Cae Non - A natural, spiritual sanctuary in north-west Wales - page 3

WELCOME!

Cae Non is a secluded five acre field in north west Wales where people and nature are working in tandem to develop a completely natural organic area for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of all.

Enjoy the wide open spaces; the clear dome of the sky and the vistas of mountains around you. Bask in the sunshine,the water, the banks of wild flowers. Explore the pathways, the labyrinth and the island. Discover the groves, pools and bowers. A walk around Cae Non can be merely a nice amble through nature, or a deeply meaningful spiritual adventure of self-discovery and connection.

This is an on-going project which is still in its infancy. Come and be part of it. Volunteers are greatly appreciated.... and well fed! Visitors warmly welcomed and well looked after.

Regular retreats and workshops are held, see the events page for details.



Apple Wine

Posted on: July 6th, 2013 by
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Crab Apple Wine

A gallon of apple wine, the first full bottle, and bottles ready to be filled.

One of the oldest trees at Cae Non is a rather gnarly, nobbley Crab Apple tree. Originally we thought that it wouldn’t be of much use as a fruiting tree as crab apples are notoriously bitter. Anyway, I had the idea to harvest a bucket of the apples last year (2011 – when we first got Cae Non) and work out a use for them later.

I originally thought along the lines of something like crab apple brandy – something similar to Sloe Gin, but I don’t tend to like those liqueurs anyway. So, I just made a wine with them, like any other wines we make. Boiled fruit in the water, add sugar and yeast when cool and forget about it…

…and forget I did. Until this evening when I found it in my dispensary cupboard. We plan to Wassail the trees (especially the apple trees) on the 26th of January (Want to come along?) and I thought that I might as well see what the old apple’s produce tastes like. Let me tell you: It’s lovely. It isn’t bitter/sour like crab apples, and it isn’t even that dry… it’s a fruity, apply tasting wine that is rather sweet. It is clear and light brown and is rather easy on the lips. According to my calculations, it’s somewhere between 10 and 18% alcohol. A few sips and you do indeed feel its effects. I imagine it would make a lovely after dinner wine rather than a table wine – a bit like a liqueur or spirits. Perhaps it is an ideal drink to have in the evening after a long day of tree planting and herb garden digging!

More Crab Apple Wine!

It might look like pee, but it actually looks like brandy and tastes divine!

Needless to say, this coming autumn, I’ll probably make 5 or 10 gallons… This taste is growing on me!


A Very Happy New Year!

Posted on: July 4th, 2013 by
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Greetings and good wishes to all our readers for 2013! After an extremely volatile and challenging year, we all enjoyed a peacefully deep and loving Solstice followed by a really quiet Christmas. But by the 27th December we were heading down on to the land with coloured candles and ribbons and bags of fresh evergreens with which to decorate the Hafod for New Year.

While I was wobbling about on stools, poking holly behind every plaque and mirror, weaving ivy around the beams and setting red and green candles in their brass and copper sticks, Dafydd was out beginning to plant the 450 trees (see Dafydd’s own post) which had recently been delivered and Holger was maintaining his various weather stations.

NewYear2012011.jpg   NewYear2012006.jpg

This was to be the first of several days we have spent down there in the past week, including New Year’s Eve. We would work around outside until the light began to fade and then gather around the little wood-burning stove, comforted by large thermal mugs full of hot tea and coffee, singing carols and playing our favourite children’s games. As twilight deepened, an increasing number of candles were lit, flares went up outside the Hafod door and more logs were piled on the stove. (At one stage we got so hot – nearly 23 degrees – that we were sitting in short sleeves with the door wide open!)

Every time we went down for the day/evening we took a sumptuous cold buffet supper to consume early in the evening; salads and dips, cheeses and cold meats (apologies to the vegetarians among you), cakes, stollens, biscuits and cheesecakes… cider and homemade wine was passed around freely… and there were only three of us there! Altogether we had some wonderful times! And on New Years Eve itself, we could see in the far distance the fireworks being let off – multicoloured flowers against the night sky. But nothing could rival the full moon sailing across blue velvet.

With all the rain that has fallen this last few months, our land is indescribably sodden and everywhere we walk we squelch into several inches of waterlogged grass or squelchy clay mud. So the evening I wandered out to find the outdoor loo and foolishly decided not to don my wellingtons to walk there… only to find myself well over my shoe tops in very cold water and very sticky mud… was not a very sensible idea! (Well I should have known better, shouldn’t I ???!!!)

Overall, our time at Cae Non this last few days has been absolutely magical. I hope that it is a foretaste of all the magical and wonderful times to come in this new year and wish you all a wonderful time of coming together, success, satisfaction and joy.

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Wassailing Imbolc

Posted on: July 4th, 2013 by
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On Saturday the 26th of January, we held a ceremony at Cae Non. It was comprised of two different traditions, both of which have been used in Britain for centuries to mark the end of winter, looking forward to the year ahead, and thanking the land and honouring the last harvest.

As you may know, Imbolc is the cross quarter festival of the Celtic calendar that marks the end of Winter, and the secret beginning of spring as rams are put to ewes, the days get lighter, and the snows (or muds) of winter give way to green things and regeneration.

