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.
Sara Tommerup is a graduate from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). Here she writes about the work she has been getting up to since graduating, including setting up the Agroecology Land Initiative.
Since 2006 I have apprenticed and learned about natural building in different parts of Europe and also in the US. In 2010 I decided to do the AEES course at CAT (now replaced with MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment) which complimented my hands-on training well. The course gave me the analytical tools to go deeper into the theory and engineering of sustainable building and the wider environmental issues. Due to my convictions I really appreciated to be able to study seriously in an environment removed from conventional campus life and I think this was one of the main reasons I chose CAT. Today there are many more study options when it comes to sustainable studies – but not at such a peaceful, environmental friendly and exemplary place as CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment.
I am now working as self-employed but continue to train to expand my skills and their applicability. I am originally from Denmark and now being in the UK I have picked up quite a few new natural building techniques which are traditional to this area, such as roundwood timber framing and stone walling. This year, I will be doing a stand-alone module on settlements and shelters in disaster areas which I hope to work with in the future, both as a trainer and a field worker. Having both practical as well as academic skills is something I can’t recommend enough!
Although building appropriately is important, I have realised that without land we can’t build anything nor choose the lifestyle we want. In 2014 I co-founded the Agroecology Land Initiative, an organisation with the aim to help people from all walks of life gain access to land. The ALI has so far set up its first land project in Carmarthenshire. Do have a look at agroecology.co.uk if you want to hear more about what we are up to. We also offer both short and long term volunteer opportunities.
My MSc thesis was not about building but rather on adaptive co-management in regards to social ecological systems. What I learnt from my thesis has served me well as it enabled me to understand how complex our world is and how we are better off creating societies that are adaptable instead of rigid and attempting control. I am therefore really pleased to see that the AEES course has adapted into its new form, namely the Sustainability and Adaptation MSc, a course that seems ready to take us further still.
Chris Woodfield is a student on the MSc Sustainability and Adaptation at CAT. Having now completed the majority of his taught modules, he reflects on what he has learned so far.
The taught part of my MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation is drawing to a close, with only the May and June modules left to complete on-site at CAT. So, has it lived up to expectation, what have I learnt, and what next?
CAT’s unique immersive on-site learning experience has definitely been a highlight as I have taken all of my modules on-site and this is something which will be missed.
I would wholeheartedly recommend choosing the on-site options rather than undertaking modules via distance-learning. This is predominantly because of the engagement and creative discussion that flows with fellow students on the course as well as with the other Graduate School of the Environment courses. Furthermore, the chance to enjoy and explore CAT’s beautiful site and lovely vegetarian/vegan food is a bonus.
The wide variety and broad nature of the modules has allowed me to expand upon and develop a holistic understanding of sustainability and adaptation, whilst also exploring specific areas of interest in more detail.
I have taken the modules Ecosystem Services, Environmental Politics and Economics, Cities and Communities, Energy Flows in Buildings Part A and B, and will finish with the Sustainable Materials and Applied Project modules in May and June.
My two most recent modules, Energy Flows in Buildings A and B, have explored energy efficiency in buildings, heat, moisture and air flows, building physics, and eco-refurbishment. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that what is more important is energy flows in humans, and the way we, as citizens, experience and interact with the environment and make decisions to influence the World around us.
Sustainability, environmental and social issues are often portrayed as negative “problems” or “issues” that we need to solve to make the world a better place.
However, my time at CAT has reinforced and strengthened the view that to enhance and facilitate positive change sustainability needs to be viewed as an opportunity; an exciting, rewarding, fulfilling and challenging opportunity.
One opportunity that many of us in a similar position to me are currently embarking upon is to carry out a major dissertation project. However, what will, and can we do?
The possibilities are endless and it is a difficult decision to narrow down ideas into a concrete research project. For me, I still have a variety of ideas and passions I would like to pursue, for example, food waste, marine plastic pollution, heathy, happy communities, environmental education and how people view and relate to nature.
With this being said, one thing is clear, we all have the unique opportunity of a lifetime to make a real, meaningful, creative and thought-provoking contribution to scientific research, community engagement and/or expanding and delving deep into the issues we care about.
