Be a CAT Volunteer for a Week in May


Do you fancy spending a week at our beautiful site, and being part of a team doing practical work to help CAT prepare for the main summer season?


We’re holding a short-term volunteer week from 27-31 May, and we’d like to invite you to take part. The exact range of tasks on offer will depend on a number of factors, including the weather, but is likely to include work in the gardens, with our buildings and maintenance team, and with our water and natural resources team.


It’s a great chance to enjoy staying on-site at CAT at a lovely time of the year, to get “behind the scenes”, interact with staff and other volunteers, and maybe learn a few new skills. If you fancy taking part, please contact Sally Carr (, 01654 704976).


We have different accommodation options available depending on your budget and preferences:


En-suite rooms in our beautiful new facility, the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE), fully catered – £200 per person

Rooms with shared bathroom facilities (not WISE), fully catered – £150 per person

Self-catering accommodation (with lunches provided) – £70 per person


Volunteers in the garden
Volunteers working in a polytunnel at CAT


Call for artists to participate in CAT Arts Trail 29th August 2012

As part of Festival of the Future, CAT is hosting an Arts and Sustainability Fair to celebrate the arts and its role in inspiring change towards a brighter, more sustainable future. This special day event will feature an Arts Trail, a pioneering project to exhibit artists’ work across the extraordinary and beautiful CAT site.

About CAT

The CAT site is situated on a disused slate mine. Since 1973 it has developed into a hub of activity, learning, knowledge and practical demonstration towards sustainability and building a better, brighter future. CAT hosts a range of examples of renewable energy including wind turbines, solar panels, hydro and biomass, and boasts extensive organic productive gardens as well as its own ecological sewage system with reservoir and reed bed.

CAT runs education programmes for schools, colleges, postgraduate masters courses and short courses for adults. CAT is also an active research centre being home to the progressive zerocarbonbritain2030 project.

The Arts Trail

CAT would like to invite artists to develop a piece of work site specific to CAT along a general theme of sustainability and the environment, to exhibit as part of the Arts Trail on the 29th August.

It could be a temporary sculpture or painting, nothing is too big or small. The main point would be to consider the issues surrounding sustainability, and reflect this through a piece using your chosen medium. The space is open to interpretation and artists are encouraged to visit the CAT site to explore ideas and gather inspiration.

The work would be exhibited for one day on the 29th August to between 400-700 visitors from the local community and further afield, but with potential to leave the piece in situ the coming week for the Emergence Summit – a major arts and sustainability conference happening at CAT between 1st – 9th September. See for more information.

How to apply

Interested artists need to send a short proposal detailing their piece by 10th August to They would then develop the work either on or off the CAT site for exhibition on the 29th to between 400-700 visitors participating in the day’s events.

There will also be options to give a talk or demonstration to visitors should the artist wish.

If you are interested or would like to discuss this opportunity further please get in touch with Rosie on 01654 705 952 or email

Thanks and look forward to hearing your ideas and inspirations!

Visit Festival of the Future: Six weeks of fun and inspiration at CAT


Today we unveil our summer plans: CAT will be hosting a six week ‘Festival of the Future’ for tens of thousands of visitors. Daily activities for all the family and a programme of special one-day events mean a day trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology this August could inspire a revolution in the way you live.

Festival of the Future takes place throughout the school summer holidays from 21st July until 31st August. Daily activities will incorporate creative renewable energy and sustainability themed activities for children, with talks and informative tours led by staff and researchers at CAT for adults. Every Wednesday will see special events for kids and adults such as storytelling and specialist tours of CAT’s renewable energy systems.

Two one-day special events will form the climaxes of the summer programme: Energy Day on the 8th August and an Arts and Sustainability Fair on the 29th August. Both days will be packed full of informative and inspiring activities and entertainment including stalls, music, workshops, storytelling, exhibitions, guest speakers and more, all themed around building a brighter, more sustainable future for the UK and beyond.

We will be posting a series of articles on the blog on the theme of Festival of the Future.

This packed summer programme aims to provide a fun and active day out for families and other visitors to CAT, but also to give people ideas about the positive contribution they can make to a sustainable future.

Visitors will be able to meet face to face with some of the experts from CAT who will be giving guided tours and hosting engaging discussions about eco-lifestyle changes and action that people can take in their own community to respond to bigger picture challenges.

Allan Shepherd, author of CAT’s latest book The Home Energy Handbook will be one of the CAT staff members talking to visitors. Allan said:

“There are loads of positive things that people can do to help build more sustainable communities that are fun to take part in. Festival of the Future is a great opportunity for people to come and learn a bit more about sustainable futures as well as picking up tips on everything from eco-friendly living to getting involved in your local community. It should be entertaining as well as inspiring.”

All the events going on as part of Festival of the Future are included in the normal CAT entrance fee. The Visitor Centre also has a restaurant serving delicious vegetarian food and a shop selling books and gifts. A full programme of Festival of the Future events, which run from 21st July to 31st August, can be found on the website: Festival of the Future is sponsored by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier.



Gardening blog: Chloe marvels at the wonder of the small

A few weeks ago i bought myself a new toy – a digital microscope. These things aren’t expensive and they really do open up a whole new world. One of the most beautiful things i’ve seen so far is the embryo of a french bean seed. Here i go – humanising the plants again, but it’s so fresh and innocent and ready for life, i can’t help being in awe when i look at it.



