More Diggers and maybe a few less dreamers, Dragons co-operative is open

Hey we are looking for a new member and have been on and off for the last year or so. We had the pleasure of Jeremy’s company for 11 months but in that time since he moved in he has found himself a job, a life and a home of his own four doors’ up. Dragons is sometimes more of a stepping stone than the destination and of course that is absolutely fine but really we hope to find a long term third member to our small but dynamic co-operative.

Dragons is so much more that just a place to stay, a housing co-operative and a home to permaculture, it is the way into a huge network of people, places and projects working towards a much brighter and sustainable future. At Dragons we are trying to create our own meaningful work through self employment and enterprise, we volunteer and contribute to many local projects such as community growing, gardening education, habitat restoration and much more.

We are right on the High Street in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant, in Powys Wales and the nearest town is Oswestry, which is just over the Shropshire border in England. it is a busy little Welsh village which happens to be on the way to a stunning natural feature, Wales’ highest waterfall, Pistyll Rhaeadr.

Tree planting at Penygarnedd, 4 miles up the valley from Dragons

Dragons is based at Haulfre, a 400 year old hotch-potch of what looks like three houses joined together and chopped and changed over the years. Our latest project is to raise our energy performance from a lowly ‘F’ to a ‘C’ which is our target. As an ethical land lord we should of course be aspiring to get it as high as we can, but with solid stone walls, drafty old sash windows and a grade 2 listing we are rather hand tied as to what we can do. We are working with a local credit union to raise some finance and the works are planned which we hope will go ahead soon. Part of the extra incentive to get this done right now is the government is supporting homes with out of date heating systems (like ours) to have an brand new one free, so long as the energy performance of the home is high enough. Last year we were able to have solid wall insulation added to 5 of the rooms, which has really helped as well as adding a load of insulation and a lovely new ceiling to the old office room, so this will be our next big step.

the dragons allotment
The Dragons allotment at the start of last season

Dragons has a long association with permaculture teaching and project developments, having been a host to at least 4 PDC’s and connected to several other permaculture projects, not least to Treflach farm. This is basically a stock farm, of 120 years pedigree that about 12 years decided to commit to the path of permaculture and regenerative agriculture and over that time have become a close friend and ally of Dragons and its members. Being close to the local food economy is really important to us at Dragons, and our friendship with Treflach is just an example really of the many links we have to such projects in the area.

Dragons shop

Dragons includes a shop unit, which is rented out to a local craft collective, who use it as a base to sell their crafts and other hand made items, and it is also a social centre for visitors to the village as well as the community of crafters to make the items for sale and staff the shop on a voluntary rota. We are really proud to be playing an active part in the village economy and promoting local enterprise. Before Dragons co-op purchased this building in 2015 the shop had stood empty for 10 years or more and the only thing in the widow was cobwebs.

Joining Dragons

We are a fully Mutual Housing co-operative operating on Radical Routes model rules. We have developed and written our own secondary rules and also all tenants are issues with an occupancy agreement.

Normally Dragons comprises of three resident members, a dog, two cats and of course the ship unit. Members get their own room, a sitting room and a share of the rest of the house, which is kitchen, bathroom sitting room, there is a small yard and ty bach out the back as well.

Rent is £400 pcm and this includes most of your bills, with electricity prices rising we will have to chip in extra for energy costs over a certain ceiling.

We have good internet, phone and also the co-op bulk buys essential items such as detergents and basic essentials from a whole food co-op to keep things simple.

Applicants can be a prospective member for up to 12 – months, like being a normal tenant, they are welcome to apply after 6 months to become a full member with a permanent right to stay and full voting rights etc. Dragons co-op is not reuired to give a final answer until the full 1 months is up.

Dragons has a 25-year commercial mortgage with Triodos bank which commenced in 2015 and also is supported by private investors to whom we pay interest annually. All of these costs are covered by the rent, as are insurance and other standing charges.

Dragons has a long standing friendship with Treflach farm, this year we contributed a joint presentation to the Oxford Real Farmers Conference
The beautiful Tanat valley


Own room and sitting room share of rest of house £400 pcm

Rent is payable in advance, we do not require a deposit

Three months notice is normally required when leaving

The room is unfurnished but the co-op can supply certain items of furniture

There is a ‘Revive’ community furniture recycling enterprise in Oswestry

Nearest station in Gobowen (Oswestry)

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250 years of co-operation

Hey, ok not 250 years exactly, but this month we celebrate 250 since the birth of one of Wales’ most important sons, Mr Robert Owen.

