'Secret' eco-village spotted in Wales

Lost tribe's 'secret' eco-village in Wales spotted in aerial photograph taken by plane

A ‘secret’ village only discovered when it was spotted by an aerial survey plane won a 10-year battle yesterday to stop planners tearing it down.

Villagers living in their ‘lost tribe’ grass-covered eco-community are celebrating their victory after a decade of inquiries, court cases and planning hearings.

National Park chiefs have finally approved the green campaigners’ hobbit-style turf-roofed roundhouses and other environment-friendly dwellings deep in the Welsh countryside.

For five happy years they enjoyed simple lives in their straw and mud huts.
Generating their own power and growing their own food, they strived for self-sufficiency and thrived in homes that looked more suited to the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings.
Then a survey plane chanced upon the 'lost tribe'... and they were plunged into a decade-long battle with officialdom.

Yesterday that fight, backed by more modern support for green issues, ended in victory.
The eco-community in the Preseli mountains of west Wales was set up in 1993 and lived contentedly away from the rat race round a 180-acre farm bought by Julian and Emma Orbach.
In 1998, it was spotted when sunlight was seen glinting off a solar panel on the main building, which was built from straw bales, timber and recycled glass.
When the pilot reported back, officials were unable to find any records, let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village surrounded by trees and bushes.

They insisted the grass-covered buildings should be demolished.
The eco-community endured a decade of inquiries, court cases and planning hearings.
The 22 villagers fought planners even when they were within hours of the bulldozers moving in to demolish their eight homes.
Now, however, they can celebrate, thanks to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority's 'sustainability' policy.
With green issues now getting a more sympathetic hearing, the commune has been given planning approval for its roundhouses along with lavatories, agricultural buildings and workshops.
Community founder Emma Orbach, a 52-year-old mother of three, said yesterday: 'We are really excited and happy as it has been a very long battle.
'Even when planning inquiries and court hearings went against us we were determined to fight on.
'The villagers are pioneering a new lifestyle and are determined to prove it's possible for people to live more simply.'
Tony Wrench, 62, who lives in the original roundhouse with his partner Jane, said: 'We are very relieved and delighted.
'We have been able to prove to the planners that it is possible to have a sustainable and low-impact community in the countryside.

'We had to prove we were improving the biodiversity of the area and conserving the woodland and we did that. It's great that our efforts to build a community using renewable resources have now been supported by the planners.
'The planners have worked miracles in making a new policy which enables communities which are self sufficient to exist.'
Amid the celebrations over the victory, however, it seems that life away from the rat race has not run entirely smoothly for the pioneers of simple living.
The two founders, architectural historian Julian Orbach, 55, and his wife Emma are divorced, and the commune has been split into three entities.
The original 180-acre farm was divided up into the area around the farm, a section around the original roundhouse known as Tir Ysbrydol (Spirit Land) where Mrs Orbach lives, and 80 acres of pasture and woodland run by a community known as Brithdir Mawr.
Each community is independent and they co-exist as neighbours in a more traditional style.
Brithdir Mawr continues to support sustainable living based around the original farmhouse, with eight adults and four children sharing communal meals, looking after goats, horses and chickens - and also holding down part-time jobs to raise the £200 per month rent they each pay Mr Orbach, who lives in a house in nearby Newport.
The current residents now run businesses such as courses in furniture making and sustainable living for around £95 a head.
On their website they explain: 'We are eight big people and four little ones who choose to live here: working, eating, meeting and laughing together. Being a community is a large part of what we do. To sum up the rest; we are striving towards a life in which our footprints are as light as they can be.'
One resident, Ben Gabel, 38, who runs a seed business with his partner Kate, said: 'It is completely different to what it was. Most people would consider the set-up quite normal.
'The kids watch DVDs and we run a business from the farm.'




September 27, 2008 at 2:30 AM

bloody hippies.


September 29, 2008 at 7:50 AM

i would like to shoot the asshole snitch pilot...
go kiss big brother's ass .... sissy


September 29, 2008 at 8:50 AM



September 29, 2008 at 9:14 AM

I wonder how much council tax they owe?


