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Nacher Korner

Rennie Telford is CAT’s very own David Attenbourough. An expert naturalist who brings to life the nature that surround us her in the quarry with his daily email updates and regular contributions to the CAT blog. It has been a real pleasure to watch the Summer accelerate with the benefit of Rennie’s insights.

28th of June: At the top of the south drive by the eco- cabin’s reservoir there is a little pile of broken snail shells next to a lump of slate. This is where one of CAT’s resident Song Thrushes (rather unfortunate Latin name – Turdus philomelos) regularly brings the snails it has caught and proceeds to bash them on the rock – known as its anvil – until the shells shatter and it can reach the succulent flesh inside. They seem to be very much creatures of habit and will ignore other perfectly good stones, continually returning to the one they have adopted. Good birds to have around the garden both for their pest control activities and of course their beautiful song. The Welsh name is Bronfraith –Speckled Breast.
Continue reading “Nacher Korner”

A fantastic couple of weeks for CAT!

Wow! What a fantastic couple of weeks for CAT! The much-anticipated WISE building opens and sees its first students arrive, zerocarbonbritain2030 causes a commotion at the all-party climate committee meeting as it launches in Parliament whilst guests at the WISE open day marvel at the achievements of some ‘dedicated pioneers up a hill in Wales’. Now we only just have time to breathe before the real ground work begins towards making zerocarbonbritain2030 a reality and helping WISE take off as Europe’s leading centre for sustainable education.

Champagne and canapés at the WISE launchJune 10th – the launch of our fantastic and long-awaited Wales Institute for Sustainable Education. Guests were invited to see presentations by Jane Davidson (WAG), Paul Allen (CAT), Sir John Houghton, Lord Ellis Thomas and an open Q&A with architects Pat Borer and David Lea along with WISE project managers Danny Harris and Phil Horton. WISE has already been welcoming a series of events and saw its first bunch of students from the MSc in Architecture: AEES arrive last weekend to study, enjoying the awe-inspiring views, luminous spaces and the cutting-edge architecture which really set WISE apart.

June 12th – CAT welcomed visitors to take guided tours of WISE and meet all the CAT departments. We were bathed in glorious sunshine for the day with music from Paul Allen and Rebecca Sullivan and a range of family and kids events, activities and games. A fun day was had by all!

Eugiene Harvey speaking at the zcb2030 press launchJune 16th – zerocarbonbritain2030 launched in London! It was a 9am start for the press launch in the Royal Institution where guest speakers Andrew Simms (NEF), Eugiene Harvey (10:10), Peter Harper and Paul Allen (CAT) presented the second round of the zerocarbonbritain2030 project to a select media audience. Later in the day the ZCB team headed to Portcullis House in the Houses of Parliament for the official parliamentary launch. The evening event welcomed over 150 guests who saw presentations from Paul Allen and Peter Harper from CAT, Victoria Johnson from the new economics foundation, author of the economics chapter of the report, Godfrey Boyle, renewable energy expert from the Open University, and climate scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Sir John Houghton. We were pleased to have Chris Huhne as a guest at the event as well as other members of the all-party climate committee for which the zerocarbonbritian2030 launch coincided with their first meeting. As Eugiene Harvey of 10:10 put it, zerocarbonbritain2030 is ‘a no brainer’ – it offers a solutions-based vision of how we can rise from the ashes of the climate and peak oil crises, and grasp this opportunity to create a stable, sustainable and prosperous society by 2030.

June 23rd – The CAT zerocarbonbritian2030 team arrived in Cardiff for the Wales launch in the Senedd – home of the Welsh Assembly. zerocarbonbritain2030 outlines ways in which we can reach a zero carbon Britain by 2030, twenty years earlier than proposed by the UK government. With Wales putting sustainability high on the agenda, reflected in its ‘One Wales, One Planet’ sustainability scheme released in 2008, and the country’s prospects of becoming the ‘saudi arabia’ of renewable energy, zerocarbonbritain2030 will undoubtedly be influential in shaping Wales’ vision over the next twenty years.

You can see a selection of images from the events on our Flickr page.

Also we’ve created quite a splash in the media over the past two weeks, below you can find links to some of the coverage we’ve had for both WISE and zerocarbonbritian2030.

ITV 1 Wales TonightGreen Revolution’ by Ian Lang

BBC Wales ‘Good Morning Wales’ with Rhun ap Iorwerth

ITV 1 Wales TonightCarbon Neutral Campus’

The Independent ‘Sustainable Education: Eco-palace rises in the West’ by Liz Lightfoot

The Ecologist ‘zerocarbonbritain2030: how to get there in 10 steps’ by Tom Levitt

The Guardian ‘Zero-carbon vision sees Britain as cleaner, greener and leaner in 20 years’ by Juliette Jowit



WISE Up To A Sustainable Future

Centre for Alternative Technology launches its new eco-educational facility.

The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) is CAT’s new, state of the art sustainable building. WISE will provide tens of thousands of people the opportunity to gain vital skills in emerging environmental technologies through its Graduate School of the Environment and short courses.

Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly Minister for the Environment who opened the building said education and training are at the heart of our efforts to build a more sustainable future for Wales, which is why the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education’s role in delivering high quality training and education is so important.”

