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See how it SHOULD be done!
Centre for Alternative Technology (Machynlleth)
Member Name: SusanLesley
Centre for Alternative Technology (Machynlleth)
Date: 19/10/04, updated on 20/12/04 (143 review reads)
Advantages: Good fun, Educational, Reasonable price
Disadvantages: A fair bit of walking but well worth it!
CAT is situated in the beautiful Welsh countryside about three miles north of Machynlleth on the A487. It is easily reached by bus using the Arriva Cymru service from Aberystwyth, Machynlleth or Dolgellau, which stops three hundred metres away from the entrance to CAT.
CAT was originally established in 1975 to ‘inspire, inform and enable people to explore new ways of living that help protect our environment.’ Quote taken from the information leaflet.
The site is set on a hillside and you park your car at the bottom where you pay your admission. It is open 7 days a week except for a few days around Christmas and the entrance prices are currently £7.90 for adults and £4.50 for children. There are also family tickets available and concessions for students, OAP’s etc and for cyclists and those people arriving by public transport. The site is open from 10am until 7pm or dusk whichever is earlier and last admissions are at 5pm.
You then have a choice as to how you get up to the main part of the site. You can walk up a fairly steep incline through the woods or, if you visit between the end of March and the end of October, you can take the water powered cliff railway. Unfortunately for us the railway was being serviced on the day we visited so it was the climb through the woods for us! I would like to return one day and have a go on the railway.
At the top of the path there is an excellent licensed restaurant selling a wide range of organic food and a shop where you can buy your souvenirs. They stock books, models, videos, and all the usual pens, pencils, notebooks etc.
You are then at liberty to wander around seven acres of the forty-acre site to see working examples of solar, water and wind power, energy conservation techniques, environmentally friendly buildings, self build schemes, organic gardening and alternative sewage schemes.
Once you’re into the main part of the site there is a fair bit of walking still to do but it is all fairly flat and the views of the surrounding countryside are nothing short of spectacular.
It’s been a few years since we visited CAT so I’ll try and remember my favourite bits to share with you, but there’s bound to be a lot more to the whole experience by now. For current information visit their website at www.cat.org.uk
One thing which stands out in my memory is the fact that there are plenty of toilets facilities there and you are invited to make a contribution to their recycling project – if you get my drift! Yes, they recycle everything here.
In fact in the gardening area there are examples of different composts made from different raw ingredients and you can see, and handle, the ‘before’ and ‘after’. Obviously for the human waste one the ‘before’ wasn’t available but the compost produced was superb stuff and you would never guess where it had come from!
Whilst on this lavatorial theme, another way of making compost was with a bale of straw onto which you pour human urine, either bottled or draught! The straw eventually breaks down into brilliant garden compost! Anyway, enough of this – I’ll raise the tone a little now!
I found the alternative energy section really interesting, especially as I disagree very strongly with the use of nuclear fuel.
There was a wave machine, which was basically a long narrow tank containing water with a panel at one that could be moved up and down to create a wave. If you did this fast enough and thus produced enough waves there was a model lighthouse at the far end of the tank which would light up.
They also have an operational wind turbine like the sort you see on wind farms, which produces some of their own power. On the floor next to this is one of the vanes from the windmill of one of these turbines and it is HUGE!
There was a roof showing how solar panels were fitted and explaining how they worked too. There is even a solar powered telephone box!
As we walked round the site there was a lovely wooden cabin with seats inside and a TV showing a video of the work of the CAT. As we stood there we heard a noise and, looking up, saw a nest of young birds with the parent birds flying in and out feeding them completely oblivious to us all sitting watching the video! Maybe they’d already seen it?
The farm area has plenty of small animals – chickens, goats, ducks, sheep etc., together with a lot of information about environmentally friendly farming methods.
There is also a large garden area showing the best way to grow both flowers and fruit and vegetables without the use of pesticides and using organic compost as discussed earlier in this opinion.
One part of the site is dedicated to environmentally friendly construction methods. There is a small house here and you can see how it was built and what has been used inside to make it ecologically sound.
There are probably many more features that I haven’t remembered to mention here, but at least you can get a feel for the place from what I have remembered. Believe me it is well worth a visit for young and not so young alike. We certainly enjoyed playing with all the hands on exhibits! (Make of that what you will!!!)
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