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.
The residents of the ecovillage have come from all walks of life and whilst some have experience of low-impact living and natural building, many have none. They have all purchased plots costing between £35,000 and £40,000, and have 5 years to establish their holdings. Water, woodland and electricity are managed collectively and the plots are largely dedicated to growing food, land-based businesses, growing biomass and processing organic waste. Land-based enterprises include fruit and vegetable production, livestock and bees, woodland and willow crafts, value-added food production, seed production, and permaculture (the farming of composting worms).
Under the planning conditions the project reports to the Council each year, setting out its progress against a series of performance indicators that include traffic generation, land-based productivity, and ecological foot-printing. The project is required to substantially meet its needs from the land and demonstrate positive environmental, social and economic benefit.
The ecovillage began construction in 2009/2010 and is currently midway through its set-up phase.
The dwellinghouses, workshops and barns have all been designed and built by the residents themselves, with a lot of help from volunteers. For the most part they are built from local natural materials or recycled materials. With the dwellings there have been issues in demonstrating compliance with building regulations, and whilst there are currently no outstanding issues with building control officers, this continues to be a significant hurdle for low-impact builders. Low-impact construction is by its very nature, organic and low-cost. The dwellings that have been completed in the ecovillage have cost between £5,000 and £14,000.
Energy and Water
Electrical power is generated from a series of micro photovoltaic installations along with a 27kW hydro generator. Heating power is supplied from timber (either waste timber from our woodland management or from short-rotation-coppice biomass plantations). Domestic water comes from a private spring and other water needs are predominantly met from harvesting rainwater.
The land at Tir y Gafel was, in common with most of our rural landscape, depleted pasture. Biodiversity and Soil health indicators were poor, with the farm previously used for the intensive production of lamb. Since its purchase in 2009 the project has diligently worked to create a new infrastructure across the landscape that will support a wide spectrum of ecologies that in turn will provide for the diverse needs of its human inhabitants. Trackways have been created across the site and water patterns have been carefully mapped and harnessed to retain as much water in the landscape as possible. Wild plants and native trees have been planted alongside specific plants chosen for their adaptability and productivity. Animal husbandry techniques are employed by residents as a method of managing landscape evolution whilst simultaneously providing meat, dairy and fibre produce.
Each of the nine plots has approximately 5 acres of land and a share in the common woodland. All plots have plans for a dwelling-house, covered growing areas (greenhouses and poly-tunnels), barns and/or workshop space (for livestock, storage and crafts), and are subdivided into different areas depending on the needs of the residents and their livelihoods. The land is south/ west facing and is between 120 and 180 meters above sea level.
Lammas aims to establish a thriving example of low-impact development, providing an educational resource pointing the way for truly sustainable rural developments of the future. The land is being developed to improve the synergy of the different habitats across the site, simultaneously enhancing bio-diversity and leading to an increased but sustainable yield from the land. Where there was degraded agricultural pasture, Lammas is empowering ecovillage residents to create a landscape of vitality and abundance.