Join us on Monday 24th October as we celebrate the opening of CAT’s new Quarry Trail with a day out in nature for all the family.
Built with support from Natural Resources Wales, the trail explores the wildlife and biodiversity of the old slate quarry on which CAT is built, and looks at the history of changing land-use and industry in the area. Winding up through broadleaf woodland, three different trails of varying lengths allow access to never-before-seen areas of the CAT woodlands and gardens whilst offering spectacular views into the Snowdonia National Park.
The launch event will see the trail brought to life by musicians, singers and storytellers, whilst experts in the wildlife and history of the quarry will help visitors to get a better understanding of their surroundings.
Micro-landscape tours provide a glimpse into the tiny world of mosses and lichens, a local ornithologist will be on hand with tips and tricks for recognising bird song, and an expert from Corris Mine Explorers will talk through the geology and history of the old quarry. There’s also the chance to get involved in surveying a new wildflower meadow and to get to grips with green woodworking skills.
The Quarry Trail opens on Monday 24th October, with activities from 10am and an opening ceremony at 11.30am. CAT’s family activities continue throughout half-term week.
Joe Wogden started his 6 months woodland volunteering at CAT in March 2015. In search of a change of life, he gave up a job in Yorkshire in favour of gaining practical experience in the environmental sector. He gained a degree in Ecology some years ago and wanted to reconnect with the natural world, and for Joe CAT’s long-term volunteer placement fit the bill. After completing his long-term volunteering, Joe was offered a job within CAT’s woodland team which has meant he has been working on the creation of the Quarry Trail since its beginning.
When Rob Goodsell, CAT’s woodland manager, told me early last summer that by October the following year there would be a new 1.5km circular woodland walk open to the public I found it hard to believe.“The new walk will take in a view of the quarry”, he said, “as well as going up to the reservoir and linking to the other side of site”. Hmmm…I thought, gazing down from the top of a steep and slippery slope, thick with out-of-control rhododendron and brambles. I knew straight away that we would have our work cut out for us.
My first week on the project involved my fellow ‘woodies’ and I cutting all the rhododendron on the bank, winching out the roots, dragging everything to the other side and getting a good bonfire going. It was exhausting work but the more we cleared, the easier it was to imagine a footpath in its place. Well, that seems like a long time ago now and since then it has really taken shape, thanks to the hard work of project coordinator Eleri and long-term woodland volunteer Dan, as well as the other short-term volunteers who have helped make it happen.
It’s not just the satisfaction of seeing the path develop over weeks and months that is so pleasing – it’s also the opportunities it has given me to learn new skills. Before I came to CAT my practical skills were very limited, but thanks to the footpath project I can make fences and build gabions with the best of them! We’re in the final stages now, installing the last section of handrail near the reservoir so that the route will be safe and ready to open in the last week of October.
Every time I’m on the new path it makes me think of how far it has come in a relatively short time, and with so few people. The woodland walk is a fantastic addition to all the great things CAT has to offer. I’m proud to have been a part of it and I hope that you get the chance to experience some of its history, biodiversity and the fantastic views!
After the Quarry Trail has been opened to the public on the 24th of October Joe will be working with the current volunteers on the core woodland management activities that take place in the winter months: felling trees, thinning, vegetation clearance (bramble bashing!) and firewood processing.
He is not sure what 2017 will bring but having gained experience as both a volunteer and an employee at CAT he is keen to pursue a job in the environmental sector, something he would not have considered applying for before.
A figure emerges from the undergrowth, with mud-covered face and a wild look in the eyes. Is it a fox? A badger? A wildcat? No… it’s a participant on CAT’s nature connection course! Kara Moses reports…
Traditionally, people have had an intimate, even sacred, relationship with nature, recognising and honouring our dependency on the natural world for our very survival – indeed understanding that we are the natural world, not separate from it. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The Earth is not the environment. The Earth is us. Everything depends on whether we have this insight or not.”
In more recent times in our history, we have come to see ourselves as somehow separate from nature. We have created socio-economic systems that don’t honour our place within the web of life; nature is treated as a resource to be used for human profit and pleasure, as a waste dump to discard the spoils of consumerism, or as an adventure playground.
