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.



A medieval serf?

Posted on: June 8th, 2013 by
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Raking GrassThat is very much what I felt like. A medieval peasant working out on the land. When the grass is cut or trimmed around the Hafod and herb beds, it is my job to rake it up. The cutting is done by a petrol-driven strimmer – although note the large scythe standing against the back wall of the Hafod. I seem to be the only one willing or able to use it! Using tools and performing actions as our forebears have done for tens of thousands of years before us instantly puts us in touch with all the hundreds of generations who have done the same tasks in the same way in an attempt to cultivate the land and so keep body and soul together. It connects you to a different basic rhythm of life and you can feel the strain in your back, the calluses on your hands, the burn of the sun, the heat, sweat and exhaustion of those many who have gone before us; but also the love of the land, the love of life and the satisfaction of a job done.


A goodly sight

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 by
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A Goodly SightA comforting sight at the end of a long day working outside in the bightingly cold air of this long delayed early spring! Hot water in the kettle for washing hands, coffee ready in the perc, keeping warm, savoury stew in the pan ready to be eaten, and a bottle of wine for afterwards – mostly courtesy of our wonderful little wood-burning stove, with lots more logs ready to go into it and blaze up to toast us nicely. What more could a body ask?


Frogspawn

Posted on: April 14th, 2013 by
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Frogspawn 02

Floating cluster of frogspawn

On the 2nd of April, we discovered that frogs had laid three clusters of frogspawn in the ‘moat’ that surrounds the island. Everything has been so held back by the weather (We recorded a grass minimum of -9.1 C at Cae Non in March.), that I was really worried for the health of the spawn – Reptiles and amphibians need heat to develop and live – but today, we noticed that the spawn has hatched and the ‘moat’ is full of tiny tadpoles. Hopefully we will build up a good population of frogs and toads thanks to giving them a place to reproduce and prospor!

Frogspawn 04

Tiny tadpoles on the bottom of the moat


Musings on Earth Hour

Posted on: March 23rd, 2013 by
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I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind/share with everyone that tonight is Earth Hour. For those that don’t know, this is a yearly occurrence where all over the world at 8:30PM local time, people and places switch out the lights. The reason for this is to attract attention to the unsustainable usage of the world’s resources, particularly energy.  But it goes way deeper than energy, and people yawping about solar panels as far as I’m concerned. Take a look at the Earth Hour webpage, and this youtube video, to fill yourselves in…

…Good. Now you’ve done that, I’ll continue with the real thrust of my post.

A lot of the discussion over Earth Hour centres around the gross practicalities of energy/resource consumption. Who can blame the poor muggles for this; it is a typically capitalist reaction, the capital being discussed here being the Earth’s resources and the impact we have on them. Naysayers will say that there is no point to Earth Hour, that the power stations keep puffing out smoke anyway, and that all people are doing is causing more pollution by burning candles and generally making twats of themselves. Jeremy Clarkson even goes as far as switching on all his appliances in counter protest. Fine; that is irrelevant.

Take time to celebrate the spirit of community this Earth Hour!

Take time to celebrate the spirit of community this Earth Hour!

I am an ardent supporter of Earth Hour, but my reasons have nothing to do with protest, or people yawping about wanting solar panels on their roof… such people usually don’t know what they’re on about anyway. My reason for supporting Earth Hour can be summed up in one word. Community. Let me tell you a story. The first Earth Hour we participated in, 5 years ago now, was the first or second year the event took place. We only heard about it a couple of hours before, so we thought ‘why not’; switched off the mains and turned off all our phones, etc. Shared our evening meal in candle-light and talked. And something magical happened. It was as if peace had descended on our family… we talked in a depth never usually experienced in the evenings, while at the same time relaxing. We laughed, and shared as a communal unit. Even my senile grandfather, who was usually out of his tree started joining in and talking and laughing with us – and more or less coherently too. Even when the lights came back on, we went to bed earlier and slept better for it. Watching others on the news the next day, I believe our experiences to be typical: seeing images of people in Australian parks in the evening sharing candle-lit picnics with total strangers while laughing and talking… and the same in many public (and one presumes, private) places. How often do you see that these days?

