Forest of Dean Cabiners Association

Forest of Dean Cabiners Association

Historical and modern context.

The Forest of Dean Cabiner’s Association will seek to revive the historical tradition of Cabining, common place in the Forest of Dean for millennia, it ended only a few generation ago.

The Cabiners Association will source natural, local, recycled and renewable resources for the construction of self-sufficient, compact and easily movable cabins. The design would be a flat-pack design, and could be transported on a standard 3.5-5 ton flat-bed truck.

With the resurgence of natural building and off-grid living spreading across the cultural paradigm of our close neighbours in Wales, the traditions of the Cabiners is becoming ever more relevant to the future of the countryside landscape. The Low-Impact Sustainable Development model is an attempt to address the housing crisis, the energy crisis and the unsustainable nature of modern agricultural practices, with the idea of a home that is not just sustainable, but actually facilitates ecological regeneration. Enabling people to be a living part of their surrounding ecosystem, by managing woodland -for food, fuel, crafts – keeping animals and planting trees to provide a livelihood from the land they live on.

The purposes/ functions of the Cabins/ Cabiners

The cabins/ FoDCA will have a variety of purposes and fulfil many functions:
-Education facilities, from living history, to environmental studies
-Forestry training and intensive management practices like coppicing
-research base, wildlife studies,
-prolonged area observation required for ecological woodland management
-ecologically conscious forestry work i.e.
-regeneration of forestry wastes, new woodland creation
-land-based enterprises -agro-forestry, educational crafts/ artisan (charcoal)
-genuinely affordable homes for people interested in living on the land.
-eco-tourism, with emphasis on practical experience of land management
– support community agriculture projects -a place for wwoofers to stay
– accommodation near local projects that run events/ workdays or courses.

From a commercial perspective, these cabins -using reclaimed wood, recycled technology- could be produced, by our estimates for less than £5,000 each. As-well-as the sale of a percentage of the cabins, there would also be income from courses, which would potentially fund the cabins alone. The marketable, retail price would be many times production costs, enabling the project to be financially self-sufficient very quickly. It would of course be a non-profit company, which reinvests all profits in new cabins, sponsoring economically deprived groups to come on the courses, campaigning to see a return of the Cabiners way of life, and supporting any apprentices -food, accommodation, living expenses, etc.

Our cabins will be designed to include easily maintainable:
-solar panels made from recycled resources and industry waste products.
-low-power DC electric sockets, for running laptops, phones, lights etc
-bio-char stoves or high-efficiency woodburners [rocket mass heaters] for heating the cabins and cooking on.
-in-built water cycling, grey-water treatment beds
-compost toilets or bio-digesters
-water tanks, that can be loaded onto a trolly and taken to the nearest well

The story of the Cabiners, is the cultural heritage of Foresters.

Inspired by the ancient traditions of the Forest of Dean Cabiners; our ancestral Foresters who settled and maintained their (often completely illegal) occupancy of the Forest of Dean, since time immemorial. Against the will of myriad oppressive state interests and their would-be ‘cleansers’ of the disorderly settlements that characterised so much of the Forests natural, industrial and cultural heritage.

Cabins would revive an ancient Forest tradition, the loss of which has taken its toll on all other aspects of traditional land management in the Forest. A whole way of life may come back into existence, based around these cabins. The ecological regeneration of the whole of the Dean could one day be made possible through people choosing to live once again ‘on the land’, in these cabins -forest workers, crafts people, environmentalists- living once again as part of the ecology, planting trees, keeping pigs and helping to manage the woodlands sustainably.

Organisations could offer these cabins for people to live in, on condition that they engage in the ecologically organised regeneration of the surrounding area – they could be placed on clear-felled conifer plantation land (where the soil has been eroded and acidified by ill-conceived forestry policies), on-site gardens, tree nurseries, and a herd of animals being commoned in the area would support the cabiners in their mission to regenerate. Building soil layers, and increasing bio-diversity on waste lands, thinning overstacked woodland, re-mediating contaminated lakes and streams, terracing eroding soil banks using “sum a deez bludy conifurs we got al’arrand” and planting native species with high structural diversity to stabilise soils and support wildlife bio-diversity.

Cabins would be potent tools for reconnecting people to place, with humans living as part of the surrounding environment a profound sense of responsibility and reverence of place evolves into a complex culture of spiritual land stewardship. This is what has characterised the Forest over the aeons, the very Forest gave birth to our traditions, culture and spiritual persuasions.

If successful what will the FoD Cabiners Association achieve?

-the restoration of an indigenous way of life in the Forest.

-Provision of truly affordable homes for people interest in living on the land, and working for a livelihood that facilitates environmental restoration, habitat conservation and ecological regeneration: through the sustainable production of a wide variety of resources for the local economy, food, fuel, plant stock, crafts and artisan products etc.

-nothing short of solving on a local level, the housing, energy, economic and agricultural crises that plague our society.

-support other land-based heritage traditions, like smallholdings, freemining, commoning, coppicing by providing dwellings, workshops, bunk-houses.

-increasing opportunities for training and livelihoods in…
-sustainable land management -agro-ecology/ forestry
-eco-building [carpentry, joinery, designing]
-renewable technologies [solar, heat, water, bio-char]

-The creation of a model of sustainable living similar to the Low-Impact Sustainable Development model in Wales [ref. Lammas, Chapter 7, the land is ours]

-Increasing practical eco-tourism, which educates, inspires and has untold health benefits for people existing in the city smog.

-Giving confidence, a sense of worth and showing the door of independence to disenfranchised, dis-empowered and ‘unemployed’ people. Generating opportunities for livelihoods, learning skills and meaningful work for local people, not just in the area – but FOR the area! I believe many Foresters would help the Forestry Commission with ecological land stewardship and management.

-The generation of a large labour force -the cabiners- who would be interested in restoring woodlands, riverbanks, lakes, wastelands, new woodland creation, establishing land based initiatives and assisting community groups or organisations like the FC with local tasks within Forestry, argiculture, etc.

-In the long term, to have people living and working for themselves on a piece of land, would inevitably lead to the appalling disparity of land ownership and access in this country being addressed -from the Forest outwards, a movement for life and land.

-potentially thousands of people right across the country living sustainably in stewardship of land, in small-scale agrarian/ artisan communities- like Foresters have been doing for millennia.

What would the Forest look like, if it were dotted sporadicly with self-sufficient cabins inhabited by people working on community projects, agro-forestry initiatives, small-holdings.

Kevin Cahill’s book Who Owns Britain was published in 2002, it found that 69% of the land was in the hands of 0.6% of the population. Since then the concentration has intensified: between 2005 and 2011, government statistics show, the number of landholdings in England has fallen by 10%, while the average size of holding has risen by 12%

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