Permaculture adventures in Sector39

Trying to make sense of living in a crazy time

Commentary on permaculture, networking, courses updates, news and related info
Cwm Harry Land Trust, Treflach Farm, Permanent Housing co-operative, S39 work with several different projects, gardens and farms
Links and discussion on wider sustainability issues, news and opinion

Sector39 is a partnership of gardeners, teachers and rural craftsfolk, working in persuit of a saner, more sustainable world.

Visit to the Reading Roof Garden

I always love gong back to the reading roof garden to teach, it is such an excellent example of what is possible and powerful place to teach about the possibilities and potentials of forest gardens, with one growing on the roof above you. The was an excellent turn out and the experience has prompted me to consider returning there more regularly, possibly to run a series of permaculture sessions or even a PDC.

The garden was planted in 2002 mainly so it is 12 years old now and maturing nicely. The size of the canopy trees is quite astounding, of the original 176 species of plants much of the under-story has now been shaded out, and those under-story plants that have flourished have also migrated around, choosing their own positions and self seeding successfully.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The power of trophic cascades

In 1995, naturalists re-introduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. These wolves were on their own initially but that soon spiralled into something much more amazing. Since this video was first published there has been a range of opinions about the nature of trophic cascades and the degree to which the claims of the study stand up to scrutiny. Maybe rather than top down, the cascade works middle out, maybe the role of the wolves is over estimated etc…. none the less this points to a very different approach to understanding ecology and habitat restoration and points to the possibility of rapid habitat restoration using natural processes.


This piece of work also underlines the huge holes we have created in natural systems by removing some of the key species and as to why we are required to do so much intervention work to maintain some of the diversity in places such as our national parks and conservation areas.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>


First PDC at Moelyci


PDC course group at Moelyci, September 2014.. with some of the produce made on site during the 2 week course.

Hopefully the first of many, we have just completed the first PDC at Moelyci: the community owned farm in North Wales. The first joint endeavour under the banner of the North Wales permaculture academy.

What is permaculture? Well in short it is design system to help us prepare for the huge economic changes and environmental challenges we face. A system that helps us move from a resource based economy to a design based economy.

Here’s Chris Martenson, spelling it out. He talks about a groundswell of popular opinion, and that Governments have a terrible record of innovating. His short talk here sets a clear scenario as to why permaculutre is important and relevant to the current moment.

On the subject of resource depletion here is the great nad sadly late Matt Simmons talking extremely knowledgeable on the subject of Peak Oil. This is froma few years ago, so it is also interesting to see how things have played out since, but at heart he is an oil man and he totally understands the realities of keeping this precious resource flowing.

This Permaculture Design Course was also a big step towards the launch of the North Wales Permaculture Academy, which will be at Moelyci and is the culmination of several years’ work to develop an on going rolling programme of permaculture and related courses along with an intern ship programme.

Here is the first of the three presentations on the design work we did on Moelyci farm. The first group had the task of considering the entrance experience and the links to the wider world. How can we make passers by welcome and encourage them to come into the site?

Presentation by Sue, Richard and Kevin, who are also the Sector39 Crafts and Catering team.

Here is the second presentation. The second group mainly focussed on the training facility and services around it. They took an over view survey of the farm then focussed on provision for courses and course participants, with the renovated barn as a focus.

Presentation by course participants: Mark, Karma, Jack, Marianne and Monica

Coming soon! Presentation three: Blue Sky group… looking at the wider farm, its vision and purpose unconstrained by shorter term limitations. (am still editing this one and hope to have it up in the next few days)

Presentation by Cwm Harry Staff member Julie and Lucy, supported by Sector39 members Grace and Martin.


Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN

Clear and powerful words from the actor to the UN. ‘I pretend for a living.. you do not’


Community growing job near Llangollen

Here is the JD fora  part time job at the Garth community garden in Glynceiriog. This is one of the best examples of a small rural community garden and the potentials for community growing and needs a highly motived and multi skilled person to help drive it forward and build on the incredible work that has been done their already.

Ideal for PDC graduates looking for something to get their teeth into!



