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.



The Hafod

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by
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It soon became very obvious that we would need some kind of shelter to protect us from the weather…. hot, cold, windy or wet…. somewhere we could make a hot drink, heat up food and eat in relative comfort. All sorts of ideas flitted through my mind, from camouflaged metal containers to luxurious yurts! But I finally settled on a shed with a long window (with a shutter) and a stable half door. It is just 12′ x 10′ but perfectly adequate for the purpose. It is our “Hafod”. In Wales in years gone by, this was a little temporary dwelling up on the high summer pastures where the shepherd would live with his sheep, or even the whole family would reside there in cramped and basic conditions while they did seasonal work on the land.

Once I had made up my mind I lost no time. I visited Gwynedd Garden Buildings and chose what I wanted and it was delivered a fortnight later. In the meantime, we had to clear a site for it to stand on. After much deliberation, I chose a place up at the far western end of the field near to the stream, as this is our source of drinking water. It is also relatively sheltered and commands a good view of most of the land.

Again, Neil came to my rescue and we tackled the site together, he first levelling it with his mini digger, and then both of us working on laying the breeze blocks and eight 3 metre beams (each measuring 4”x4”) which constitute the foundations.

Sharp intake of breath...

Sharp intake of breath...

All this sounds straight forward enough, until you consider that everything has to be carried several hundred yards by hand over very uneven and rough terrain! Just assembling all the supplies was a mammoth task in itself! And the life of a workman’s mate, or “go-fer” is not an easy one either. Together Neil and I measured, placed, remeasured, adjusted and readjusted, and measured again; bending and stretching, lifting .

A queer kind of loom

A queer kind of loom - In reality, beams and blocks for foundation

Carrying digging out and replacing. This strenuous activity went on for four hours until the base was completed to Neil’s exacting standards. Who needs a session down at the gym?

The day arrived when the shed was due to be delivered. It was supposed to come at 1.pm. But the two delivery men obviously couldn’t find the place, (they had tried asking me for a post code!). They eventually arrived, nearly 11/2 hours late, and then were quite stunned at the distance that they were going to have to carry the panels, even though I had most firmly warned them.

Beginning to take shape!

Beginning to take shape!

We were all there to help them, Holger, Dafydd, Neil and I, and we eventually got everything transported to the right spot. After that, the building went up and was complete in a matter of a couple of hours, and at the end of the afternoon we all enjoyed the novel experience of sitting down inside to eat our tea!

Facilities might be basic in the Hafod, but do not need to be uncomfortable. I had been busy on the internet and tracked down the little wood burning stove that I wanted for it, both as a room heater and water heater.

A comforting sight!

A comforting sight!

I had also sourced a gravity water filter to ensure we have a supply of clean drinking water. And, looking ahead to the summer, I had found and purchased a metal tripod and cooking pots to hang above a camp fire outside the Hafod.

Smiling sweetly, I extracted the promise from Holger to build me some customised furniture for the inside of the Hafod… a trestle table and benches and a dresser and some storage lockers. But before any of that could be started, we decided to insulate the building with cladding and plywood panelling. Again, this sounds simple, but I have begun to notice that when I decide to do anything, it takes four, if not eight, times longer than I had originally envisaged! But this is all part of the gift of Cae Non, it teaches patience, perseverence and appreciation, and develops an acute sense of humour!

All I could… and can… see when I look at the Hafod in it’s various stages of completion are all the wonderful gatherings and meals, discussions and friendships that it will see within it’s little walls, and I am inspired…. and enchanted!


The Willow Bower

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by
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On one of the first trips down to the field, Dafydd cleared a best interracial dating sites site for the loo tent and as he was exploring, he discovered the most beautiful willow tree on the top northern boundary. It's branches grow down to the ground but beneath them is a large, shady, domed space. As most of the trees on the field are quite small, this was our only shade and acutely necessary during the days of blistering sunshine. So here we set up our camp, with stools and chairs and a little camping stove to brew tea, and a thick blanket for our two young Labrador pups to sleep on. This graceful tree has been such a blessing to us, but now that we have other shelter, I plan to designate this spot as a “quiet place” where people can go to sit and dream… the rustling of the leaves and the dappling of the sunlight make it a magical secretive bower!


