As part of my recent holiday I spent some time with the woodcraft folk camping at a place called Brithdir Mawr situated in Penbrokeshire in Wales. Brithdir Mawr is a community of like minded people, attempting to live as ecologically as they can. They are also famous for being Britain’s ‘lost tribe’ and Brithdir Mawr has been called “the land that time forgot.” For instance this BBC article from 2001 reports:
"For years they lived in seclusion, until one day the authorities stumbled over Wales's "lost tribe"…It's hard to imagine anyone - let alone a whole community - could disappear for long in modern-day Britain. ..But obscurity was what the people of Brithdir Mawr wished for and obscurity was what they got, for almost five peaceful years…In that time the community, which is tucked away in a corner of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, toiled hard towards its aim of becoming self-sufficient…It's a bitter irony that this drive for autonomy eventually helped betray them to the outside world. Photographs taken by a survey plane revealed a solar panel glinting in the sun… When the park's authorities went to investigate, they were stunned to find a community of about a dozen adults, some with children, living contentedly and quite comfortably off the land… The story went out of a "lost tribe", journalists and TV crews showed up, followed by curious members of the public, and district planners pondered whether to pull down much of the development, which had no planning consent."
This article is perhaps a little hyperbolous and over romanticised. But there is some good news to report and that is, despite many battles, the community is still in existence and has not bee closed down or disbanded. For example the famous roundhouse, which has been threatened with demolition since 2001 is still standing.
I think it is very admirable for anyone to question the received opinions of their society, for instance there is much about our contemporary norms that I actively disagree with; our attitude to manufactured food and growing obesity to pick just one obvious example. The people of Brithdir Mawr are set upon forging their own path and redefining the very conditions of their existence, especially with relation to their impact on the environment. This project is of course a utopian one, and as such is extremely challenging. Progress can be slow when every taken-for-granted assumption needs to be rethought, and disagreements among the community are common and sometimes serious. The guy who showed me round the place, Paul, admitted there had been schisms, especially over the use of technology – and as a result of these the community has divided, with one side embracing sustainable technologies like solar and wind power and the other opting to live without modern technology altogether.
Like I said I find this admirable but also challenging, but I hope that some of the knowledge learned at Brithdir Mawr gets written down or passed on somehow as I think such experiments are important to read about, even if I may stop short of wishing to be such a pioneer myself.