When WWOOF went to CAT

Apr 13, 2019

Our first Welsh meet-up was held at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) on a cold but sunny day in March. Just north of Machynlleth, the centre has been a wonderful source of inspiration for all things sustainable since 1973. It is sited in a disused slate quarry and now houses a magnificent visitors’ centre and a multitude of technologies to inspire us to tread more lightly on this earth. It is also a first-class education centre.

Our day started with a hunt for the twenty or so attendees as the site is vast and has two entrances. Once we had all congregated we were treated to a tour of the site by Joel from the information department. He was a font of knowledge and introduced us to the many and varied building, insulating, heating, electricity generating and design options available to us today – with some very high tech and other very old but appropriate methods on display. He emphasised the importance of us cutting our carbon footprint and also gave us a fascinating history of the site.

Next up, after the obligatory tea break, was a WWOOFing session in the courtyard garden. This was a great success as twenty person hours crammed into one hour makes an enormous impact on a garden! Beds were cleared, paths weeded, compost bins filled and interesting conversations were enjoyed about WWOOFing, animals and general gardening with the varied participants. A good WWOOFy exchange for the use of the centre’s facilities.

Lunch followed, a hearty soup and roll supplied by CAT and accompanied by a vast array of dishes brought by the participants. I can recommend going to any WWOOF event as the generosity of our WWOOF members and the range of food provided is always impressive.

After lunch, we were treated to a very interesting talk by Sue Stickland on the important and often overlooked subject of seed saving. She emphasised the importance of saving our own seed and not being reliant on the agri-business seed producers. Seed sovereignty is where it is at! We are losing plant varieties at an alarming rate so save seed that grows well for you, it will be fresh and more suited to your environment. Thank you Sue, for your saved parsnip seed.

Katie Hastings, who organised the day, also told us a bit about one of her many projects. Edible Mach Maethlon is a community-led project that grows edible crops around Machynlleth, connecting people with local food, sustainability and engaging skill development. We ran out of time…

The day finished with a chat (and more tea) about our WWOOF experiences. We were a diverse bunch of WWOOF hosts new and old, WWOOFers and would-be WWOOFers. A lively debate ensued after which we went home, safe in the knowledge that WWOOF is a thriving and important charity that is a joy to support.

Thank you to all who attended.
David Sears, WWOOF host RHC, Newport, Pembrokeshire.

photos: Scarlett Penn

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