This separation works to devastating effect, causing not only ecological – even civilisation – collapse, but exploitation of people, growing inequality and greater suffering in our world. There is a clear need for a deep shift in perspective individually and collectively, towards a life-affirming worldview and social structures that honour our Earthly home.
Why connect with nature?
The emerging field of ecopsychology is discovering that it is not only our relationships with our family and society that fundamentally affect our well-being and inform patterns of behaviour, but also our relationship with nature. To begin to heal the broken relationship with the natural world and each other we must reclaim meaningful connection that brings us into a deep, embodied sense of participating in a cosmos full of wisdom, value and meaning.
Rekindling this sacred connection to the earth and all its inhabitants has the potential to heal the sickness of our times, transforming social relationships. A growing body of research shows that increased time in nature brings greater happiness, better mental and physical health and emotional resilience. Connecting to nature supports us to connect more deeply with our selves and others.
Research also shows that feeling more connected to nature also leads to an acting as well. Through recognising that we are in fact part of it, people who feel more connected to nature are more likely to display ‘pro-environmental behaviour’. They begin to see that we are not defending nature – we are nature defending itself.
Here at CAT we’ve recently added nature connection to our short course programme. The first one ran in late summer, and went down a treat. Through play, mindfulness and practical nature connection exercises, we developed our powers of observation and saw all sorts of natural delights we would normally miss, with a renewed sense of awe and understanding.
Together we developed skills to interpret the natural world, such as tracking, understanding bird language and the body language of trees. We played games to help increase our sphere of awareness and reduce our sphere of disturbance to see and understand more of our wild cousins, and explored the theories of deep ecology and radical ecology. And we spent lots of time outdoors in the beautiful surroundings of CAT – we were a pretty feral bunch by the end!
More feral less fearful
I’m glad to say that the participants have been putting their experience and learning into practise in their daily lives, enjoying more time out in nature cultivating meaningful connections. One participant said a week after the course: “I’m listening to the birds with a new sense of understanding and joy.”
Some have made even bigger life changes: “I spoke about wanting to make a healthier more sustainable life and career change. It’s always a nerve wracking thing to leap from what you know into what you don’t, but the course inspired me to take this step and run nature connection walks myself. It’s great to connect with people over a subject that is intrinsically meaningful. More feral less fearful!”
After the success of this course, we’re offering more weekends in November 2016 and in April and July 2017 at affordable rates from £35/day. The last one sold out so book here soon if you too want to rewild your self and become more feral!
Kara Moses leads nature connection courses at CAT and independently. She also takes care of CAT’s natural water treatment systems and is a freelance journalist, Forest School leader and grassroots trainer.
Join us from 8th-16th October in a Climate Coalition Week of Action to celebrate the people, places and things we want to protect from climate change – and make sure our political representatives feel that love.
All over the country, we’ll be seeing nature walks, tea parties, classic lobbies, community energy visits and all sorts of other events to start those key conversations about climate change. All this will either involve politicians or be showcased to them, so that they see, feel and hear how much their constituents care about what we could lose to climate change.
People all over the UK are organising events in their local areas, and we’d love you to be involved. Join or organise an event in your area at weekofaction.org.uk
At CAT we’re hosting a coffee morning with Simon Thomas AM on Friday 14th October. Come along and discuss why you care about the environment and what you think politicians should be doing.
This summer, visitors to CAT can meet a very special quarry resident. Artist Holly Owen introduces Geoffrey Grey, our resident story-collector, and looks at how you can get involved in an innovative project exploring responses to climate change.
Switching Heads – sound mapping the […] is a collaborative multi-media art project between myself and artist Kristina Pulejkova, which we started together in 2013.
Blending our different art practices together, our project seeks to inspire environmental action through shared empathy, honesty and the lived experience.
Using our unique combination of immersive sound technology, environmentally un-intrusive sculpture and film, our project celebrates areas around the world that are environmentally significant. Spending time in these places, we invite local people to share their stories, concerns and solutions in the face of global climate change with a life-size head sculpted from site-specific materials. Audiences are drawn into a continuous switch between home and place, stimulating emotive response, shared concern and grassroots action.
The first film in our series entitled Switching Heads – sound mapping the Arctic was filmed in 2015 in the remote frozen city of Tromsø, deep within the Arctic Circle. Searching always for the true story, we captured local people’s concern for their home sinking beneath the rising Arctic sea, the loss of their traditional and contemporary culture, and the extinction of their iconic species, as well as excitement at the idea of one day having a longer, hotter summer.
