Our Smallholding Is For Sale
After nearly ten years establishing our low impact smallholding at the Lammas ecovillage in West Wales, we have decided that the time has come for us to sell the holding and have a fresh start. We are now looking for people who would be interested in the opportunity to buy our smallholding which includes:
- Earth-sheltered roundhouse
- Planning permission for 3-4 bedroom eco-home
- Large, horticultural glasshouses
- 9 acres in total freehold ownership
- Includes 1.5 acres rewilded forest garden and plant nursery stock
- Renewable hydro-electric supply
- Spring water supply
- 1.5 acres of private woodland and joint ownership of common woodland
- Community ownership of hub building, surrounds and millpond
For more details please read on...
Berllan Dawel 2018
In 2009, Berllan Dawel was two windswept, steep and denuded fields with no vehicle access, water or electricity, at the newly born Lammas eco-village in West Wales. She had some good established hedgerows and one or two big ash trees on her boundary and understandably was the plot nobody else wished to take on. As a permaculture designer, I decided to face my fears of meeting the planning objectives with such a poor plot and turn the problem into a solution. After all, permaculture is intended to transform marginal land into productive, edible landscapes, so we took up the challenge and set about implementing our design.
We’d been living nearby throughout the 3 years it had taken to get planning permission and had ample opportunity to observe, survey and map the land. This gave us the chance to get to know Berllan Dawel and with the support and confidence of the permaculture design process, we were able to devise a creative design that would meet our wishes to transform the bare pasture into a diverse and resilient haven for ourselves and other species. We’d also had the experience of building the hobbit house a few years earlier and the steep hillside was perfect for earth sheltered dwellings, matched by the resources of ample larch ready for thinning in the shared woodland
One of our management objectives for planning permission to be able to live and build in the open countryside is that ‘the natural wealth and biodiversity of the land will be enhanced.’ To a permaculturist this is a pure and joyful motivator; we began with the windbreaks that would multi-function as firewood, privacy screen, join existing wildlife corridors, provide craft and edible yields, create habitat and a feeling of sanctuary and serve as erosion control on the steep edges of our field. Now in 2018, over 10,000 trees, shrubs and plants have been planted and 6 ponds have been created over the years at Berllan Dawel. As the species and location of the above were designed and chosen for their contribution to biodiversity, habitat, mitigation of climate change and resilience, they continue to contribute to these objectives, increasingly so as they spread and grow to maturity. Substantial populations of small mammals, bird life and insects now reside on this plot.
The bare east field in 2009, first trees planted, just visible in the foreground.
The three years observation paid off and informed our design well, as now the site is very sheltered whilst retaining plenty of open, sunny areas for relaxation and tender crops, with the broad pattern of forest garden over the whole plot. Special attention was given to linking existing wildlife corridors e.g. to the woods and mature hedgerows; and to creating microclimates of sun and shade and shelter from wind. All these factors have created a network of beneficial relationships, which in turn support the growing of less resilient crops i.e. annual vegetables and fruit trees. This year more than ever, we saw the evidence in richer soils, less prone to erosion, improved grazing, higher yields of food and the drastic reduction of pests such as aphids and slugs as the natural checks and balances of restored ecosystems begin to thrive.
The east field from above in 2017, now a thriving and productive edible landscape.
Now nestled amongst the forest garden, we built the Undercroft back in 2009; an earth sheltered roundhouse, protected from the wind and facing the sun. This building is constructed from local and natural materials and served our family well. It is heated by a small log burner, with thermal mass of shale and sub soil sculpted round the flue pipe to give extended radiant heating to the space. A reclaimed glasshouse on the south side, captures and stores the sun’s energy and rain water and it has supplied us with many tomatoes, cucumbers, salads and herbs. There is also a bath in here for enjoying a sunset, sunrise or moonlight soak under the stars. Inspired by earthship principles, the glasshouse acts as a thermal envelope, insulating the Undercroft further, the eaves allowing winter sun in and keeping summer sun out. In combination with the root store and shed wrapping round the north side of the building, dug into the hill, this little house requires little heating and keeps itself cool in the summer.
