April Meeting: Cottage Gardening by Carrie Thomas, 09/04/14 @ 8PM

This month’s talk comes from Carrie Thomas, who will be telling us about the construction, planting, and growing of typical cottage garden plants.

talk kidweli333IMG_0135Carrie is a keen plantswoman, particularly interested in sowing seeds of unusual, gardenworthy plants, sowing several hundred types each year. Her seed company supplies seeds of cottage garden favourites as well as rarely offered items.   A gardener since a young child, her passion for plants really took off when she had her first house and garden.  Carrie is a qualified teacher, and has an honours degree in Botany and Zoology from Swansea University.

The talk will take place at the normal time & place, The Gremlin Club, Carmarthen 8pm on Wed 9th of April. See you there.

Report on September meeting, Talk by Andy Kurzfeld


This month Andy Kurzfeld gave a very interesting talk on the Pembrokeshire Islands of Skomer and Skokholm. These islands have been inhabited since long before the Vikings, with early records telling us that rabbits provided an income before more conventional farming with sheep and goats. Since 1950, when the last inhabitants left, several changes of ownership have resulted in the wildlife thriving, but the buildings suffering from years of neglect.

Now a nature reserve, and equally importantly, a marine nature reserve, the islands are managed by the Wildlife Trust and the Countryside Council for Wales. With a £3 million lottery grant, they have repaired the derelict buildings to provide self catering accommodation. This enables staff, volunteers and researchers to stay on the island to carry out vital work. Up to 300 visitors arrive by boat every day at peak times, some of them now able to stay. The income from this enables the island to be self supporting.

Skomer and Skokholm may be small but are certainly not lacking in interest. They are famous for their birdlife, most notably the huge colonies of Puffin and Manx Shearwater, and they are also an important breeding ground for many other species including Storm Petrels, Guillemots, Fulmers, Razorbills and even Peregrine Falcons and Owls who feed on the Skomer Vole which is unique to the island. Rabbits play an important role as lawnmowers, as the grassland is undermined with burrows, nest sites to the Puffin and Shearwaters. Thankfully, there are no rats on the island to steal eggs or young birds and records show that bird numbers are up for most species. I am sure that Andy’s fascinating talk will inspire our members to visit the islands, or even volunteer or perhaps stay.

By Pam Willey

Report on August meeting, Talk by Doug Rowlands

Last month’s meeting didn’t go quite as planned… Due to unforeseen circumstances, our booked speaker, William Silverstone of Silverstone Green Energy, was unable to attend. Thankfully, our chairman, Doug Rowlands stepped into the breach with only six hours to spare!

As I’m sure many of you are aware, Doug spent the majority of his working life at sea; 36 years in total, and the talk he gave was a fascinating insight into what being a mariner in the 20th Century is all about. After learning the basics of his trade at Warsash Maritime Academy, Doug worked for Port Line, running cargo such as butter, cheese, apples, and lamb from Australia and New Zealand back to the UK. Doug referred to Sydney as his second home due to the amount of time he spent there!

After many years running cargo all over the world for Port Line, container ships became the norm, and the way ships were run changed dramatically. As an example, the ships Doug worked on might have a crew of 60-80 people, with all cargo being loaded by hand. Today, as a comparison, the Emma Maersk which is the one of the largest container ships in the world, only has a crew of 13. This was the signal for Doug to change jobs and he moved into cross-channel ferries.

Doug’s sea-faring career was interrupted for two years when he went into business with his brother in Oxfordshire as an agricultural contractor, but the call of the sea was too strong, and he returned to Southampton, first working for the harbour-master, and then moved into cable-laying ships where he stayed until the end of his career. These vessels were responsible for laying the transatlantic telephone cables which have had such a dramatic impact on the world today. So next time you’re on the internet, or on the phone to someone in a different country, just think, it might be all thanks to Doug!

I’m sure we’d all like to say thanks to Doug for stepping in at such short notice, and for giving us such an interesting talk.

September events

Well, that seems to be the end of summer! There’s been a real change in the weather over the last couple of weeks, and autumn is definitely on the way. This means it’s time for the annual harvest lunch. This year, Helen & Pete Gleed have very kindly volunteered to be our hosts, and start time is midday. Details as usual are in the newsletter. See you there!

August Events

Hi All, hope you’ve had a good July. Two events this month:

1. We’re back to our normal meeting schedule for August, and this month’s talk is by William Silverstone of Silverstone Green Energy in Narberth. This is what they say about themselves:

“Silverstone Green Energy are experts in conservation and renewable energy production, we can provide both advice and solutions on all aspects of home efficiency. Whether you want to reduce your energy usage to save money, reduce the impact of future energy price rises, or reduce your carbon footprint, call us to discuss how we can help.”

Given the environmental benefits, the price of domestic heating oil over the last few winters, and an opportunity to perhaps bring in some revenue, this could be a very interesting talk indeed!

Normal place and time, Gremlin Club, Carmarthen, 8.00 pm, Wednesday 14th August. See you there.

2. The second event is a Farm Walk at David & Holly Harries’ holding. This will take place on Sunday, 18th of August, and starts at 11:30 am. Full details are in your newsletter.

July events

No meeting in Carmarthen this month, but a couple of great social events. We’ve got the Dyfed Permaculture farm walk on the 14th of July, followed by the DSA BBQ on the 10th of July. Details for both can be found in the June and July newsletters. Look forward to seeing you there.