This year we are delighted to bring Switching Heads to the Centre for Alternative Technology. Having spent seven months at CAT as their 2015-2016 artist in residence I am delighted to have the opportunity to work alongside this influential organisation again and this time to be able to transport audiences around the country and beyond to this unique and beautiful location.
Every day from 24th July to 1st August Kristina and I will be filming Switching Heads – sound mapping the Quarry alongside the third member of our Welsh team Geoffrey Grey. Geoffrey, a life-sized head that we have sculpted from CAT’s very own quarry slate, will be waiting to hear stories from CAT’s visitors as they explore the centre’s gardens, woodland paths and exhibits.
Enjoy special activities every day during the school holidays (18th July to 29th August). Get the kids out exploring nature and let them get creative with eco-crafts and solar boat-building. Take a guided tour or explore our brand new Quarry Trail. Just relax in our organic gardens or stop for lunch in the CAT cafe. See you soon!
Fun for kids!
Get crafty with natural jewellery making
Put your inventing cap on and build a solar-powered boat
Get up close to some amazing beasties on a slug & bug hunt
And adults too!
Take a guided tour to learn more about renewable energy and greener buildings
Explore our brand new Quarry Trail for amazing views across the old quarry on which CAT is built
Release your inner bodger with green woodcraft demonstrations every Wednesday
*School holiday activites run from 18th July to 29th August, with kids’ activities and guided tours on every day
Visit CAT’s Gardens during the Festival of Gardens North Wales
We are fortunate enough to live in a most spectacularly beautiful part of Wales – mountains, hills, lakes, waterfalls, the estuary and the coast. Every day looks different, and even the rain brings out a moody beauty.
On Thursday 2nd June, we will be hosting two special events.
At 12 noon, there will be a comprehensive gardens tour; followed at 2pm by a Meet the Head Gardener event. Roger McLennan has been gardening at CAT for over 30 years, and appeared on numerous gardening programmes, and has a wealth of knowledge under his belt. This event is held in conjunction with The Festival of Gardens – the brainchild of broadcaster and gardener Tony Russell; and celebrates the scenery of Snowdonia and North Wales.
Running over half term, from Saturday May 28th until Sunday June 5th, the Festival follows the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and covers the Spring Bank Holiday.
Plantsman, gardener, author and broadcaster Roy Lancaster CBE, will officially open the 2016 Festival at the beautifully-restored gardens of Plas Cadnant on Saturday May 28th. (Entry by pre-booked ticket: 01248 717174).
To find out more about the gardens of Snowdonia and North Wales and to receive a free Festival brochure, which includes a map of all of the gardens and a timetable of all of the events, visit www.gardensnorthwales.co.uk.
Ride the water powered funicular railway up to the site, before beginning your adventure.
With free children’s activities, you could be learning about sustainable living while the kids build a solar boat, make natural jewellery, or plant their own beanstalks. There are free guided walks every day throughout the half term week, too.
The Visitor Centre is looking great at the moment, with new signage being developed and new displays being worked on. The gardens are a joy to behold, and you’ll get a chance to have a peek at Carwyn Lloyd Jones’ tiny caravan, as featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.
Finally, after all that exploring, visit the CAT restaurant for a filling lunch or a delicious cake. It’s all veggie, with lots of vegan options, and we cater for specialist diets too.
Find out all you need to know about building your dream home with a visit to Build It Live Bicester self-build show and see live demonstrations from CAT. 11-12th June.
The Centre for Alternative Technology, in association with Build It Live, are offering pairs of FREE tickets (worth £24) – just by following this link.
Build It Live self-build show will take place on 11 & 12 June in Bicester, on the borders of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. The latest addition to the Build It show calendar, Build It Live Bicester is brand new and is being run in association with Graven Hill – the UK’s first large-scale self-build project. Graven Hill has outline planning for 1,900 new homes, along with a primary school, local pub and shops and lies just 5 minutes’ drive from the exhibition.