A Topping Good Day!

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by
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Greetings from the deepest depths...

Greetings from the deepest depths...

At the same time as working on the hard standing, Neil purchased a “topper” to use behind his little tractor, and we cut a path through the dense herbage all around the land.

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To show him exactly where I wanted the path to go, I literally walked in front of the tractor and led it in curves and bends (no straight lines to be found on thisland!) The undergrowth was so tall in places that I wondered if I fell if Neil would notice that I had disappeared and drive right over the top of me! (That was a particularly scorching hot day and Neil learnt a lesson in keeping one’s head covered in such circumstances…. he suffered heat stroke on the way home and found a patch of cool shady pavement by the side of the road the best place to lie down, much to the amazement of a little boy who was walking home!)

Dafydd lends a hand

Dafydd lends a hand

That day we also cut some spaces for a ritual site and the area where I intend to plant the labyrinth.

We also located the stream…. until then only heard through the banks of wild flowers growing about it. As Neil carefully backed the topper ever closer to the steep little banks and the flowing water, I had horrible visions of the “topper” and the back end of the tractor disappearing into the little gully!

Gillian... there's a first time for everything!!!

Gillian... there's a first time for everything!!!


Hard Standing

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by
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Excavation in progress

Excavation in progress

We soon became aware that the narrowness of the lane was going to cause us some problems. We needed to have loads of stone delivered to create the hard standing, but the wagons couldn’t turn off the lane and onto our land through the 12′ gateway. Reluctantly, I agreed to loose twelve feet of hedgerow so that we could double the width of access, which worked well. Now with a double gate and 24′ of access, larger vehicles have no problem turning off the lane.

We had already established that there is practically no soil depth on the land but a great deal of fine clay, which means that water does not drain away but sits on the surface until it evaporates.

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Consequently, all the root-impregnated top strata of soily clay had to be dug out to a depth of about 2′; huge tough ground-sheets laid down and then a couple of channels put in and covered in larger stones to facilitate some drainage away to the side. After that it was a case of getting a load of stone from the quarry, (brought to us by Idris who has been so helpful and accommodating) and spreading it out across the sheets before the next load arrived. If it hadn’t been for one of my oldest friends, Neil, and his marvellous little mini-digger, I cannot imagine what we would have done! Even so, it took Neil many days of work to prepare the site and then spread the stone. Five wagon loads and eighty tons of stone later, we now have a firm dry space large enough to park five vehicles on.

A solid footing

A solid footing


Gaining access

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by
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Opening the gate

The overgrown gateway

The day we proudly and ceremoniously cut the lock from the gate was a defining moment for me. The larger machinery had yet to arrive, so Dafydd went to work with a brushwood strimmer to clear some space inside the gate so that it could be fully opened. Meanwhile, Holger and I were employed cutting back the gorse which had completely grown over one end of the gate.

Access gained at last...

Access gained at last...

Later, Dafydd also cleared a meeting space further up the field. This was the first of manyhot sunny days. Until the autumn rains arrived in October, I began to think that the weather was never anything but warm and sunny… it certainly always smiled on us when we arrived to do some work!


What we have done

Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by
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WHAT WE HAVE DONE… SO FAR

The relationship between Cae Non and the humans who work upon it is definitely one of co-operation,teamwork and mutual respect. Even before the land became ours, it was speaking to me and suggesting ideas of what we might like to help it bring into being.

It instantly became obvious that there were two most pressing needs; to actually get the locked gate open so that we would no longer need to keep precariously climbing over it, and to build some hard standing just within the gateway so that we could actually drive onto the land and park off the road… the little lane that runs past it being very narrow.

 


New Trees Delivered

Posted on: July 14th, 2012 by
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Today brings some excitement for us: We received an order of trees from British Hardwood Nurseries of over 400 trees! This represents the second phase of tree planting at Cae Non, and is exciting as it marks more branching out in the species of trees we have.

