1974 Diary: Week One

2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Centre for Alternative Technology. When the first volunteers arrived on-site they faced a huge challenge – turning an abandoned slate quarry into a renewable-energy-powered sustainable community. From their arrival on 2nd February 1974 through to December 22nd 1974 they kept a diary of their work. We’ll be publishing extracts from the diary on our Facebook Timeline daily throughout 2014. We will be posting weekly updates on the blog each week. You can read all the diary entries here

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2nd February

Weather: South West gale, rain.

Arrived at Machynlleth with Pat Keiller. Found the Centre very much as we had left it. A Douglas Fir had fallen across the top of the road, but all the structures are intact.

The evening at Lady White’s cottage, Pantperthog. Most comfortable.

3rd February

Weather: Warm, sunny and calm.

We installed a window frame into the East cottage, using existing timber, and ran guttering along the back. Pat took some photographs. bAt dusk we travelled to Aberystwyth to give an interview for “Good Morning Wales” (BBC Radio 4).

4th February

Weather: Rain early, then broken cloud with sunny intervals.

We cleared the debris from the upper rooms of the cottage, noting that much of the structure is very damp, due to holes in the roof. Repairs to the roof have begun, hopefully to be completed tomorrow. Most of the existing window frames will be retained, which will speed up the installation of windows, which has not been progressing as rapidly as I had hoped

The old quarrymens’ cottages in 1973.

5th February

Weather: Misty during the morning, then heavy rain.

Pat has repaired the largest leaks in the cottage roof. The upstairs narrow window has been framed. Our work was interrupted during the afternoon by the arrival of the two local press-men. The bathroom has been cleaned up, and it has been decided to run the drainage out of the back, having first excavated along the back of all three cottages. My car was overhauled by Jones the Garage, and seems to run much better.

6th February

Weather: Gale with sleet and rain early, abating as the day progressed.

We have completed the window framing and Pat has been working on the roof all day, in spite of the weather. The GPO telephone man arrived, saying it would be some weeks before the phone would be installed. We met Cliff Collins at the station, who is most impressed with the centre and its possibilities. I attempted to follow up Steve Boulter’s lead re digester tanks, but came to a full stop. Humphrey’s the iron-monger has neither glass nor beading in stock so it looks like a trip to Aberystwyth.

7th February

Weather: Clear, sunny and calm.

Pat spent the morning taking photographs and the afternoon on the roof. Cliff has commenced taking wind readings with his anemometer, a record of which will be kept separately. We now have glass and beading, and hope to start tomorrow. Tony and Viv arrived from London, have dined with us and are spending the weekend in the cells at Corris.* Tomorrow we join them. We have started to cut wood and stack it in the nearest shed. Pat saw what he believes is a peregrine falcon.

[*In the 1970s the old police station at Corris had been converted into a hostel.]

8th February

Weather: Heavy rain all day.

The rain has done some damage to the road, requiring two of us to ditch and fill. The front of the cottage has been glazed by Pat. It is not possible to floor the front room yet as no polystyrene is available in Machynlleth. Another 7 people have arrived, so we are now twelve, housed in the Corris Cells. John Beaumont seems worried about the question of tourism and I hastened to reassure him of how I feel. Audrey has 3 beds and mattresses for us. Cliff recorded a gust of 70kph today.

9th February

Weather: Rain early, clearing later.

Diana talked with John Beaumont this morning, to reassure him that we are not interested in making money from tourism. A busy day, logging and ditching. Pat has directed the spring at the back of the cottages into a slate tank at the west corner. The glazing has been completed. Cliff has made a slate culvert at the bottom of the road, but we are unable to discover where the water should ultimately come. John Sandiland called with the Asst. Head of Forest Hill School, and has promised 6 pupils tomorrow for path building. Diana kindly cleaned the cottage interior, separating the tools for the catering, which makes life much more tolerable.

Site Community and Open Day

It’s all go in site community this Summer… for the last few weekends the cottage area of site has been opened up for visitors to come by and take a look at what is going on. The community at CAT started in 1975 when a group of people disillusioned by modern day living and concerned by what they saw as a looming environmental crisis moved to the abandoned slate quarry that is now known as CAT.  Over the years, the hard work and enthusiasm of 1000’s of people has meant that the quarry has transformed into a  fertile oasis with abundant flowers, fruits, vegetables and tree’s. Although CAT has expanded and grown there is still a living community here at CAT.  It is  home to 16 people including three children and three cats ( of the feline variety) who live in a variety of different houses, from renovated old slate cottages to eco-buildings, tried and tested at CAT.

Chris, Carlos and Mary tread the clay, whilst Neru wathes on
Chris, Carlos and Mary tread the clay, whilst Neru watches on

The site community residents aim to put into practice the ethos of CAT through sustainable low impact living. All the houses are very well insulated, water is heated through a combination of wood burners and solar water heaters. Wood also provides heating for the houses. The community aims to reduce it’s carbon footprint by sharing resources such as washing machines etc   buying food together and putting into practice sustainable low impact living. As well  environmental sustainability the community is also concerned with sustaining ourselves as a community. All the decisions about the community are made through  consensus decision making process in which all residents are involved. Regular meals together and work days are also important elements of community life.

The new community kitchen

As well as the weekend tours this summer,  residents of site community are also working on their amazing new kitchen. The building dubbed ‘mini WISE’ as it is in the shadow of the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education is a timber frame, straw bale building with a hemp and lime render on the outside and clay inside. The kitchen is going to provide much needed cooking and eating space for the site community and long and short term volunteers who come and stay at CAT.

Turned on! The UK’s First Micro Grid Goes Online

This week, Jase Kuriakose an engineer at CAT turned on the UK’s first totally renewable micro grid. The systems works by combining all the wind, solar, bio mass and hydro energy we produce at CAT and storing it in a battery bank. When it needs more energy it simply connects to the grid through an intelligent electronic control device to take more, when we are producing too much it gives the energy to the national grid.

Jase, the engineer behind the island generation project
Jase, the engineer behind the island generation project

Currently we waste around 65% of energy from power stations by transporting it to our homes, not only that but the electricity sector in the EU is responsible for over 1,2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Something that Jase says is unsustainable.

There is a vital need and enormous opportunity to move towards a more sustainable decentralised system, which protects the climate and provide future generations with secure energy.”

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