Amelia’s Magazine | Lammas Low Impact Courses and Conferences

Lammas Low Impact Aurelia Lange
Illustration by Aurelia Lange

Wales – the land of soaring song, viagra turf-churning scrums and cunning cross-dressing rioters – is today at the forefront of sustainable, information pills ecological development. In 2009 the Welsh Assembly Government announced a national sustainable development scheme, buy One Wales: One Planet, which led last year to Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6: One Planet Development. The objective of the One Planet Development policy is truly laudable: for Wales to be using only its fair and sustainable share of the earth’s resources – which was measured in 2003 at 1.88 global hectares per person – within the space of a single generation. To this end, One Planet Developments must be zero carbon in both their construction and use, and within five years sit on land that provides for the inhabitants’ basic needs of income, food, energy and waste assimilation. Developments can take the form of single homes, co-operative communities or larger settlements.

Tir y Gafel Hub Outside
Low-impact building The Hub at Tir y Gafel

Roundhouse in construction at Tir y Gafel
A family’s roundhouse under construction at Tir y Gafel

Tree Planting sign at Tir y Gafel
Crafted wooden sign at sustainable settlement in West Wales, Tir y Gafel

One such community is Tir y Gafel, nestled in 76 acres of dizzyingly beautiful ex-farmland mixed pasture and woodland deep within the Pembrokeshire hills. Tir y Gafel is the first eco village to be birthed by Lammas – a cooperative trust that exists to support the development of eco villages in West Wales – following efforts by its founders, members and fellow low-impact supporters to gain planning permission for such developments. Currently under construction by the residents and volunteers, within a few years Tir y Gafel will comprise nine residential smallholdings created using the latest innovations in permaculture, environmental design and green technology. And, of course, they’ll be completely off-grid: water will be sourced from Tir y Gafel’s existing spring; on-site renewables such as the village hydro-electric facility will provide the sparks; fuel supplies will exist in the form of willow and ash; and organic waste will prove food for the village’s abundance of plant life.

Tir y Gafel flowers decorate The Hub
Tir y Gafel flowers decorate village meeting and celebration space, The Hub

Tir y Gafel Cat
Two of Tir y Gafel’s diverse range of residents

The people of Tir y Gafel will not just live off the land, but will nourish it, enriching their plots to the end that the land can support a range of livelihoods, from the growth of cash crops such as blueberries to crafts conjured from the woven hair of malamutes. The completion of the village community building The Hub is also in sight.

For many gazing in awe at the energy, vision and strength of pioneering spirit exhibited by Lammas and the Tir y Gafel residents, a relocation to Mars can seem more reachable than a move to a One Planet lifestyle, with all the land issues and lifestyle transformations it might involve. One of the guiding principles of Lammas, though, is to create a model for sustainable eco living that can be replicated across Wales – and, hopefully, outside it. Education plays a central role in the current life of Tir y Gafel, with courses and conferences inviting people to experience and explore low-impact living, and while doing so help make this groundbreaking example a reality. WWOOFers and other volunteers have been a driving force in the building of The Hub, exchanging enthusiasm and sweat for experience of low-impact building and a role in the future of sustainable living.

Footprints in the farmhouse
Lammas: Steps in the right direction

Building a timber-frame barn wall at Tir y Gafel
Building a timber-frame barn wall at Tir y Gafel

Carving joists for timber-frame barn wall at Tir y Gafel
Joy of joists: getting to grips with timber-framing at Tir y Gafel

Aside from a regular rotation of passionate volunteers, attendees of courses held at Tir y Gafel go on to spread the word, objectives and feasibility of One Planet lifestyles such as those that they experience and learn about through Lammas. The Eco Village Conference will bring those inspired by Lammas’s work and eager to grapple with the practicalities of creating an eco home or village together between 9-11 September, when the folks behind Lammas will impart advice on everything from land-based livelihoods to legal details. Other courses currently booking include a weekend covering willow planting, harvesting and sculpture.

