way of life IN ALMOST every large town or city in Britain there is at least one museum. and many of the exhibits are devoted to how we lived in the past. Much more rare are exhibition about how we might be living in the future. and these invariably portray a future which is an extension of our high-technology industrialised consumer society.
Now that we can recognise that such a way of living is outmoded. we need examples of future ways of life which will work and will be sustainable. One of the very few such examples is to be found in one of the most beautiful parts of mid-Wales, and any Catholic Herald readers holidaying there during the summer would find a visit very profitable.
The place is the National Centre for Alternative Technology, and it lies a few miles north of Machynlieth on the A487 Dolgellau road. One of the first signs of the centre is a cluster of windmills on a small hilltop in a very pleasant valley.
These, along with solar panels, water-mills and turbines, methane generators, fish farming, organic gardening and heat-conserving houses, are all examples of the wide range of activities covered by the centre.
It. is located in a disused quarry, and ilthough it started up less than three years ago, has already attracted a great deal of attention and was visited last year by over 30,000 people. There are a number of connections with industry, and the most obvious of these is a "conservation house" constructed by a large building company.
This has very effective insulation, and this and other aspects of the design ensure that it uses less than one-fifth of the energy of a normal house.
Much of the energy which is still required can he met from solar panels in the roof which are used for heating water, and from a windmill used for generating electricity which can be stored in batteries in the house for use on calm days.
There are several other windmills at the centre, the biggest being a 5kW Electro, big enough for perhaps three houses, but a very large 150kW Wesco machine is under con struction and this should he large enough to provide the electricity needs for a small hamlet.
The centre also has its own small water-driven turbine, and there are several experiments in progress on the production of methane or Bio-gas from a variety of nasty things such as chicken and pig manure!
There are several displays of solar panels, some being used to heat water for the fishfarming trial. Here, the centre is culturing carp and the rearing and fattening ponds are both warmed by solar power, hopefully extending the growing season for the fish into the spring and autumn.
On the vegetable-growing side there are extensive plots, all using organic methods, and these include examples of many different forms of compost-growing.
Unusual crops such as comFrey and soya beans are grown, and one very good idea is a tiny garden in the ruins of a small cottage. This shows that even on a plot no bigger than the average sitting room, dozens of different kinds of vegetables can he grown successfully.
All the buildings at the centre, which include several staff houses as well as a bookshop and exhibition halls, are built as examples of wellinsulated buildings dependent largely on renewable sources of energy for their everyday running. It is all very much under development and there arc about 15 people living on the site.
The whole atmosphere is not one of polished neatness but rather a hive of activity. Apart from the exhibits, one of the other attractions of the centre is a small but comprehensive bookshop, one of the best devoted to low-impact technology and alternative living that 11 have seen anywhere.
This, coupled with the adjacent permanent exhibition, could keep you browsing for an hour or more, and you need at least two or three hours to look round the whole centre.
The National Centre for Alternative Technology at Llwyngwern Quarry. near Maebytilleth. is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m_ or dusk if earlier. Admi.s11(111 is 50p for adults and 30p ( hare'', students and OAPs.