CAT: Weeks 3 & 4: Farewell to the Hills

I’m on the train home from the Centre for Alternative Technology after finishing the final week of my placement. My four weeks at CAT have been a great experience for many reasons. The people, the work and the amazing natural surroundings have been restorative and given me new energy and perspective. I will miss my morning walk through the ancient woods to the rewilded quarry, the birdsong and the tranquillity of the reservoir.

Throughout my time at CAT I delivered the ZCB talk to a total of 163 people. While the audience figures were on average quite low, I have gained a lot of confidence in delivering aural presentations and public engagement. By the final week I felt that I was beginning to introduce an element of emotion to the talk alongside just presenting the data.

Me presenting the land use scenario in ZCB in the awesome Shepherd Theatre
Me presenting the land use scenario in ZCB in the awesome Shepherd Theatre

During the final week I was invited to another village in North Wales to deliver the presentation by an academic working in the field of psychology at Bangor university. In the future I would like to take the presentation to schools in London, where the audience is likely to be less well informed than the average visitor to CAT. This will depend however on my stress levels after I return to London!

My friend Matthew came and stayed for a few nights in week 3. We practiced some of the techniques I learned on the nature connections course and built a fire with the same reciprocal frame structure that is often used for constructing timber framed round houses. Each post supports the weight of the next (provided there is enough friction) and transmits the force down to the points of contact with the ground.

Reciprocal frame fire structure
Reciprocal frame fire structure

I see this as my first step towards one of my dreams: building my own roundhouse from timber and straw bales. I hope to attend one of CAT’s practical short courses on natural buildings next year. Matt left the centre saying that he felt inspired and that his well-being levels had reached around 9.5. He also said he had resolved himself to give up red meat after watching my talk and discovering that getting the recommended daily intake of protein (55 g) from beef is about 1000 times more carbon intensive, and uses four times the land as than getting it from nuts and seeds.

During my final week I completed the 2-page anti-fracking flyer that I had been working on for Paul. Lots of the skills I gained during my time at Imperial in writing and graphic design came in useful for this. It has been passed onto, John who does all the design for CAT publicity and reports, who will tweak it before it gets uploaded to the CAT website. I will update with the link when it appears online.

Zero Carbon Britain Anti-fracking flyer
Zero Carbon Britain Anti-fracking flyer

Before I left, Paul and I went for a final ‘mindfulness’ walk around the woods together. I was sad to say goodbye and he gave me a big hug, which was touching. I feel like we became friends during my time at CAT and I hope to continue that friendship in the future.

The last four weeks have been a time of learning and personal growth. Hopefully CAT has benefitted from the experience too. I would like to thank the Charity Insights programme and team for giving me the opportunity to experience the alternative world that exists at CAT- I think it has been an experience that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Farewell to the hills
Farewell to the hills of the Dulas valley

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