So, here’s what we got:

100.  Hazel – Corylus avellana
100.  Sycamore – Acer pseudoplantus
100.  Wych Elm – Ulmus glabra
25.    Dog Rose – Rosa canina
25.    Elder – Sambucus nigra
25.    Sessile Oak – Quercus petraea
25.    American Red Oak – Quercus Rubra *
25.    White Poplar – Populus alba

Many of these trees fruit or are useful in some way (although all trees are useful, if only in the effects of their lovelyness on the heart) – Hazel, Dog Rose and Elder give nuts and fruits – the latter two being medicinally useful. Sycamore is a great fuel wood and will probably be pollarded. The oak has a future use as structural timber, although possibly not in my lifetime. We have Wych Elm in the hope that we can establish some mature Elm trees – a rare sight since Dutch Elm Disease.

We will be planting these trees in the coming weeks over Christmas – more information and photos to follow soon!

*Not robur, the English oak


A Beehive

Posted on: July 14th, 2012 by
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Today marks the start of another avenue of activity at Cae Non – we have bought our first beehive! So, in the spring of 2013, I will be starting an apiary on site, initially just with one nucleus, but we hope to eventually expand to several colonies/hives.

National Beehive

Our new Beehive – the first of many!

I have been meaning to start my own apiary for some time now but haven’t got round to it (I have experience from working other people’s hives though!), so, when on a family visit to Conwy Honey Fair today I noticed a gentleman selling second-hand hives, I knew the time had come to take the plunge. On impulse I practically ran to the cash machine in the square and raided my account before dashing back to make one of the hives mine!  This came as a surprise, not just to the rest of the family, but also to myself in a way… though I’m thrilled with my purchase!

BeehiveSo this means, that come next autumn, we may very well have a little honey from our own bees, although it will take time to estabilsh a colony vigerous enough to produce a useful amount. I must admit to being teribly excited – I want to get cracking now although I will have to wait – this is no time to do anything with new colonies. But hopefully in March or April next year we will obtain a nucleus or swarm and start this exciting journey properly!


Herb gardening on a heroic scale!

Posted on: July 12th, 2012 by
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So, bit of an update on the herb garden build. I have now cleared the ground where the herb garden will be situated! I’m stoked to have actually started and to have something to show for my labours!

So, remember that pile of scrub I showed you last month? Well, it is now cleared ground. Ok, so I’ll have to dig out the big bramble roots and turn the soil over before I can plonk my raised beds there, but it’s a start.

IMG00801-20120304-1546

Machinery definitely makes a huge difference – I had the area cleared in about an hour – double that with a tee and pee break and refuelling the brush cutter.

IMG00799-20120304-1544

I have left the chopped up stalks and detritus left by the brush cutter exactly where it is – I want it as a mulch; the soil is thin enough as it is. It will also discourage smaller plants (Himalayan balsam seeds had already germinated) from coming up. And if any do, they’ll get strimmed again before I dig the ground over.

Very soon it will be time to start planting big plants into the ground, and building beds/other structures!


An Alternative Fridge

Posted on: July 11th, 2012 by
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With the first Volunteer’s Day fast approaching and the weather beginning to recover from its unseasonal snows of last week, it is perhaps just as well that I have already got my fridge ready in which to store milk for all the cups of tea and coffee that hot thirsty workers are soon going to require! But please do remember that this is Cae Non we are talking about… my fridge is not quite so near or convenient as the usual kitchen appliance. This “fridge” entails a quick walk to the stream where I have dug out a portion of shady stream-bed and surrounded the hole with larger rocks. Here is the perfect place to store cans of milk, plunged into the cool fast-flowing waters of the stream, the stones preventing the current of the water from dislodging the containers. During the hot sunny days of March (that sounds rather incongruous!!!) I also filled tall-sided plastic boxes with goodies for our barbecue, etc.. It works really well…. as does hanging a basket of clothes under a waterfall to wash them… only I haven’t got a waterfall (yet) so I will have to be content with a fridge and wait a bit longer for a washing machine…. at least my “kitchen” has running water… but I won’t go into where it is running from or to….! 



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