Wattle and clay daub structure in Ceiriog valley

Community Grower-2

Community Grower (Garth Hillside Organic Garden)1


This Video Dispels the “Nature VS Nurture” Myth . The Implications are Profound.

This is a very well presented and thoughtful presentation with far reaching consequences. It is a segment of the Zeitgeist movie. part 3.. the first 2 parts of which I can’t say I really liked as they mixed fact and speculation to closely.. but this is a very factual and focussed segment.

Next Up. Intelligent conversation of climate change comprehension
An interview with George Marshall, one of the founders of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, and the author of a ground breaking new book called Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.


North Wales Permaculture Academy consultation


Attendees at the consultation and launch meeting of the North Wales permaculture Academy

Huge thanks to the 18 people who came along to the Permaculture Academy Consultation meeting at Moelyci on Friday.

With representatives from Sector39, The Permaculture Association, Transition Towns, Cwm Harry Skills, local farmers from Treflach farm Oswestry and Henbant, Caernarfon, the founders of Garden Planet Biochar as well as past course graduates, friends and supporters.

We have a fabulous opportunity at Moelyci to bring together work from Cwm Harry and Biocyle with that of the Permaculture Association and the friends and supporters and graduates of Sector39 permaculture design team.

Here are the key elements of the proposal

Proposal for a North Wales Permaculture Academy

This paper outlines our ambitions for and the potentials of developing a Permaculture Academy
centred on Moelyci community owned farm in North Wales. We are building towards a stakeholder
meeting in late August where Cwm Harry and Sector39 are happy to open up this opportunity to be
shaped and informed with others.

New Opportunities
In September 2014, assuming all goes to plan, Cwm Harry will formally become the tenant and
manage Moelyci community owned farm near Bangor. This 345 acre hill farm is an environmental
education and enterprise centre with a range of buildings, an education venue, a horticulture
business, public allotments, a community composting facility and much more. Cwm Harry has
negotiated a 28 year lease with an exclusive option to buy within the first three years. This presents
an amazing and unique opportunity to develop long term ambitions for permaculture education and
to create a regional hub for permaculture practice and enterprise development.
Moelyci was bought out by a community share offer over 10 years ago and developed as a
community owned environmental centre. Cwm Harry plans to continue this vision, whilst expanding
it to include education and enterprise. The venue offers a perfect opportunity for the development
of a North Wales Permaculture Academy to contribute to and benefit from the wider activities at the
The main attraction of this site, in terms of a Permaculture Academy, is the opportunity for:
· Land based research
· A venue for long-term permaculture projects
· Access to the rich culture and heritage of the site

Permaculture Academy Proposal
For want of a better term, we have grouped our permaculture ambitions under one heading and to
date have been calling this the North Wales Permaculture Academy. We have so far identified the
following as what might be the key elements and functions of this venture.

1. Research: To undertake long-term research projects, to develop evidence based case study
history of the application of permaculture techniques, design and processes and to establish
evidence based approach that builds citizen scientists. Moelyci offers an ideal opportunity to
launch this ambition and to link in with the Permaculture Association’s LAND network and
research co-ordination.

2. Education: To develop a team of tutors to be able to deliver a rolling programme of
permaculture design and related courses and training.

3. Volunteer opportunities and internships: We would like to be able to offer 6 month
volunteer placements as well as longer internships offering practical experience of project,
farm and design work, especially for permaculture diploma students.

4. Enterprise development: In line with wider aspirations for Moelyci, our aim is to support
interns and partners to develop their own permaculture related enterprises and to create a
support and promotional infrastructure to aid that process.

The Vision
Is to create a regional hub for permaculture education, demonstration and enterprise development
in North Wales and to maximise the opportunity represented by Cwm Harry taking a long-term lease
on the farm. The Academy will build directly on the experience and track record of Sector39 and
Cwm Harry Skills and link our work in North Wales much more closely with local projects as well as
that of national networks such as the Permaculture Association. We aim to create a centre of
excellence for permaculture.

