Musings on CAT from a new volunteer

With short-term volunteers coming to CAT for a week this May, new long-term volunteer Riccardo shares his thoughts on path-making and idealism after his first week at CAT.

Having finished moving slate gravel around site to restore the Visitor Centre paths (possibly bad for the soul, but probably beneficial for my physique), as it was teatime, two interesting things happened.  Firstly, I discovered it was half an hour till tea was due; secondly, Megan and Freya somehow persuaded me to write a blog on my first experiences at CAT, so, for the first time in 6 years, my English degree comes in handy!

It was probably inevitable that I would come here sooner or later, ever since I read about the Whole House in a 1975 book by Brenda and Robert Vale.  But the distance from Colchester always prevented me, and there were always too many things to do.  However, finally I found myself in a position where I felt no pressing need to take any houses apart to make them more energy efficient, had no work or personal commitments, and it was the middle of winter.  Why go to Machynlleth (however that was pronounced) for just a day when I could volunteer and spend a few months?

Three work days into my stay here and I am still making acquaintances, all of whom have been both friendly and keen to allow me to get to know them and the area.  There is much enthusiasm and energy to get things done in spite of various lurgies that are being passed around this winter.

The garden work I have been doing at CAT (though I was technically assigned to site maintenance) has been fantastic.  It has been a real pleasure to work with Roger, the Head Gardener, and his mix of Eastern philosophy, common sense, and pure twaddle.  And, as someone who roughly knew the basics of gardening to begin with, to meet someone who not only has a wealth of experience in gardening, but is also glad to teach others is a clear bonus. There is, after all, only so much that can be learned from a book, and I am starting to see some of the mistakes I have been making with my seedlings at home.

In spite having to cycle in 13 miles to get to work, I have had a great time so far.  While I never get out of bed eagerly, especially in winter, the day in CAT is worth the journey, even today (though I maintain my long-seated objection to gravel).