“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish caught will we realise that we cannot eat money” so says the writing on this organic, Fairtrade, cotton tea towel which I bought at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth. The sobering words reflect the ethos of CAT which has moved from just being a Centre for Alternative Technology to becoming a research centre dedicated to the development of sustainable technologies. CAT was built in 1973 in the disused Llwyngwern slate quarry and provides information on all forms of sustainable living including sustainable architecture, organic farming and ecological friendly living. I’d known about CAT for many years; friends of mine had been but I wasn’t sure that this was something that would be my cup of tea. However, all my fears were dispelled from the moment we parked the car and travelled to the site from the car park in a water-powered funicular railway, to the many educational displays, to the vegetarian cafe with home made dishes, to the largest green bookshop in Britain, to the straw bale and rammed earth buildings, to the displays and information on organic gardening, to the solar, hydropower and wind power exhibits, to the quirky shop selling this tea towel and a lot of goods made out of recycled materials. I bought some glasses made from recycled glass which are really nice. The site opens itself to small courtyards and cosy seating areas; the weather was beautiful, the day I was there and it was lovely to sit in the sun drinking tea.
The fact is that Machynlleth is more than just CAT; it is a small market town in the Dyfi Valley that was the ‘ancient capital of Wales’ where Owain Glyndwr’s Welsh Parliament was set up in 1404. Over 700 years ago, Parliament declared that Wednesday would be a weekly Market Day and that has continued ever since. Bizarrely, Machynlleth’s other claim to fame is that Laura Ashley set up her first shop here in 1961.
No matter how good the day I visited CAT was, and how much I enjoyed it, how important CAT’s research and information is, I can’t help thinking that several months after I visited Machynlleth it was the place that 5 year old April Jones was abducted and murdered in October 2012. It is difficult to erase the memory of the pink balloons that residents released around the town to celebrate what would have been her sixth birthday. Her body has never been found although Mark Bridger was found guilty of murder.
CAT was definitely the place for tea towels and I do enjoy both of mine which are made from 100% organic cotton; they are an unusual shape, almost square. I like that difference
Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum