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“Interesting, different, best food ever, expensive”

Centre for Alternative Technology
Ranked #4 of 11 things to do in Machynlleth
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 2-3 hours
Owner description: The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) has been inspiring visitors about sustainable practice for over 40 years. With seven acres of hands-on displays, examples of environmentally responsible building, renewable energy, organic gardens and kids’ holiday activities, there is something for everyone at CAT. Follow CAT’s interactive Zero Carbon Britain Trail to discover how to live enjoyably in a world with reduced emissions. Or, winding up through managed oak woodland, the Quarry Trail opens up never-before-seen areas of CAT and breathtaking views of the Snowdonia National Park. On special evenings, the Quarry After Dark programme allows guests to experience CAT after the visitor centre has closed. This diverse programme of events boasts live music, talks, late night tours, film screenings and exhibitions. Nestled in a historic slate quarry CAT site is a little uneven in places and a lot of the displays are outdoors so please wear sensible footwear and waterproof clothing. During the winter months we close the Cliff Railway and some of the outdoor trails due to the unpredictable weather, please keep an eye on our website for updated information.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Wheelchair access, Food available for purchase, Activities for older children
Reviewed 16 August 2014

We visited in summer holidays. You are taken up in the hydro train first, it took me a while to get over that, I am not good with heights! Once up, we watched the video then wandered around. It is all very pretty, lovely wooden buildings, flowers, plants etc. Lots of different areas to explore.
The best bit was the vegetarian restaurant, the food was AMAZING, if I was ever going to turn veggie that would do it, simply gorgeous. Plenty for older kids to be amused with, lots of reading for Daddy's to do, lots of plants for me to view.
I loved the wood carving area, but there was no one carving, and nothing hand carved in the shop.
I bet it was lovely when it first started, ahead of its time. We couldn't find many staff about to ask anything.
We spent £25 getting in (Not worth it), and another £25 on dinner (Really worth it), so not a cheap day out for a family of four.

1  Thank bluehayes0
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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221 - 225 of 402 reviews

Reviewed 15 August 2014

Main question is why did we not visit before? There are so many great ideas and the encouragement to go for a Zero Carbon Britain is well informed and evidence based.

1  Thank Martin S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 August 2014

This was our first visit for 20 years, as we wanted to show our son the Centre. All I can say is that the whole place seems in a dilapidated state of repair. A general tidy up, some redecoration and weedkiller may be the order of the day. The place seemed exactly the same as 20 years ago just more run down. We have been comparing photos from that time to this. Such a shame and we had really sold the place to our son beforehand who just wasn't at all impressed. Not worth the admission price.

Thank Julie S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 August 2014

Having just moved into the area we decided to check out all the local "attractions" for when family came to visit. First stop was The Centre For Alternative Technology celebrating it's 40 year anniversary. The sign posts into the place were a little obscure but we eventually found our way into the main car park, which by 12.00 noon was pretty busy. We were enthusiastically welcomed by the reception staff, who in turn described the site and ethos of this charitable organization. The £8.50 entrance fee (adult) seems to be the norm for the area however, if you gift aid your ticket you receive an annual pass and re-entry is free for a year.

The water-Balanced Railway was a mild thrill; installed in 1992 it has seen better days but the engineer at the top indicated that it was due for a refit soon. Once up on the 7-acre site you are exposed to some lovely, but very natural grounds; it is very interesting to see how the gardeners are working with nature.

The many walk-in displays (too many to mention) offer you an umbrella view of sustainable living practice although perhaps some of the info is more about common sense. The WISE building is CAT's College and like the shop and information office which are made of rammed earth it is bright, modern and warm, and gives great insight into the world of sustainable architecture; the courses also look pretty good. The restaurant was very clean and efficiently run and the food, fresh and tasty.

On the day we visited the sun was shining and the level of visitors was just enough to create a buzz without disturbing the peace and tranquility of the area. Although we did not have children with us, I could see plenty for young people to do; a list of children's activities was presented outside the Straw Bale Theatre, they all looked thought provoking and fun.

