In the following blog post, Tipi Valley resident Rik Mayes talks about how the hippy movement, which began in the 1960s, led to the birth of their commune.
We’re definitely hippies, a few of us are originals, our roots go back to the Summer of Love in 1967, flower power and all that. The 1960’s brought about a modern feel, with smart new home interiors, the mini car and the mini skirt.
But the world was not an optimistic place. We had the Cold War, the Iron Curtain, with thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on cities in the east and west. It was scary, we all thought the country could be annihilated with only four minutes warning, especially during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
Already there were people scared of what humans were doing to devastate the planet, especially with the huge changes in farming methods brought about by the so called green revolution. Rachel Carson, responding to the huge new use of pesticides and herbicides and fertilisers wrote the book Silent Spring. That was 1962, more scary stuff.
“1969 was also the year of Apollo 11 moon mission, the first man to walk on the moon, and more culturally important, the first pictures of planet Earth from outer space. This huge and wonderful orb spinning through the skies.”Then there was the civil rights movement in the USA and the Vietnam war which went on for twenty years. There were huge protests against the war that began to motivate young people into wanting a world in which the future would be different, one that you could believe in, with values based more on love and fairness than on hypocrisy and greed.
“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”. I first came across The 1967 Summer of Love on TV. Amidst the news coverage of the USSR threatening nuclear war on us, the latest news of bombings and killings as well as the agent orange chemical warfare in Vietnam, there were news items of young people celebrating, dancing spontaneously and being free. They had long hair, they were wearing informal clothing with beads around their necks, looking more like an indigenous tribe than 20th Century moderns. With new values of making love not war and new spiritual experiences of psychedelic and profound insights brought about by LSD and smoking pot. The church was replaced by meditation and Indian bedspreads. It wasn’t just happening in San Francisco, it was happening in Europe too, especially England.
I never went inside a barber’s shop ever again!
The movement would probably have died out quickly if it weren’t for the rock festivals that brought hippie types together to meet each other and celebrate. These festivals weren’t a new phenomenon, there’d been jazz festivals already, but the free festivals really took off in 1969, the year of the famous Woodstock Festival, and they continued in their dozens for sixteen years, until Margaret Thatcher brought in new suppressive laws. Incidentally, 1969 was also the year of Apollo 11 moon mission, the first man to walk on the moon, and more culturally important, the first pictures of planet Earth from outer space. This huge and wonderful orb spinning through the skies. So beautiful. So alive. So strong. So vulnerable. That amazing image of planet Earth became an icon of the environmental movement that it certainly helped inspire. Greenpeace and other environmental groups soon started to spring up, to try to save the planet and its creatures from human devastation and deforestation.
Up until then the hippie movement had been mostly an urban experience, but increasingly hippies and other environmentally aware people wanted to get back to nature, to return to the countryside and our heritage that the industrial revolution and the enclosure acts had robbed from us.
“The tipi was light, portable, relatively cheap and gentle on the earth. Yes, we could live in tipis!”In 1970 and 1971 we had the first Glastonbury Festivals at Worthy Farm. Chris Waite, who still lives in Tipi Valley now, was very inspired by the alternative hope he glimpsed at Glastonbury. A year later, whilst he was exploring through the pages of the famous Last Whole Earth Catalog, he came across the designs for a Native American tipi. He got a sail maker to make him one. It was at the third Windsor Free Festival in 1974, held in Windsor Great Park that Chris pitched his lodge amongst a sea of little tents. There it stood, magnificent.
Most of us at that time were lucky to be even in tents, we were more likely to be under a sheet of plastic or polythene. So all the rest of us were staring with our mouths open at this wonderful sight: “A tipi! Could we all have one please?!”
Suddenly all sorts of problems were solved and a wonderful new resource became available. The whole feeling of the festival was being in the vanguard of a new age, a new civilisation being born, based on love and peace and sharing, a new way of living.
The tipi was light, portable, relatively cheap and gentle on the earth. Yes, we could live in tipis!
“He was prepared to sell off his poor wet north facing lands, field by field, to any hippy who wanted to pay him”So in the winter of 1974 a small gathering of people who had made friends through the free festivals started a little tipi village over in Wales, at a farm at Cwmann near Lampeter. This was at the invitation of Andrew Cripps, the grandson of a cabinet minister. There were only a dozen people to start with, but it slowly grew to being a couple of dozen with a tipi circle of about eight tipis and a large communal one in the centre, called the Big Lodge where tribal get-togethers happened and where visitors could stay. The Big Lodge is a tradition which continues to this day in Tipi Valley. They stayed there eighteen months. Little did they know that in the farmhouse on the adjoining farm something unusual was going on, the production of many millions of tabs of LSD. Fortunately the police Operation Julie didn’t strike until 1977, and by then the little tipi village had moved on to where it is now.
Word had reached the hippies at Cwmann that land was for sale up the Cwmdu valley near Talley. Various hippies went over there and found old Captain Blount, a rebellious old farmer who disliked authority, living in his chosen squalor at Pistyll Gwyn. He was prepared to sell off his poor wet north facing lands, field by field, to any hippy who wanted to pay him. And payment was on easy terms too, after moving onto the land most people would go up and pay their £5 or £10 weekly to old Nab, as he was called, and get a receipt. The receipts proved to be invaluable years after when Nab died leaving no will and having not completed the conveyances. Mr Billy Busk bought the Pistyll Gwyn lands after Nab died and honoured the receipts and completed the conveyances. From then on it was Mr Busk became our benefactor and would sell us land, field by field as we could afford to buy it.
So in that long hot summer of 1976, with a circle of just seven or eight tipis, Tipi Valley Cwmdu was born.