Views around CAT on 1st December

We have had a spell of cold and frosty days here at CAT, with head gardener Roger recording -10C on the night of 29th November. These cold, still days lend a Nordic atmosphere to this unique environment – and we felt we just had to share it with you!

Tarren y Gesain
Tarren y Gesail
Tarren y Gesain
Tarren y Gesail

 

 

Frosty hillside
Frosty hillside

 

Frost crystals on a bench
Frost crystals on a bench
Woodland walk picnic area
Woodland walk picnic area
Quarry outcrop
Quarry outcrop
View of the old quarry from the Woodland Walk
View of the old quarry from the Woodland Walk
Mossy slate
Mossy slate
Icy stones
Icy stones
Icy waterfall
Icy waterfall
Icy grass 'fingers'
Icy grass ‘fingers’
Icy grass 'fingers' close up
Icy grass ‘fingers’ close up
Frosty moss
Frosty moss
Lichen and moss
Lichen and moss
Tarren y Gesain
Tarren y Gesail

Visit CAT’s Gardens

CAT volunteer tending to slad plants
CAT volunteer tending to slad plants
CAT volunteer Catherine tends to the spring salad crop

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.

Less than four hours on the train from London, why not see for yourself? The seven acres of CATs sustainable and organic gardens are looking gorgeous right now.

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.

Half Term Fun at CAT

This half term, come and join the fun at CAT

Ride the water powered funicular railway up to the site, before beginning your adventure.

Half Term Whitsun 2016

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.

Book here to get 10% off your ticket price.

Looking forward to meeting you!

 

 

Stay at CAT during the Weekend of Adventure!

Come to Machynlleth and embrace your spirit of adventure!

CAT offers great, reasonably priced accommodation for your group.

bedroom2

Whether it’s a group of friends wanting to ride the mountain bike trails at Coed y Brenin, or attempting the Mach 1 to 4 routes around the Dyfi Valley, you’ll need somewhere to stay that can accomodate you.

Our on site accomodation is friendly and reasonably priced, we have bike racks, and we really don’t mind a bit of mud splatter!

8271385419_a33a2a91a9_z

Of course, from many parts of the CAT site, we can see Tarren y Gesail, with Cadair Idris and Snowdon not too far away.
The views from Cadair Idris are truly staggering and the walk itself exhilarating.

braich goch mine

If underground is more your thing, go mine exploring! Braich Goch slate mine is only a few miles from CAT and closed over 40 years ago sealing 130 years of history in this unique underground museum.
With tours to suit the whole family, there is even a sleepover in the mine this weekend!

Credit: Jim the Photographer, 2014

Cardigan Bay is a Special Area of Conservation with great surfing conditions, and the chance to spot a dolphin or two.
Borth, Aberystwyth and Harlech are all excellent for beginners, or travel further south to Pembrokeshire for classic surfing and body-boarding. Click here for surf board hire.

For more ideas of the sort of things you could do during the Wales Year of Adventure click here.

For more details about accommodation at CAT: events@cat.org.uk or call 01654 704973

Build a tiny house…

tiny house1We are so excited about our tiny house courses – new from us to you!

Running three times this year, spaces are filling up fast.

Learn how to make a beautiful and bespoke tiny house from the ground up: including the timber frame structure, interior and renewable systems.

Carwyn Lloyd Jones, our very own master craftsman (and TV star!) will guide you through an inspiring and practical week where you’ll learn how to:

• Build a timber frame tiny house (approx. 6ft x 10ft)
• Clad the walls
• Build different roof shapes (including pitched roofs, curved roofs and green   roofs
• Install windows and doors
• Fix the structure to a trailer base
• Create simple, functional and smart fitted furniture
• Integrate Solar PV and thermal for electricity and hot water
• Harvest rainwater
• Include a compost toilet

Jam packed with practical hands-on exercises and talks from experts, this course will give you the skills and enthusiasm to build a tiny house of your own – whether it’s a little off-grid home, outdoor workspace or a glamping pod for summer getaways.

8096918469_1098dc91a6_mCarwyn will also give you a tour of his very own tiny house caravan as seen on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces.

Book here, before it’s completely sold out!

Need more inspiration? Read this blog, written by a CAT graduate who is building a tiny home on wheels in Australia.

Power in the Land

alana_quilt-detail-230x170We are excited to hear that the North Wales arts collective X-10 are opening their new show Power in the Land this weekend.
The dynamic, diverse and multi-talented group of ten artists were inspired by the closure and decommisioning of the last nuclear power station in Wales – Wylfa in Anglesey – at the end of 2015.

The resulting work – two years in the making – is an engaging medley of work in video, sound, performance, installation and in graphic and photographic forms.

The impact made by the arrival of Wylfa in the 1960’s on the language and culture of this corner of Wales is explored, together with the legacy of a major power institution on the landscape.

The 10 artists have been chosen for their exhibiting experience, their creativity and their willingness to explore beyond the obvious, to eNo-entry1-230x170xperiment and to engage in creative dialogue with each other.

They have been working together on the site and responding to the physical, material and energetic presence of the power station, as well as its geographical landscape, and the interactions with the local community.