With hardly a pause for breath, in the winter of 2010, Simon built a workshop from slab wood and larch poles from the woods. It is 8m x 4m and has a substantial lean-to shed attached where the main rainwater collection and spring water header tank is housed. This light, airy and spacious workshop has both 12v (solar PV) and 240v (hydro) electric as well as water supply, workbenches and shelving. It is an excellent space that has witnessed years of creativity and happy times with friends. A small firewood store is on the north wall of the workshop and is adjacent to the parking area and hard standing where materials have been stored and its relative location also is designed to work well with the main building pad. Double doors on 2 sides open fully to make working with big materials and objects easy.
In 2013, having observed and learnt from the establishment of the buildings and gardens thus far, we embarked on building our large hobbit house, Earthlea, and of erecting 150m2 of reclaimed glasshouse. Although Earthlea is now gone, the building pad remains intact, and we’ll say more about its potential later. The glasshouses remain glorious, themselves a significant element intended to heat the big hoose. Built over a 9 month period, they hug the slope and are sited in the most sheltered position on the plot and have easily handled huge gales, whilst receiving the last of the afternoon sun, as observed over 9 years now. They run north to south for a number of reasons, however it is significant that they are intended to allow the excess heat to move uphill by convection, into the thermal mass of the earthbag retaining wall of the house site. Passive ventilation or a simple heat exchange mechanism would transfer this heat to the main house, going much further towards year-round passive solar heating than the more common daily passive heat from sun facing windows. There is a deep pond behind the glasshouses to irrigate them; it currently captures rain water from the upper, aluminium glasshouse and is sited to utilise all the rainwater from the roof of the main house when it is rebuilt.
The glasshouses sit on lime mortared stone walls with rubble trench foundations, contain stone walled beds, a pond, patio and a long area for staging for raising seedlings. Extensive stone walling around raised beds and a massive rammed earth retaining wall provide additional thermal mass to stabilise temperatures and keep it warm through the night. There are 4 peach trees and about 6 grape vines which also help create a micro climate in this very hothouse, retaining moisture in the soil and providing habitat and food. In 2014, its first growing year and the date we had to reach our planning targets for productivity, the glass houses yielded £3000 worth of tomatoes, cucumbers, salads, courgettes and sweetcorn. In West Wales, where summers are unpredictable and the growing season relatively short, the glasshouses are a gift from god. Last year 2017, we were blessed with over 500 peaches and 41 bunches of sweet grapes from the first mature vine and a winter of leafy greens and salads, easily thriving in the shelter with no maintenance.
The upper 10m is an aluminium lean-to style glasshouse from the Botanical Gardens, Bristol. There is enough remaining glasshouse to join this and wrap around the front of the house. The lower glasshouse was reclaimed and redesigned to fit the slope in 6 x 6m sections
(see arial view above).
The glasshouses are an elegant feat of engineering and a true pleasure to work or relax in any season; they are a wonderful asset to a low impact smallholding, I love them dearly and thank the many hands that created them.
Wild soil, Wild Edges, Biodiversity and Fertility
By 2017, we saw many of the cultivation systems reaching maturity, like the grapes and peaches mentioned above. A quarter of an acre of raised beds is sheltered by the landform, shelterbelts and house site. This has supplied us with thousands of pounds of vegetables and hundreds of jars of pickles and jams that kept up food supply during the winter months, augmenting the seasonal crops such as kale, leeks and stored potatoes and onions. All the annual vegetable cultivation areas have been kept to a strict rotation, so there is no risk of a build up of pests or disease. This garden is integrated with wild edges for bringing in useful insects and amphibians to manage pests such as slugs and aphids and these plants double as important sources of minerals for the compost. Autumn olive shrubs have been planted around the edges of the beds to provide micro wind breaks and nitrogen. Themselves a source of delicious berries that even fruit in shade, the autumn olive’s main function is to provide a ready source of cut and come again fertility for the annual beds. This is sometimes known as alley cropping; interplanting leguminous tree crops for annual vegetable fertility and soil structure; the thin diameter deadwood and leafy matter are rich in beneficial microbes and nitrogen.
