The Cae Mabon Roundhouse needs re-thatching! It’s been the heart of Cae Mabon for 28 years, the scene of countless convivial evenings of story, music, conversation, ceremony and magic. But the thatch is wearing thin and we need to do something to minimise the smoke inside. We’re planning to re-thatch it over three weeks starting in mid-October. But we need help to finance it. If you’d like to support the renovation of this exquisite ‘intangible heritage’, please read on. Thanks in advance for your help.
The Roundhouse was our first structure here. We levelled the terrace in 1989. Over the following three years for one week each summer we built the wall. In 1994, under the guidance of Nick MacSmith, we made the roof with pine rafters, hazel battens and water reed thatch. For seven years it was used for sleeping, storytelling, music, weddings and ceremonies. It was a much loved place, the fire at the heart of Cae Mabon. But in 2002 a candle was left unattended. Wax dripped onto a wooden box, followed by a bead of flame. The box and interior furnishings slowly caught fire. Seven hours later the flames reached the thatch and it was gone in a matter of minutes.
It was heart-breaking of course, but we soon realised we had to rebuild it. Over the next few weeks, with the help of Nick, many friends and financial support from those party to the blaze, we re-thatched it. We made improvements: put in a slate floor, lime-rendered the wall, built a bigger medieval-style porch, made the thatch thicker and tighter… Unfortunately this last ‘improvement’ turned out not to be so. The smoke from the fire found it harder to escape, creating a smoky atmosphere. Not good. In time we learned how to make fires to minimise the smoke. But it can still be problematic.
Nonetheless in the last twenty years we’ve had numerous extraordinary times in the Roundhouse: ceilidh-like sharings of song, poetry and story around the circle; celebrations of Samhain (Halloween) and midwinter; improvised drumming and singing; powerful all-night ceremonies; channelling of ancient deities through masks; coming of age rituals; listening circles; weddings, conversations, jokes and laughter. It’s the sacred hub of Cae Mabon, a place of community, conviviality and creativity. As one of the songs composed here says:
‘Around the fire the green men gather,
The atmosphere is charged with power.
Ancestors speak through tale and song,
In this place the spirit’s strong…’
Now, two decades on, after all these shared riches, the Roundhouse thatch is wearing thin and leaking in places. Grass, lichen, moss, even little birch trees are growing on the roof. The time has come. It has to be re-thatched. The plan is to do it this October. The intention is to make it more beautiful than ever and to ensure that it’s not smoky inside. It is, after all, our ‘Temple of the Ancient Ones’. It needs to be right.
To help us in this task dear Nick will be joining us once again. But we’ve also enlisted the help of Alan Jones, from Pembrokeshire, and his two assistants, Kerenza and Sara. When I saw Emma Orbach’s Tir Ysbrydol at Brithdir Mawr some years ago I was immediately smitten. Who thatched that, I wondered? Well, it was Alan and his crew. Turns out he’s built and thatched thirty roundhouses and a lot more besides. He was up here last weekend and we (t)hatched a plan.
Rather than completely rebuild the roof we’re going to thatch over the old thatch, a standard thatching practice. We’ll enlarge the smoke-hole, build a new cap and install a solar powered fan to draw out the smoke. A failproof method we believe.
Of course this is going to cost money. The price of reed has doubled over the last two years. It’s now £5 per bundle and we’ll need at least a thousand bundles. And we need to pay Alan and his team for three weeks work.
So we’re looking to raise £12,000 to cover reed, skilled labour, fittings and other materials. Minimum.
So, the Big Ask.
Can you lend a hand? Can you help us raise this money?
The Cae Mabon Roundhouse is at the heart of what’s been called ‘a Welsh Shangri-La’. It’s a hobbit-like village in an idyllic location of forest glade, sparkling river, deep lake and great mountain. Nature spirits are there. The Great Mother and the Great Son. Dragons. The Fool and the Faerie Queen. For nine months of the year people come week after week on a succession of creative, healing, learning, wellbeing, rebellious, sacred and shamanic gatherings. It is a magical procession of wonders. Many of the people who come are changed. It is a cauldron of transformation. The Roundhouse is at its heart.
So please, help us to make it clear and beautiful again.
£10 buys two bundles of reed.
£100 buys twenty bundles of reed.
Whatever you can give – in these straitened times – will be hugely appreciated. Your reward will be coming into a transformed Roundhouse able to offer even more spiritual riches.
Eric Maddern and the Cae Mabon Familia