learnings I can get my hands on.

Quote:

If I might guess that someone in their mid-thirties were now 35, then to usefully quantify the period in question,


Good guess.

Quote:

I wonder how many of us it will take to put together a sufficient kitty ?
Something up to dozen at a guess, but this is early days.


I have no idea. Have you done any research into appropriate locations? I couldn't even guess what a hundred acres of farmland and woodland with access to windy slopes and fresh water etc might cost right now. Not as much as one might fear, I imagine. How much capital would you be hoping/expecting each of your dozen to bring with them? (Though no doubt premium practical skills would be acceptable in lieu...)

Quote:

Thankyou for your kind words regarding the working of wood - there are so few these days who understand what glorious things it can produce.


Sir, of all the ancient and future skills of these isles, there's none I'd rather have in my hands and arms than that. Perhaps one day you might show me a little of the art?
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Sam172



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 138
Location: Plymouth, UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was under the impression that the large majority of soil in Wales was of rather poor quality (at least in respect to growing crops), or am I in my ignorance of Wales (and I am very ignorant of anything to do with Wales) forgetting that even if much of it is poor quality, it's still a large place.

One thing I don't think I've seen mentioned so far is the rough location. Are you hoping for somewhere closer to the coast, or more inland?

I hope you get things rolling though. I'll be envious while working up a debt in Devon Sad.
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aran



Joined: 29 Dec 2005
Posts: 4
Location: Gwynedd

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a follow up to some of the earlier discussion, here are some current campaigns being run by Cymuned (a group for whom I work). Some of them are very clearly working in the specific direction of more sustainable communities, others are language-focused.

If you're considering moving here, I hope you'll find them interesting and illuminating - I'm sure you will, in fact, particularly if you read them without prejudice to see what they really say (I've never burnt anything more serious than the roof of my mouth, and I blame that on pizza rather than holiday homes... Wink ).

www.homes4locals.com

www.tax200.com

www.English-in-Wales.com

www.Tourists-in-Wales.com
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2006 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the benefit of those who haven't seen the other thread, here at the photos of Bill's farm:

http://web.mac.com/tessalowe/iWeb/Site/A%20Conservatory%20for%20Wales.html

Absolutely stunning . . . like most of the countryside in my home country. I do miss it sometimes . . . but it kind of makes me appreciate it more when I do visit these days.

I think a spring Powerswitch 'retreat' would be an excellent idea if you're up for it, Bill. I can contribute acoustic guitar (and possibly mandolin if I can fit it in my rucksack!) . . .
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biffvernon



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 9:06 am    Post subject: Re: A Conservatory for Wales Reply with quote

Billhook wrote:
Sundry rural skills of coppice, wine, sheep-dressing etc may be of use.

Sheep-dressing? Wossat? Do you put them in dresses first?
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 6760
Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:57 am    Post subject: Re: A Conservatory for Wales Reply with quote

biffvernon wrote:
Billhook wrote:
Sundry rural skills of coppice, wine, sheep-dressing etc may be of use.

Sheep-dressing? Wossat? Do you put them in dresses first?


Ah - I didn't realise it was going to be that sort of party.

Better bring my wellies.
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Andy Hunt
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Billhook



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 820
Location: High in the Cambrian Mountains

PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Biff & Andy - my apologies
- I somehow missed your charming replies at the time they were posted.

Just to be clear about this, sheep dressing could, more literally,
be called sheep undressing,
and yes, I find it helpful to wear wellies . . .

Regards,

Bill
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a Welshman by birth, I've always been the stated object of such suspicions.

But I think some of the jokes are hilarious!

Laughing

I am OK here in Lancashire, because it's not too far from Yorkshire.
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Andy Hunt
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Norm



Joined: 08 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I am OK here in Lancashire


Andy, isn't Bury Greater Manchester not Lancashire?
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it is technically part of Greater Manchester these days.

GM is a bit of an artificial county though really - Bury was originally in Lancashire, and that's still the postal address.

My postcode is a Bolton postcode, rather than a Manchester one.
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Andy Hunt
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