Also adjacent this vegetable garden is a large patch of comfrey, rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. This comfrey can be used as mulch and fertiliser on the beds and is part of a quarter of an acre supply that is dotted around the plot in useful locations; this acreage is ample for the gardens. In the early years, I used comfrey to enrich the beds and forest garden. Subsequently as the stools have grown bigger, I make quantities of liquid feed from it both for sale and for my own garden.
The Forest Garden
The whole plot is designed to be a low maintenance forest garden pattern, utilising edible shrubs and trees around open glades to create sheltered micro climates and a magical feeling. Around the Undercroft, the forest garden is at its most productive and regularly supplies us with many kilos of berries for wine and jam, top fruit and herbs and greens. A sacred geometrist even visited and identified the fire pit as on a direct line between Stonehenge and Carn Meini, the source of the stones in the Preseli Mountains!
|Brief summary of some of our Forest Garden friends|
|Top fruit trees (standards)||Apples, cherries, pears, plum, lime, juneberry, quince, medlar|
|Small trees||Elders, autumn olives, sea buckthorn, hazelnuts|
|Climbers||Honeysuckle, grape, hops, tayberry|
|Shrubs||Blackcurrants, jostaberries, gooseberries, red and white currants, cido quince, aronias, raspberries|
|Herbaceous||Wild cabbages, Good King Henry, wild garlic, solidago, soapwort, comfrey, mints and lemon balms, St John’s Wort, nettles, sage|
|Groundcover||Marjoram, strawberries, nepalese raspberry. This layer not well established.|
|Root and Fungi||Jerusalem artichokes. All plants and trees innoculated with micorrhizal fungi to support the plants to share nutrients and water.|
Livelihood: The Plant Nursery
All the plants that live at Berllan Dawel were chosen for their resilience and low maintenance. They spread and propogate easily and form the backbone of the stock for the perennial plant nursery. Unlike a conventional nursery, the plant stock is sited in guilds around the shrubs and fruit trees so that they provide their benefits in situ, rather than being raised in monocultures. There are 6 keyhole beds in front of the Undercroft for raising berry cuttings from the forest garden for retail or barter and I have built up a modest reputation locally over the years as a plant seller and comfrey juice maker. This has been the basis for our low impact income and I it would be great if you wish to continue this, there certainly are hundreds of plants there for this purpose.
Grazing and Firewood
Above this field, the workshop and main house site, is 2 acres of flat grazing that we purchased 3 years ago. It has fantastic views to the south west and has been used for our sheep. We have fenced it into two paddocks, leaving a strip round the north edge, planted with a several hundred mixed trees, still very young. We have allowed blackthorn to regenerate on the south boundary to create micro-climates and habitat and have improved the grazing quite a lot. There is scope to plant more trees for shelter, privacy and firewood up here. This field is adjacent a seasonal, large pond that we own a part share in with some residents that is excellent for swimming and kayaking. This pond was a quarry for the track running to the plots above it and is not sealed, so in prolonged dry periods there is no water. The co-owners are interested to clay line it for all year round water; however even without this, it is often full enough for a good swim up to May and from September; last year it kept its levels up all summer. In the spring, tadpoles abound and it has been fascinating to watch the regeneration from bare stone to young wildlife sanctuary. In April, the swallows return and swoop low to catch insects from the pond’s surface; rarely is anyone else there and to see the swallows in the sunset with a dog and cat at your side is heaven.