Join Alana Tyson, Ant Dickinson, Jessica Lloyd-Jones, Robin Tarbet and Teresa Paiva in conversation and lively debate on Saturday 6th Feb, at 5pm in the Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown.
No booking necessary.
Refreshments available for a small donation

The group are taking their touring exhibition across Wales before traveling to England and Europe.

Dates:

Oriel Davies
6th Feb to 6th April, 2016

Main exhibition of artworks and artists talks.
Anglesey Arts Weeks
19th March to 3rd April, 2016

Artist’s group working process Open Studio.
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
14th May to 18th July, 2016

Main exhibition of artworks.

World Wetland Day 2016

The Centre for Alternative Technology sits in the Dyfi Biosphere, a UNESCO world heritage site. We were give the status largely due to our proximity to Cors Dyfi, a unique peat bogland site.

map bach_0

Wetlands host a huge variety of life, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.

Unfortunately, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland, and more than 64% of our wetlands have disappeared since 1900.

Many of the short courses developed at CAT are done with the protection of the local ecology as a driving factor. We offer courses in Pond and Stream Invertebrate Life, Understanding Amphibians, Rainwater Harvesting, Greywater and Water Purification, Reedbeds and Waste Water Management and Ecosystem services:- Land use, water and waste management.

reedbed

Join us on a short course and help us spread awareness about the importance of wetlands.

Holly Owen – artist in residence

Artists close up-1

Holly Owen, environmental artist, came to live at the Centre for Alternative Technology seven months ago as our artist in residence. Holly’s time here has been inspiring, not just for her artistic practise, but for all the staff that have been a part of her continuing journey into low impact art.

“Playing with materials bound to the earth lifts us out of the commonplace and into a world re-imagined. Art has the ability to re-enchant our consciousness with the world when the facts and figures of climate change leave us numb.”

Holly Owen, 2016

Bees

Holly’s art and climate change journey started eight years ago, when she began to explore natural, low impact materials and processes in her artistic practice.

Experimenting with golden-yellow Dartmoor beeswax, Holly began to unravel the ecological mysteries surrounding the decline of the honeybee during her residency at Buckfast Abbey. This was the first step in an ongoing journey, exploring local and global environmental issues that affect humanity in both subtle and devastating ways.

“In the first week of my residency at the Centre for Alternative Technology, I realised how surface level my knowledge was about global climate change. This was going to be a sharp learning curve from the ground up.
Thankfully my residency was connected with CAT’s education department, so alongside many groups of school kids I spent my first few months eagerly absorbing the wealth of knowledge that this enthusiastic team have to share,” said Holly.

Holly joined CAT in the summer of 2015, in months before COP21 in Paris. It was then that she realised the significance of the timing of her residency.

“Two years prior to my CAT journey I began working with digital artist Kristina Pulejkova on a multi-media project entitled Switching Heads-sound mapping the Arctic.
The project took us to a community deep within the Arctic Circle where we worked alongside local people to collect the sights, sounds and stories from one of the most endangered environments on earth.
We were invited to take the resulting film to the art and culture festival ArtCOP21 that ran in conjunction with COP21 in Paris.
As our anticipation of this important global event grew, so did the atmosphere at CAT. Embracing the opportunity to delve into the political world that CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain programme resides in, and encouraged by the active work of groups such as Reclaim the Power, Kristina and I hurtled towards COP21 fully fuelled with knowledge and a sense of people power.
I feel proud and humbled to have had the opportunity to play an active role in the events surrounding COP21, made even more poignant by the timing of my connection to CAT.”

Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate)
Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate)

Inspired by this life changing foray into international climate talks and activism, Holly’s piece Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate) looks out through the withered leaves of the sparse winter beds of CAT’s central polytunnel. A life-sized head, formed from slither-thin shards of CAT quarry slate, blends organically into its surroundings.

In April, Holly will be making a welcome return to CAT, with fellow artist Kristina to record a second film for their on-going series Switching Heads – sound mapping the […] – exploring climate change through the voices of people who live and work in places of environmental significance.
Their current films – and the adventures they had making them – can be seen here.

Allotment, by Holly Owen, 2015

Holly’s piece Allotment uses the Fibonacci sequence to showcase seeds collected from CAT head gardener Roger McLennan’s historic seed bank. Using a pattern that appears regularly in natural forms – think sunflower seed heads, trees branches, an artichoke flower, an unfurling fern – this piece shows the seeds oscillating out from the center of a disc painted in Llwyngwern slate pigment.
Allotment spans a UK food-growing year challenging food production, food miles and waste and encouraging locally grown, organic, seasonal produce that can give extra enjoyment to the food we eat and share.

My Earth, 2015

explores CAT through the infinite colours, tones and textures under our feet. Thirty two different postcard sized swatches were painted with mud pigments map the site, each accompanied by an individual story of discovery. It is a snapshot of Holly’s seven months at CAT, her journey and the re-enchantment of finding beauty in the mundane and overlooked.
Accompanying this work, stories from CAT’s passionate, skilled and creative community are shared, demonstrating why CAT is so important to them. These stories create a colourful, unique and positive patchwork of individual journeys that collectively form a community like no other.

