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Living "off the grid" in rural Wales

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Rock and roll doesn’t usually go hand in hand with concern about climate change. But in this story it does. A small cottage in rural Wales — where the British rock band Led Zeppelin wrote some of their greatest hits — has today become a showcase for a low carbon lifestyle.

Bron Yr Aur, a stone and slate cottage perched on a steep hillside in the beautiful countryside near the town of Machynlleth, had no electricity or running water when the band stayed there in 1970 and wrote much of their seminal third album – including one of their best known tracks “Stairway to Heaven."

Today, the cottage is still unconnected to the grid, but the current residents Scott and Ruth Roe have turned it into a hub of renewable activity. They draw on no fewer than four different non- or low-polluting sources of energy which they generate themselves: wind, solar, hydro and wood burning power.

Scott, an environmental consultant, and Ruth, a teacher, are quick to point out that they are not living some kind of rural idyll.

“Getting the energy you need from these sources is really hard,” Scott said, while Ruth admitted it did involve quite a lot of inconvenience.

“You can’t stick the dishwasher on and vacuum the house at the same time. You’ve got to do one and then the other. Otherwise we’d trip the system," she said . “And although most of the time things are fine if the battery charge gets very, very low we may have to switch off the TV and most of the other electrical appliances.”

Of course, the couple could always fall back on petrol-powered generators but they’re determined to do their bit to combat climate change.

“We can say – hand on heart – that we are doing everything in our lives to to reduce global warming. We can look our daughter in the eye as she grows up and sees climate change developing, and we can say we have done everything we can to avert it,” said Ruth.

Over the years, Led Zeppelin fans from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to Bron Yr Aur to see for themselves the place where “Stairway To Heaven” was written. Scott and Ruth are now aiming to capitalize on this worldwide interest by offering two days of luxury camping ( or “glamping” ) on the site for paying visitors. Scott would also like to use this opportunity to impress upon the visitors the pleasures, the perils and the practicalities of the low carbon lifestyle.

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