In the lower cultivated field, there is an L shaped long rotation coppice for firewood that we planted in 2009. You can see it in the arial photo and understand its multiple function as outlined at the beginning of this document. These trees are intended to be coppiced, an eighth of the total every eight years for firewood. They are a mix of ash, alder, sweet chestnut, downy birch and cherry with the odd oak and scots pine. We allow brambles to fill in the understorey for privacy, windbreak, fruit and wildlife habitat. On one side of the L coppice, along the south boundary, is a further firewood/shelter belt of viminalis willow, interplanted with other trees. A stone track runs through these trees to allow for access and harvesting.
The west field is approximately 5 acres of grazing, with a small copse of larch and spruce and over a 1000 biomass willow trees that we have harvested mainly for internal building materials. The trees are a windbreak, protect the soil, good for biodiversity and link existing woodland as a habitat corridor. This field houses the spring water pump. There is also a 4m x 8m barn, built from our own timber, connected to a rainwater supply and the springs. This field joins the woods that run along the river Gafel valley.
There is also a woodland owned in common by Lammas residents, about 1.5 acres is owned by this property and the rest is yours to wander in, rarely passing another person. It is part of a bigger woodland which other Lammas residents and neighbours own private lots. The woodland is a mixed deciduous paradise with ancient drover ways and many secluded walks, rich in wild plants; it is bounded by the river Gafel, a beautiful, natural waterway. 3 acres is owned in common with the ecovillage.
The mature woodland is a great resource for many items, ranging from furniture, to crafts, fencing and foraged foods. There is no obligation on you to submit plans as to what you make or do as you will inherit our planning permission. So, the choice is yours what you do with the land.
Energy: Water and Electric
The buidlings are currently linked up to PV solar for lights and car-charger socket for laptops and other electrical items; there is plenty of south facing aspect for such a system on this plot. The hydro-electric is owned by all 9 Lammas plots and supplies up to 3 kw of 240V electric from a leat off of the river Gafel. The hydro-electric turbine is a valuable asset, providing such ample amounts of unmetered off-grid electric, especially during the winter, rainy months when it is most welcome. We have used it for power tools, washing machine, electric oven and the hoover. A smart load control system in the workshop can automatically switch on and off selected appliances around the plot to divert surplus power to background uses such as space and water heating. The total amount of power varies with water levels, over the last four years our consumption has been around 10,000 units/year or about £1,700 worth. This has provided for nearly all our heating, and water heating needs.The generation of renewable electric also yields FITs payments 4 x a year (up to £10,000 a time); this is nominally fed back into the infrastructures. The turbine itself requires regular maintenance and repair as befits a complex, powerful beast such as itself. Simon has been active in keeping it going until now; the residents decide jointly how to maintain it and spend its earnings.
Rainwater is collected from all roofs into ponds or tanks. There is over 2000 litres storage currently at the top of the hill for gravity feed to the Undercroft and has been sufficient for our washing selves in the bath, dishes in the sink and clothes in the washing machine. We had planned to double this capacity and the tanks are clean and ready to be connected at the plot. The main drinking water supply is from a high quality spring further uphill on the previous owner, Sue’s, land. Like the hydro-electric and tracks, the water supply is co-owned with the other Lammas plots. The spring is called Ffynnon Deg, and the water is delicious and never runs dry. We pump it to a header tank using a low wattage electric pump. We are the only plot that pumps the water due to our elevation, although there are loose plans to bring it from further uphill by ram pump and then gravity feed down to our plot. There is also a small spring on the plot that runs for half the year, after rainy weather. It is also piped to the buildings, we use it for washing, irrigation or drinking as a back up supply.
The Community Hub and Other Opportunities
As a member of the Lammas eco-village you have an equal share of the hub building, built by Simon and volunteers from local and natural materials. The hub is an excellent resource for hosting courses and events and is a lively place where many activities are held. It is completely off grid and has a capacity for 60 people; there is a health and safety standard kitchen for community use. Outside the hub is the village green and campsite. Adjacent is the beautiful, historic millpond, home to geese, frogs and wild fish and bordered by mature oak trees.
