Wednesday 28th March 2012 - Crowd-funded 'Local Roots' opens
Everyone at Transition Town High Wycombe is delighted to welcome the new crowd-funded enterprise "Local Roots" to High Wycombe. Local Roots is run by local entrepeneur (and leading light in the local Food Group) Vidya Crawley. Local Roots is a deli-cum-shop-cum-cafe that is a community hub for people to reconnect with local food and their local economy. It sells all kinds of local foods gathered from many of the suppliers in the Local Food On Our Doorstep guide. And if you just want to stop by for a sandwich, cake and coffee they do all that too! Many Transitioners have helped to crowd-fund this new idea and it looks like it will quickly become our cultural home and meeting place of choice. On Saturday 24th March the crowd-funders came together for a special pre-launch tasting before the official public launch on Wednesday 28th March 2012. The pictures below are of the Saturday event. You can find Local Roots at 33 Credon Street just a stone's throw from the Train Station. Learn more at www.localrootswycombe.co.uk
Saturday 12th November 2011 - Thermal Imaging Training
Back in April TTHW's very own Julian was trained on the Wycombe District Council's Building Services Thermal Imaging camera (alongside Liz from Marlow). As cold weather approached a practical hands-on session was arranged at Julian's home in Hazlemere in order to allow further team members to experience the equipment. Nine of us turned up including Lesley Stoner from the Council, Councilor Bill Bendyshe-Brown and four representatives from Marlow. The session was informal although initially mysterious as there was much talk of how to change settings on the camera to get the best on-screen image. However, as Julian explained, this doesn't change how the captured image is stored hence it is not necessary to do much more than point, focus and shoot. The image can be manipulated later in the software after downloading. Given the expense and sophistication of the equipment we quickly discovered to our surprises that the focus was manual (!) and that the field of view was very narrow. To take an image of someone's home requires you to be over ten meters away.
We suspect that for some properties we will have to take multiple photos and make a mosaic. We took several images of Julian's home from front, back and side. He had the heating on full blast but the outside temperature was a balmy 14degreesC so we didn't get a lot of contrast. The images did not obviously betray leaking heat although we were surprised at how hot the receiver on the satellite dish was! The equipment certainly works but even leaving a door open didn't reveal any obvious plume of hot escaping gasses. Studying the details of the pictures, after manipulation in the software, did show that curtains were not closed so we could see the heat rising from the radiators beneath an upstairs window.
Later we went indoors to download the images taken and play with the software. It gave us an opportunity to use the device inside the home and point it at specific features. We chose a rear door where the camera showed a draft that could be confirmed by running your finger along the gap. We also explored whether or not the door lock was a thermal bridge but this did not prove to be the case for this door. Our overall impressions remain favourable. The camera is very easy to use but some may find the software baffling. The Testo software can produce a householder report which can be customised to suit our purposes. However it won't be easy to interpret the results in all cases. The next training session is at Superhome 59 in December.
Wednesday 5th October - Local Community Partnership Workshop
The Local Community Partnership meetings are held regularly through the year at various locations around High Wycombe. They are an opportunity for District and County Council to meet up with representatives from the community, residents, community groups, voluntary groups, the Police and other bodies. The communication is two way and every year a new set of priorities are set by the Partnership. The intention is for these priorities to be addressed by the Partnership bodies through the coming year. It is a fantastic idea but it does lose a bit in translation into reality. This is no discredit to the people working to run the Partnership - they are doing a sterling job - but we have long held reservations about how genuinely useful such a partnership can be on the ground. This year we approached it with greater numbers than ever with four local Transitioners turning up all of whom had engaged with the previous paperwork exercise to suggest new priorities as well as comment upon last year's priorities. So we started with a reasonably long list of good ideas which included "resilient communities & big society", "reduction in CO2 emissions", "support for a credit union" and "support for local food growing". Everyone in the room went through an exercise to sort through the list and choose those that the Partnership could work on this year, those that were strategic (longer term) and those that could be removed from the list.
There was no surprise to see "reduction in CO2 emissions" being quickly removed from the list as people always feel powerless and disengaged when presented with the raw problem. Local food growing duplicated sections of "resilient communities" so that was removed. At least one person at the session who professed to having no idea what a Transition Town was told one Transitioner that she was "all for" the "resilient communities" as it has been described. Clearly this sort of agenda will win friends further afield. It is the right approach in engaging our community. The remainder of the issues at the workshop were then sorted with "resilient communities" sensibly slotting into the longer-term strategy area. Although this was common-sense this seemed to count against it as it was not then short-listed as a priority. This appears to have come about because only short-term activities were to be priorities.
If so then this serves to illustrate perfectly the shortcomings of the Partnership. Although a perfect opportunity for Transition values to be communicated through the community the actual outcome becomes focused on very short-term objectives such as graffiti removal. This lead to an urgent re-shuffling of issues from strategic to short-term in order to get them prioritised - something the organisers failed to remain neutral in. This specifically effected the two issues "support for the elderly" and "support for young people" which clearly are very long term social issues that no amount of cash or quick fixes will resolve. This ended up skewing the result. In truth few of the organisations at the workshop (outside of the Council bodies) had any resource to effect any of the action suggested. Other than an exercise venting frustration it was difficult to see what practically could be done in the current financial climate. All this false-prioritisation was going on whilst the entire issue of resilient communities was sidelined as something we could look at "maybe next year". But surely the resilient community goes to the very heart of what is wrong with our society and would start to address indirectly the problems of the elderly and young people? Next year we need to come back to this exercise with very specific "short term" activities that neighbourhoods could engage in, such as "Transition Streets". Maybe it is worth TTHW actually having a pre-workshop workshop to draw up a long list of ideas. Surely something must come of it. Eventually?
Sat/Sun 1st/2nd October - Apple Days at Hughenden Manor
We must offer a big thanks again this year to all our friends at the National Trust at Hughenden Manor. Last year we were here for the Apple Day weekend to launch the (then) new Local FOOD Guide: "Food On Our Doorstep". Where has the year gone? So here we were again. Back for another year of apple tasting and wandering around the wonderful walled garden. The National Trust are doing a great job with limited volunteers at Hughenden. We had a chat with the head gardener and swapped stories about the difficulties of getting volunteers organised around tasks. Through the weekend we gave away armfuls of the Local FOOD Guide because the sun shone, it was warm, and visitors came by the coach-load. As usual we pitched our gazebo in the orchard literally between the apple trees.
On Saturday we had Mike, Mark and Vidya set up and man the stand. On Sunday we had Celia, Sue, Gemma and Mark (again) to man the stand then pack up. Celia brought a good assortment of local foods including her famous focaccia bread and apple cake. This really helped draw in the crowds on what proved to be quite a hot and sultry weekend. It was only the long shadows and early end to the day that gave us any clue this was October and not August. Our thanks again to the National Trust. It was a great weekend.
For more pictures of this event please go here.