As we were first-timers to CAT we had no real expectations but we certainly came away feeling uplifted and well eco-educated. Keep up the good work!

1  Thank Craig S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 August 2014

Visited 7 August 2014.

I'm a long time supporter of the CAT centre, having visited as a child some 30 years ago, and having been a regular visitor until the late 90's. A weekend trip to mid Wales meant I took the opportunity to revisit and refresh. What a disappointment. To say they've not done anything in 20 years isn't true - they clearly have updated some of the signage in the last few years, and the WISE centre is very impressive. BUT.. £8.50 per adult is very steep considering what is here. I was done in 2 hours, and that was really taking a very slow walk. The place feels unloved - it’s overgrown and tatty. The playground 'climbing net' is held together with a bit of nylon blue rope. The cliff railway looks like it’s never been repainted since its installation (I’d know - I visited during its installation!). There was an empty tippee style tent at the top - completely empty - what was this meant to show? The dome greenhouse looks like it’s an afterthought. The 'whole home' boasts it’s been open since the late 70's (the place started in '74) - yes.. It shows. The light bulbs demonstrating the halogen, versus CFL versus LED didn't work. Neither of the two computers in the house worked. There was dead flies all over the place - when is this exhibit cleaned? The chalkboard by the door was covered in graffiti. Where is the educational side of the house apart from a cut out of the conservatory floor?

The hoardings near the playground talk about the MSc course at the centre - and therein suggest the problem. The place has focussed on the 'residential' education side (no doubt driven by money) and the WISE centre demonstrates this - they've forgotten why the place started in the first place - to educate everyone - and that includes day visitors too. I felt like I was in someone's back garden and I shouldn't have been there - I didn't feel welcome.

The animals in the 'small holding' have gone - how is this place demonstrating self sufficiency anymore without this part of the site? This stables area felt largely abandoned - and next to this is the MSc part of the site so you can't go there. The wood turner wasn't there and there was no signage to explain what part they did in making this site 'sufficient'. There is a project of one of the MSc Students next to the 'slide' - and the gap between the bottom of the slide and the boxes of compost is so narrow that the children playing on the slide hit the compost boxes. Again another example of being made to feel like an inconvenience.

The old wind turbine housing which is now at ground level could be really useful to demonstrating how these machines have moved on into the modern age - instead it’s rusting away, no signage and a plant growing out of it. The wind turbine seat which was present in the late 80’s is slowly rusting away – there was nothing to encourage kids to feel the power of the wind, and with no windmills up on the hillside anymore (where’s polenko!) there nothing to set this place apart.

The battery exhibits under the wooden walkway didn’t work. The wave tanks in the house didn’t work. The clouds covering the PV panels to change the voltage have been there since the 80’s.

The restaurant is lovely, but be aware they only serve hot food from 12-2. This is peak holiday season and the numbers of visitors is very very low when compared to the times I’ve been before.

I think by now you’re getting the picture. The people running this place have lost the mission statement and direction, because it’s trying to be something that it isn’t. I don’t want new shiny toilets – I want to learn about sustainability and new technologies. I want to understand what fracking is and why it’s bad. I want to understand more about Nuclear power and the thoughts on that. But there’s nothing of substance here – it’s all very 80’s. The world has moved on in sustainability and green living, but the CAT centre is still preaching the same mantras and that just won’t wash anymore, either with kids or adults.

It feels like they’ve sold out completely – they are 80% on grid power now – the original people would be turning in their graves because that’s not what the CAT centre was about. The biomass boiler part of the site feels like nothing but an advertisement for the boiler manufacturer (others are available!).

The shop used to be a haven of solar panels, green toys, compost makers and education. Now it’s just a cut price and second hand bookshop. There were some hoardings about packaging and how bad it is – well yes, but how about telling people about the fact that packaging is covered by legislation to force companies to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Where is the fair and balanced education?

Basically, unless the new chief executive remembers why this place existed in the first place, actually goes out on site with a ‘unbiased’ pair of eyes, spends some money on bringing it up to date and looks after it they’ll be a whole generation of people who won’t bother, and that would be a very sad outcome for everyone.

4  Thank Picc2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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