So irrespective of whether or not it has any effect on the electricity grids (and the Australian grid reported a 10% drop in demand), it is having a huge benefit by boosting our capital. Not of money, or resources, but of community, happiness, and inclusiveness. Even if the world was on 100% renewable energy tomorrow, if Earth Hour happened, that same community united in connection would happen. You could argue that it is a group meditation as people participate. You could say it is like praying as a group. Whatever you call it, do it. And doing it with a group purpose in mind, namely turning our attention to looking after our planetary home, is surely a noble cause. And a great way of turning our attention to such issues; united in community we can tackle any problem or challenge. It is the best attribute of our humanity.

This is really what the spirit of Cae Non is about… every time we gather in the Hafod after a hard day’s work, and eat our meal in candle-light, talking, laughing and listening to the crackling of the stove and the singing-purr of the kettle, we are creating that same energy and community on a smaller scale. So, why not join us in that spirit at 8:30PM for Earth Hour? Gather in your family group, or as a group of friends, put out the lights and switch off your appliances (especially phones and computers!), light a candle, and share a meal or a few drinks. You may just be surprised how rich an experience it is.

And if you’re the stingiest, most pessimistic capitalist, try it anyway. You might be surprised on the effect it has on you… you will have gained an amount of an additional type of capital, the value of which may surprise you.


An Expermient

Posted on: March 10th, 2013 by
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The thing is, that Cae Non is so different to what I have previvously experienced of country life that everything is a bit of an experiment at present! I spent a busy afternoon marking out, planting, and constructing a circular willow structure. It has a doorway on the oposite side of this picture which, in summer will afford a lovely view away down the field to the distant mountains. The only problem here is that needing to make it quite large so that at least 6 – 7 people can comfortably sit inside it (hope to hold outdoor discussions here as part of my ongoing workshops later in the year) the willow is not quite tall enough to bend over and meet to be tied in the middle to form the ‘roof’. I suspect that I have just planted myself a ‘willow crown’, but I have decided to call it ‘The Sanctuary’.

 

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary

 


Midsummer Herbal Magic

Posted on: February 28th, 2013 by
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Midsummer Herbal Magic

Experiential Herbal Activities Week

With Dafydd and Gillian Monks

A unique opportunity to explore and experience the soil-sodden, muddy roots of the many uses of herbs, their history and why they are relevant today.

15th – 22nd June, 2013

It is important to re-connect to the natural world in a hands on and very practical way.

Midsummer is a time of coming together to instigate and initiate the foundations of harvests gathered later in the year. To that end, this is an ideal time to come together in celebration and co-operation to lay the foundations of something very special here at Cae Non – a medicinal garden that will form the basis of much learning, health, laughter and light that will continue for many years.

The primary aim of this week is to build a garden together. What’s in it for you? Well, the days will be split: half the day for building the garden, and half for other enjoyable activities/learning:

Activities to include:

Raised bed construction
Herb planting
Path making
Herb Garden Layout + Construction

Learning to Include:

Herb Identification Walks
What herbs are good for
How herbs are processed into usable medicine
The home medicine chest
Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
From The Cauldron to the Laboratory:The history of Herbalism and Botany in North Wales

Relaxation to include:

 Storytelling – sharing favourite tales, myths, ghost stories or figments of your imagination…
Sweat Lodge
Pub evening
Music and Camp Fire Evening – bring your own instruments, poetry, jokes, etc.
Trip to the beach – bring swim wear and sun block… we can but live in hope
Opportunities to practice tai chi, yoga, martial arts etc. – bring your mats/equipment
Aromatic massage

Midsummer Solstice: On Friday, 21st June we will be celebrating the height of summer, the long daylight hours and the potency of the Sun in joyful but spiritually meaningful ritual, and everyone is welcome to join in!/

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You are cordially invited – We can make magic together – it’s called community.