Thursday 29th September - Co-operative Members' Forum
Leading on from our earlier workshop with the Midcounties Co-operative we were invited to talk to the local Members' Forum. This was held one evening at the Hazlemere Golf Club. It was a chance for Mike and Celia to learn more about the Coop and for their members to learn more about us. Opportunites for sharing mutually beneficial projects were discussed including the idea of setting up a Cooperative Shop in Wycombe Town center. Once again we learnt about how enthusiastic the Midcounties Co-op were about Transition Towns and how important the need for future dialogue was.
Saturday 24th September - Midcounties Co-operative/Transition Towns
Mike Pickering, the Social Responsibility Manager at Midcounties Co-operative, invited members drawn from fourteen separate Transition Initiatives for a "Network Meeting" in September. We had three-and-a-half hours of workshops and a lovely lunch. Some twenty-or-more Transitioners made the event although some were left disappointed when the Co-op ran out of space and couldn't allow any more attendees. This was going to be popular. How right we were. There was no "them-and-us" about the day because both Mike and his two facilitators were all part of Transition Town Initiatives. Some audience members were cautious about Transition throwing in its lot with a "supermarket" but it seemed that these fears were quickly dispelled. The Co-operative genuinely appears to be a Business in Transition and is already working with some Transition Groups.
The day opened with a spot of "speed networking" and an exercise where we learnt where everyone was in the their Transition process. Next we broke off into small groups to discuss and record our shared experiences, successes, failures and how we could learn & support each other more. Next up we had Mike who told us more about the structure of the Co-operative organisation. We learnt (to most people's surprise) that it has an umbrella organisation but that the actual Co-ops themselves operated mostly independently by region. This potentially leads to Co-ops actually competing with each other. We went on to learn more about the aims and objectives of the Co-operative organisation and were pleasantly surprised to hear and see the word "resilience" over and over again. After a buffet lunch in the delightful "Orangery" restaurant (part of the Midcounties Co-operative House on the Warwick Technology Park) we returned to discuss, as a group, how practically the Co-op and Transition Towns could work more closely together. Then we moved on to close the day with a workshop on "visioning" the future role of the Co-op in building resilient communities. Ideas included such things as a Co-op Currency, joint events and in-store publicity. This is just a taster - to get an idea as to what was recorded from the workshops download the notes below.
We wish to thank Mike and his team at the Midcounties Co-operative for the day, the discussions and the magnificent lunch. We'll be talking about this special day for a long time to come. At this point we must mention that Transition Town High Wycombe is already liaising with out local Co-operative. On Thursday 29th September from 7.30pm to 9pm, we will be attending a Co-op Member Forum at the Hazlemere Golf Club, Penn Road, Hazlemere, HP15 7LR.
Notes from the day:
Sunday 11th September 2011 - Final Pann Mill of 2011
It barely seems like the blink of an eye but here we were again at Pann Mill. This time we were put in the shade so the solar-powered train set had some struggling to do. Not that it wasn't a sunny day but it certainly demonstrated the problem of trees shading solar panels. Someone did ask why it wasn't working in ambient light - we had to point out that yes, this normally works but the panel was shaded by trees on this occasion. Celia turned up with a basket full of home-made Focaccia bread made from Pann Mill flour. This, as usual, was extremely popular with visitors, SolaSave & Transitioners alike. Once again we have to thank Mark Simmons of SolaSave for breaking his incredibly busy work schedule to join us with his solar-powered model railway. Thanks to Celia for the bread and to the High Wycombe Society for continuing to host our visits to Pann Mill. Thanks to for our various friends and acquaintances who always pop along and lend us things, ie, Kim Cheetham and Ivan for the chairs! Thanks guys.
Sunday 17th July 2011 - Pann Mill low-energy roadshow photo-report
For the third time this year we teamed up with the SolaSave boys and their solar-powered toy train for our joint super-low energy roadshow. On the weekend of the half marathon we took it down to the Rye for the second Pann Mill open day of the year. Celia joined us to tempt visitors with her home-made bread produced with Pann Mill Flour. We also met a new friend from South Africa Damian Conway who is doing a Masters in sustainable development. He had come to HIgh Wycombe to do a case study on Transition Towns as a potential contribution to a UN report on resource flows which is being co-authored by academics at the Sustainability Institute in Cape Town, South Africa. A big 'welcome' to him and a big thanks again to Mark & James of SolaSave, as well as Celia, Julian & Ivan from TTHW.
Sunday 10th July 2011 - Cherry Fayre photo-report
We teamed up again with local Solar Panel installers SolaSave to put on a show at the Flackwell Heath Cherry Fayre. The charitable event held on the Recreation Ground was extremely well attended. The sun brought the crowds at and there was a lot of interest in solar power (but not home insulation). The kids loved the solar powered train and some of the adults were amazed too. Our visitors seemed to be in two camps: either those who already had solar panels and those who were thinking of getting them. We had a lot of opportunity to talk to members of the public about what having renewable energy involves, how much it costs, what the payback is and how the Feed-in Tariff works. Below we show some photos to give a flavour of a great day of teamwork. Thanks to James, Mark, Paul and Mike (from WFOE who turned up and did a few energy surveys with us!).
Saturday 18th June 2011 - The Hamilton School Fete photo-report
With lots of help from Julian, James, Mark, Ivan, Celia and Susan the local FOE, TTHW and SolaSave put on a bit of a show at the Hamilton School Fete this year. Julian laid on a demo of how to charge your mobile phone with a solar panel. Under the same roof we had SolaSave running a truly wonderful miniature Hornby model railway on the power of the sun. Next door the FOE and TTHW groups had a joint Eco-Stall with all manner of leaflets, surveys, books, brochures and plants to give away. The weather was not as bad as feared although there were a few downpours. Notably we all had to huddle under our gazebos at exactly 4pm when the show closed as the heavens truly opened. But do you know what? It was great.
|Julian gets the angle of his solar panels just right.||Small boys love solar - or is it trains?||Get your mobile phone charged for free!|
|Most of the time the sky looked like this and the train went around and around really quickly. ||Some dancing...||The Halal barbecue...|
|Woah! You stand in front of this thing and the train slows down!||Lots of interest.||A few black clouds.|
|Some blue sky.||The balloons go up as the clouds hover.||Susan gathers her FOE energy surveys.|
Friday 17th June 2011 - Wycombe Business Summit
A Transition Town at a Business Summit!? Why not? When we were sent invites to the "Mission Possible: Strategies for Growth in Challenging Times" we had visions of cancerous growth. How could we resist a challenge like that? The event was held at the Arts2every1 Centre on Desborough Road and last most of the day. Although no chance was given to even dwell upon the meaning of "growth" there were at least some promising signs of reality. Notably our friend Steve Baker MP made a keynote speech in which he never mentioned the g-word at all. Instead he spoke of the moral and ethical framework in which Business must operate, ie, to put private profit into the role of being the engine of prosperity for the entire community.