Another important aspect I have developed whilst studying at CAT, is the appreciation of the scale and urgency of the change that is needed. Again, this may reinforce negativity and leave a sense of hopelessness. However, I know that in our own small way, students can be catalysts for change and rise to the challenge of not just a more sustainable world, but a healthier, happier, more socially-connected, benevolent global society that is thriving in every sense of the word.
One recent innovative example of students exploring the barriers to change in terms of CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project was an open space ideas sharing and discussion two-day event entitled “Where’s the carrot?”, organised by GSE students and the ZCB team.
Some people say change has to start somewhere, but I truly believe, positive change is already underway, we just to need harness the creative energy and ambition and turn it into action. Who and where better to do this, than students on their major dissertation project? Only time will tell….
Film from the Zero Carbon Britain – Where’s the Carrot? event.
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.
On 7 April, in the run up to the Welsh Assembly Elections, CAT hosted an environmental hustings in association with the Dyfi Biosphere. All six major parties in Wales were invited to come and share their views and policies on some of the today’s most pressing issues.
Questions ranged from the impacts of agriculture and land-use patterns to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and from scallop dredging in Cardigan Bay to community renewables. Spokespeople joined us from Welsh Labour, Welsh Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Wales Green Party.
What role do they think Wales could play in helping fulfil the commitments made at December’s Paris climate talks? Watch the video to find out.
In response to feedback and demand from potential students, CAT is starting a process of reviewing how we deliver renewable energy teaching in our Graduate School of the Environment. As a result we will not be taking new intakes of students onto the MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment (REBE) course as it is currently structured.
Over the next year we will be developing a new Masters course in renewable energy which will build on the success of our Masters courses in Sustainability and Adaptation and which we expect to start in September 2017. Existing REBE students will be able to complete the rest of their course.
In addition to delivering the REBE course for existing students, CAT continues to deliver education on renewable energy as part of our Sustainability and Adaptation Masters courses, in our successful short courses programme and as a central theme in engagement with school groups and visitors.
Sir John Houghton, former co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Scientific Assessment Working Group and former Chief Executive of the Met Office, has made a donation of £60,000 to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) to create an annual bursary for a student beginning one of the Masters courses at the Graduate School of the Environment.
A bursary of £4,500 will be awarded annually to a promising student who demonstrates that they have an excellent academic record and a passion for tackling climate change.
Sir John Houghton has had an illustrious career as one of the world’s most eminent climate scientists, and is a long term supporter of CAT’s work. On making the donation, he said:
“I have spent a lifetime studying the atmosphere and the climate and latterly have been concerned with the reality of human induced climate change. I now want to help the next generation tackle this serious problem, possibly the biggest the world faces.”
Adrian Ramsay, CAT Chief Executive said:
“CAT is extremely honoured to receive this donation from Sir John Houghton, someone who has made such as great contribution to our understanding of climate change. CAT now has more than one thousand alumni working across industry, government and academia who are collectively implementing the changes that society needs to make to tackle climate change. This award will enable more people to join them and drive forward the solutions that enable humanity to rise to this challenge.”
The closing date for applications for the 2016 award is Sunday 26th June.
For terms and conditions and an application form, please see the bursaries page.
Students from the Centre for Alternative Technology’s (CAT’s) Graduate School of the Environment held an interactive Open Space day to discuss barriers to bringing about a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. The outcomes of the day are being fed into the Zero Carbon Britain – Making it Happen research currently being undertaken by CAT.
The open space style of the event meant the day started with 40 people but no agenda. The participants came up with and held 16 smaller group discussions on a diverse range of topics during the day. This 2-minute film gives a flavour of the day.
The 16 discussions covered a broad range of topics, but the structure of the day allowed each session to be focused, and useful for developing the research. Topics covered included:
Reaching a wider audience, including reaching out within workplaces
Using the resources of new build property developers and retrofitting existing buildings
Community energy, and how you create strong community groups
Political action, both local and wider
Creating an inclusive movement, that is founded on equality and diversity
Looking at a more individual level, at setting personal goals, behaviour change, valuing resources and handling both ‘eco-guilt’ and bad news on climate change
Come to Machynlleth and embrace your spirit of adventure!
CAT offers great, reasonably priced accommodation for your group.
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!
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.
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!
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.