Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Dreams of self-sufficiency - the Lammas Ecovillage

I am a bit of a sucker for home reconstruction or design programs. I am especially a sucker for programs with an alternative living elements. For that reason, I found the Grand Designs' program on the efforts Simon and Jasmine Dale to build their own home at Lammas, Wales very interesting.
Photo: Simon and Jasmine Dale's self built Lammas home. The house, like other Lammas properties, has a distinctly hobbit element. 
Their newly constructed home is part of the Lammas Ecovillage (Wikipedia, Lammas Village web site), a low-impact, off-grid ecovillage near Crymych in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, comprising nine households and a community hub on a 76 acres (31 ha) site. Buildings are constructed of natural materials and energy obtained from renewable sources.

The Village website (link above) describes Lammas in this way:
The concept for the Lammas ecovillage is that of a collective of eco-smallholdings working together to create and sustain a culture of land-based self-reliance. The project supports a permaculture approach to land management – in which human beings are considered an intrinsic part of the ecosystem. As a result the approach to environmental  management is one of stewardship for future generations rather than exploitation for short term gain.
In a way, Lammas can be described as the desire for self-sufficiency and alternative life styles meets planning regulations. The key features of Lammas are:
  • individual small long lease blocks with common land that has to be centrally managed
  • specific performance requirements manadated by Council placed upon both individual holders and the community as a whole, mandating a combination of individual and community effort. 
  • performance rules and requirements combine a combination of environmental and economic considerations. 
This 2011 piece on Love for Life provides an overview of the early concept, while the Village website as well as the Grand Designs' program provide snapshots of the current position.

Photo: Lammas house. Note the greenhouse on the left, a feature of the Lammas landscape. 
I am old enough to remember the hippy period, the first attempts to construct alternative communities on New England's North Coast among other places. I was attracted to the concepts, although I think that in reality I would have made a very bad hippy! 

That attraction lingers, reignited from time to time by the thought that if I had my own little plot I might gain greater freedom to do my own thing within the narrowing constraints set by increasing social control and regulation. I remain interested, too, in life style ways that combine self-sufficiency and sustainability with a more modern life style. I have no desire to live in poverty just to preserve the environment or indeed to comply with concepts of preserving the environment.
Photo: Lammas Ecovillage. From Lammas to Denmark's Christiania, there is something familiar about the hippy now alternative life style. 
Earlier I described Lammas as desire for self-sufficiency and alternative life styles meets planning regulations.

I have felt for a long while that growing state and council regulations on the way we live have become a growing impediment to finding new ways to live and also a blockage to increased housing supply. I don't feel quite the same way in the Lammas case.

Lammas describes itself as a research experiment. In this case, the planning regulations seem to have provided a discipline and a framework that helped the project achieve the success it has. Horses for courses, I guess.

Just for kvd. Lammas grown tomatoes!

kvd pointed me to this piece on the prospective use of pedal power. An Australian example is the pedal powered radio invented by Alfred Traeger.

I can see real advantages in some uses, but some also strike me as gimmicky (a pedal powered blender) or just plain hard work!

Postscript 6 January 2018

Sadly, on New Year's day 2018, Simon and Jasmine Dale's self built Lammas hobbit home.burnt down. It's a sad end to the Grand Designs' story, a reminder of the fragility of life.  


2 tanners said...

I do wonder what happens when they grow older and are less self sufficient themselves. Is it a case of "Oh, well, onto the NHS."? Self-sufficiency is a young person's game. These people have obviously woven some interdependency into it, but who schools the children? Who provides health and policing? Who pays?

Anonymous said...

tanners I expect you already know the answers for your questions.

That last pic of the lady plus flute immediately brought to mind that cheese shop skit from Monty Python, specifically "would you shut that bloody bouzouki off"!


Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting point, 2t. The village is on the outskirts of Welsh village, so assume that kids will go to local school (n reference that I saw to home schooling), use local facilities.

The buildings have been built by residents with the help of multiple volunteers from elsewhere. The materials have been sourced from the estate or recycled material. However, in the case in question, they did have to buy some things in. The net effect is reduced tax collections offset to some degree by the spend of volunteers.

The high degree of self sufficiency mandated by the KPIs means reduced consumption spend, hence reduced VAT. The mandated requirement for financial sustainability means that participants have to create small businesses selling stuff produced in the ecovillage, thus creating a taxable income stream.

The central village hub provides some services for cash including training extending beyond the village to support the project. They attract tourists and donations. The whole project spends some money locally that would not otherwise have been there.

It's a healthy lifestyle, so demands on health services will be lowered. Its not big enough to absorb all the kids, so a lot will leave and enter the broader workforce.

As with Copenhagen's Christiana which has become a significant income generator for the CH economy, individual projects or localities may create economic gain. But what happens if everyone tries to do it?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if they grow their own tomatoes?


- or, if not, will they import from a country with a 'tariff preference' or a 'Preferential tariff quota'?

Of course, Lebanon has both, so you'd have to dig down a little further, by clicking on the "show conditions" link.


Anonymous said...

Ha! Touche :) kvd

Jim Belshaw said...

They do grow toms, kvd. I have put a photo up for you.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no idea how I stumbled on this link - but my 'journey' started somehow from your post:


Fascinating stuff!


Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, kvd. How interesting. An Australian equivalent would be the pedal radio. I must say the pedal option strikes me as somewhat gimmicky and hard work! I can see it working in particular circumstances, however.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to observe how the secondary market for these properties develops once a family decides to sell its lease and move on.


Jim Belshaw said...

That is an interesting one, DG. I don't know what the exit rules are. Each lease has its own house now plus plot plus shared facilities. That does represent an asset that has value.

There is a broader issue, just how all these types of arrangements change over time. The kibbutz in Israel, the various Australian communes now apparently called international settlements. https://www.domain.com.au/news/meet-the-australians-living-in-intentional-communities-20161024-gs98hg/for example. Another example - http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/blueprintforliving/life-on-a-hippy-commune-in-new-south-wales/7380756

In addition to a general interest in new forms of living, the rise of communes in Northern NSW during the 1970 forms a small part of the history I am trying to write.