We also managed to speak at length to three representatives of the Amersham & Wycombe College who told us of their forthcoming "Environmental Centre". This is due to open on the Flackwell Heath campus at the end of 2011 (despite the Bucks Climate Change website claiming that it will be on the Chesham Campus). The centre will be purpose built and incorporate the latest renewable energy equipment. Such equipment can be installed in new housing stock such as Solar Panels, Wind Turbine, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Photovoltaic, Panels, Sunpipes, Rainwater Harvesting systems & Underfloor heating. Training courses will be offered on installing domestic photovoltaics (certificate level 3), unvented hot water storage systems to Building Regulations Part L and BPEC Solar Thermal panel installation courses. TTHW offered all the help we could in order to make this venture a success with the local community.
Apart from networking with local Councillors and Businessmen the various tables were set three "Mission Impossible-style" challenges revolving around strategies for business growth. It was questioned whether or not Wycombe's brand should be "re-branded" which aroused fears that we would brand ourselves as a centre for the Arts. This criticism brought forth the response that what counted as the "arts" these days also included the euphemism "creative technologies" which counts for everything from building web sites to operating a camera. Other than this there was nothing revolutionary about the day and many of the solutions suggested already existed in some form or other. However it did prove to be a good networking event and we enjoyed meeting the Councillors and Businessmen we spoke to - all of whom professed some knowledge of either Transition Towns or up-and-coming green technologies. All took it for granted that our mission to promote local business "sustainable prosperity" had a justifiable place at the table.
Thursday 16th June 2011 - Trip to C.W.R. & Wycombe Resource Zone
The following report was compiled by Julian & Mike: "On Thursday 16th June, 9 members of Wycombe Friends of the Earth, Transition Town High Wycombe and the new Environment Centre visited two small enterprises in Cressex, High Wycombe, playing their part in encouraging re-use of "waste". We began at Wycombe Resource Zone. Established for about 15 years, this WDC-administered service takes surplus items from businesses, retailers and individuals and makes them available to schools, community organisations or individuals for re-use.
Paid Coordinator Sue and one of the loyal volunteers Jess showed us round and explained the operation. It is impossible to do justice to the variety of items that pass through their doors, but the core categories are material and other textiles, plastic, foam, ribbons, buttons, containers, and general hardware, ideal for craft or artistic activities; but just about anything safe and reusable can turn up - boxes of literally hundreds of shuttlecocks was something bizarre that caught my eye. WRZ also hold a stock of items and equipment available for loan; and courses to demonstrate particular craft techniques are offered.
To get access to this Aladdin's Cave of useful scrap, one has to enrol as a member: annual fees are around £50 per year, which then gives unlimited access to most materials. They have around 600 members but have plenty of scope for expansion both in terms of increasing throughput of materials and membership. Despite its longevity it is perhaps not as well-known as it should be, and being an adjunct of the Council inevitably imposes certain constraints on the way it can operate - although equally the financial support the Council provides towards the operational costs is vital to its viability. Anything we can do to raise awareness of this useful operation will help it to play its valuable part in diverting perfectly usable materials from landfill.
We then moved three doors along to the premises of the Chiltern Wood Recycling Project. We were welcomed in by Andy Hicks who gave us a potted history and explained how the project works. It's a not-for-profit company which is a member of the National Community Wood Recycling Project. The workshop and store is jam-packed with timber, board, wood working equipment and wonderful hand crafted items built for customers. On the face of it, this green business has a perfect business model - get paid for collecting surplus wood from building sites and get paid again by selling it on to the general public. What could be simpler?
In reality, things are a bit more complicated. One the problems is poor quality wood. This grade 3 material can't be sold, so it's taken to a chipping plant where it's broken down to make chipboard. Andy has to pay to offload this stuff. Although Andy can undercut the skip companies' collection prices, he can't compete with the ever present temptation to simply burn the unused wood on site - illegal but cost free. All the other small business problems apply, rent, rates and huge amounts of red tape including VAT, insurance and staff costs. The location isn't ideal either, a large reclamation yard plot beside a main A road is what Andy dreams of. But Andy remains a cheerful chap, who finishes most of his sentences with a chuckle. His enthusiasm is infectious, his dreams are many and courageous. He's community minded and focussed.
Volunteers are welcomed, any age, any ability, special needs not a barrier. This is such a worthwhile project, we should support it in any way we can. Several of us could have stayed twice as long as our visit allowed just talking about wood."
Our thanks to Andy, Sue & Jess for hosting us and apologies for taking so long to visit you. The invite had been out there for over a year. Thanks to Wycombe Friends of the Earth for finalling putting the visit together.
Friday 20th May 2011 - "The Economics of Happiness" & Steve Baker
We are happy to confirm that the High Wycombe debut of "The Economics of Happiness" was a roaring success. The event at the Bucks New Uni was co-sponsored by the Wycombe Environment Centre, Wycombe Friends of the Earth and Transition Town High Wycombe. Our special guest for the evening was local MP Steve Baker who went above and beyond the call of duty by entering fully into the spirit of the evening. He had even prepared a set of KeyNote slides on his Mac (ala Al Gore in "An Inconvenient Truth") to show us. Despite allegations from some readers of the Bucks Free Press that he was "Mr Glum" the truth is quite different. Whether you agree with his politics or not, few could not have enjoyed his spirited views on the economics of happiness. Of five pages of notes he scribbled on the movie he claims that four pages covered sections he agreed upon. On a couple of occasions he even asked the audience that "how many of you expected a Conservative MP to say THAT?" Steve explained that Governments and Government spending have never been able to make us happy. Despite spiralling public debt Big Government was unsustainable hence the days of Big Society were about to begin.
So what of the movie itself? It filled the first hour of the evening before Steve's talk and subsequent panel debate. It covered the top eight myths of globalisation such as it makes us unhappy, it is inefficient, it causes climate change, it leads to ethnic tension and so on. See through the eyes of Helena Norberg-Hodge (the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture) we see the problem as personified upon the Ladakh culture (Tibet). "The Economics of Happiness" describes a world moving simultaneously in two opposing directions: while government and business push for a globalised economy based on high technology and increased trade, people all over the world are working from the grassroots to nurture smaller scale, ecological, local economies.
The second half of The Economics of Happiness provides examples of practical solutions. Arguing that economic localization is a strategic solution multiplier that can solve multiple problems, the film spells out the policy changes needed to enable local businesses to survive and prosper. We are introduced to community initiatives that are moving the localisation agenda forward: urban gardens in Detroit, Michigan; the Transition Town movement; and hands-on education in Yokahama, Japan. We see the benefits of an expanding local food movement that is restoring biological diversity, communities and local economies worldwide. And we are introduced to Via Campesina, the largest social movement in the world, with more than 400 million members. We hear from a chorus of voices from six continents including Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of Tibet's government in exile, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Rob Hopkins, Clive Hamilton (author of "Growth Fetish"), Andrew Simms (from the New Economics Foundation) and MP Zac Goldsmith (Conservative - Richmond Park).
The movie is challenging and not everyone necessarily would agree with all its assumptions. Its heart maybe in the right place but, unlike other documentaries, the film-makers didn't see the need to back up their assumptions with many hard facts. Other than some numbers on import/exports everything else was covered through sweeping generalisations. In essence they built a very poor case and cherry-picked a few examples. In our hearts we know they are right but we could have wished for a more convincing case. Indeed many of the authors and economists featured in the movie had already done this work.
After the movie we had 15 minutes with Steve's reply and discussion about the idea of the economics of happiness. This was quite impressive even if he swung to the opposite extreme of the movie - he had lots of graphs and statistics! This probably lost a few people. Steve went on to assert the controversial view that "democracy cannot make us happy" by which he meant that Parliamentary democracy as practised in the UK cannot fix everything. This is the nature of politics. Which (we assume) is why civic "big" society was necessary. Steve went on to quote both Popper and Plato to explain his view that there is no panacea to the world's problems - we will always be unhappy to a certain extent.
These points were challenged in the later panel debate with the audience. Steve was joined by Mike Chadwick from Wycombe Friends of the Earth, Julian Illet from Transition Town High Wycombe and France Alexander of the Wycombe Environment Centre. In the final half hour we shoe-horned in around six audience questions. Despite expectations that Steve would be challenged on specific local topics (the Stadium & HS2) this didn't happen. Instead the audience challenged Steve on his views on the economics of happiness. The ensuring debate was lively but very good-humoured. Everyone became so wrapped up in the discussion that it spilled out into the street outside even after the BNU had closed for the night. As we wished Steve a goodnight we exchanged promises to meet again on a more informal basis to reach further shared understanding and common ground.
Regardless of some fundamental differences (for example it is unlikely that Steve is an advocate of either peak oil or climate change) he is an advocate of the philosophy of Transition. This is positive and we hope to be talking to him again soon.
Our thanks to everyone who made this very special evening possible. Our apologies to the many who never had a chance to ask their question of Steve Baker - there simply wasn't time.
Sunday 15th May 2011 - Pann Mill & Local Food
Pann Mill opened again this year for the first of three annual public open days. We kicked off the season with our Local Food-themed stall giving away free copies of the Local Food Guide. To tempt in the punters we were also giving away free samples of seeded-wholemeal bread and chocolate bread. Both were lovingly baked by Celia's husband using recipes that are (apparently) a dark secret. The morning was bright and sunny but much of the afternoon proved cold and damp as we dodged the showers. Certainly Celia's surplus tomato plants enjoyed the watering and they were soon all snapped up. See you next time for "local energy"!
Easter Weekend April 2011 - The "Love Food" Festival
To give it its full official title it was the "Chilterns Easter Festival of Food and Drink" aka "Love Food" at Memorial Hall, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. We were delighted to have been invited for FREE by the nice people at Live Crafts Ltd (who, by coincidence, are just down the road from us in High Wycombe).
On the first Friday Mark & Celia took the first shift. As Mark pulled the table and backboard out of his car Celia set up the stand with home-made foccacia bread and hot-cross buns. In the afternoon we were joined by Jean James of WFOE and John Curley of Amersham In Transition.
Volunteers for the stand included folks from both Transition Town High Wycombe, Wycombe Friends of the Earth, Aylesbury Vale FOE, the Wycombe Environment Centre, Amersham in Transition and Transition Aylesbury. We hope you all had as much fun as we did. A big thanks then to Celia (and her husband for baking the bread & buns), Jean, John, Sam, Irene, Colin, Mike, Jocelyn, Graham, Elsa, Alan, Ivan, Mike & Sally (Jay). It turned into a great networking event plus a good chance to raise the profile of the local groups with the public. We gave away many copies of the Food Guide. Everyone we met were delighted with the Food Guide and it was really popular. We had quite a few people sign up to learn more about Transition. Come Monday evening we had to pack it all up again and say goodbye to our volunteers. There will be a mini-re-run at Pann Mill on the 15th May. See you all there.
Tuesday 19th April 2011 - Thermal Imaging Camera Training
After some debate within the Community Carbon Taskforce it was decided that Wycombe District Council would procure a Thermal Imaging camera for its own internal Building Services group. This would also be made available to community groups who would also be trained on the equipment. So we sent our very own gadget-guru Julian down to the training and here is his report: "I met up with Lesley Stonor and Liz Lorente from Transition Marlow for a 1-day training course at the council offices on WDC's new thermal imaging camera. This was a terrific course. Our trainer, Andy from the supplier, Testo, knew his stuff. He took us rapidly through all the uses to which this technology can be put; building inspection (our main area of interest), electrical inspection, medical, veterinary, flood damage assessment to name but a few. We had several cameras, one for every two attendees, so we had plenty of hands on access.
During the lunch break I asked Andy about low-cost cameras (I've seen one at £1250). He took considerable time to list all the compromises that the low cost machines suffer from and I'm now of the opinion that serious analysis couldn't be done on such a device. There is some complexity to this subject. One has to understand the relationship between temperature and infra-red radiation, the role emmisivity has to play, and the way colours are layered over what is essentially a black and white image. It's all about temperature differentials! I have to say I found it all quite fascinating.
But what to do next? We need to discuss with WDC (Lesley) what access we will have to their camera. We're volunteers, so it should be in the council's interest to let us take some of the strain,. We will need a proper plan - just pointing the camera at peoples' houses and snapping away will achieve nothing. Camera surveys must be done with the co-operation of the home owner, and with a full understanding of the circumstances within the building in question. Finally, we learnt that thermal imaging of buildings is pretty pointless in the summer. If the heating system is switched off, there's nothing much to see in the way of heat loss (or heat transfer). In some ways this will suit us - we're busy with other events in the summer. So we should be thinking about plans for Autumn onwards. I'm very grateful to Lesley for offering this place on what was an excellent course. I learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed it. And thanks to Ivan (and everyone else) for letting me be the one to attend. I'm more than happy to impart all I (now) know about thermal imaging to anyone who's interested."
Thursday 14th April 2011 - TTHW meet the WI
Transition Town High Wycombe travelled up the Hill to the Community Centre in Flackwell Heath to do a presentation for the WI. The request had come via Pat Kendle, a member of the WI and loyal Transition Town supporter, who felt that her fellow members needed to know more about us. Both Celia (Secretary) and Mark (Chairman) attended. Mark delivered a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation covering "What a Transition Town does". The evening kicked off with Mark handing out a Lewes £5 to the audience which quickly broke the ice with the question "Who likes money!?" Mark went onto explain how environmentalism had transformed over the years from a question of "man versus nature" to become "man as nature".
The modern challenge was our relationship to dwindling resources and an unsustainable economic system. Mark went through some of the early work of Rob Hopkins that explains the fundamental principles of Transition before moving onto show all the accomplishments off TTHW over the last three years. There then followed a quite lively question and answer (cum-debate) about the topic. All the questions were very intelligent and obviously everyone in the room had understood the presentation quite well. Many felt that the Transition would be difficult as things are today but several realised that it only meant the rediscovery of virtues that many of the women had taken for granted only a few years ago. We would like to thank Flackwell Heath WI for having us there for the evening and look forward to future such opportunities with other organisations in the area.
Thursday 7th April 2011 - Wycombe Youth Council Eco-Summit
TTHW volunteers Celia Carter and Kim Cheetham joined the Wycombe Youth Council in April to help run their "Eco-Summit". Participants in groups were given the same scenario and each group had to improve a 'bad school' on a single area per group. These included the Natural Environment, Recycling/ composting, Energy & Eco Schools Status. The event was held in the morning at Wycombe Council Chambers on Queen Victoria Road. We had been invited by Billy Stott Vice Chair of the Wycombe Youth Council. The day ended with a big group discussion. We would like to thank our volunteers - Kim & Celia as well as the Wycombe Youth Council.
Wednesday 23rd March 2011 - Talking Energy ... Live!
"Talking Energy… live!" is a discussion forum on home energy-efficiency by the energy company E-on. It is hosted by the BBC’s Philippa Forrester. This event was held at the Dr Challoner's High School, Cokes Lane, Little Chalfont, Bucks and was free to all comers. The event will focus on three questions of growing concern for all of us: How can we insulate our homes? How can we reduce our energy consumption? How can we generate our own energy? It was intended to be an inter-active, fun and packed with useful information, hints and tips: an evening with "something for everyone". So we sent our roving reporter and energy guru Julian along to check it out:
"It's easy to be cynical about an event sponsored by a large energy company, giving away completely free information on how to use less of their product. But E-on were at pains to explain their motive; that a well-informed customer saving money on their energy bills is likely to be a loyal customer. The evening was a mixture of cosy fireside chat in the company of BBC's Philippa Forrester, solid energy saving advice from Andy Deacon (Energy Saving Trust) and Emma Thompson (E-on), and an eloquent explanation of transition by Sam Free of Amersham in Transition.
All credit to Sam and the other members of Amersham in Transition, they filled a room with a hundred people and got them to talk, for a couple of hours, about energy. TV presenter Philippa Forrester's bubbly personality soon had the assembled crowd putting up hands to ask questions which were duly answered by the other three panellists. Short videos played on a giant, dazzlingly bright projection screen which filled the room with E-on redness between each of the clips. Philippa kept the pace, skilfully moving us through the three sections: insulation, energy saving measures and microgeneration. This latter section, described as the 'bling' in energy efficiency, was somewhat muddled. In the video, we were told about two types of solar panels, PV that generates electricity and solar thermal that can "heat your home". Air and ground source heat pumps don't really qualify as energy generators and nothing was said about the near uselessness of domestic scale wind turbines. Fortunately, Sam put some of that right in the discussion that followed."
Julian happily walked away with his E-on emblazoned goodie bag full of E-on leaflets, E-on TV Powerdown, E-on Showersave and some sweeties with little E-on logos printed on them. Thanks to E-on & everyone at Amersham in Transition.
Wednesday 23rd March 2011 - Wycombe Partnership Conference
We sent our very own Mike Chadwick and Frances Alexander to this year's Wycombe Partnership Spring Conference at The Clare Foundation, Saunderton in March. Here is Mike's report.
"The title 'What Does The Big Society Mean to Wycombe District?' drew a capacity audience, but if they were hoping to come away enlightened about this hard-to-grasp concept, they would be sorely disappointed. It would have been nice to get a clear exposition of what The Big Society is right at the start, but no-one seemed able or willing to offer one.
Instead we got references to the various strands (public sector reform, community empowerment, philanthropic action) and various methods (decentralisation, transparency and social finance), drawn from national pronouncements on the subject, as the speakers tried to separate out the implications of The Big Society from those of The Big Cuts. Lesley Clarke hit the nail on the head with her astute observation: "how can one shunt the delivery of services to the voluntary sector without providing a dowry?" But if we set aside the shortcomings of the attempted theme, there was some interesting content.
Lesley Clarke presented the Partnership's Annual Report with mentions of several local Transition Town and WFOE projects, but, intriguingly both she and the written report that was distributed shy away from naming the organisations involved - something that was also remarked on by a rep. from Street Dreams, who had analogous involvement in another field. Jane O'Grady, Director of Public Health, from the joint BCC/NHS Healthy Communities Partnership, gave a fascinating and challenging talk showing how the marked disparities in health and longevity, just as stark within Bucks as between Bucks and elsewhere, are primarily determined by wealth and other social inequalities rather than genetic potential; and how vital intervention in the early years is as a means of partially redressing this.
Two representatives from Community Impact Bucks mused on the implications of The Big Society on the Voluntary and Community Sector, but again it was largely austerity-focused and thus downbeat, highlighting how squeezes on funding tend to reduce the capacity to fulfil the dull but necessary tasks needed to support volunteers (training, CRB, procedures, etc), so that the number of volunteers is not actually the constraint. Another assertion was that a feature of Bucks in particular is that there are "too many voluntary organisations doing similar things", and there was a need at least for sharing experiences and avoiding overlap, but perhaps for concerted rationalisation and consolidation. Ruth Farwell of Bucks New University saw BNU's contribution to The Big Society as threefold: through "the very active" student volunteering scheme; through empowering people to participate in their community, through education, and skills- and confidence-building; and by providing consultancy, data and research to inform best practice in this field, partly through their newly created and snappily titled 'Institute for Diversity Research, Inclusivity, Communities and Society'.
Elaine Jewell from WDC set out the Partnership's and WDC's thinking and emerging response to The Big Society and all the other policy changes affecting local authorities: forthcoming community rights to build, challenge decisions, bid for public assets etc. She pointed out, as most speakers had, that we have been doing the volunteering bit of The Big Society for ever. She was of the view that there is no choice other than to engage with the new agenda, given the national government focus on it, and rhetorically asked "why would we choose not to do The Big Society"? Then we had workshops where we were asked to agree "the most important Big Society action that the Partnership should pursue over the next 2 years and why"; and "what is the single most important Big Society action that individual organisations or communities should pursue over the next two years and why".
The highly condensed feedback at the end came up with "streamlining Partnership", improving information, adopt different approach to risk, sharing best practice, collaboration. Financial constraints precluded a closing lunch, but not blazing lights and burning radiators on a warm sunny morning - although subsequently I received a nice e-mail from Clare Foundation's Chief Executive in response to my feedback form, in which he assured me they take their carbon footprint (and related energy costs) very seriously, but pointed out some of the tricky practical issues they face with imperfect heating controls, rapidly fluctuating conditions, and reliance on hirers to also take some responsibility during sessions."
We wish to thank the Partnership for holding this event and inviting us along. Thanks to Mike for his feedback.
Monday 21st March 2011 - Stoneleigh in Henley
When Nicole Foss (a.k.a. Stoneleigh) presented her 'Century of Challenges' lecture at the 2010 Transition Conference, she caused quite a stir. It was said she split the conference into two groups; those who'd seen her talk, and those who were talking about it. So we sent our reporter (and all round Peak Oil expert) Julian Ilett down to Henley for the evening to check our her talk. Here is what he told us: "The presentation she gave was similar [to that at the Transition Conference], though updated to include current events and an increased emphasis on European and UK financial crises. Her message is a tough one. A deflation triggered economic depression, complicated by energy supply problems and climate disruption. Most of the 90 minute talk is about problems, just a glimmer of optimism right at the end along the lines of community building, resilience and localism.
When I first watched the presentation online (for which I paid $12) I was, like everybody else, quite stunned. I couldn't let it rest, so I embarked on a considerable amount of research into this type of economic thinking. It was enlightening and it was worthwhile, prior to this I had a very scant understanding of economics. Do I believe her? Fundamentally I do, I'm a realist. I'd say I'm with her about 90%. But I'm not going to sell my house and keep the cash under my mattress, and I'm not planning to buy a 40 acre farm in Ontario. Interestingly, the evening started with an offer of a helpline (a chap from Transition Reading who's a trained counsellor) for those who might be affected by what they heard. I wouldn't exactly put this on a par with 'The Exorcist', but then neither would I recommend staying up late at night watching this stuff over and over. So while not an altogether fun night out, an hour and a half of Stoneleigh serves as a reminder as to why Transition is necessary. She calls it 'psychological inoculation', a vaccine against the likely trauma of hearing about all these problems for the first time. Hopefully, none of tonight's audience will feel the need to use the helpline, though I suspect that will be because the audience was mostly the converted - and we've all had this inoculation already."
Thanks Julian and thanks to Henley in Transition for organising this event.
Friday 11th February 2011 - TTHW meet Steve Baker MP
On the 27th January Steve Baker MP invited Mark Brown, the Chairman of Transition Town High Wycombe" to attend a "Wycombe Wellbeing" event at The Hub on Easton Street. The meeting was a gathering of Wycombe’s community leaders and was billed as a "challenging but fun social evening" to discuss the full range of non-statutory services provided locally. Steve hoped that it would be "a relaxed evening with some constructive brainstorming in small groups will enable those attending to get to know one another better and thereby support and extend the fantastic work that is already being done". The evening started with a 45-minute "speed-networking" type event, over a buffet, where we got to discover a little about each other's community interests. The next part of the evening bought us together in small groups to explore the provision of a selection of local wellbeing needs. The purpose was not necessarily to arrive at a solution, but to work together to develop ideas and opportunities for collaboration. Assisting Steve at the event were Michael Bowker, Madeleine Howe, Arif Hussain, Bill Reid or Graham Storer.
It was a good evening for everyone. Topics explored included: community resources, "silo thinking", age, community cohesion, communication, attitudes, your neighbourhood, services and "helping your neighbour". TTHW's new Vice-Chairman Ivan Cicin-Sain also attended the event. Mark & Ivan managed to avoid sitting in the same groups - probably more by accident than design! For the final session Mark sat alongside Steve Baker and there was a short opportunity to discuss the issues of the day and our work. (In fact Steve recognised Mark from the previous year's Hustings which was most gratifying as we had not had a chance to speak in the intervening time.) Steve is genuinely interested in Transition initiatives, so much so that he flourished a Brixton Pound out of his wallet. (Mark showed Steve his Lewes£5 note.) Steve went on to ask a rapid set of questions about how well Wycombe could feed itself, how much land is required to feed a family of four, Agenda 21 and our views on the High Speed Rail link. We spoke about the cultural changes required to bring about the District's Carbon Reduction Framework. Steve expressed the view that he fully supported what we were doing as long as it was a genuine grassroots movement and not centralised. (No problem there then.)
After the event Mark "tweeted" about how impressed he was with Steve's production of the Brixton Pound. In response Steve now follows @TTWycombe on Twitter! Although the genuine outcome of the evening for Wycombe's wellbeing may be debateable, it certainly helped forge the person bonds that help move us forward together.
Tuesday 8th February 2011 - Big Society Review Evidence Submitted
After quite a brief online discussion the Transition Town High Wycombe has submitted its evidence to the joint Councils' Review of Big Society in Bucks. The 8 page document entitled "Wycombe's Energy Transformation and the Big Society in Bucks" was written by TTHW's Chairman Mark Brown and circulated to the team in late January. Although early drafts may be available online on the Google Group we will only make the final copy available upon request until such time as the Review draws its conclusions. Then we will post the document online. The finished work had three main sections and an appendix. The main sections covered the executive summary, a view of local shared opportunities and a summary. It was decided early to capitalise on the Carbon Reduction Framework outcome and our involvement on the Wycombe Strategic Partnership Environment Sub-Group. This doesn't discount local food or other Transition topics but what it does is focus on our proven strengths and close ties with the Council. Given the legal requirements for carbon reduction and the possibility of Section 106 (Developer) Contributions from the proposed Data Centre we felt that the time was very ripe to make our case for a share of this funding.
We emphasised how much the ideal of Big Society ran close to what Transition Initiatives believed in. A section on the Carbon Reduction framework explained the various areas in which voluntary groups could work in delivery of the targets. We also shared our experiences of what we had learnt from running the Energy Saving Kits for Loan project for the Strategic Partnership. Our views were that the funds should not be micromanaged by Council Procurement unless the voluntary group wished this to happen. The micromanagement of funding under £500 per project was not efficient for Council. Hence greater trust was required in the management of small pots of money. Secondly we requested that if the Councils need civic society to run certain services then these services should be valued. We feared that they may be undermined by Council services attempting to duplicate the same work elsewhere. Therefore we emphasised the value for money in using voluntary groups but we stressed that the Council and Public wouldn't get something for nothing. Some funding would still be required else those services would no longer be provided. We asked that Council expertise in Legal, Regulatory and Planning areas be put at the service of the local Community rather than in separate silos. It is so often expertise than the community lacks but the Council have. Our view of Big Society in Bucks is somewhat less cynical than those of the Transition Network in that we are willing to "give it a go" and see what happens. We'll reserve judgement until the idea has been tried.
Wednesday 12th January 2011 - WDC considers Big Society
Whilst perusing the output of January's WDC Improvement and Review Commission we stumbled upon the next major effort after the Carbon Reduction Framework (see below). Their next effort is a review of how the Council can facilitate the "Big Society". Evidence gathering starts in the first week of February this year. That runs for two or three weeks. The review papers suggest that "The Government’s Big Society agenda provides an opportunity for Buckinghamshire councils to redefine their relationships with residents to empower individuals and communities, through a localised approach."
Anticipated outcomes include:
"Recommendations that will lead to greater community capacity and self-reliance so that communities are able to help themselves, and which will help councils and partners to move towards an enabling role..."
"...recognition of the work of community groups and charities within Buckinghamshire, including how to utilize their skills."
"Suggested type of initiatives and support that Buckinghamshire councils and partners can provide to communities."
Recommendations may be made on:
"areas where councils and partners can work together to support communities"
"what councils in Bucks should be doing to improve the capacity of voluntary and community groups to run services"
"reducing bureaucracy and funding; how councils can increase and support volunteering"
If TTHW wish to participate then the point of contact is the same Ted Piker who was so helpful with our evidence-giving to the Carbon Reduction Framework review. The Improvement and Review Commission will report back at the end of February.
A recent review by the Transition Network at http://transitionculture.org/2010/12/08/a-transition-take-on-the-big-society-seeking-comments-and-input/ suggested that "... at present, it is perfectly possible that the Big Society will do little to impact on the communities being worst affected by government cuts, will in fact hamper any chances of a co-ordinated response to climate change, will do little to make local economies more economically resilient, or to reduce their vulnerabilities to impending oil price volatilities. Were there to be a strong narrative underpinning this [...] and learning from the experience of transition initiatives and other community-led groups, we feel it would have exciting potential."
Should TTHW remain at the sidelines, cynical and silent? Or should we speak up? If we speak up, what do we say? It may be useful to tie this in with the Carbon Reduction Framework and suggest that an Energy Advice Shop in the town could be manned by volunteers. We have contacted Ted who has forwarded our offer of a submission the Chairman of the review, Cllr Ian McEnnis.
Wednesday 12th January 2011 - Carbon Reduction Framework Report
The long-awaited Wycombe District Council's "Carbon Reduction Framework" final report has been released. The report can be downloaded and read here. Although long on aspiration and short of specifics we can highlight much of the good news for the community. First off the WDC tell us that the input from "Friends of the Earth and Transition Towns was inspirational and informative" and that "[I]t is evident that there are some very practical projects going on and that a small amount of funding supports a large amount of voluntary effort. There is willingness on the part of these groups to be involved in the delivery of the Actions Framework and an expectation that it will incorporate their suggested actions."
The Wycombe Strategic Partnership Environment Sub-Group ("ESG"), of which we are a member, also gets much credit. One of the action points is for the ESG to produce case studies or local best-practice and disseminate. Other action points include "Learn from the Super Home exemplars in the area: namely, Hyde Green in Marlow, and Richard Gardens in High Wycombe." which is lifted directly from the TTHW report "Carbon Reduction and the Community" released in November 2010.
The WDC is now committed to "Work with community groups to promote collective action, sharing of skills and best practice and negotiate discounts on energy efficient and renewable products through bulk purchases." This now formalises work already supported via the WSP ESG. WDC will also "Assist local organisations to secure funding for pilot projects on renewable/energy efficiency" - another point taken from our report. Another TTHW favoured scheme has finally been recognised: "Use biodiesel derived from used cooking oil across own fleet/encourage others to follow suit". One of the final and "HIGH" priority action points was this: "Identify and engage with community groups with a clear motivation to take care of the environment. This may include faith groups, residents associations, allotment holders, environmental campaigning groups, schools and others."
We conclude that, although much work is left to do, we still have a place forming the new direction. Well done to everyone involved in helping with the 2010 "Carbon reduction and the Community" report from TTHW.
Wednesday 5th January 2011 - TTHW New Year Party
We toasted in the New Year at the Friends Meeting House on the first Wednesday of the new year. The Transition Town social was organised by Celia Carter to celebrate the many achievements of 2010. The last year saw the Food Group generate its Local Food Guide of which over 2500 copies are now swimming through our local communities disseminating advice on where to buy local produce. The Summer 2010 also saw us deliver eight energy saving kits to the High Wycombe central Library and by the end of the year we had also delivered our "Carbon Reduction & the Community" report to the District Council. The picture (left) show us enjoying Celia's lovely food!
We enjoyed one of Deb's famous cakes after a round of party games entertained the kids (of all ages). Thankfully the only "official" bit was the Chairman having his arm twisted to say a few words of thanks before cutting the "Food" Cake (picture right). We would all like to thank EVERYONE who made 2010 such a special year for us. A special heartfelt thanks to Celia for organising the party and France, Kim, Ivan & all who helped organise the party games for the children. Over twenty people turned up to help us celebrate the New Year. Thanks to them. Let us hope this new year brings as many good things as the old one!
Friday 19th November 2010 - TTHW Launches Carbon Reduction Report
The Transition Town High Wycombe team is very proud to announce the publication of its latest consultation report. Two years ago we prepared a response to the Wycombe District Council's "Sustainable Economic Prosperity" consultation that yielded over twenty changes to the strategy document released in January 2010. This time around we have launched an entirely new document called "Carbon Reduction and the Community - Towards an Energy Action Plan" that is a formal response to Wycombe District Council's consultation process for its Carbon Reduction Framework. TTHW and Wycombe Friends of the Earth presented to the WDC Task and Finish Group on this topic in August 2010 where some of this evidence was initially covered briefly. The report was our chance to summarise the evidence and draw appropriate conclusions from it.
YOU can now read this important new document by going over to our Publications page here. The document took some three months to compile and a couple of weeks to edit and get proof read. We would like to thank our team of proof-readers for their input, critique and insight. The document comes in a large print version as well as "Executive Summary" that covers all the conclusions. Our work urges the Council to adopt a social dimension to the Carbon Reduction Framework which, otherwise, may become an un-engaging set of techo-fixes enforced upon the population. Our evidence, from fourteen separate non-Transition sources, show that carbon reduction is always more cost effective when the community is engaged. We also showed that such engagement becomes easier if we invoke the positive image of a post-carbon future in the context of energy security concerns. This would be more effective than invoking guilt about personal carbon emissions causing climate change. As such the research we uncovered shows that the Transition Town methodology is very much in keeping with what is now becoming commonly accepted. Thirty years of trying to make change happen by scaring our communities with a climate change vision of hell had only proven counter-productive. Together we can create a new vision of a low-carbon heaven. The report goes forward to a Commission in January 2011. We'll keep you informed of its outcome.
Sunday 10th October 2010 - FREE Local "FOOD" Guide Launched
To celebrate and participate in 10:10:10 Day, Transition Town High Wycombe enjoyed a beautiful Autumn day in the orchard of Hughenden Manor, High Wycombe, where the annual Apple Day was taking place. We were there to share in Apple Day, but also to launch our FOOD directory ('Food On Our Doorstep') which has been under construction for many months. The directory shows where you can find local food within ten miles of High Wycombe - therefore accessible to an enthusiastic cyclist. The directory has been produced using the skills of many people, and with support from the Bucks County Council Leader's Fund and the Chiltern Conservation Board. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this sterling effort! The idea behind the creation of this directory is that most of our food in this country comes from far away: we are all increasingly aware of 'Food Miles'. We reasoned that if people knew about, and were encouraged to buy local food, the environmental impact of what they put on their table would be greatly diminished. It is also the case that eating locally supports local businesses, which are in some cases being hard hit by the recession - and of course encourages them to carry on thinking local.
Pat Kendell, Julian Ilett and Celia Carter of TTHW manning the launch stand with a variety of local food goodies.
(Left to right) Celia Carter of Transition Town High Wycombe, Mike Fox of the Chiltern Conservation Board and Lesley Clarke, Leader of Wycombe District Council.
Frances Alexander, former Mayor of High Wycombe, samples some locally grown rapeseed oil.
Some samples of local food from in and around High Wycombe.
Earning their pocket money.... Children turn the handle to chop the apples up small.
From beneath the apple press delicious juice pours out!
Nayani Algama who co-ordinated the childrens' art work which was used in the Directory.
Some of the many varieties of local apple available to be sampled.
It's definitely an apple! Finding out what variety of tree people's apples come from is a technical business.
Photos & most of the words courtesy if Jenny Rogers.
Also check out the District Council web page devoted to the project:
Sunday 12th September 2010 - Energy Saving Kits in the Telegraph!
Did you catch the Sunday Telegraph "Life" Magazine on Sunday September 12th? If you did then you would seen our Energy Saving Kits project mentioned. If not then you can go and read this article on the following link:
The article by Sarah Lonsdale concerned various types of lending schemes by Transition Towns and Community Action Groups in Oxford. The short section included a quote from TTHW Chairman Mark Brown describing the phenomenal success of the Energy Saving Kits for loan.
Sunday 12th September 2010 - A Sunny Sunday at Pann Mill
On what had to be the most perfect sunny Sunday of September we returned to Pann Mill for their third and final open day of 2010. We erected our pop-up gazebo and picnic table, in no time at all, ready to enjoy a steady stream of visitors. The day's theme was very much borrowed from the leftovers of the Energy Saving Kits launch at the Library. Through the day we were joined by Celia and Ivan who brought with them their own display items to give a new twist to the material on hand. It gave us a chance to talk about tree planting and recycling. We even enjoyed, what may be, the last al-fresco ice-cream of the season (from the van parked outside). We look forward to the 2011 season. If the Pann Mill open days are this much fun then they will be a pleasure to attend regularly.
Saturday 21st August 2010 - Library Launches our Energy Saving Kits
Our eagerly awaited Energy Saving Kits for Loan Project has gone 'live'. The official launch event kicked off on the third Saturday in August in the Library Foyer. For the day we took over the entrance area to the library with a combined Transition Town and District Council exhibition. On behalf of the Council we had the ever-wonderful Lesley Stoner (WDC Environmental Coordinator) who came along with her display of insulation materials and the "Small Change/Big Difference" pledge forms. From Transition Town High Wycombe we have (at various times) Julian, Paul, Frances and Mark. From SolaSave we were joined by Mark Simmons and James Ingram who were absolute troupers helping us through the day.
At the 10.30am the official launch photo-op took place and Lesley Clarke (Leader of the Council and Chair to the Wycombe Strategic Partnership who funded the Kits) attended. The photographer wheeled us outside eventually so that the two Lesleys and Mark had the official "handover" photo in a windy and increasingly wet Eden Centre.
The day was a much greater success than we had intended. Originally we thought it would be fairly quiet and we would do the photo-op then hand the Kits over to the Library from around 3pm. The exhibition was really just as an Energy Saving backdrop. As it turned out the demand was phenomenal. The first five kits had been largely reserved even before the photo-op occurred in mid-morning. Demand was so high we had to release the first three kits by 11am with the fourth a short time later. We grimly held on to the fifth and final kit until the end of the day so we at least had something to show to library visitors.
We had a steady stream of interested visitors through the day and it seemed like nearly everyone we spoke to wanted to borrow the kit. One story we heard several times were of people who had received free wholehouse monitors from their Energy Utility company but they were too complicated for them to use. Of these, several willingly borrowed our kits on the basis that our instructions were bigger, simpler and more colourful. Clear step-by-step picture-instructions seemed to be a valuable selling aid, as were the Powerdown gadgets donated by the EST. Lots of people wanted these gadgets! They generated lots of interest. Only on the day did we realise that in fact there were two types of Powerdowns in the box from the EST. Half were TV Powerdowns and the others were for Computers.
If you had ventured up stairs to level two of the Wycombe Town Library, from around the second week of August, you would have seen the special Energy Saving Kits promotional stand. To support the promotion we had donated the four Transition Network books (see picture story below). When we had checked it out we had wondered why the Library hadn't put out all four of the books because we could only see one on display. It turns out that the other three were actual out on loan. Yes! People ARE borrowing these books.
The gentlemen of SolaSave certainly proved themselves as great team-members. James happily talked to members of the public about the Kits whilst Mark chatted with our Council representatives. Despite some initial nervousness (concerning the involvement of a commercial organisation in such a project) good old SolaSave charm & diplomacy showed how our faith in them was so justified. The project has proven a great networking opportunity for all the team members and everybody has got to know each other, and understand each other, much better. This really is the way to do it. The Library was so impressed that they asked all of us - Lesley Stoner (WDC), the boys from SolaSave and TTHW to come back in a few months and do it all over again.
Our special Library-support website is at www.transition-wycombe.org.uk/Library. Our thanks again to Wycombe District Council, the Strategic Partnership, Library services in Wycombe, SolaSave and the Energy Saving Trust for making this all possible.
Friday 23rd July 2010 - Transition Books for the Library
The four principle Transition Books have been donated to the High Wycombe Library in July. The books are Rob Hopkins' "Handbook", Shaun Chamberlin's "Transition Timeline", Tamzin Pinkerton's "Local Food" and Peter North's "Local Money". The books were dropped off by TTHW volunteer Frances Alexandra (pictured left) and TTHW Chairman Mark Brown (pictured right). They should appear on shelves in time for the Energy Saving Kits launch 21st December.
Sunday 18th July 2010 - Pann Mill Open Day & Solar Demo
Transition Town High Wycombe attended its first ever Pann Mill Open Day this July. Our original attendance had been arranged last year but it fell through when we were told that we required insurance to attend. This year the matter has been resolved. We affiliated ourselves to the High Wycombe Society in order to be covered by their group insurance. Pann Mill is our town's last working watermill. It occupies a small but significant footprint in the corner of the Rye and alongside the Abbey Way A40. The open days are held regularly and are an opportunity for the public to see the mill working. Various stall holders offer refreshments, bric-a-brac and such-like.
Following on from a trial setup at the Hamilton School Fete our solar demo team scaled up the idea of having cold water in a fridge. They brought a larger photovoltaic panels and a larger freezer. Our friends at SolaSave bought along an ample supply of bottled water which we were able to keep cold and give away to visitors through the day. Despite the half marathon in the morning we did not get quite the footfall expected. This was partly due to being on the way to the tea & cake stall rather than closer to the entrance to the mill itself. However we did find that the few people, who were there, were certainly all very interested in Transition Towns and Solar Energy. A surprisingly high number already had solar panels. Many visitors stopped to learn about the Energy Saving Kits and our film shows. Flyers, brochures and our "How to buy solar" factsheet were given away by the handful.
So we have rated the day as a success. Most visitors were stopping for a chat and the solar panel was quite a draw on the crowds. We got a lot of questions about planning permission and wind turbines. Our friends at the mill told us of their plans for a micro-hydro device to be installed near the mill. This is a very exciting development for the town. Not only would it earn a good income for the mill it would also demonstrate state-of-the-art technology working in harmony with heritage technology. The bottled water generated some minor controversy from our greener friends and was not the most perfect solution. In was a good way of demonstrating the power of the sun. The team debated at length how to do this better next time. We are open to ideas. The bottles presented the least-difficult option in the time available as there were no disposable cups and no health and safety issues to contend with. Only one couple objected to bottled water on principle. All other visitors were very happy with their freebie and our plastic recycling bin took care of the empties. We were especially happy to restock the water bottles of a family who had cycled down from Hazlemere. Our cold water got them home.
Our thanks to Mark and James from SolaSave for supplying the water and the freezer. Our thanks to the High Wycombe Society for hosting us.