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Permaculture Design at Tir Penrhos Isaf

The story of permaculture design at Tir Penrhos Isaf (Penrhos Isaf land) is very simple; we got to know something of the land and locality, produced a design rooted in the permaculture ethics and principles, used it to get temporary planning permission and since 1991 we've been living on the site in a caravan, gradually putting the design into practice.

The story is also very complex, inevitably, as it involves humans and other animals, plants, minerals, the weather, not to mention stuff like culture(s), or economies and other organisational structures. These latter elements or contexts often made the experience hard and difficult, temporarily masking the joy inherent in the occupation of the gardener; for example, it is not easy to explain the importance of allowing a system to demonstrate its own evolutions to one who does not want to know. Yet that is exactly what is required, whether the system be an individual, a group or an environment (hopefully it will contain all three).

The design grew out of the work we had begun in 1986, when we bought the land. Although we had heard of permaculture design, we had not yet studied it. Nonetheless, we produced what was a simple permaculture design based on what we saw as the interelated fields of horticulture, agriculture, forestry and conservation, as part of our first planning application to the Snowdonia National Park Authority. This one was for a new dwelling and it was turned down flat. We produced the first full permaculture design for the site in 1991 as part of our planning application for "temprorary permission for a caravan for an agricultural worker and family in order to prove viability", to give it its full title. This application was successful and we moved onto the site in Feburary 1991 and have been here ever since. That story is long and powerful and this web site tells bits of it.


1991 Design and aerial photos (275k)

This page has pictures and may take some time to load. It contains aerial views of Penrhos in 1986 and 2000 that show very clearly some of the changes that have taken place since we bought the site. You'll also find here the base map of the permaculture design with an outline description. The base map is an image map that contains links to other pages dealing with specific areas of the site.

I have also made up pages of the individual images for those of you who may have slower connections or machines.

Energy accounting and carbon footprint

Work in progress. Not that easy for low impacters as the usual calculators don't always apply.


The following are articles and other writings relating to design and Tir Penrhos Isaf.

Bracken, gorse and design

An article written for Graham Bell's early permaculture magazine Permaculture News No. 20 Autumn 1990. This covers my initial work and thoughts regarding regeneration.


Tir Penrhos Isaf

An article written for Permaculture Magazine vol.1.2 winter 92/93. This describes our inital work at Penrhos.


Argel - Wilderness Regeneration

based on the latest articles published in Permaculture Magazine during 2002, this provides a description of Argel, the wilderness regeneration project, including a yield table for the fifth year of regeneration and links to images of regeneration.

Wilderness regeneration and management is a hugely inspiring process to be involved with and gives me great hope for the future. The fact that a complex system can so rapidly heal itself leads me to hope that the same is true for us as communities and individuals.

Images of Argel



Argel: a wilderness regeneration and management project.

A short piece written in 1990 which gives the basic sequence of events in regeneration. Most of this information appears in Argel - Wilderness Regeneration, above.


Description for The Permaculture Plot 4th edition

A description we wrote for Simon Pratt's excellent compendium of Permaculture sites in Britain. Available from Permanent Publications.


Fallow deer species list and observations

Penrhos is situated in the fringes of Coed Y Brenin, a forestry commission site spreading over some 18,000 acres (big). It is home to a feral population of fallow deer who escaped from the Nannau estate deer park sometime in the sixties. When we first began work at Penrhos in 86 they provided a considerable challenge; groups of up to a dozen regularly passed through the site showing little concern for our presence, eating or trashing many plants and ignoring others. This gave us the chance to record their preferences.

The deer herd was variously estimated (guessed) at numbering 1000 to 3000 animals; an invisible, organic, farm stacked into the forest. They presented a number of challenges including providing quite severe restrictions on planting hardwoods, infiltration of farm lands (silage crops, hay, grazing) and lack of management or effective harvesting (poachers with shotguns, victims of wire fences). The commission began regular culls in the mid nineties and this made an enormous difference to the speed of regeneration and the growth of planted areas.





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