By building a high profile and long term enterprise such as this we would hope to help raise the
profile of permaculture whilst creating many more opportunities for study and for PDC graduates to
be involved in on-going projects. We want to contribute to building the evidence base for
permaculture design’s effectiveness and possibilities and to spread the learning and experience far
and wide. This opportunity will enable experienced diploma holders, teachers and practitioners to
greatly extend the provision of permaculture education and to help develop many new projects.
A replicable model

We hope to create a replicable model that may be of use to and add momentum to similar regional
initiatives across the UK. We are keen to innovate and invest in permaculture development whilst
being a strong and vibrant enterprise in our own right.

Stages towards our goal

  1.  We have held our first exploratory meeting with Cwm Harry and the Permaculture
  2. Association and have completed a key stakeholder meeting at Moelyci.
  3.  Begin identifying funds and potential funders who will invest in components of the Academy.  This will be an on-going process.
  4. From Sept 7-20th 2014 we plan to run a full PDC, part of a series of courses based at Moelyci that will contribute to the design and development of the Permaculture Academy and help shape the vision for Moelyci.
  5.  At the Permaculture Convergence in London this September we will be using the opportunity to network and consult on the further development of the idea.
  6. In October, post PDC, we will publish a document outlining the key elements and function and stakeholders of the North Wales Permaculture Academy and make this available to all interested parties, inviting both feedback and identifying collaborators and contributors. This stage needs to consider and identify income and funding possibilities and identify roles and responsibilities within the Academy.
  7. Year-end Sector39 review and open meeting. In December at Moelyci, Sector39 will hold an pen presentation, with talks and a dinner of local produce as an information sharing even and to create an open forum for idea sharing.
  8. Based on the progress of the preceding steps and the feedback from the review process we hope to officially launch the North Wales Permaculture Academy in the spring of 2015.
  9. By September 2015 we plan to have established links with a North Wales cluster of existing permaculture projects and activity and aim to run a series of ‘edge events’ as part of the International Permaculture convergence when it comes to the UK in 2015

Partner Enterprises: Strategic
We don’t intend to do this alone. We are happy to lead and create opportunities but equally happy
to build active beneficial relationships with other stakeholders who buy into the vision of the

Permaculture Association
We intend to spread the learning and experience of this venture by being active members of the UK
Permaculture Association and will use this existing network to seek out further partnerships and
collaboration UK wide.
Specifically the Academy will aim to contribute to key strands of on-going work at the Permaculture
Association, namely:
1. LAND learners network
2. Research
3. Information dissemination
4. Convergence

Cwm Harry Skills
The North Wales Academy will maintain an umbilical link with Cwm Harry Land Trust and co-ordinate its
efforts carefully to maximise synergy with the other educational ambitions of Cwm Harry

Established in 2004 Sector39 has been a vehicle to carry on the forest garden development and
environmental education work that its founder Steve Jones had been involved with at RISC,
Reading’s Development Education Centre, where as part of a team he helped develop a roof-top
forest garden as an educational resource.

Sector 39 work includes over 10 years of ground level work, networking, teaching and training.
Sector 39 have an alumni network of over 350 PDC graduates plus extensive links to other trainers,
projects and venues. This wider network presents the core of Sector 39 expertise.

With 700+ plus member shareholders and its own extensive network in North Wales we intend that
the North Wales Permaculture Academy compliments and reinforces all that has gone before at
Moelyci and enables future plans and potentials to come to fruition. It is essential that the North
Wales Permaculture Academy and Moelyci are mutually reinforcing and beneficial for the success of
this project.


Our Next PDC starts on 7th September, part of a rolling programme

Partner Enterprises: Delivery

Cultivate Market garden and horticulture at Moelyci
Via our biochar and soil amendments, trainees, students and courses it is our intention to develop a
‘umbilical’ relationship with the market garden enterprise at Moelyci. We can provide a market for
their produce; seek to demonstrate and develop our biochar products and to develop a retail
partnership for the resulting products.