On the microscope’s highest magnification things are even more wonderous. One of my favourite plants is Wild Garlic or Allium ursinum. It’s a staple wild food around these parts with springtime bringing much consumption of wild garlic and nettle soup, wild garlic fritters, with a bit of wild garlic salad on the side (if you like garlic anyway). The flowers are over now and the seed are forming – here you can see the developing seed, and a close up of the seed inside the “fruit” (which used to be part of the flower).



We often use a one of these gadgets on the CAT gardening courses to get a good look at what’s going on, but it’s great to have one on hand at home, just for wonder and curiosity.

Chloe is a tutor on the CAT Gardening for a Sustainable Future course in Late July


Gardening blog: Organic gardening and the arms trade


By Chloe Ward:

I wonder if any CAT members are like me, fans of the podcasts from Radiolab? From New York, it’s part of the movement to make science more accessible to ordinary mortals – something which must be essential if we are to make progress in good decision making.

The subject of one episode has been going around my head for a while now. It was about Fritz Haber – known to many as the inventer of the Haber Bosch process for fixing nitrogen (along with Carl Bosch). This is the chemical process by which artificial fertilisers are made – a subject which makes an organic gardener sit up and listen.

The podcast was all about the concept of “bad” and what makes a bad person. The Haber Bosch process wasn’t all that Fritz Haber invented. He was also responsible for developing the chemical process for gassing huge numbers of soldiers in the first world war trenches. Radiolab tells us that not only did he invent the process, but he personally oversaw its implementation.

So, the radiolab presenters are discussing “badness” and weighing up Fritz Haber’s moral credentials. One the one hand, they say, he killed great numbers of people in a nasty, painful way. On the other hand, he saved many from starvation by increasing agricultural yields with the invention of artificial fertilisers.

But, to those of us who like our nitrogen fixed by bacteria, there’s another issue here – was the invention of the Haber Bosch process a good thing at all, or was it the cause of deeper food security inequalities, and mass destruction by agriculture on an unprecedented scale? Or is it another example of something which could be put to good use at appropriate times if only the human species had a little more wisdom?

Lots to think about, lots of questions – no answers from me. But visit Radiolab here.

Chloe is a tutor on the CAT Gardening for a Sustainable Future course in Late July.



Gardening Blog: weeding seedlings


This week in the gardens, we weeded our seedlings. Weeding them stops the slugs from munching them, as well as preventing the soil from becoming crusty. If the soil’s crusty, it makes watering less effective. At this tender stage of the plant’s life, we need to give them a lot of care and attention.

We also hardened off our brassicas. Kale, summer cabbage, wallflowers, cauliflowers and brussels were all sown in late summer and autumn and have been living in Roger’s polytunnel since then. It’s now time to prepare them for being planted in the outside world, but so as not to shock them, this needs to be done step by step. They spend some days outside, and are brought in at night if we’re expecting a cold one. They’re now fairly hardy, and will be planted out once the field is dug and ready for them.

Gardening Blog: re-skinning the polytunnel


This week in the gardens, we put a new skin on the polytunnel. It’s necessary to put a new skin on every 3 or 4 years, or longer if possible. It was a team effort with staff from buildings and displays chipping it to help, while a warm brazier sat burning away to keep us warm. Roger’s polytunnel also has hot beds housing the first seedlings of the season. Hot beds are beds of food scraps mixed with compost. As they decompose, they warm up, providing good conditions to begin growing from seed.

Gardening blog: chives and passion flowers


This week in the gardens, we dug up and divided our chives. Dividing chives means that you’ll have plenty more to sow in Spring. It’s best to dig them up when they’re dormant, and while the ground isn’t icy to avoid damaging the roots. We’ll be planting them in the new culinary herbs display we’re putting into the restaurant courtyard.

Passion flower loves to climb, so we made a web in one of the polytunnels for it to clamber and weave its tendrils around. We’re looking forward to seeing its beautiful blossoms in summer!

Next week: we give a polytunnel a new skin…

CAT gardens in winter (photos)


While the winter in Wales hasn’t so far shown its teeth, the gardens are notably more monochromatic. Here we point out a couple of interesting plants…

CAT runs a number of gardening and ecology courses. The courses cover a range of topics including organic growing and sustainable agriculture. Find out more.

The string plant, as it is usefully known, provides a handy alternative to garden twine. Its leaves split into long, durable strands, so you’re never without string when you need it!

Lemonbalm, which grows well in the British climate, makes great tea. Used medicinally, it can enhance memory, ease headaches and prevent flatulence.



Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens visit CAT


Last week the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens visited CAT. The Federation supports, represents and promotes community-managed farms, gardens, allotments, and other green spaces. At present, they represent 120 city and school farms, and 1000 community gardens. They work to empower local people to build better communities, making a positive impact on their surrounding environment.

On Wednesday, the Federation’s Mid Wales Regional Gathering was held at CAT. Chloe and Roger, CAT’s gardeners, were on hand to give the group a tour of our growing spaces. Federation members also enjoyed a hearty lunch and workshops, on a diverse range of topics from allotment surgery to building sustainability in the garden.