Looking back at his work you can’t but help feel this man fully embraced permaculture ideas, even coming from such a different time and place. When I began my permaculture journey back in the early 90’s I realised that having a greater degree of control over my life was central to be able to make change in the world. For me this started with housing, land, instead of being a penniless tenant in drafty uninsulated damp rented house I wanted to be able to shape my world to a much greater degree. I asked, I looked, I had no idea how to do this.. until I stumbled onto co-operatives. And this is the theme of my post because without Mr Owen all those years ago would we even have the idea of a mutual company, one that existed for the benefit of its customers and users and for not its owners or investors?

In 1995 I was a co-founder of Chickenshack housing co-operative in Meirionnydd, 3 houses, 4 acres of land and an uninterupted view. Dedicated to permaculture and trying find the leading edge of the ecological shift, 8 of us moved in and an amazing adventure began. Robert Owen was manager of the World’s biggest cotton mill in 1800, he found the workers living in squalid unsanitary condtions working 7 days a week in a badly lit and dangerous factory making a fortune for its owners. He was appalled and this is what transformed him into a social pioneer, rejecting child labour, bringing in education, sanitation and access to land to grow for the workers. Before he left he created the first mutual company, a store that traded to benefit its customers, giving value and quality on basic products that previously were over priced and aldulterated. Loyal customers were retured a divident, a share in the profit of the store.

Owen saw the links between things, what makes a business thrive, what makes healthy soil, to invest in people to see their potential. Inspired by his work in 1844 the Rochdale pioneers created the first true co-operative and the quiet revolution began.2021, I now live at Dragons co-op in a different part of Wales but i am still building and working to those same values and have connections to a wide range of permaculture initiatives and projects and people.I would love to hear from people with similar interests who are on the same path.

I believe humanity must make a hig evolutionary step, this decade. To incorproate the reality that we are merely a part of a huge interconnected ecosystem called planet Earth, or rather the bioshsphere, that thin film of air and water in which we all swim. There are no countries, no divisions, those we see are a flaw of our own imagintion, homo sapiens is a single species, no race, no nationalities other than where we might happen to find ourselves within our bioshpere. The air we breath in was breated out by plants, as we continue to erode into our natural capital we erode into any possibility we have for a bright and abundant future. We have to do so much better than we are, and increasing numbers of people are realiszing this. Lets get busy and i would love to hear from you.

Steven Jones May 2021

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Dragons allotment notes March

Some notes to try and help on track of the allotment.

The Llanrhaeadr allotments started in the mid 200’s I think, and Nina who used to live at Pen y Lan wast the previous owner of ours. She had done a pdc and had a nice approach to it. When she had the twins it was too much for her so Grace and i took it on for 2 or 3 years, then it want back to Nina. That was when we agreed and the 7 ridge and furrow beds, and the idea was to use minimum of tillage. No dig is the aspiration.

We agreed to tray and maintain a good mix of perennial herbs on the ends of each beds to promote overwintering insects and keep the soil alive etc.

Bed 1. Mainly perennials on there.. Rhubarb, comfrey, cardoon. All produce lots of biomass for compost, and you can of course eat the rhubarb. We grew onions on the far ebd last year, and shallots. The bin is to force the Rhubarb to be tall, it seems to make quite a difference, we fed it heavily with grass cuttings mainly so far.

Bed 2. This was the main brassica bed in 2020. We grew Kale, chard also

Bed 3. We got a really good crop of leeks from 2020, still in march 2021 there are 60 to be harvested still

Bed 4. We called this the poly-bed in 2020 and tried mixing lots of things together, to varying degrees of success. The curly kale did well, over wintered and is starting to really grow again as it warms up.

Bed 5 We have been playing around with green manures, this has some phacaelia on it at the moment. It was very clumpy, we did crimson clover also last year. We did our main spuds here tin 2020 with as mulch on top as we could find. We could have done better though as the rain washes the milch down the raised beds so we had some green potatoes. but making it a little wider can fix that.

Bed 6 Onions from sets. We also popped in pumpkins and marrows around the edges all over

Bed 7 is a Hugl bed that Nina started in about 2012, we have added old rotten wood to it as much as we can, and see it as high carbon soil which will do well for propagating and growing fruit trees and berry bushes. There are the maiden apples on there that Han made on a grafting course in 2019 and some currents.

Compost plan for 2021

I want to make a classic old school hot compost heap and the allotment this spring. We have access to a good range of materials so i am determined to get it right if i possibly can. `It is all about getting the right carbon to nitrogen ration and a good airflow so that the thermophillic bacteria get get busy respiring and raise the temperate in the middle of the heap up to 70 degrees C. They are aerobic and need to breath if that are going to do all that hard work.

