The nature of CAT – an interview with the woodland team

We are extremely proud of our biodiversity here at CAT and are very lucky to be surrounded by such rich habitats every day. We caught up with Alex Chadwick, a Conservation Development Assistant and part of the woodland team here at CAT, to learn a little bit more about how the site is managed for nature and to find out what wildlife to look out for at this time of year.

Continue reading “The nature of CAT – an interview with the woodland team”

Podcast: What has nature ever done for us?

As more and more rainforests are chopped down, peat lands drained and species wiped out, we ask ourselves: ‘What has nature ever done for us?’ We live in an economically run world, where the immediate returns and profits are the most important outcome, so how can we turn this around?

Tony Junipers Book, 'What has nature ever done for us?'
Tony Junipers Book, ‘What has nature ever done for us?’

Tony Juniper was a guest lecturer last week talking about his new book, What has nature ever done for us? He explains that ‘we need to protect nature from people, not the other way around’, and that we need to convince people to think differently, change, and see that nature has the highest value of all. Instead of believing we must sacrifice ecology in order to grow the economy, which is the current paradigm, we must realise that the economy cannot exist without ecology. Tony is a well-known British environmentalist, writer, campaigner and sustainability advisor. He also ran as a candidate for the Green Party in Cambridge in the 2010 General Campaign. The solution he puts forward is to see nature for what it really is: a controller of disease, a recycler of waste, and a mighty carbon capture and storage system; ‘If we get that message, we might yet save ourselves’.

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Please donate to our ‘Gardening for the Future’ campaign

In light of this week’s conference in Turkey we urge supporters to donate to our ‘Gardening for the Future’ campaign at CAT.  Hosted by the IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecological Services), the talks focus on the value of soil and the revival of less intensive, ancient farming techniques which have been proven much more sustainable – many of which are taught here on site.

Students at CAT learning about garden diversity
Students at CAT learning about garden diversity

At CAT we know all too well the devastating effects that climate change and peak oil pose to our current food supply and prices. The addiction to and damage caused by petrochemicals currently used to transport and fertilise our food and control pests, make it absolutely essential that we develop and share alternative methods of farming.

Volunteers at CAT in the gardens
Volunteers at CAT in the gardens

We aim to teach, train and inspire people to use more sustainable methods of farming and gardening by demonstrating our more natural growing techniques. We are researching better composting methods, the use of green fertilisers, forest garden techniques, organic pest control and much more. We urgently need to raise £23,300 to keep this vital work happening. This will allow us to provide students, volunteers and visitors with the training and tools to become a new generation of green growers, helping to create a greener tomorrow.

Please follow the link to donate; we appreciate all your support.

Cwrdd yn y Canol/Meet in the Middle

 

[Scroll down for English]

Lleoliad cynadledda cynaliadwy yng nghalon Canolbarth Cymru

Mae WISE yn ganolfan sydd wedi ennill gwobrau lawer, ac mae yma gyfleusterau modern, trawiadol, a chynaliadwy ar gyfer cynnal cynadleddau, cyfarfodydd, sesiynau hyfforddi a digwyddiadau unigol. Mae’r lleoliad yn nyffryn hardd Dulas yng nghanolbarth Cymru ac yn hawdd cyrraedd ato ar hyd y ffordd fawr ynghyd â gwasanaethau trên rheolaidd i Fachynlleth gerllaw.

Mae WISE yn cynnig profiad cynadledda unigryw, lleoliad gyda theatr ddarlithio o 200 sedd wedi’i wneud o ddaear gywasgedig. Mae nifer o stafelloedd llai ar gyfer grwpiau o wahanol faint a digwyddiadau llai. Mae WISE hefyd yn cynnig llety en suite ar gyfer hyd at 48 o bobl a gwasanaeth arlwyo hyd at 200 o bobl.

