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2016 Achievements

In 2016, amongst other things, we:

  • Got lots of people along to a varied range of speaker meetings, on topics relating to sustainability,  raising awareness, knowledge, and energy.
  • Organised energy audits in 4 public buildings in the valley. These have  led to plans to improve energy efficiency, and to awareness of what can be done spreading amongst people who use these buildings.  As plans are implemented, we’ll keep folks informed on the website, and hope to follow up in other ways.
  • Ran a successful Carbon Reduction course – learning how to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Apple Day – very successful at a lovely new venue – the Bamford Quaker Community. Lots of people came, pressed their apples to make juice, explored the varieties of apples, apple cooking, apple games, making poetry and willow weaving, listened to local music, powered by solar energy….   Once again, National Trust Longshaw, and Grindleford Playgroup made fantastic contributions.
  • Connected with all sorts of others – eg local MP, local businesses, neighbouring transition groups, etc. etc…

We will build on this in 2017.

Is there any good news after BREXIT and Trump?

I am not sure of my economics but I suspect there might just be a glow of light at the end of the tunnel. Taken together BREXIT and Trump’s election seem likely to put a damper on the world’s economic growth prospects. On the one hand my status as a pensioner leaves me thinking that might not be good news for my pension fund. On the other hand my position as a concerned citizen, worried about the rate at which we are using up the world’s limited resources gives me some cause for optimism.
Its all really complicated though. Just look at petrol prices. Since BREXIT the price of petrol at the pump has gone up because the international price is set in dollars and the pound has fallen by about 15%. Economists generally forecast that the impact of Trump’s isolationist policies and what looks like our exit from any form of trade agreement with Europe will result in an economic slowdown in many parts of the world. Lower growth means we will not be using as much of the world’s primary resources i.e. less fossil fuels, less primary forest destroyed, less mineral extraction etc etc. Higher fuel prices also mean more incentives to develop renewable energy sources. However it also makes fracking more cost effective (if you ignore the environmental costs as oil companies do).
Another upside to Trump’s isolationism is the probable abandonment of agreements like TTIP, the controversial trans-Atlantic treaty. If signed it would enable trans-national companies to sue governments if they feel government policies on things like environmental protection have infringed their ability to trade profitably. It could also force more privatisation of public services like health and justice.
I was amazed and devastated by the BREXIT vote and Trump’s election, so I am not pretending either of them are good for the environment. I am just looking for some signs of hope. Two more reasons for hope are that we have still not negotiated the deal that will replace our EU membership and the president of the US cannot do whatever he wants. He still has to work with Congress. Look how difficult Obama found that. Those signs of hope give us a reason to continue campaigning and trying to make a practical difference at a local level.

Peak Park – Reducing carbon emissions

At our latest public talk, Emily Fox, of  the Peak Park Authority, spoke to us about reducing carbon emissions in the peak park.  This is one of their strategic aims, and they have  achieved a 25% reduction in relation to their own operations since 2009, and they are aiming for  30% by 2017.  Contributions to this have come from :

  • Insulating, and installing a biomass (wood pellet) central heating boiler at Aldern House in Bakewell – their headquarters.
  • Insulating and installing sustainable energy generation at other properties – for example they are in the process of installing a ground-source heat pump at their Edale Visitor Centre.
  • Encouraging staff to car-share, and travel by public transport where possible.
  • Reducing travel to meetings by using online communications technology.

More details are in  her slides – climate-change-in-the-peak-district-national-park

She also  talked  about encouraging others in the Park  to develop sustainability, particularly through their planning function  – more info here.

Finally, an important aspect is land use,  including farming practice.  The restoration of moorlands  and  peat bogs, through the  Moors for the future project, is important for keeping carbon locked up.

Yes we can! – Renewable energy and sustainability in the  Peak Park

At our latest public talk,  Emily Fox , the Peak Park’s head of strategy, described how they want to support developments which reduce carbon emissions – albeit within the National Park planning guidelines,  which do  impose some restrictions.  Their policy says: “Proposals for low carbon and renewable energy development will be encouraged, provided they can be accommodated without adversely affecting landscape character, cultural heritage assets, other valued characteristics, or other established uses of the area”   They encourage people exploring improvements to the homes to contact their planning officials for pre-application advice, and they have produced  general indicators of what may and may not be OK .   (For example solar thermal panels, photovoltaic panels, ground or water source heat pumps and biomass boilers may not need planning permission,  but permission may also  be  granted for other technologies.)

To encourage people within the national park to adopt sustainable energy, they have produced five case studies of what can be done .  (Along with videos of two of the case studies.)

Technologies used in the case studies include ground-source heat pump, air-source heat pump,  wind turbine , hydroelectric mill wheel and photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity,  high levels of insulation (including sheep’s wool), wood-pellet boiler, wood-burning stoves, and sunpipes.    They cover both new-build, and upgrading of existing properties.

The same page also links to the Peak Park’s “Climate Change and Sustainable Building: Supplementary Planning Document”.  This contains detailed practical guidance and advice on sustainable building, energy efficiency, low carbon and renewable energy, and water management, and relates it to the planning considerations.

Incidentally, the Friend of the Peak also have useful material on reducing carbon emissions, including a detailed study of the potential for  small-scale hydro power in the  Peak District.

The “Supplementary Planning Document” also contains a nice picture illustrating a vision for a sustainable National Park.


  1. Energy efficiency improvements to the farmhouse; biomass boiler or ground (or air) source heat pump.
  2. Converted traditional building taking an energy efficiency approach; also considering ground or air source heat pumps. Photovoltaic solar slates on south facing roof that have the appearance of traditional slates.
  3. Solar panels on south facing roofs of portal framed farm buildings. These should be dark in colour, with a dark frame.
  4. Solar panels (photovoltaic or water
  5. Small-scale hydro power scheme in a converted mill building.
  6. Small-scale anaerobic digester dealing with ‘on farm’ generated slurry. Can be sited in an existing yard area, with the apparatus being generally undergrounded so that the exposed parts are no higher than the existing walls. Screen with a drystone wall to match the existing.
  7. Wind turbine in a Landscape Type that has capacity for wind turbine development and in scale with the group of buildings, located as near to them as turbine performance allows and taking account of topple distance. Protected species issues will need to be taken into consideration.

Emily also  talked  what the  Park has done, and is doing,  to make  their own operations more sustainable  – more info here.

Balcombe: the village that inspired a nation

Balcombe has brought together the two streams we need for a good future: resisting damage to the earth, and building the alternative.  Instead of fracking, they will have solar energy, powering the community.   When Cuadrilla’s drilling rigs moved in three years ago, noone could have predicted this.  It was a solidly Conservative-voting area, and the forces of the government and big business were lined up against them.  But through determination, good hearts, and people from many different backgrounds working together, they have won!  And in 2016 the village has gone solar.

BUT . . . . .

Fight Against Fracking Continues in Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire

Recently the government overturned a decision by Lancashire County Council to refuse permission for a company called Cuadrilla to carry out fracking in the area. A number of groups in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are opposing the possibility of fracking in the local area. Find the group nearest to you:

See also What’s On page: Reclaim the Power National Tour: Monday 17 October, 7pm
Regather Social Centre, 57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S118BU


Local beer

I was sitting in our community owned pub (the Anglers Rest in Bamford) the other night supping a pint of our locally brewed beer (from the Interpid Brewery in Brough) and feeling rather satisfied to be supporting the local economy and enjoying it! Many of us remember the bad old days of Watney’s Red Barrel and Double Diamond – products of massive chemical engineering works which tasted like they had come straight out of a petrochemical refinery. The rise of the craft beer and the micro-brewery movement supported by CAMRA has transformed the beer market. Beer has never travelled particularly well but now there is no need to drink beer that has travelled the length of the countyr or even the world. If you live in the Hope Valley you can enjoy a range of beers fromour own Intrepid brewed in the valley. Even if that is not to your taste it is not so far to Bradfield where Farmers Blonde is brewed or to Bakewell home of Thornbridge Brewery. As well as getting a good craft product with a distincive character you are supporting small scale local industry. It would be great to see one of them producing organic beer but in the meantime I will settle for a local brew in a pub owned by the community. In fact I think I ought to go there right now and put my money where my mouth is!

Coppice Days

Coppice Day 2014  (2nd March)


Coppice day 2014 was really inspiring again, with hundreds of people taking to the woods to experience their sustaining spirit. It was organised by the National Trust Longshaw, and Transition Hope Valley, in Upper Rough Wood, between Hathersage and Grindleford.

The task was to thin 50% of the larch trees from this enclosed wood to allow space for the native broad leaf trees to grow.  There was story-telling, besom broom making (using heather as well as birch this year, den building, building bird and bat boxes, charcoal making, drawing with the charcoal that had just been made, bodging and green wood work with a pole lathe, tree identification, a walk and talk on the history of the overgrown quarry, up the hill, and more. A portable planking rig produced beautiful planks and beams, in situ, from the just-cut trees. Children in the Grindleford and Eyam playgroup clearing made dreamcatchers using materials of the forest, and boggarts: spirits of the Longshaw moors and woods.

c2-14-30   c2-14-23

Big Lad, the shire horse from Green Estate in Sheffield, pulled out lots of wood, which couldn’t have been removed for use in any other way without damaging the woodland.


Food cooked over the fire included dampers (bread cooked on a stick) and baked potatoes – as well as pre-cooked (but locally made) soup and cakes.  Even the forecast rain held off (pretty much) until the last hour.


Land of Promise

On Sunday, at the wonderful Stainsby Festival, I went to an event called “Land of Promise”.  It was a plea from the heart, that our planet and our communities  need planned action by society as a whole.  Most of our politicians tell us that coherent planning for the common good is too difficult, that we should leave things to the private sector.  However, this mindset would have been alien to our grandparents, whose generations not only debated how the good society  would look, but fed their  vision into planned action that transformed our country for the better over the last 120 years.

For example,  the garden cities, planning standards which ensure that housing developments have sufficient indoor and outdoor space to live well, public control of land development rights,  the postwar building drive (achieved by a nation bankrupted by the war: “austerity” is a feeble excuse), and the National Parks, all come from this vision.  (And incidentally most of these things are under imminent threat from our present government, which not only refuses to contemplate a coherent vision for the future, but is intent on destroying the achievements of past vision.)

Pioneers who had huge influence, but whose ideas are largely forgotten today,  include Ruskin, William Morris, Edward Carpenter (who lived just outside Chesterfield) and Ebenezar Howard, father of the garden cities movement.

Other countries show us that positive vision can translate to large-scale action.  In Germany, new mass housing is not only energy-neutral, but energy positive, as a matter of course.  Energy generation is being re-municipalised (as in Hamburg) or taken into community control (with 650+ energy cooperatives).   (Ironically, at the same time as Greece is being told to privatize these public assets!)

So where is this vision in our country, right now?   Well, the Transition movement certainly has vision:  the Transition Handbook, and many other publications contain many envisionings of what good, sustainable, convivial communities would look like.  If this vision was  joined with a coherent national direction, we could solve our current crises, and our children could live well.

If this all sounds rather heady, the interweaving of history with poetry, and some of the most inspiring songs ever written, superbly performed by Chris Ellis and Rosie Toll, engaged the heart, and left us feeling empowered.   We know what to do, we have the resources to do it: all we need is to harness the will !

The stories of the show are based on the book – also very good – by Hugh Ellis and Kate Henderson: “Rebuilding Britain: Planning for a Better Future”   I was very impressed with the authors, and with their organisation – the Town and Country Planning Association – any organisation that is inspired by both  Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Our Land” and Si Kahn’s “What you do with what you’ve got” –has to be good!   I’m trying to track down the CD of the show – watch this space.

Playing for Time: Handbook for the Transition movement

“Playing for Time” is a handbook for anyone wishing to “harness our creativity to make change in the world”.    Inspired by the grassroots Transition movement, it’s full of ideas on how to develop new stories  of how to live and what life is about.  (Or reinvigorated  old stories – but stories that are about living in harmony with each other and our world.)  In the book, Lucy Neal, and 64 other artists, give voice to this “new narrative – shifting society’s rules and values away from consumerism and commodity towards community and collaboration.”

As they illustrate, art and performance, far from being luxuries, are vital for bringing these new narratives alive, and growing more healthy ways of living.  This is particularly true of participatory art and performance,  where we are all taking part in the envisaged transformation.   This sort of art is not a collection of stuff  that you look at in a gallery, or watch on TV.  It can be all around us – empowering us all to imagine, connect,  and grow.

For me, the Transition Hope Valley / National Trust annual Apple Days and Coppice Days very much fit into this mould – days where we imagine and bring alive a positive way of living – where we step into a slightly different universe – connected  with ourselves, and with the natural world.   “Playing for Time” has reminded me of this, and inspired me to do more!

The book is beautifully produced and illustrated, full of “recipes for action”, for readers to dip into, take up and try.   A further review (along with link to buy the book, and a £5 discount voucher!) is on the Transition Network website.

The Power of Just Doing Stuff by Rob Hopkins.

“Something is stirring. People around the world are deciding that the well-being of their local community and its economy lies with them. They’re people like you. They’ve had enough, and, rather than waiting for permission, they’re rolling up their sleeves, getting together with friends and neighbours, and doing something about it. Whether they start small or big, they’re finding that just doing stuff can transform their neighbourhoods and their lives.

The Power of Just Doing Stuff argues that this shift represents the seeds of a new economy – the answer to our desperate search for a new way forward – and at its heart is people deciding that change starts with them. Communities worldwide are already modelling a more local economy rooted in place, in well-being, in entrepreneurship and in creativity. And it works.”

I found this book a wonderful source of inspiration, and a great source of inspiring ideas that work.  (And the film summarising the idea is nice too.)

Bob,   July 2014