But this time of year is also very close to when the old rite of Wassailing took place (Typically ‘Old 12th Night’ – around the 17th of January). This tradition involves waking up the orchards by making a lot of noise, mainly by banging pans and blowing horns, consuming copious amounts of cider, and thanking the trees for their crop, while ‘Taunting’ them to wake up with encouragment to produce more fruit for the coming harvest.

This is especially valid for us as Cae Non – we may not have an orchard (yet!), but we do have a stately, old crab apple tree. My hairbrained idea of making apple wine made those crab apples one of the first harvests from Cae Non, so it seemed only right to use this as a focus to say ‘Thank you’.

So, the morning of the 26th saw 8 of us gathering at Cae Non in a day of celebration led by grove mother of Cylch Blodeuwedd and Cae Non visionary, Gillian. In total 8 of us gathered, the greatest number since we built the hafod, and a great test of our facilities!

Opening the circle

Getting ready to share hot milk and our lovely cake!

We congregated in our newly planted Oak Grove just after lunchtime, and marked out our circle by tying yellow ribbons to the marker canes by the oak trees. We then were sent off by Gillian to find a small stone each to mark out aspirations and fledgling ideas for the year ahead – on the theme of collecting stones, later, we also gathered boulders to lay out in a small circle for a camp fire site.

Our lovely Imbolc cake made by a member!

Our lovely Imbolc cake!

 

Next, we shared a lovely ritual cake prepared by one of our members and some warm, spiced milk – indicative of the time of year with the beginning of lambing and calving. I must also confess, at this time, some mead and apple wine was also opened!

Then we set off! We processed as a group around the field making a hell of a din – banging drums, ringing bells, and blowing horns. Perhaps rather too boozily, I blew an empty bottle loudly instead! We stopped off wherever there are trees – the main grove, the feminine grove, the tree coppice beds, the old apple tree, the island, and lastly the labyrinth.

Each area honoured and toasted – and definitely woken up for the year, we retreated to the warmth and dryness of the hafod for a hot meal and some well and truly deserved hot drinks!

For those who are interested in the tradition of Wassailing, our very own Holger (Oak King) wrote an article a couple of years ago – well worth a read


The Frosting on the Cake

Posted on: July 1st, 2013 by
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Cae Non in Snow 03These photos of Cae Non were taken a week after the main January snowfall which brought traffic to a standstill and rendered it a real pleasure to be cosily tucked up at home! Seven days later, most of the snow had melted from our village and the local towns were completely clear – as if it had never been! But the Snowdonia mountains were still cloaked in thick snow and ice…. and as we drove towards the sea at Pistyll and our land we discovered that so too were the fields and lanes there. In places the drifts were four and five feet deep. Here on the lane outside our gateway it was much more sheltered, but although melting fast, easy to guess how treacherous it had been earlier in the week!

Cae Non in Snow 06Looking up the field towards the stream and the Hafod, this sturdy and immensely useful addition to our outdoor facilities awaits four – or more! – strong men to transport it up to the Hafod. Anyone for a picnic??!!

Cae Non in Snow 09The island looked so pretty, as indeed did the rest of the land. It took on a whole different atmosphere… became a fairy domain full of magical energies. I found the intense quiet and peace of Cae Non in deepest winter extremely calming but also amazingly energising and utterly joyful and ended up stomping around in the snow, cheerfully singing and whistling, and feeling inexplicably happy. Standing on the island there was an intense still as if the land was listening.

The water in the channel around the island was actually still frozen – hence the faint similarity in appearance to Kendal Mint Cake in the picture! The fact that we get such icy winter conditions opens up all manner of possibilities, not least the option of skating in winters to come! As we are contemplating forming a larger pool at the bottom of the field, it would be perfect…. shallow enough for it not to matter if we plunge through the ice into water which would only be 12″ or 18″ deep!

Cae Non in Snow 13The white of the snow makes the Hafod appear strangely dark! From this perspective you cannot tell that there is a glowing log fire burning in our little stove, or that we had had to leave the door open because it was so hot inside!

Cae Non in Snow 16

Can this really be the same stream bank where I sit in spring and summer, basking in the sunny warmth of such a sheltered spot? Looking carefully at the snow, it is easy to see that our two Labrador dogs, (Stella and Melangell), have already thoroughly explored… there are paw prints everywhere!

Later when I was trudging back down to the car at the gate, a thought suddenly struck me. As a child my mother would make a traditional Christmas Cake with ancient china Santa and fir trees grouped on top, but for New Year, she would bake another fruit cake, this time decorated with a tiny coaching scene. A yellow stage coach pulled by four minute brown horses was racing towards a jolly little inn with comfortably glowing windows, while porters stood waiting for its arrival. Several green spiky fir trees provided a rural backdrop. To make it more realistic, my mother used to create “muddy ruts” in the icing “snow” by dragging the tines of a fork through it which had previously been dipped in gravy browning. It was very effective! As I looked down at the tracks in the snow I realised that they looked exactly like the sugar-crafted miniature ones…. and for a very odd few minutes, I felt as if I was walking in a scene on a massive cake…. I told you that the snow at Cae Non has strange qualities about it!!!!