If a compost heap is bacterial bonfire then the best ingredients are air and moisture is a greatest diversity of microbes. We have cow, pig, duck and horse manure, all soaked into straw. Rotten wood-chip, some raw biochar and pile of half rotten weeds and clods form last years heap. Today was day there, no heat yet. Not enough critical mass to start the bonfire, so watch this space, we shall not be giving in to defeat. What i feel it is lacking is grass cuttings, nettle, too early in season for those. But I have access to horse manure.. also a palette of out of date fruit juice, so i might try feeding the heap some of that also.

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Blood donors needed in Llanfechain – this week!

30 appointments available in Llanfechain!

We urgently need blood donors in Llanfechain this week. Please book an appointment to help us save lives

30 apwyntiad ar gael yn Llanfechain!

Mae angen rhoddwyr gwaed arnom ar frys yn Llanfechain yr wythnos yma. Trefnwch apwyntiad i’n helpu i achub bywydau

Diolch o’r galon!

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Message from Wales Coop centre

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂
The easiest way for people to get together and create their own affordable housing solution is to set up a housing coop. A housing coop is a business whose sole purpose is to provide housing for its members. The business owns the house, but all of the members run the business and decide what goes on there. None of the members need capital. And the business can get a mortgage and find the deposit by attracting loan stock investment from supporters.

But it is also possible to lease a house as a housing coop. Bridging the capital gap and putting normally out of reach houses into the hands of people on low incomes.  This is the model used by Machynlleth Housing Coop, and you can watch my presentation about how that all works here:

But it is also now being used by the UK’s first student coop, who have had the backing of The Phone Coop. It’s a ground breaking new scheme because it leverages financial support from a large commercial organisation. It could be a model successfully adopted by Registered Social Landlords for example, or by other ethical commercial ventures who may see the benefit of having some assets in housing whilst still providing affordable homes.  
Rhagfyr 11

Y ffordd haws i bobl dod at ei gilydd a chreu datrysiad tai fforddiadwy ar gyfer eu hun yw sefydlu tai cydweithredol. Mae’r busnes yn berchen ar y tŷ, ond mae’r holl aelodau yn rhedeg y busnes ac yn dewis beth sydd yn digwydd yna. Does dim angen buddsoddiad ymlaen llaw gan yr aelodau. Gall y busnes dod o hyd i forgais ac yn medru ffeindio blaendaliad trwy ddenu buddsoddiad ‘loanstock’ gan gefnogwyr.

Ond mae hefyd yn bosib prydlesu tŷ fel tai cydweithredol. Plygio’r bwlch ariannol a rhoi tai y tu allan i gyrraedd fel rheol mewn dwylo pobl ar gyflogau isel. Mae’r model yma yn cael ei ddefnyddio can Tai Cydweithredol Machynlleth, a gallwch wylio cyflwyniad ar sut mae’n gweithio yma:

Mae hefyd yn nawr cael ei ddefnyddio gan brosiect tai cydweithredol myfyriwr ar gyfer y tro cyntaf ym Mhrydain, sydd gyda chefnogaeth oddi wrth y Phone Coop. Mae’n gynllun sydd yn torri tir newydd achos mae’n sicrhau cefnogaeth ariannol gan sefydliad masnachol mawr. Gall fod yn fodel llwyddiannus ar gyfer cymdeithasau tai, neu gan fentrau masnachol moesegol eraill sydd yn gweld budd cael asedau fel tai ond yn dal medru darparu tai fforddiadwy.
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Want to join a pioneering co-operative community?

Dragons co-operative in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant are always interested in hearing from potential new members. Even if we dont have a place available you may join our waiting list.

We are a very small co-op but might be interested in expanding, with the help of new members and supporters. We have access to land locally and ;links to permaculture sites all over Wales and rest of the UK . We also have strong links to Uganda where members are involved in permaculture education and development. We remain committed to developing a strong base here in Mid Wales.

Dragons operates on Radical Routes model rules and has secondary rules based on the principles of permaculture design. Members are encouraged to study permaculture and to use it as an operating system for co-operation. We are financed 100% from ethical banks and private individuals, investment is not a requirement of membership but we are always happy to discuss investment opportunities with members and supporters.

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This coffee plants trees!

Coffee from Uganda – drinking our coffee can be part of your commitment to fighting climate change

Excited to announce our first batch of coffee from Mt Elgon is here, we working out the best ways to get it out there. It is excellent quality, we are really pleased with the aroma, colour and taste, its wonderful.

We hope to build a long term relationship with our friends at Mt Elgon Coffee and Honey Co-operative and through this partnership we can contribute directly in the reafforestation of this remarkable and special landscape.