September 29, 2008 at 10:00 AM

i would like to shoot the asshole snitch pilot...
go kiss big brother's ass .... sissy

the pilot would have been working for an aerial mapping firm who would have probably been photographing the entire county. the photos would then be stitched together as an overlay for digital mapping. a lot of the stuff on google earth has been done this way.

  Christoffer Larsson

September 29, 2008 at 10:50 AM

We should all applaud these people for doing their best to live a lifestyle which causes little harm to the planet or their neighbors. Peaceful co-existance is a good thing.

On a completely different note, the "asshole snitch pilot" was probably not trying to harm anyone or alter anyone's choice of lifestyle. Simply reporting unusual things ecountered on a photo mission is part of a survey pilot's job. Reporting to your boss that "I saw something shiny" should not be grounds for being shot.

It is neither the hippies nor the bureaucrats who are the real problem with our planet. The biggest problems are caused by ignorant, arrogant arseholes who like to shoot people first and ask questions later.


September 30, 2008 at 1:25 AM

My God! What is wrong with everyone? These people should be commended for living with the environment and protecting it. The world is a mess and here are people trying to take care of it. God bless them all and may many more eco-villages grow from these.


September 30, 2008 at 1:29 AM

My God! What is wrong with everyone! These people should be commended for living with the environment and not destroying it. The rest of the world could learn from them. God bless them and may their village grow to include many more.


September 30, 2008 at 12:52 PM

'I wonder how much council tax they owe?'

Well none would assume (and hope!) Being as they are entirley self sufficiant what services should they be required to pay for?


September 30, 2008 at 8:09 PM

Looks like they have levelled a few acres of forest to obtain all that wood to build the houses with. Hope they replanted sustainably or informed the Forestry Commisssion that part of their plantation was missing

  Tighe MacCloud

September 30, 2008 at 9:27 PM

Actually, assuming the nearby woodland is where they obtained their timber, the harvest looks to have been well planned and executed.

Re-planting shouldn't be necessary and the forest should be able to recover easily. In the meantime, the open areas will provide new food sources for local wildlife while the remaining woods provide covering habitat.


October 1, 2008 at 5:40 AM

Smelly tree huggers , give me a big ass TV and a 4x4 .


October 11, 2008 at 2:51 PM

I have been there.

They are quite normal people in the official bit, and smelly hippies in the other.

We live in a small country with a high standard of housing, this is why we have so many regulations...to protect the countryside from wannabe slum dwellers

I would not be allowed to develop my hard earned property how I pleased...why should they get away with it?


October 13, 2008 at 7:06 AM

* Real people living in the real world without playing monopoly against the big cheaters who have murdered and maimed millions of innocent people in the mindless pursuit of wealth and power over the centuries. If we all followed this example of how not to play, this sick game would end, we would all be free and there would be peace on Earth at last *


October 13, 2008 at 7:14 AM

*If you don't like it consider the alternative: SLAVERY. You can't see that you're already a slave? Look at the face on the money you use, that's who you work for suckers. Time is running out for all of you. Your rights are disappearing fast, soon everything you own will belong to the sick inbred psychopaths who already own you. Wake up people. Wake up now.*


October 13, 2008 at 8:21 AM

*These 'tree huggers' will probably be labelled as terrorists*


April 11, 2009 at 6:44 AM

I commend them. We have lost sight of all that matters is life. It is not about how much we can earn or take from others it is about kindness, helping fellow mankind and living a peaceful existance. When you pass material items cannot follow you into the next chapter. We are born alone and we pass alone. What matters is now if we don't nurture our nature we will have none. My favourite indian sayings GOES A LITTLE LIKE THIS ''ONLY AFTER THE LAST TREE HAS BEEN CUT DOWN ,ONLY AFTER THE LAST FISH HAS BEEN CAUGHT, ONLY THEN WILL MAN REALISE THAT MONEY CANNOT BE EATEN'' Wake up world be more GREEN.


November 8, 2009 at 3:38 PM

these people are heroes if anyone knows about where these communities are how theyare built and sustained please contact on druidswolf@hotmail.com ben