It's a PDC - but not as we (usually) know it
by Nick Talbott
I have just spent a thoroughly enjoyable weekend on the Permaculture Design course led by Steven Jones and organised jointly by Roz Brown of Mid Wales Permaculture Network and Angela Coleridge of the Llandrindod Transition Town group. This was the first of six weekend sessions - one weekend a month for six months - and is a new format for doing the Design course. This format will work very well for me because it gives plenty of time to fit in practical work and study in between the monthly course sessions, and it does not involve the significant time commitment of a full-time residential course.
Having done a weekend "Introduction to Permaculture" course with Steve last year, I was really looking forward to revisiting the material in much greater depth on the full design course. Having recently bought a house with a large garden (almost an acre) that has had no TLC for many years, I also have the practical focus of applying what I can learn to turning this into something which is much more productive and easy to manage. I certainly don't want to be spending 5 hours a week mowing the grass in the future!
"What is Permaculture?" is a question that has many answers and Steve introduced us to a number of these over the weekend. Having become interested in Permaculture through involvement with the Transition movement, I like the definition or Permaculture as "a revolution disguised as organic gardening". To me, this conveys an optimistic scenario for Transition - that the ideas planted now will grow to achieve the changes that the Transition movement aims to address. I also really like Bill Mollison's idea that Permaculture is less about "how to do it" and more about "how to think about how to do it". I know people for whom the 12 permaculture design principles have become a guide to decision making in any context.
On Saturday afternoon we had a field trip to Cefn Wood, a local historic woodland which is being managed to provide a Forest School. We were taken round the woods by Rhian Hill and it was a great venue for Steve to point out examples that illustrate what is meant by succession, stacking, cycling and other principles of ecology. The site also features some wonderful examples of structures made from local natural resources. We were really lucky with the weather, which was unusually dry and sunny for the whole weekend!
The rewards from doing a course like this can come as much from the other participants as from the course subject matter. I don't know whether it was the clever selection of group development exercises Steve chose for us to do, or the background many of us shared in the Transition movement, but I felt this was a wonderful and inspiring group of people that were a joy to be with and I'm sure that we'll still be doing things together long after the course has finished.
 See Steve's website: http://www.sector39.co.uk/
 See Wikipedia for a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture
 A good intro to the Principles: http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles.php
 Forest School Wales: http://www.forestschoolwales.org.uk/