Jeremy Leggett at Sunrise Celebration

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Sunday at the Sunrise Celebration was dedicated to the Transition movement and there were talks around the issues of permaculture, peak oil and transition towns. Jeremy Leggett, the chairman of Solarcentury, gave a talk on peak oil (which we didn’t see) and then one on solar energy, which we did manage to catch.

There are some interesting things happening in the world of solar energy. It’s now expected that the cost of solar energy will match the cost of fossil fuel energy by 2013 and will then continue to fall. This is being driven by various factors, notably increased efficiency in the manufacture of the materials needed for panels and the panels themselves, and economies of scale as larger manufacturers come into the market. The efficiencies also mean that modern PV panels will pay back their energy (as opposed to financial) cost in less than two years.

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Seize The Day at Sunrise

imgp0275-cropWe went down to the Sunrise Celebration festival near Frome for the day today. You could argue that not spending the whole weekend getting messy (in all senses) rather negates the festival experience, but it was a fun day out so I say “nyaah!” to your argument.

One of the attractions for us was that Seize The Day were listed as playing. Either they themselves or other people (never quite sure) call Seize The Day protest folk, which seems appropriate – certainly the most common two word phrase at one of their gigs in my experience is “Climate Camp”. They played a fine set even though their violin player Elizabeth was obviously not well and left the stage at various points, and went down so well with the admittedly partisan crowd that even they seemed slightly surprised at the reaction.

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Easter road trip: Tir Penrhos Isaf

After leaving Cae Mabon, we headed across (well, around) Snowdonia to Chris and Lyn Dixon’s permaculture smallholding Tir Penrhos Isaf, where we’d arranged a guided tour. This was the part of the trip I think we were most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. The photos I took, however, aren’t that great. Hey ho.

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Chris and Lyn bought the farm in 1986 and the permaculture design started then. At the time it was seven acres of tired sheep pasture with a derelict barn in a valley clearing in the woods. Their first planning application to create a sustainable residence and establish a permaculture smallholding was made in 1989, a time when “sustainable” and “permaculture” weren’t part of planning language – arguably permaculture still isn’t.

They were keen to establish a precedent for permaculture so persevered, while living on site in a caravan with a series of three year temporary permissions, for over fifteen years until finally having to accept planning permission for a barn conversion in 2006. They were understandably disappointed to have to accept a compromise and not establish the precedent, but Lyn had suffered two bouts of cancer and they needed to get on with their lives without the threat of eviction.

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Easter road trip: Cae Mabon

Our Easter road trip was intended to draw some inspirations for how and where we may want to live. One of the main destinations was Cae Mabon where we planned to help for a day of their Easter working party, and also to find out just what Cae Mabon is.

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The tale starts in the early 1980s when storyteller Eric Maddern, an Australian by birth who spent the latter years of his childhood in the UK, returned from travels to California, Alice Springs and beyond to settle in North Wales.

Twice he saw the cottage in the woods above Lake Padarn but failed to secure it: the third time he made it his. And in the more than twenty years since then, he has transformed the site into a retreat and education centre – but so much more.

The site itself is very lovely, that of course is why he was drawn to it so strongly. The small cottage is at the top of the plot which then falls steeply away down to the lake (which technically it doesn’t front on to being separated from it by the Llanberis lake railway). A fast flowing stream rushes down one side of the property and there are plentiful trees.

What Eric has done to it has only added to the magic. To support its use as a retreat centre, various accommodations have been built. And what buildings they are: an Iron Age style roundhouse; a cob (earth) cottage started as part of an onsite course in cob building techniques run by Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley of the Cob Cottage Company ; a hobbit house with a round door; a swiss chalet; a straw bale hogan; a cedar cabin; and a small existing barn which has been extended and converted into the kitchen and meeting/eating area.

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Easter road trip: car mystery

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I have no idea why this car, spotted near the Centre for Alternative Technology outside Machynlleth, was driving along with its tailgate open or even if the driver was aware of it. The slightly scary thing was that were two dogs in the rear of the car, although they didn’t seem overly concerned about the situation.

Just fluff

Mostly, we is just fluff.