My commitment to sustainable living is not just talk, I am pleased to say. I live in an eco village in West Wales. I try to live with as much integrity as I am physically capable of undertaking. However it has been a very long and winding road to this place I now call home….
After growing up thinking I would become a ballet dancer (yes, really), I then went on to meet my future husband when I was only 17. I left school, abandoning my studies (as you do), to move in with Nigel.
We started travelling, I took work in shops and as a waitress wherever I went. My husband did loads of different jobs, from chimney sweep to dishwasher. We got by, and had a bit of fun on the way.
In 1993 we ended up back in the UK. We had somehow found a home in South East London – Nigel had friends there, it seemed like a reasonable part of the city. I decided I wanted to go back into education. I managed to talk my way onto an Environmental Science University course, despite no ‘A’ levels to be proud of.
I also then found out I was pregnant. Anyway – several years and a child with a learning disability later, we had decided the best way to change the world was – in actual fact – by changing ourselves.
We decided to move to West Wales. It’s a lot like Connecticut, where I grew up. Beaches, fresh water rivers, and woodland. We tried a few places, a housing co-op, a permaculture farm, but nothing that genuinely lasted. Ah – and I birthed tow more children along the way…
Anyway, we finally sold up our little house in Kidbrooke, and took the leap of permanently moving to Wales in 2006. Our kids were 12, 3 & 1 year old. We moved into a yurt on someones land, as a starting point.
We literally bumped into the now famous Simon & Jasmine Dale within days of moving to Maenclochog. They told us about Lammas. Three years of waiting for the new planning policy ‘living in a low impact way’ we finally received permission to live our dreams in 2009.
We found ourselves at Tir-y-Gafel with full permission to build a land based business, a smallholding, and buildings from scratch. With no money, three children, and a bare field.
Before in 2009 & after in 2019 – the abundance of Plas Helyg
The rest – as they say – is history. 10 years on, we now have 7 buildings on our land. Two cob greenhouses, 3 roundhouses (willow store, stable & workshop), a barn (temporary accommodation and carpentry workshop) and a building we call the Eco-pod, which we hope will eventually be as a consultation space and a shop for visitors. We are now planning our main house. Crazy, but true. Still building….
We use hydro power, and solar power. We do use gas for cooking, but in our main house we will use wood. We use wood for heating, and our shower is solar thermal with a woodburner backup. I produce lots of fruit & veg from the garden. We have sheep for fleece & meat, horses for manure and recreation (and transport!). Dogs for guarding from foxes. Cats to keep down the rodents. Chickens for eggs, manure and occasionally meat.
It’s a mad zoo round here. But ultimately animals are better friends than most people. Even when you know you will eat them, they are great to have around. And when you farm small scale like this, they have a fabulous life eating good food and die quickly and painlessly. I’d rather eat lamb like that than one thats been through an industrial farming process. And as I have always said, I couldn’t grow enough beans to make up for that amount of protein. It’s an ongoing discussion, between myself and vegan visitors.
So – if our way of life interests you – have a look on our website. You can come on a willow course with me – see the the Pembrokeshire Willow page. Or you can volunteer.
Or you can think oh NO! I’d never live like THAT! But I say, one day you may think it’s a good choice, in a time when people need to start thinking of food and shelter as the most important goal in their lives. Happiness does not increase with increased wealth, once basic needs are met. Think on it. I vote for happiness.
So, just email me. I hope to encourage and inform, in exchange for your weeding skills. All training provided. Always happy to have help!
If you’d like to see the last submitted figures for Plas Helyg, and how we achieved our Land Based Livelihood, have a look at our 2017 Annual Monitoring Report here.