The story of how this came about is a long and interesting one. Wales — Africa links are deep and strong and has greatly affected my life and many of the people I work with through Sector39. In an attempt to share some of that journey i put the video reel below together I a working on a narration. I need to make it much snappier but its an on-going project for now.

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Invest in co-operation

invest in co-operatives

Dragons aims to raise £12,000 loanstock by the end of 2020.

£3,000 to replace an existing investor and £9,000 new loanstock, offered at 2-4% to invest in essential roof improvements to the house. As custodians of a 400 year old build we are coming to terms with our long-term responsibilities to the building.

With bank rates at an historic low (< 1%), it has never been a better time to invest in the social economy. Borrowing money even from ethical banks is still expensive, they have to make their margin too, and as a small enterprise we can be charged up to 7% for new loans or 5% for a mortgage, so private investors can benefit from this disparity.

You may choose your own interest rate (up to 4%), to get this fantastic rate you are only required to commit for three years minimum.  Withdrawal is by negotiation – the larger the sum to more notice is required. There is a fully legal contract supplied and your loan is secured against the value of the house, so it is risk free. The co-op is contracted to pay an annual interest payment, usually on the same day each year.

Contact us directly if you would like to know more about this great investment scheme!

dragons housing cooperatice, #permaculture #wales
The roof facing us us is desperate need of some tlc, removing the slares, replacing any damaged batons and adding
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Investing in co-operatives – a very sound investment

There is such a thing as loanstock. Many fully mutual housing co–ops raise part of their capital by offering out loanstock to investors, a low interest investment secured against the value of the house. It is a bricks and mortar very safe investment. Money borrowed from a bank as a mortgage costs in the region of 5%, higher than domestic mortgage, but as  co-op we pay a commercial rate plus, we are customers of Triodos bank, an ethical bank with high standards but consequently not the very cheapest to borrow from. We have been offering 4% on loanstock, and indeed we have some we need to replace currently and with interest rates at historic lows its a sound bet.

I trained as a teacher, completing a PGCE in Economic and Business Studies, and later taught for 4 terms in Reading before I moved to Wales, so i kind of the subject in my blood stream. I really enjoy the Uneducated Economist on YouTube for his wry and insightful observations on economic themes. In this episode we speculates about the likelihood of negative interest rates. This chimed deeply with me, its some thing max Keiser talks about on is RT progam Keiser Report. Of course you have to get rid of cash to make negative interest rates happen effectively and it seems almost certain that we are goign to begin to experience that soon, especially as Uneducated Economist speculates when we move to UBI stimuli to try and restart the collapsing world economy.

Investing in social infrastructure such as affordable, ecologically responsible housing makes a a lot of sense. One Planet Development ideas here in Wales are also really opening up the possibility for whole new ways of living. More collaborative, with a localised lifestyple and much more closely connected to the land.

I might suggest that it is a time to think about investing in co-ops – those who have funds to invest, many don’t of course, but maybe they might have initiative and drive to offer instead. This kind of mutual could unlock and whole raft of possibilities.

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Celebrating 25 years of co-operation, Chickenshack

In the early 90’s I was living in Zimbabwe along with my friend Sue, we were studying and working in permaculture and setting the course for a life we hoped to live. I had ran away from UK to Africa for adventure, to learn and to escape Thatcher’s Britain. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, just what I didn’t want to do, all of that changed in Zimbabwe. I learned that Africa was always in some way gong to be part of my life, it had changed me and my life purpose and direction was to embed myself in the world of alternatives to planetary destruction. Permaculture is a path of regeneration and healing, and I decided to dedicate my life to that, without having an idea where it would take me.

By 1995 I was living in the Welsh mountains within a wider community, one that was very much committed to finding alternatives and different kinds of lifestyles. I learned about housing co-operatives through Radical Routes, joined the Permaculture Association and started working at the Centre for Alternative Technology, total immersion. 25 years later I am living in a different part of Wales, still in a co-op and working full time in permaculture education with the S39 Academy of Permaculture.

It has been an incredible journey and during that time I have taught on 42 Permaculture Design course, and counting as well as reconnecting to Africa, this time to Uganda where we are developing a network of demonstration and training hubs in Uganda and in 2 neighbouring countries.

Sector39 are based in Wales and teach permaculture design and co-ordinate permaculture education. We are currently developing the S39 Permaculture Academy. It is our conviction that permaculture design is one of the most powerful tools available to address the ecological catastrophe that is happening around us.

Can we empower people to become active enough to be the solution and not the cause of the problem? We believe this to be possible and this gives us great hope and a positive and creative direction to move forward in.

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