Combine Project/ Biocycle
We intend to link with other on site enterprises at Moelyci for research development and training
opportunities as well as to obtain feedstock for our Biochar enterprise

Garden Planet Biochar
Steve is working closely with Martin and Monica Wigley to develop an enterprise with the object of
creating high quality biochar for research and product development of soil and animal feed

Moelyci enterprises
Building an internal economy that links and benefits partner enterprises. Seasonal surpluses, from
both horticulture and allotments at Moelyci will be preserved as pickles, sauerkraut and more which
we will both demonstrate as courses and consume via our students and interns.

Dolen Ffermio
An example of the kind of organisation we would also like to develop active links with. One with
active links and projects in East Africa, a region of the world full of inspiration, vibrant people and a
pressing need of active collaboration in developing food security, good soil management and
community led initiatives. We will seek to develop global links for both learning and disseminating
our experiences.

+ Your Enterprise…. We are open to offers!
It doesn’t end there, we are aware there are other local enterprises that may be interested in joining
the on-going development of the Academy.


Permaculture Design Course, September 2014


Our up and coming PDC this September is going to be a really special one. It is to be the first in a series of courses which we will be running at Moelyci community owned farm in North Wales over the next three years. We also have a wider ambition to create a North Wales Permaculture Academy at Moelyci to create a platform for long term study and enable us to build on the achievements of each successive course.

Being a part of this course will give yo the chance to shape this exciting project and to make a lasting impact on permaculture education opportunities in the future. We are also developing a volunteer and internship programme as part of this ambition and want to create many more opportunities for people to get directly involved.


Permaculture is a Revolution, of sorts… a revolution of perception!
It is hard to argue against the notion that there is a profound need for change in the world currently. Governments are failing to grapple with the realities of climate change, the old development models simply won’t take us to where we need to go  and the global economic system is an edifice of lies and duplicity.

To avoid environmental catastrophe society at large is required to model on the rules and lessons of ecology. We urgently need a design system or an economic model that delivers long term sustainability and understands that as a priority.  To have any chance of achieving that  people will need  to have a far greater degree of control over their own essential services and commodities: education, water, food, housing, nutrient cycling, credit, people care all needs to be localised and brought under democratic and an informed management. It is a bottom up process, frustratingly slow at first but one that is accelerating as increasing numbers of people realise this to be the case.

Be a change maker!

It all about making personal changes, being an active part of the solution.. permaculture teaches us we can only start from where we are and work with what we have got, so where ever you are currently in your own personal development now is the the time to commit to helping bring about that change and taking an active role in a self created democracy.

More info and booking here

Talking about a revolution?
We are certainly not the only ones thinking along these lines,  permaculture is the fastest growing grass roots movement around the world and attracting the attention of more and more people. Nothing less than a fundamental shift in our thinking, values and long term goals is required to bring about the kind of change required to be able to face the 21st century with confidence and optimism. Perhaps the world revolution sounds over dramatic and conjures up images of guillotines etc. what we mean is a revolution in in thought, in our understanding or our relationship with the living planet, the biosphere.

In the video below see ex Wall Street broker Max Keiser chatting with Russell Brand about change and revolution. Although not directly mentioned in this episode I have heard both of them talk about permaculture and their understanding of it’s growing importance in bringing about the kind of profound changes required.


Village Farm Orchard, Stockbridge Liverpool

This was a 2 year project conceived and led by Squash Nutrition and for which Sector39 took the role of leading horticulture consultant as well as leading on the practical, planting sessions. Using an empty shop as a project base the idea was to create a drop in centre that ran little workshops and sessions to generate interest in food and food growing. With sessions on art, cooking, propagation, planting, permaculture and crafts the project engaged with people from the Stockbridge estate and introduced the idea of growing especially fruit trees in public spaces. The residential estate of 7,000 people has about 30 acres of open green spaces between shops, housing etc. and presented an excellent opportunity for urban growing. So far we have planted over 200 fruit trees, started a series of forest gardens and worked with the community find suitable spaces as well as developing the skills to do the work.

Post Project review I really hope this project can carry on indefinitely. What we have achieved in the first two years is only the every beginning of what is possible. my vision would be to see it through to the establishment of a community owned and run cafe and catering service largely supplied by local produce. Stockbridge has the potential to be an exemplar community in developing a strong local food economy as a community development tool. I also have to say it was hugely challenging and very rewarding working with this community.