Many of us dream of creating our own little eco home, somewhere where we can live a greener life in a space that we’ve designed and built ourselves. But finding the perfect spot and gaining planning permission isn’t always easy. It’s with this in mind that the Graven Hill project has been developed in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
Spearheaded by Cherwell District Council, the project has outline planning permission for 1,900 new homes, and offers opportunities for a range of different sized projects, including detached, semi-detached and bungalow designs, using a mix of kit homes and self-build projects. There’s the potential for groups of people to work collaboratively, for example by creating a terrace of eco homes, and a primary school, local pub and shops are also planned.
All properties will be built to high environmental standards, complying with Passivhaus principals for energy efficiency, and there’s the flexibility for individual designs to incorporate higher environmental standards, so this could be a useful route in for anyone wanting to create an eco home of their own.
Join CAT at Build It Live
Whether you’re interested in a plot at Graven Hill, thinking of building a home elsewhere, or if you’d like to retrofit an existing property, come to Build It Live Bicester on 11 and 12 June to meet experts in a range of building materials and methods.
Taking place just a few miles away from the Graven Hill site, the show is an opportunity to discover thousands of cutting-edge and traditional products and meet over 150 of the UK’s most innovative suppliers. There are around 30 free seminars and workshops, developed to address specific problems and inspire confidence when taking on a building or renovation project.Here’s a flavour of what’s on offer:
At the Build It Manchester show earlier this year, CAT’s carpenter Carwyn Jones demonstrated eco-friendly building techniques and upcycling with pallets.
Eco friendly building techniques: Come along to see CAT doing talks and live demonstrations covering a range of topics including environmentally-friendly building techniques, renewable energy, eco-sanitation and woodland management. There will be a daily demo programme and experts on hand to answer your questions. Also see the free seminar on Building a Sustainable Home, at 3.30pm daily. Graven Hill zone: Find out about opportunities to build your own home on Graven Hill and join the live Q&A to discover how to reserve a plot. Speak to the Graven Hill team and listen to their keynote session in the main seminar theatre at 11.10am each day. See the various homes that can be built and learn about the Design Code. The Naked House: See a section of a new build as it comes together – a fascinating insight into how things are installed, from underfloor heating to roof trusses and floor joists.
Find a builder: Talk to the Federation of Master Builders who can guide you through the process of finding the right contractor for your project. Access their database of trusted builders in your area.
Self builders’ stories live: Gain inspiration and confidence from people who have realised their self build dreams. Hear their stories in the live theatre, on the show floor.
The brown-field site was previously used as an ordnance depot by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and acted as the main supply base for the British Army’s operations during the Second World War. Materials from the demolished MOD buildings will be recycled for use in the construction works.
The project team have worked with ecologists to ensure their plans protect and encourage biodiversity, and more than half the site will be set aside as community woodland and open space. Allotments, cycle paths and sports pitches are also planned.
Later this year sees construction of the first ten ‘pioneer’ homes, one of which has been designed by Ed Green, joint programme leader on CAT’s Professional Diploma in Architecture, who is keen to develop self-build designs that can be delivered at a lower cost than more mainstream building projects.
Two Architecture Events are taking place at CAT in May as part of the Wales Festival of Architecture. An exhibition will take place 5th – 18th May whilst Architect Ceri Davies will speak about her work on Tuesday 10th May.
Exhibition: Added Dimension
5th – 18th May | Visitor Centre open daily 10am – 5pm WISE Foyer, Centre for Alternative Technology Click for visitor centre prices and further information
Exhibition showing the work of local architects’ practices, highlighting the special contributions that Chartered Architects make to this community and to civic life.
Talk: Ceri Davies, AHMM Architects
Tuesday 10th May | 7pm WISE Lecture Theatre, Centre for Alternative Technology Includes an evening opportunity to view the Added Dimension exhibition
Holyhead-born Architect at Stirling Prize-winning firm AHMM Ceri Davies will discuss her work. Ceri’s wide-ranging project experience includes the successful competition bids for Walsall Bus Station, Kentish Town Health Centre, the refurbishment of Grade II listed Royal Court Theatre Liverpool and a mixed-use student accommodation scheme along Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross for Urbanest. Her strengths lie in formulating ideas grounded in place and purpose at concept stage and ensuring these are built upon during the life of a project. Recent and current projects include the White Collar Factory at Old St Yard and the fit-out proposals for Google HQ.