RSVP by dropping a comment at the bottom of the page or emailing dafydd ‘at’ caenon.co.uk. You If you can’t come for a whole week, you are welcome to come for one or more of the days.

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Living Arrangements:

Accommodation: camping (we have several sites for smaller tents) Facilities are basic but clean and functional (compost toilets, outdoor shower, etc).

Food:
Breakfast: Porridge or muesli, fruit, yoghurt, home-made breads and preserves.
Lunch: substantial soup, cheese, home-made bread and cakes.
Dinner: Hearty, hot, two course meal.

Please Note: All food vegetarian unless otherwise stated

Cost: A smalll donation (whatever you can manage) towards food costs would be helpful!


Planting the heart of Cae Non

Posted on: February 21st, 2013 by
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Today, just three days after Valentine’s Day, I planted the heart of Cae Non…. literally. Some of the red willow which I helped to cut a couple of weeks ago has gone into the planting of the heart-shaped centre of the Labyrinth in the middle of the land. As I worked, pushing the 6′ lengths of wood diagonally into the ground and weaving them together to form a 4′ barrier (or “fedge”), I felt myself connecting deeply with the spirit of the land and the joyful energies there. I planted not one, but two hearts… the one made of willow and my own. It was a profound experience of coming together with all the diverse energies I have been touching upon in relation to this whole project this last two years, but more importantly – and very distinctly – I felt my own roots sink deeper and connect with something vital, sacred and precious. In golden February sunshine, under a firmament of pale blue, with a half moon sailing high in the sky above me, I sensed the heart beats synchronise, mine with that of the land…. the Earth…. the Goddess in her early springtime youngest Maiden form… and I was literally enchanted!

  Heart Of Cae Non 002

Later, after dinner, as I walked across the field in the moonlit darkness, the land seemed to swirl and flow about me, responding to and “dancing” with me. The sky was utterly clear and ablaze with stars; the breeze sharp with the scent of promised frost before dawn, the path behind me shining in the moonlight like a silver ribbon…. but I could feel the stirring of spring and our duel energies pulsing as one, and I rejoiced.

I feel that today I have planted very much more than a few dozen willow whips… an ancient and priceless alliance has been re- formed, one which will grow year by year and reach out into many hearts, and hopefully bring healing, understanding, fulfilment and joy to all who come into contact with this place, no matter how tenuously or briefly that might be. If you stop and quietly listen, feel your own heart beating within your chest, you may hear another, second heartbeat… the same rhythm I sensed today; the pulse of the eternal cosmos… that which joins us all together… just listen….

Heart Of Cae Non 001


Tree planting – winter 2012, day 2

Posted on: July 30th, 2012 by
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Whweww what a day. Amazingly sucessful – I have somehow (don’t ask me how) managed to plant 180 (yes, one hundred and eighty!) trees today!
Also its lovely to report that some of the alders we planted last year are in catkin. Very precocious!

Catkins on Alder

Catkins on Alder

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The Labyrinth

Posted on: July 28th, 2012 by
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Plotting Labyrinth I 005Ever since I first bought the land at Cae Non I have had the idea of planting a labyrinth which would facilitate journeys of self discovery as well as private little spaces in which to meditate, pray or work in some similar fashion. And I knew that I wanted it to be BIG. I provisionally set aside an area of ground and had to leave it at that until a later date.

In the summer, the vague ideas and impressions of what I was out to achieve suddenly began to swirl around in my mind and I began to play about with plans.

There will be a (heart shaped) centre and three large spirals. The spirals will each be 50′ across and lead to a small private space at their centre… roughly 10 feet in diameter.

Plotting Labyrinth I 003Each spiral will represent an element, compass direction and one of the three aspects of the Triple Goddess. So the first spiral will lie to the west and represent West, Water and the Maiden. It will have a pool at it’s centre. The second spiral will lie roughly to the north and represent North, Earth and the Mother. It will have a sacred space at it’s centre which contains something which represents it’s element… a mound, a cairn, a standing stone, etc..  The third spiral will lie to the east and represent the East, Air and the Crone. The heart at the centre of the three spirals will represent Fire and contain a fire pit where both individuals and small groups can go.