A couple of Lammas course attendees tour the land
People power: Lammas Low Impact Experience course attendees tour the land

Group cooking at Tir y Gafel
The community that cooks together…

Tir y Gafel volunteer spades

Foraged blackberries at Tir y Gafel
Foraged blackberries at Tir y Gafel

Later in the month comes another of the enormously influential Low Impact Experience weeks, which have so far seen dozens of eco-conscious minds enter Tir y Gafel curious and leave – a week and countless incredible vegetarian meals later – with fresh skills spanning cob building, bread baking, stem wall forming, foraging, escapee hen catching and beyond. Led by Hoppi Wimbush and James Giddings, the most recent Low Impact Experience Week, held in August, was for this writer an inspirational reminder of the joyful warm ache of limbs worked sawing barn wall joists; of the rich pleasure – irate wasps and all – of a permaculture landscape; and of the timeless worth of a mental store of stories to tell while rain batters darkened windows. Above all, though, the Low Impact Experience Week re-affirmed the significance of community to our selves, our health and our happiness – and not just because the attendees shared our foraged wood sorrel.

Foraging for wood sorrel at Tir y Gafel
Foraged Tir y Gafel wood sorrel during the Low Impact Experience Week

Baking bread at Tir y Gafel
Future kneads: The Low Impact Experience bake-off

Banquet at The Hub, Tir y Gafel
Banqueting at The Hub, Tir y Gafel

Fire at Tir y Gafel ceilidh

Long gone are the days when it was considered avant-garde to believe that the future health and happiness of our communities rests on the success and extended positive influence of low-impact living initiatives such as those that Lammas is pioneering at Tir y Gafel. As the people of Lammas and Tir y Gafel are showing through their courses and conferences, if we are willing to share knowledge, skills, sweat and time as part of a wider ecologically minded and responsible community, the future can look very, very bright. Even if it is lit via homemade solar panels.

Categories ,Agriculture, ,Aurelia Lange, ,Baking, ,Biodiversity, ,camping, ,Cat, ,Centre for Alternative Technology, ,Co-operative, ,cob building, ,community, ,composting, ,Conference, ,Coppicing, ,course, ,Eco-village, ,Education, ,Farming, ,Grass roof, ,Hoppi Wimbush, ,Hydro electric, ,James Giddings, ,Lammas, ,Land-based Livelihood, ,Livestock, ,Living Roof, ,Low impact, ,Malamute, ,One Planet Development, ,Paul Wimbush, ,Pembrokeshire, ,Planning Permission, ,Polytunnel, ,Renewable Technologies, ,Renewables, ,Roundhouse, ,Self-build, ,Solar panels, ,solar power, ,Straw bale building, ,sustainable living, ,TAN 6, ,Timber framing, ,Tir y Gafel, ,Tony Wrench, ,Tree planting, ,vegetarian, ,Volunteering, ,wales, ,Welsh Assembly Government, ,Wild Foraging, ,Willow weaving, ,Wind power, ,Wood crafts, ,Wool crafts, ,WWOOF, ,zero carbon

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Amelia’s Magazine | Crayfish Bob’s at the Two Degrees Festival by Arts Admin at Toynbee Hall

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Clare-Patey Toynbee Hall-photography Amelia Gregory
Crayfish Bob’s. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

This week Two Degrees is hosting Crayfish Bob’s al fresco pop up crayfish shack every evening in the paved courtyard next to Toynbee Hall. How could I resist the chance to sup on South London wine whilst crunching on succulent seafood? I couldn’t, thumb is the answer, doctor and I was lucky enough to secure a seat at the first sitting on Monday evening.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Claire Pavey Toynbee Hall-photography Amelia GregoryCrayfish Bobs Two Degrees Claire Pavey Toynbee Hall-photography Amelia GregoryCrayfish Bobs Two Degrees Claire Pavey Toynbee Hall-photography Amelia Gregory

Crayfish Bob’s is supplied with Bob Ring’s freshly caught American Signal Crayfish from the Thames, an invasive species that has been busy decimating our native wildlife since the 1970s. At first introduced to be intensively farmed in controlled ponds American Signal Crayfish soon used their ability to walk across land and spread out across the country. One account tells of a late night encounter with a long procession of crayfish walking from an abandoned trout-farm pond and heading directly towards the nearby river. Clever buggers. I’ve encountered a crayfish clambering out of a pond at Hampstead Heath as it goes: it caused much consternation amongst the nudist sunbathers on the women’s ‘beach’.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Claire Pavey Toynbee Hall-photography Amelia Gregory