Report on May Meeting, Talk by Rik Mayes of Tipi Valley

May’s talk on Tipi Valley by Rik Mayes talk was fascinating, and helped challenged some of the stereotypes and stigma faced by those who choose an alternative lifestyle. Rik is a self-confessed hippy, and for him, big events leading to the Hippie Movement were Rachel Carson’s book the Silent Spring detailing the detrimental effects of modern life on the natural environment, and the terrifying events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the world seemed to want to destroy itself with 4 minutes warning. Hippies started appearing, and really took off in 1969 – the Summer of Love, with the Woodstock Festival. Unfortunately for the hippies Margaret Thatcher’s government brought the festival culture to an end, and Rik and his friends wanted somewhere they could live as they choose.

Andrew Cripps at Cwmann nr Lampeter was the first to have a small Tipi village- there were 8 Tipis with a larger Communal Tipi in the centre. Capt Blunt (nicknamed Old Nab) had the land in Cwmdu that was to become the Tipi Valley that we know today. The residents negotiated a deal with him that still holds today whereupon, as the residents could afford, they would give £5 a time to Capt Blunt and he would give them receipts for the very gradual purchase of the land. When Capt Blunt died, Mr Bill Busk bought the farm and was very happy for the situation with the hippies to continue. It is he who completed all the conveyances. In 1979 they set up a Land Fund whereby, although they owned the land,they owned in common, so no-one had their own particular little patch to get squalid and muddy, and they could move their Tipis in winter and summer, to give the ground a chance to recover.

Tipi Valley’s residents class themselves as a ‘village’ rather than a commune because they all earn their own money to survive and don’t pool it. There are a lot of Tradespeople amongst them eg. Beekeepers, a sawmill, treeplanters for the forestry, artists, complementary medicines, childcare, teaching, carpenters and Rik himself is a minister for the Anglican church.

The residents of the valley don’t charge anybody to visit or stay there. In 1985, they had a lot of the New Age Travellers staying there as they were banned from settling anywhere and kept getting moved on. It was in 1980 they first had contact from the Planning dept. wanting them from Cwmdu and in 1984 they were issued with an Enforcement Notice. In July 1985 there was a public Enquiry but the Local Authority couldn’t get any public support – their complaint being that 24 Tipis were ‘detrimental to the visual amenity of the countryside’. The residents lodged an appeal in 1987, by which time they had bought more of the land and were able to move onto that which wasn’t covered by the Enforcement Order! The surveys that were done showed 100% public support that the hippies should stay.

There have been over 100 babies born in Tipi Valley as home-births, where usually a midwife is in attendance and any other helpers the mother should want. Some women come to Tipi Valley just to give birth. It is reported that the county with the highest level of successful home births in the UK is Carms, and it is Tipi Valley that helps get it there. All children used to be educated at home too, but when Cwmdu school was closed due to lack of pupils, the parents decided they should support the local schools so all infants go to Talley School, then onto Tregib for their secondary Education. There are now about 80 to 90 permanent residents of Tipi Valley- they find that the welsh weather is good at reducing the resident population there, otherwise it could be nearer 5000!!!


Thanks to Claire Beddoes for this report.

June Meeting – Brian Jones from Carmarthenshire Beekeepers’ Association

bee-and-flowerAccording to the British Beekeepers’ Association, one in three mouthfuls that we eat is dependent on bee pollination. Unfortunately, bee numbers are in worldwide decline; in the UK alone, we’ve lost 50% of our native bee species in only 50 years. Why? Is it disease? Pesticides? Lack of habitat? Well despair not! The DSA can help, and Brian Jones from Carmarthenshire Beekeepers’ is going to tell us how. Our meeting this month is going to feature a talk on all things bees and bee-keeping, and should be a fascinating insight into the world of the apiarist. The talk will be on at the normal time and place; The Gremlin Club, Carmarthen, at 8:00 PM on Wednesday the 12th of June. Come along and find out how you can help our bees!

Tipi Valley comes to Carmarthen


Next’s month talk is a fascinating insight from Rik Mayes of Tipi Valley. Founded in 1976, Tipi Valley is an ‘eco-community’, which covers a 200-acre expanse of rolling countryside bought piece by piece from local farmers by its 200 or so residents (100 during the winter). The majority live in low-impact dwellings – tipis, yurts, caravans, huts, round houses – scattered across the idyllic valley. Others shack up in converted vehicles –buses, trucks, campervans – and a small number reside in cottages. The community has seen over sixty home births and there are families with three generations living there.

Look forward to seeing you there, May 8th – 8:00PM @ The Gremlin Club Carmarthen

Dyfed Smallholders AGM0

Dyfed Smallholder’s AGM was held last month on the 13th. Considering AGM’s don’t tend to be high interest events, it was fairly well attended, and everyone seemed in high spirits and full of enthusiasm for the future of the DSA. This year’s committee was selected with relative ease. Members offered their services without the usual arm twisting and gentle persuasion!!

One important resolution which was proposed and carried unanimously was to increase the annual subscription to £20 per annum. This rise is driven by increasing costs including, printing, postage, speakers and room fees to name but a few. Still, at £1.66 a month for the whole holding, it’s a bargain!