What is it about living outdoors that feels so good?
Last weekend I was camping on a Welsh hill outside Cardiff.
End of September autumn solstice and time for a mini-festival at Coed Hills, the off-the-grid 20-strong arts community.
A fine excuse to live outdoors in a festive atmosphere with 200 other people with similar interests: music, healing, eco-education, meditation and other forms of consciousness-raising and eating delicious healthy mostly organic vegetarian food.
And followed the art trail in the 100-acre woods.
Indian summer autumn light but unseasonable climate-change warmth.
Being close to nature seems to open my heart. It hurts to take stock of our wasteful world.
But here at Coed Hills, people are living the dream, putting planet-saving sustainable ideas into action.
I loved the compost loos where poo is not flushed away to join our water supply but will go to feed the soil, and the willow reed beds that clean the site’s waste water.
Inspiringly, the site runs on sustainable energy including the wind turbine (see pic above) that presides over us.
Festivals are green networking cities – if not synchroni-cities.
Or just good timing.
Before leaving, I don my hat as hemp ambassadress and present a packet of Amaru Hempower porridge to the Coed community.
Richard, the cook from Lost Horizons, and Coed communard, says I must meet Derek.
Soon – in festival-chaos style – I am sitting next to Derek Bielby, hemp consultant, on a deckchair in front of an open fire between the wooden sauna and a teepee.
Incredibly nutritious, hemp is also perfectly suited to the UK climate.
Fast-growing , it is ready for harvest after 100-days of growth – and good for the land.
Hemp is super-sustainable – growing hemp for paper gives four times the yield than trees, Derek told me.
It also has many uses including for eco-building, paper and textiles.
As Derek showed me:
1. In the plastic bag on the left: the woody chips, or hurd.
2.The thing that looks like a round goat’s cheese? That, and the fibrous block it sits on, is hempcrete.
Forget the C02 criminal of the building world – use hempcrete instead.
3. Above are squares of hemp felt, a natural fibre. No more toxic fibres when you insulate a roof.
4. Next to the hemp felt, a ‘log’ of hemp waste for burning – this could be used to power the on-farm hemp-processing machine, or primary processor. Talk about sustainable.
5. ‘Woodchip’ made from hemp with a garden pot made of hemp. Plus boards of resin, also made from hemp. And swatches of hemp fabric.
I did not want to leave the magical world of Coed (pronounced coid, Welsh for wood ) where you live outdoors, treading the ground unmediated by cement, and lit at night by fires and candlelight.
But I did.