American Signal Crayfish carry a plague to which they are immune but which kills our native White Clawed species and they also damage river banks with their tunnelling – but despite their disastrous effect on the environment nothing much has been done to stem their march. Sadly the crayfish that are increasingly used in tasty sandwiches and snacks across the UK are all farmed abroad because it is so hard to trap the American Signal Crayfish found here commercially. So, determined to do his bit, Bob Ring has hatched a plan that goes against the grain of modern business acumen: he hopes to build the Crayfish Bob brand into one of high integrity and desirability so that he can sell as many tonnes of UK caught American Signal Crayfish as possible. His ultimate dream is to go bust due to lack of stock. Obviously I felt very good about helping him on his way to achieving this.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Claire Pavey Toynbee Hall Bob Ring-photography Amelia Gregory
Bob Ring.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Clare-Patey Toynbee Hall-photography Amelia Gregory
Clare Patey.

As soon as we were seated Bob’s co-conspirator the interdisciplinary artist Clare Patey darted past, offering us beautiful peach coloured Urban Wine from the gardens of Tooting (it was very good) and stacks of moist sourdough bread. Our food looked utterly beautiful, served with panache by Blanch and Shock food designers, who produce theatrical food productions and educational workshops based on themes of sustainability and the psychology of eating. They aim to provide opulent food with the minimum of waste. Again, happy to help out.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Blanch and Shock -photography Amelia Gregory
Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Blanch and Shock -photography Amelia Gregory
Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Blanch and Shock -photography Amelia Gregory
Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Blanch and Shock -photography Amelia Gregory

Large glass bowls of locally sourced and wild foraged salad – I never knew that Common Hogweed was so darn tasty – were placed on our tables but for the main course we were encouraged to visit Crayfish Bob’s shack for ourselves to converse with the man who had caught our delicious meal. Crayfish are a messy dish to eat, requiring a certain amount of cracking and sucking to demolish, but with a finger bowl of water at the ready we all got a certain amount of pleasure from the ordeal. There was time for chat with our fellow guests as we were all seated on a friendly communal long table.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees urban wine -photography Amelia Gregory
Peach coloured Urban Wine from Tooting.

On one side I was joined by food blogger Laura Fleur, who I have conversed with on Twitter (ain’t it always the way these days?!) and her friend Lizzie, aka Hollow Legs. On my other side I chatted with Kevin and Jane of Platform, another organisation which is doing great things by mixing up art and activism and with whom I worked to Redesign the Royal Bank of Scotland for Sustainability in 2009 at the Arnolfini. On my right sat Peter Koenig, a former financial editor of the Independent. What an intriguing and diverse bunch!

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees Blanch and Shock -photography Amelia GregoryCrayfish Bobs Two Degrees Blanch and Shock -photography Amelia Gregory
For desert we were served a gorgeous Douglas Fir Panna Cotta that slid off the spoon in the most delectable manner, with a side serving of strawberries and butterscotch.

Crayfish Bobs Two Degrees kevin smith -photography Amelia Gregory
Kevin with a rescue parrot that came to visit us!

It was a rare and wonderful chance to talk with some new friends whilst remembering how enjoyable good local food can be. As Diana Damian points out on her blog for This is Tomorrow, our act of eating the American Signal Crayfish demonstrated how social engagement can become a political act in itself, and an enjoyable one at that. I couldn’t really put it better myself.

At only £5 for the entire meal this was fantastic value so not surprisingly all seats at Crayfish Bob’s have now been sold out, but there is plenty more going on at Two Degrees over the rest of the week. I shall be taking part in a round table discussion about the state of climate activism on Saturday 18th June between 1-2pm. Please do come along and take part!

Categories ,activism, ,American Signal Crayfish, ,art, ,Arts Admin, ,Blanch and Shock, ,Bob Ring, ,Claire Pavey, ,Climate Change, ,Common Hogweed, ,community, ,Crayfish Bob’s, ,Crayfish Shack, ,Diana Damian, ,Douglas Fir Panna Cotta, ,festival, ,Food, ,Food Design, ,Hollow Legs, ,Kevin Smith, ,Laura Fleur, ,Peter Koenig, ,Platform Arts, ,Pop-up, ,Salad, ,South London, ,sustainability, ,This is Tomorrow, ,Tooting, ,Toynbee Hall, ,two degrees, ,Urban Wine, ,Wild Foraging, ,Wine

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