Last Sunday we went down to the field. I went with the intention of beginning to mark out the labyrinth to measure – and so be able to roughly estimate – just how much willow I might require to plant it, for this whole project is to be formed from living willow, planted in four or five foot “fedging” with some trees being allowed to arch over the top of the circular pathways. (However, the centres will all be completely open to the sky.)

I have never done anything like this before… at least, not on such a grand scale! Where does one begin, exactly? And how? At school, maths was never my strong point to put it mildly!

Labyrinth Outline

Outline plan of the Labyrinth

So I began by measuring my allotted space; first from top to bottom and then from side to side. It didn’t help that the area of land at this point is not square or equal, but then neither is my design! I found and marked my centre point and then, using 3′ garden canes, I marked out my central heart area. How good are you at drawing hearts? It isn’t the easiest shape in the world to replicate, especially when one is working in thigh-length undergrowth and can’t view it over all from above! But I have done my best. When I am planting I will be able to tweak the shape of things – which also means that I will be able to unintentionally distort as well – but we will cross any of those difficult bridges as and when we come to them!

I then proceeded to mark out one of the spirals. This one is the one representing the Earth, North and the Mother. Originally I tried to keep all the measurements in multiples of the sacred number three but it just wouldn’t work out that way. Several times I was obliged to change my plans and it always brought the measurements round to multiples of five. Then I realised, of course, that this is a feminine focused labyrinth and five is a much more feminine number than the masculine three! (Things have a way of telling you what is right or wrong about them and what is going to resonate appropriately!)

Plotting Labyrinth I 006I can now say that I have first hand experience of how civil engineering must have come about. Only instead of theodolite and measures etc. I had a dressmaker’s tape measure and a couple of garden canes cut to specific lengths for easy calculations. Oh, and also a pair of garden scissors and a ball of string.
I measured from the centre of the heart to the centre of the spiral and then began to mark the path out from the spiral centre. Originally the paths were going to be 3′ wide but it was gradually born in upon me that this was going to be too narrow to allow growth of willow as well as easy access, so I widened them to 5′. This meant that I had to up-sticks – literally, as I was also plotting the spiral pathways out with garden canes and remeasure from the centre of the heart. As I completed each ever-widening turn of the spiral I stopped to tie string to the tops of all the canes so that I could see what was potential “fedge” and what was going to be open pathway.

By the end of the afternoon I was beginning to understand what it must feel like to be a spider, sitting in the middle of her web spinning away! Ha! ha!

But now I have my basic measurements and ground plan. Each spiral will measure approximately 50′ across. Each centre will occupy a space of 10′. The heart in the centre is roughly 14′ across.

Each spiral will require 325′ of fedging – a total of 700 willow whips to be planted and plaited during the winter months. Then there are the 120 willows needed to edge the central heart and a further all-enclosing fedge to surround everything, with it’s single entrance in the east.

Now I know what I am going to be doing in January and February 2013! But it will be an utter labour of love, to plant and grow, to form and create a structure of such potential containing so many perfect hidden spaces… watch this space to see how I get on!


Climatological data 2012

Posted on: July 28th, 2012 by
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Temperature (°C)
Rainfall
(mm)
Maximum
Minimum
Grass Min
April
20.2*
-1.9
n/a
110.8
May
30.7*
-1.9
n/a
59.7
June
27.9*
2.2
n/a
212.2
July
27.8*
5
n/a
119
August
31.6*
6.1
n/a
175.7
September
24.8*
0.2
n/a
126.6
October
 21.1*
1.7 
-1.5 
 181.7
November
 15.1*
 -2.2
-4.3 
 184.3
December
 13.6
 -3.5
 -6.9
 199.9
Year 
31.6* 
-3.5 
-6.9 
1369.9 
* unreliable data due to overheating