As this phase of Holly’s work comes to a close, and she is set to embark on another adventure curating art for a festival in the Severn valley, Holly reflects.
“The months that I have spent living and working in this reclaimed Welsh slate quarry amongst the ancient history, the realised dreams and the shared futures has focused my creativity in ways unimagined. As my art and climate change journey continues, it has been enriched with a deeper focus for an alternative way of life, imagined through the arts and made possible by all of us.”

Thank you for helping us here at CAT appreciate what we have under our feet, Holly. We are looking forward to sharing a Welsh Spring with you when you return.

Allotment, Holly Owen, 2015
Allotment, Holly Owen, 2015

The Low Carbon Breakfast

Here at the Centre for Alternative Technology, we run a wholly vegetarian restaurant. Catering for our own MSc. students, staff and people participating on our short courses, no-one goes hungry here.
In an attempt to showcase a low or zero carbon future, we demonstrate dishes and techniques that have a decreased impact on our environment.

Laura Blake, CAT nutritionist, says, “Reducing your red meat consumption is the single most effective and important thing you can do to lower your diet-related greenhouse gas emissions. It has also been shown to lower your risk of certain diseases: including bowel cancer – making it healthier for you too!”

Agriculture contributes to a third of the total carbon emissions, and the increase in conventional methods of farming poses a rising threat to the environment as the world tries to feed an additional two billion people by 2050.

We believe a low carbon economy is more energy efficient, more energy secure, cleaner, quieter and safer.

And more delicious, too.
So, here are five of our restaurants favourite breakfast dishes for you, to celebrate National Breakfast Week.

Porridge (serves two)
Oats are really low in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so porridge is a low cost and filling way to start the day. Soaking the oats overnight reduces the cooking time.

Ingredients:
160 g rolled oats
600 ml milk, organic soya milk or water
Sea salt

Method:
Toast the oats until beginning to turn brown; this gives them a nutty flavour.
Place the oats and the milk or water in a large pan over night.
In the morning, gently bring to a simmer, then add a tiny pinch of salt and stir.
Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring as often as you can to give you a smooth creamy porridge.
If you like your porridge runnier, simply add a splash more milk or water until you’ve got the consistency you like.
Adding fruit helps meet your five-a-day. Locally grown, low carbon options include: apple, pear, blackberries, raspberries, plums – at the right time of year, obviously!

Vegan Mediterranean Shakshuka (serves two hungry people)
In Israel shakshuka is often eaten for breakfast, but this super easy and versatile dish can be cooked or any meal of the day.
Ingredients:

½ tbsp olive oil
½ small brown or white onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp chilli powder (mild)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste– spicy!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 block firm tofu, pressed and drained
½ tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Method:
Gently heat a deep frying pan (a cast iron pan is ideal for this) and add olive oil.
Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.
Add the pepper, sauté for 5 minutes until softened.
Add tomatoes and tomato puree to pan, stir till blended.
Add spices, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes until it starts to reduce.

Taste the mixture and season it according to your preferences.
Slice the tofu along the width into four squares and gently place onto tomato mixture.
Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced.
Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

A bowl of cereal
High fibre breakfast cereals with low sugar and salt content are useful as a quick fix – all cereals are pretty low in carbon and can be grown easily in this country. Sadly, with the average person in the UK still not meeting their five-a-day requirements, this is where a lot of people get a significant amount of their micronutrients from!
As a guide, muesli or a cereal with bran in its title is a good bet, but do check the sugar/salt content on the packet.

Fruit Smoothie
Lots of fruit will grow in the UK, especially if you can give it a bit of protection in a conservatory, greenhouse or against a south facing wall. Here in wet and windy Wales, we were still harvesting raspberries the week before Christmas, and enjoy growing some more unusual fruit – goji berries and honeyberries seem to do well.

Ingredients:
One handful of any seasonal fruit – berries, plums, apricots, figs, currants
300ml milk, or milk substitute, or apple juice, or water and yogurt
2 tbs oats

Method:
If there’s time, prep the fruit the night before and store it in the fridge.
In the morning, buzz it together with a hand blender or liquidizer.

Beans or egg or scrambled tofu, with wilted spinach on toast
Commercially produced eggs are significantly higher in emissions than the other two.Can you keep a trio of ex-battery hens in your back yard? They take up less room than you think, will gobble up much of your garden waste and vegetable peelings and offer you an egg or two a day in return.
High protein foods should help keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking!
Tofu has far less of an environmental impact than many would believe – it also has a high water content.
A handful of spinach, fresh from the garden, quickly cooked in a pan and added to either scrambled eggs or tofu adds both nutrition and taste.
Use wholemeal bread to boost the nutritional content, and top with herbs fresh from the garden – chives, parsley and marjoram all have additional health benefits.

Want to know more?
This clever little tool will tell you eggsactly how many miles your egg has traveled:
http://www.foodmiles.com/egg-miles.cfm

Find out the environmental effects of your weekly diet: look at Laura’s larder

Food miles calculator

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/zcb-using-zcb/zcb-resources