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.