Mae WISE wedi’i leoli ar safle canolfan eco fwya blaenllaw Ewrop, sef y Ganolfan Dechnoleg Amgen sy’n defnyddio pŵer trydan adnewyddol. Mae WISE yn rhoi naws gwahanol i ddigwyddiadau.Rydyn ni ar hyn o bryd yn cynnig gostyngiad o 20% ar bob archeb tan ddiwedd Ebrill. Os gwelwch yn dda, a wnewch chi gyfeirio at yr hysbyseb hwn wrth ymateb?The WISE building

Cysylltwch â Sarah ar 01654  704973 neu e-bostiwch venue.hire@cat.org.uk
www.cat.org.uk/venuehire

Meet in the Middle
Sustainable conference venue in the heart of Mid- Wales

WISE is an award winning venue, with impressive, modern and sustainable facilities for successful conferences, meetings, training sessions and one-off events. Nestled in the stunning Dulas valley in mid-Wales and easily accessible by road, with regular rail services to nearby Machynlleth, WISE offers a unique conference experience. The venue features a 200 seat rammed earth lecture theatre and a number of smaller rooms that can cater for different size groups and smaller events. WISE also offers en suite accommodation  for up to 48 delegates  and catering facilities for up to  200  delegates.

Situtated at the site of Europe’s leading eco centre, the Centre for Alternative Technology and powered by renewable electricity,  WISE inspires events with a difference.

We are now offering a 20% discount on all bookings until the end of April. Please mention this email when responding.

Please contact Sarah on 01654  704973 or email venue.hire@cat.org.uk
www.cat.org.uk/venuehire

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: http://visit.cat.org.uk/festival-of-the-future. Festival of the Future is sponsored by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier.

 

 

Nature Blog: what to look out for this summer

 

I was inordinately pleased to be greeted by the sight of a pair of Grey Wagtails as I drove into CAT this morning, down by Bottom station. People have kept telling me they are always to be seen there, but it’s the first time I’ve spotted them here – it is particularly pleasing because although they are reasonably widespread in Wales, numbers countrywide have dropped in recent years and they are now on the Amber list of endangered birds. You can always tell a Grey Wagtail by its bright yellow and grey plumage – not to be confused of course with the Yellow Wagtail with its bright yellow and grey plumage.

I’ve never got round to making a list of all the species of birds that have been seen in and around CAT but it must be pretty lengthy by now. Something else to look out for over the next month is the annual appearance of the spectacularly clumsy Cockchafer (or Maybug as it is also called) – you know those weird and wonderful looking flying beetles with mini TV aerials on their heads which spend most of their time crashing headfirst into windows and walls, ending up lying upside down on the ground, before groggily righting themselves, shaking their heads and setting off again only to repeat the whole process. And of course the swallows are back from their holidays in Africa – the swifts will be here soon – so much to look out for over the summer. Enjoy it all while you can – winter comes round fast enough!

Nature Blog: Yellowhammer onomatopoeia

Rennie, CAT’s resident naturalist, enjoys the abundance of birdsong at CAT.

Well, this is the last Monday morning that I’ll be trudging up the garden steps, mentally preparing myself for another day at the coal face and it’s a lovely bright sunny day – for the moment at least. Yet again I am struck by the proliferation of bird life we have here – especially noticeable at this time of year when the dawn chorus is in full swing. In just the short walk from the Cabins to the staff lunch room I saw two Dunnocks engaging in a little bit of intimate courting, a pair of smartly plumaged male Chaffinches squabbling for the attentions of a singularly bored looking female, a beautifully orange billed Blackbird singing his heart out from the branches of a tree and the flash of white as a Treecreeper flew off from one of the trees by the lake.

...not a yellowhammer, but rather a nuthatch.

Over the last few weeks, the Eco Cabin’s feeders have been visited by Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Nuthatches, Green finches, Siskins, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Robins, Grey Squirrels and a mangy looking ginger cat. And then of course up by the smallholding as Grace, CAT’s woodland and natural resources co-ordinator, pointed out, Yellowhammers have been regular visitors. Incidentally don’t believe the bird books which tell you that the Yellowhammer’s song sounds like ‘ a-lttle-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeeese’ – whoever came up with that originally must have been under the influence! Admittedly, it has a long drawn out note at the end but it might just as well be described as like ‘ I’m-itching-like mad- and-got- fleeeeas’ or any other such phrase. In fact, post your suggestions for an onomatopoeic phrase which best fits the Yellowhammer’s song below.

