Here at the Lammas Ecovillage we have recently celebrated our 7th birthday. The 9 households have collectively built around 15 different buildings, planted many thousands of trees, created hundreds of new habitats, and hosted thousands of volunteers and visitors.
We are seen as the ‘pioneers’ of planned low impact development in the UK.
How did this come about?
My partner Nigel & I got involved in September 2006. We met our now neighbours Simon & Jasmine (of Grand Designs fame!) who told us about the Lammas Project. The name ‘Lammas’ was used for a couple of reasons; firstly from the positive imagery of the Celtic Festival of Harvest ‘Lughnasad’ or Lammas; also because the project idea was born around a bonfire on August 1st 2005 (this is the calendar date of ‘Lammas’, though traditionally it is celebrated on the full moon in August, regardless of date).
In addition the three main men that manifested the project; Tony Wrench, Paul Wimbush & Larch Maxey, met to discuss the project several times in the following year above the Waverley Cafe in Lammas Street in Carmarthen.
From these meetings and consultations within Pembrokeshire regarding Low Impact Development, was born a policy which allowed people to apply to ‘live off the land’. Policy 52 only allowed applications under an umbrella body which could police the individual smallholdings in case anyone didn’t comply as they should. This body was Lammas, and there are 9 smallholders which are the tenants at Tir-y-Gafel. For simplicity everyone knows us as the ‘Lammas Ecovillage’.
So 3 years later in 2009, after 3 planning applications, (2 refusals and one lapse) the Lammas application went to Welsh Assembly appeal. A month later a jubilant group of residents celebrated our success – we had permission to build.
Within a few years, the Welsh Assembly Government, with key people who had been involved in Lammas, developed a new policy which superseded Policy 52. It is a Wales-wide policy called One Planet Development. There is a voluntary body called the One Planet Council www.oneplanetcouncil.org.uk which can help people hoping to make an application.
I am not totally clear on the criteria – it differs somewhat from Lammas. We have to provide 75% of our basic needs form the land. I believe OPD people need to provide 100%.
However this isn’t as onerous as you may think. Although the method of calculating this figure varies, Lammas was very successful and on average residents here made over 100% from the land last year. You can find a full report on our harvests, income streams, trees planted etc at www.lammas.org.uk.
Recently there was a gathering of the One Planet Council here at the Lammas Community Hub. Around 60 people came to network, brainstorm and see Lammas smallholdings. I have been told there have already been 11 successful OPD applications in Wales. OPD is basically an agricultural ‘tied’ tenancy but using modern technologies – which is exactly what Lammas was intended to be.
Make no mistake – this isn’t an easy life. Rewarding harvests, connection with nature, and the freedom to design your own lifestyle and housing – these are all amazing pluses.
However the energy it takes to build up everything from scratch, in our case with no funds other than what we create day to day, as well as having children and all of the ‘normal’ daily routine – can be exhausting.
Definitely this isn’t for everyone. But we have carved our bit of paradise from this Welsh hillside – and it is wild and beautiful and abundant, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For more information go to www.plas-helyg.co.uk
Before and after photos of our land, 7 years later.