Photos Tim Soar ( copyright)

WISE combines renewable technologies with natural building materials such as rammed earth, hemp and lime with intelligent architecture to achieve a light, warm, energetic building that exudes a sense of well-being. The building design utilises energy efficient glazing to enhance natural day-lighting and passive heat gain, meaning that energy requirements are minimal. Waste and water systems are designed using natural zero energy treatment.

Paul Allen, Director of CAT said “CAT is a world-class training centre with 35 years of expertise and working examples of sustainable technologies. No organisation is better placed to deliver training essential to tackle climate change, no building is better built to host that training.”

The day began with the opening of a forest garden dedicated to Margaret Shepperd a long-term friend and supporter of CAT. Followed by an official opening of WISE and speeches from Jane Davidson, Lord Elis Thompsom, Presiding officer National Assembly of Wales and Sir John Houghton Former chair of the IPCC and Met office.

June 12th will be an open day at the CAT, come along and enjoy a day of celebration.

For photographs of the launch or more information please contact the CAT press office on 01654 705 957 or email

Slow worms

Rennie writes…

Morning Everyone, The arrival of warmer weather has brought the Slow worms ( Anguis fragilis ) out of their winter hibernation — I found one winding its way across the south drive the other day. It is very inappropriately named as it is certainly not a worm — although snake like in appearance it is in fact one of our three native species of lizard. It probably evolved into its legless form to enable it to burrow more effectively and it has the typical lizard’s ability to shed its tail to evade predators. Slow worms are a beautiful bronzy – gold colour and their skin has a lovely clean, cold quality to it – not slimy or wet as you might imagine from the glistening appearance.


I don’t encourage the handling of wild creatures unnecessarily but I can never resist the tactile experience of allowing a slow worm to slide gracefully through my fingers. Slow worms give birth to around 12 live young in the summer and can often be found under logs or debris in hot weather as they can overheat in high temperatures. Nerdy type fact : Some lizards and snakes give birth to live young, some lay leathery eggs which hatch out, but in fact the only difference is that former hatch out inside the mother’s body instead of outside. ( Slightly more complex than that , but more or less the way it works ).

Power and Place launch causes a buzz at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

4641819412_307efa9898A collaboration between CAT and the department of Film, Theatre and Television at Aberystwyth University, Power and Place is a documentary that explores the energy story of Wales, past and present. An inspiring insight into the growing sustainability movement in Wales Power and Place was produced for the Smithsonian festival in Washington DC 2008 where it was shown as part of CAT’s presentation to the American public on welsh culture and heritage. Power and Place premiered for the first time in the UK on friday. The film was shown in both it’s English and Welsh language versions to a diverse audience with a lively discussion and questions afterwards. Thanks go to Elan Closs Stephans, executive producer, and John Burgan, director, from Aberystwyth University whose valuable contributions helped this vision come to life. CAT are looking forward to further projects and collaborations in the future. Also look out for the distribution of the DVD from CAT soon. Continue reading “Power and Place launch causes a buzz at Aberystwyth Arts Centre”

Rennie writes,
Morning Everyone, besides the Redstart, the other summer visitor that has returned to CAT is the lovely Pied Flycatcher ( Latin name: Ficedula hypoleuca / Welsh name: Gwybedog Brith ) spotted by Grace in the trees behind the display gardens. This is one of the classic birds of Welsh woodland and although it can be difficult to spot as it spends a lot of its time hidden in the tree canopy, if you see a smallish black and white bird in a Welsh wood in summer it is almost certain to be a Pied Flycatcher.

The provision of nest boxes with hole openings can give a dramatic boost to the number of breeding pairs in woods and it looks as if all the boxes around site put up by Biology could pay real dividends. Although Flycatchers are so called because of their typical feeding behaviour of catching insects in flight, the Pied has a more varied technique than its commoner relative ( the Spotted Flycatcher ) and also searches the leaves and bark of trees for caterpillars and will probe the woodland floor for ants and beetles. But then I suppose the title of ‘ The Pied Flycaterpillarbeetleantandotherinsectcatcher ‘ would be a bit cumbersome. Incidentally just think — despite all the human activity on site, the Wise construction, the hundreds of visitors — right in the centre we have a thriving bird population including shyer ones like Redstarts and Flycatchers. We must be doing something right !! Cheers Rennie x

Wales Sustainability Week

Organic gardening at CATTime to get involved! Join in at CAT for Wales’ first ever Sustainability Week.

Although here at CAT it is sustainability week every week we welcome the Welsh Assembly Government’s push towards a sustainable future as they celebrate all the environmentally conscious movements happening across Wales. From ground-breaking research to renewable technologies, innovative discussions on sustainable living and inspiring examples of sustainability in practice, CAT invites you to share and learn during a week of courses, guided tours, activities and discussions. Some exciting events to look out for this week include a discussion led by Alice Cutler of the Trapese Collective on the outcome of the recent conference on Climate change and Mother Earth rights called by Evo Morales in Bolivia. Also the premier screening of Power and Place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Friday, a film made by CAT’s own Paul Allen and John Burgan of Aberystwyth University, detailing Wales’ rise towards sustainability from its fossil-fuelled industrial roots. Continue reading “Wales Sustainability Week”