Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ynyslas or vegetable colourscapes

Rosie and Olivier's dedication!
So impressed was Ms Tagalong with CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology)  that she took their recommendation to visit Ynyslas, a community garden project a few miles away near Borth on the mid-Wales coast.

Mr Ideasman drove the Bongo into the walled garden. No-one in sight. But before they could go off nosing around, Peter, 'the owner' of the land appeared from the blackcurrant bushes.

His initial reticence receded as Ms Tagalong mumbled and bumbled her explanation of why she was there and summoning his partner, Lynne, they explained more about the garden.

Healthy crops in one of those greenhouses
You have to go back to the industrial revolution really, the start of railway lines coming down from the Midlands. Borth became a holiday destination with no food! Ever entrepeneurial, the railways built this large walled garden with lean-to greenhouses on all sides and many very large ones in the middle. Several still stand today, some repaired, some in disrepair. Not surprising as there are over 600 panes of glass in each one!

Mr Ideasman was jumping up and down with excitement,
'This place is the real beginning of tourism,' he said.

So from 1876 this was a nursery supplying food to the railway hotels in town and the visitors to the railway cafes. Lucky them, their soil was shipped in from Ireland. The local port shipped out slate and brought soil back as ballast.

But enough of the history. What about community gardening? Peppercorn rents have allowed various groups to have a go at community gardening, well, gardening for the community, trying to provide box schemes for locals to have organic produce.

Like Bosavern, in far Southern Cornwall,  distribution is difficult. Chatting to Rosie and Olivier, two of the present Green Isle group, Ms Tagalong bowed down before their dedication.

Patiently picking leaves from cut and come again lettuces, discarding the curled and browned, they had arrived by bike from Borth station.

They said they were relative novices but their credentials seemed pretty good to Ms Tagalong. All four had met at CAT and were using this as a learning experience, what grew well here and what didn't. Not a good Summer to be experimenting really, thought Ms T. What could survive deluge, perhaps?

But it was time for a cup of tea, Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman went back to the main house which used to be the office for the railways and spent a happy hour discussing things artistic and Antipodean with Peter and Lynne who are the artists and masterminds behind Colourscape. You never know who you'll meet!

Peter and Lynne's restored greenhouse
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Community dream - Centre for Alternative Technology

The 'water taxi'
Inspire, inform and enable – so goes their slogan.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, Ms Tagalong took her two young girls via water-operated carriages up the mountains in Snowdonia as an antidote to their near exposure to a nuclear power plant visit. She was inspired to do it again. Visit CAT that is, not the nuclear plant!

Some twenty years later, Mr Ideasman is having his fill. No longer a 'hippie' sanctuary from the 70s the disused quarry even houses a state of the art Wales Institute forSustainable Education building offering Masters courses in sustainable architecture and research facilities for various projects. Signs urge visitors to donate to the poo needed to research the type of worm needed to eat their way through human excrement! Ms Tagalong was pleased to know that it has already been proved that the worms both reduce volume of the waste and minimise bacteria and viruses.

Sally, our enthusiastic guide obviously had not heard of Snowy and her poo worm farm back in Australia!

Sally talked through the beginnings in 1973, the piles of slag, the digging of ponds and her involvement as a volunteer in the 80s to her subsequent employment.

'Nature loves messiness,' she enthused as Ms Tagalong nodded her head in agreement. No manicured beds here. A wonderful forest garden (Permaculture principles) and various vegetable and herb beds with experiments in compost supply the residents and Mr Ideasman who sampled tayberries and loganberries espaliered and trained over archways. No nagging worries about Eden here!

Volunteers keep the gardens looking their best and Ms Tagalong came across a ruthless chopper of chives in flower. Luckily Sally was looking the other way.

State of the Art Lecture Hall
Ms Tagalong learnt about the rammed earth walls in the information centre and the piece de resistance internal walls of the auditorium. (Nothing new to Mr Ideasman) They oohed and aahed though at the huge moveable moon disc in the centre of the ceiling letting in light and the sliding wall, all working on passive solar systems. State of the art sustainable architecture in action.

CAT offers courses in Wind Power to Hedgerow Herbalism and everything inbetween. Now if only time can be found in between all the travelling to attend one of these!

When in Wales make sure you visit this community dream in action and spread the word about sustainable living. It works!

p.s. Mr Ideasman says the food was great too.

Sustainable garden
Enjoy the photos!