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Sorry but what a complete waste of time. This does not show us anything other than how run down things can become if we let them. Nestled in the Welsh countryside, £8 per adult to get in, I wish we hadn't bothered. The place is dilapidated, in total ruin, and not worth the money or the effort to get there. When we visited there was a 60ft crane building something "new", surely if this place is supposed to promote alternate technology, why use a modern diesel generator powered crane. Even better than that there were guys walking round with Bosch electric powered drills, again surely "Alternative" technology means just that, not using only the bits that they want to. As a school project maybe its worth while, but for anyone with time to kill, I would recommend you do anything else at all. This place is very old and needs to be brought up to date with alternative technology. The canteen area is horrible, staffed by the dirtiest looking people you have ever seen, it puts you off eating there.
A few years ago I made a list of all the things that I would like to do and all the places that I would like to go and the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT for short) was on that list. When Dave and I got together he seemed to be taking my list as a personal crusade (not that I am complaining you understand!) and so I got the chance to visit the CAT. 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, OAPs 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 youre 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. Its been a few years since we visited CAT so Ill try and remember my favourite bits to share with you, but theres 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 wasnt 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 Ill 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 theyd 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 havent 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!!!)
I visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in July and had a really great day there, discovering the delights of solar energy, self-build houses and composting just about anything. If that doesn't strike you as being a fun day out, then try it - you might be pleasantly surprised. CAT is situated on the edge of Machynleth in Powys. It's a bus ride from the town and you get a discount if you arrive by public transport. We arrived on the bus, complete with our tent and pitched it in the campsite next door to CAT. From the ticket office, you ride on a water-balanced cliff railway to get to the rest of CAT. The view is great (assuming that it isn't raining too much!). Once you are at the top then you are free to browse as the mood takes you. There's a welcome video, lots of examples of self-build houses made of wood and straw, vegetable and flower gardens, a small-holding, solar heating systems and loads more. Half way round, the smell of lunch was too much for us so we stopped for an organic salad, organic cake and organic beer - all really yummy - then we continued slightly squiffily round the rest of CAT. The shop held many temptations; lots of great gift ideas for children, books, cards, science kits, environmentally friendly stuff, food etc. I bought a book on self-composting toilets but I haven't built one yet! I came away buzzing with ideas for living more sustainably from weeing on straw bales to make compost,and feeding waste meat scraps to the worms in my wormery to growing plants like comfrey to keep slugs off my other plants(instead of using slug pellets). Since we've been to CAT we've chucked more things on our compost heap (cardboard packaging for one) and discovered all the great resources on their web site - lots of tips for sustainable projects such as building your own solar powered heating systems. I was hoping that building a self-composting toi let would be straight-forward, and I guess that it probably is if you have plenty of space outside to build one (which I haven't). The book didn't recommend using the compost it produces on anything but decorative plants, so for the effort of building it and then using it (not to mention cleaning it!) I reckon that weeing on your compost heap is probably good enough! I did use the one at CAT though and thought it was great! CAT also have an on-line shop and mail order catalogue (there's even a bridal gift service though I'm not sure I'd have wanted books on composting as my wedding presents!) As well as visiting CAT's main site we also went to their health food shop and cafe in the middle of Machynlleth. Both were packed with yummy delights and kept us well fed for the whole weekend. I thought that CAT was great. I had an inspiring day which was also relaxed and good fun. Well worth a visit!