Midsummer Solstice

Posted on: June 22nd, 2013 by
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Midsummer Solstice

All set to celebrate the midsummer, only the weather was proving a bit fickle and moody so to be on the safe side, we erected our teepee tent and prepared to celebrate under-cover if necessary. Here everything is set for the festivities to begin. It is good to know that in summer we can also use a similar arrangement to shelter us from rain, wind or sun if we wish to hold some of the workshops and discussions outside when the weather is a bit too potent for our vulnerable human condition. As it turned out, we never went inside the tent; chilly and a bit wind-blown we gathered in the grove of baby oak saplings where we also later lit a blazing bonfire around which we sat, sucking on delicious lollypops purchased from the old fashioned sweet shop in Harlech.


Midsummer Blessings

Posted on: June 21st, 2013 by
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It is hard to believe as I sit here in the hafod at Cae Non, with rain lashing the window and wind howling down from the mountain, but today is misdummer… The height of the sun’s potency and the peak of the year before the downwards run towards winter. We are sitting taking a rest after a frenetic few days of work sprucing up the domestic area of the field, and planting raised beds with herbs. Tomorrow we will hold our midsummer celebration and have a weekend of communal festivities. But now we sit in near darkness, hot tea in hand and sore feet in gum boots, and light a small clay lamp; made from the sodden clay of this very land and we bring light from darkness. A more midwinter than midsunmer activity.

Either way, we honour this light peak of the year (and it is light too… half 10 at night and still grey light over the hills) and celebrate its bounty and abundance (gardeners trying to get things to grow will know what I mean!)

Deepest blessings of midsummer to you all wherever you may be… may this time of year give you the growth, nourishment and light that our trees take from the sun!


For your convenience!

Posted on: June 16th, 2013 by
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The new mini bathroomBeing aware that this is something one normally doesn’t talk about and without wanting to offend people, Holger is proud to announce that finally anyone who needs to ‘answer a call of nature’ can now do so in reasonable comfort. After the original loo tent withstood two harsh winters and then succumbed to gale force winds and even the reinforced frame didn’t hold out for too long, a hopefully more permanent toilet shed is now ready for use. Made of more sturdy tongue and groove timber it is large enough for people to wash and/or get changed although tall people might need to bend a little. All it still needs is a coat or two of paint before next autumn/winter, otherwise it’s ready to serve!


A Long-held Dream

Posted on: June 12th, 2013 by
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Tripod 1 It has long been a dream of mine to be able to have a camp-fire with a proper tripod (the kind I used to see in pictures of Gypsy encampments in my childhood storybooks). This one was imported from America where outdoor camping and cooking is a lot more widespread and popular. The cast iron cooking pot (which can also be used to bake cakes by playing hot embers on the lid) is also from America. I would ideally prefer a plump little black Welsh cauldroun, but I suppose that one has to move with the times – but that really would be the realisation of a dream for me and after all, Cae Non is the sort of place where dreams really do come true. If anyone knows where I can purchase a traditionally-shaped cauldroun which can actually be used for cooking in, please let me know in the comment box below!

Tripod 2

The contents of our first pan to be heated was Meadowsweet from which Dafydd attempted to make beer. I cannot say that it was an entirely sucessful experiment, but it was certainly good fun and interesting.


New Steps to Stream

Posted on: June 12th, 2013 by
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New StepsI had always intended to make wider, deeper, steps down to the stream. My first attempts were finally washed away during the spring rains – although considering just how much rainfall and flooding we had throughout last year I am amazed that they lasted as long as they did! These are infinitely better… Good for climbing down to the water, standing empty buckets beside you ready to be filled (remember: this is where all our water comes from; for drinking and cooking, washing and the loo and even, if we need it, irrigating the herb beds.) It is also now a lovely place to sit in the sunshine and relax and meditate to the melody of lively water running past one’s feet. We also have a resident, a mole, who now regularly digs out his tunnels and throws the results of his earth-workings out onto the side of the steps. I think that I might plant thyme here and give him an aromatic lawn!


Have Trolley, Will Travel

Posted on: June 9th, 2013 by
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Have Trolley, Will Travel 1How can one man on his own carry/move an exceptionally heavy picnic table with built in benches half way up a field? No, it isn’t by levitation, although we had considered just about everything else! Holger managed to balance it on our little two-wheeled trolley which we normally use for transporting sacks of coal and logs, cylinders of gas and that sort of thing at home. With some judicious balancing and the use of a couple of pieces of string, he succeeded in pulling it all the way from behind the hard standing (where it had languished since January) to its new position outside the Hafod. Now we have somewhere permenant and stable out of doors to prepare food, eat meals, wash up, or simply sit in the sunshine!

Have Trolley, Will Travel 2

Here the table is already in use – preparing for a barbecue; note the Bratwurst brought by Holger’s relatives from Germany and infinitely superior to anything you can buy here.