I feel really grateful for everyone from the community who was involved with the project and who made me feel really welcome there. Participants created a genuine enthusiasm for the project and made it really warm and human experience.  I think it would be fair to say Stockbridge has had a troubled past, it has not flourished as an example of inner city redevelopment. It was one of those ’60’s urban redesign projects where a brand new dormitory town was created as a satellite of Liverpool to house populations being moved out of the cramped inner city. Significant new investment has gone in to the are to try and remedy its woes and it is now finally finding its feet as a functional place. All of this is of course very fragile ad it houses many low income households and vulnerable people with many heath issues resulting from lifestyle choices associated with that reality. For all those reasons this project could be very powerful indeed, in both contributing to the social cohesion that has always been lacking as well as making fresh wholesome foods much more available. By growing in public spaces and using the produce as a community development tool the scope of the project actually has to potential to transform the whole area and link in closely with the many other social initiatives in the area.


Welcome to the Green Blob

Out going environment minster Owen Patterson has expressed his frustration at us small-minded greens who oppose everything and stand in the way of progress and prosperity.He has lumped all us petition-signing, flag-waving, letter-writing annoyances under a single heading, Green Blob. The Times came out with an article this week saying he is basically right. Between greens and NIMBY’s we are consigned to return to the dark ages. It is time to get fracking, to break out the GMO’s and get busy building on the green belts, our economy needs it.

I have no doubt that there is plenty of well meaning but ill-informed and misdirected campaigning going on and plenty of NIMBYism to boot.. but lumping the whole environmental agenda together as a green blob is really unhelpful and actually is pretty revealing about how people like Patterson must actually think.

So we have been told that during his period in office Mr Patterson declined to be briefed by the Government advisor on Climate Change. Let’s say that again, declined to be briefed. Words fail. Anyway maybe from that we can deduce that perhaps those outside the Green Blob are more motived by political outlook and inner conviction then they are by science, debate and academic rigour (see video in previous post).  If we are to be charitable with our judgement lets say that the view is one of pursuing short term economic objectives rather than looking at the bigger and rapidly changing bigger picture.  Very short term objectives indeed as we rush headlong into the post peak world of uncertain energy futures and teetering global economy.

From where I am sitting the Green Blob isn’t about resisting progress and change, it is in fact the very opposite. We have a vision of economy that measures service provision, food security and biodiversity, not the simple throughput of materials ,as does GDP.  The growth model rewards the destruction of natural capital and rewards polluters, the exact opposite that is required to value and protect the biosphere. We have a vision of vibrant local economies that produce a majority of our food and energy and absorb and cycle most of our waste.  A largely localised system sharing heat, composting waste, building wildlife friendly low-embodied energy, affordable housing from natural materials like straw, mud, wool and lime that would actually add biodiversity to where ever they are located.  International trade will still have its place but the low carbon world will be a wonderful mix of high tech and low tech, a people-centric system that values nature and society as well as the freedom of the individual.

Unfettered capitalism is essentially a race to the bottom, a race to externalise the costs of production onto society and environment, to avoid social and ecological responsibility.  It is our values as expressed by economic indicators that need to change, rather than a growth based system driven by corrupt bankers seeking fat bonus to enable them to escape the mayhem the have caused. The scope for change required is well beyond the brief of an individual minister, and I for one am certainly not waiting for the government to articulate these ideas. But I am certainly getting on preparing and building for the post carbon world. Somehow we do need to find people brave enough and with the right profile to begin to frame the future in front of us honestly and positively.

Killing a few badgers wont solve the woes of intensive factory farming Mr Patterson sir and fracking the country side for the remaining pockets of natural gas smacks of desperation. In a world about to go fully digital we are investing in VHS players, in a world of renewable energy with the potential for a thriving and super energy efficient re-localised economy,  we are planning to burn tar sands and borrowing a load of money we don’t know how to pay back to buy everyone a new S.U.V.

Wake up Mr Patterson the Green Blob is more than a figment of your imagination, it is here to stay and it is a world of new opportunity.