The hub attracts over a thousand visitors a year; a perfect resource for selling your land based products or to teach low impact skills.
You can participate in open days, that run every saturday from April to October if you wish. There is no obligation to do this and our plot is very secluded from the hub visitors.
However, we’ve greatly enjoyed being tour guides over the years and have found tours and education a valuable source of income and inspiration.
We have successfully run certified permaculture design, smallholding skills and natural building courses on our plot and in conjunction with the hub.
Part of the planning consent rested on the idea that the ‘settlement will welcome visitors and provide an educational experience.’ The diversity of visitors to Lammas and research interest, offers a wealth of opportunities. Last year, as part of the project, we were honoured to be paid to tour and teach hundreds of people, including Dublin City Farms Network, local artists, an American land based project and a Finnish Low Carbon Neighbourhood group. Whether you join in or not is up to you, however we strongly recommend you enjoy this side of life at Lammas, for your own pleasure and for the symbolic message Lammas sends round the world.
The local area and region of Dyfed is a most beautiful and culturally diverse place. The Preseli mountains and Pembrokeshire coastlines are stunning; the village of Glandwr and Lammas’ immediate neighbours are all interesting, good hearted people. There is even a whole food shop and organic veg shed within a few minutes drive. There is a leisure centre, doctor, vet, local schools and so on in nearby Crymych, 5 miles away. There is a Steiner school a bit further away and an active home school network in the area.
Planning Permission for the site was granted under Pembrokeshie’s now obsolete Low Impact Planning Policy. This is similar to the current ‘One Planet Development’ policy, but with much less stringent conditions. The inhabitants of the site are obliged to provide an annual monitoring report to the local authority “giving details of the activities carried out during the previous twelve months, setting out performance against the management objectives...and the number of vehicle trips generated”. The number of vehicle trips is the only quantified restriction on the plots to not more than 4 trips/day on average. The other management objectives do not include fixed targets or restrictions but require the plotholders to describe any contribution towards biodiversity, the local economy etc. We can explain this situation further and show you our previous annual monitoring report.
For four years we built the main house, Earthlea. It was of high ecological integrity, using local straw, lime, sub soils from the building pad and timber from the woods that was felled and thinned sustainably in previous years in accordance with the woodland management plan. Over 400 friends helped us build it and much fun and pain was had. In 2016 we were featured on Grand Designs and honoured as heroes of the self build movement and as having made a clarion call to the world to live sustainably. All we knew was that we had followed our conscience and creative expression and were very tired, though it is kind of Kevin McCloud to extol us so. On the 1st of January 2018, the house, very near completion, burnt to the ground. Whilst we have been in shock and hibernation, our dear friends cleared the burnt debris and cut down the charred timber frame. The foundations of the house are still largely intact, a blank canvas once again.
Over the last months we have taken time and space to recover and have been renting locally. We have now decided that we would like to sell the smallholding to people who would like to take over our place.
Berllan Dawel is densely planted up with a roundhouse, workshop, the glasshouses and a pad with planning permission for a 3/4 bed eco-house. You could have our existing house design or build something different on the same size footprint or less. We would be happy to help you design a house there. This plot also has a view with no visible road or street lights and has the hydro electric and water. There is also the flat grazing and young trees above with a private share in the large, seasonal pond as well as the community hub.
The established infrastructures and permissions at Lammas, and on our plot, are a wonderful head start compared to buying an empty field with no services and no planning permission. This in combination with the scope to create anew on these fields and building sites will hopefully mean you get to enjoy all the pleasures of off grid eco living without all the years and effort of set-up.
We are now taking offers on the smallholding. If you would like to make an offer, arrange a viewing or know more please email email@example.com or call us on 07804445736
Here's a short film , showing the plot in 2016