Nature Blog: understanding the blackbird’s song

 

One of my favourite bird songs is that of the seemingly ever present Blackbird (Aderyn Du or Mwyalchen in Welsh) with its lovely rich flute like quality. Although the so called dawn chorus in the spring is a wonderful start to the day, the sound of a Blackbird singing at dusk has a special sort of summery quality to it, so it was really heartening to hear one of our many resident birds giving a defiantly optimistic solo performance from one of the trees on the south drive as I left the quarry last night in the gathering mist. Of course the main sounds you hear from the Blackbirds at this time of year are the agitated alarm calls as they dash frantically around the place warning each other of real and sometimes imaginary dangers. If you have a good musical ear, and with a bit of practice, you can distinguish between these alarm calls which vary according to the percieved threat — the call warning of a ground predator such as a cat or a fox is markedly different from the one which tells other birds that an airborne danger in the shape of a hawk or owl is around. The call when a Blackbird is startled by the unexpected appearance of a person always seems to me more of an annoyed and exasperated scolding than a real alarm call – but then I do have a bit of an unscientific habit of putting a rather anthropomorphic slant on things at times – I will have to try and kerb it. Coming soon- the tale of Arthur the Tick and his adventures in a jungle of grey hair.

Nature Blog: hibernating toads

 

The log supply in my woodshed has been dwindling steadily and on a dark, wet morning I found myself having to rummage in the far recesses to find some wood to top up the log basket. As I fumbled in the corner where the last remaining rather sorry looking logs were stacked, my hand closed on something that felt very un-log like – it was cold, with a rather rubbery feel and it twitched a bit.  When I drew my hand out into the open I discovered I was holding a very handsome but rather bewildered looking Toad. It sat on my hand blinking myopically at me and then assumed that characteristic resigned attitude as if to say ‘well what happens now?’

I love toads – this one had found what it probably thought was toad paradise to spend the winter in – a dark, secluded, leaky, damp, home under some half rotten logs with plenty of succulent woodlice to snack on if the weather became mild enough for it to wake up from its hibernating state, only for me to quite literally tear the roof off its world. Feeling rather guilty I carefully replaced George (as I instantly christened him) back into the corner, restacked the logs around him and left him in peace. (Of course George might have been a Georgina).

Toads rejoice in the wonderful scientific name of Bufo bufo, which I think suits them much better. Dilapitated sheds and outbuildings are havens to a wide variety of wildlife in the winter and it’s well worth taking a look round yours to see what you might find. Mated, hibernating queen wasps often see out the winter months in cracks and crevasses in wooden walls –some Butterflies like the Peacocks and Tortoiseshells spend the winter in their adult form up in secluded corners with their wings closed hiding their bright colours and merging almost unnoticed into the background and I was once lucky enough to find a group of around twenty or so two-spot ladybirds clustered in a corner of my workshop –a nice decorative little addition until they departed in the spring. Philosophical thought for the day – there are wonders all around us – all we need to do is look – it costs nothing!

Nature Blog: signs of Spring

 

Morning Everyone, welcome to the first Naycher Korner of 2012 on a bright, crisp January morning. I’m the eternal optimist and even though it’s a bit on the parky side there are lots of signs of the approaching spring all around us at present. The quarrelsome and noisy rooks down by the station in town are already busy repairing and patching up their nests in the rookery in the trees near the bridge. In mild winters they are one of our earliest breeding birds and sometimes lay eggs as early as February although a sudden cold snap can cause them problems. Aside from the ubiquitous Robin which sings all year round, I heard the lovely rich song of a Blackbird this morning and they have been very noticeable of late as they charge around the place setting up their territories. Quite a few spring flowers are beginning to make a rather earlier than normal appearance as well –I noticed what I think were Butterburrs this morning on the way to work. In my book winter officially ends at midnight on February the 28th- and yes I know it’s a leap year this year but let’s have an extra day of spring rather than an extra day of winter – although having said that it’s been a really mild one so far.