Eco-Chat, Thoughts and Action

Transition Malvern Hills (TMHills) continues to promote and support sustainable projects and initiatives in Malvern and the surrounding area.  We are organising regular meet ups, (under the title of TMHills Eco-Chat, Thoughts and Action), for individuals and groups to discuss how Malvern is making the positive changes needed to reduce our environmental impact.  There will be monthly meetings at Greenlink for all that wish to participate in these friendly discussions.

Below is the chats we have currently planned. To keep upto date sign up for our mailing list here. 

  • 11:00 on Wednesday, 13 June 2018

    Topic: The display on the problems of plastic

Malvern seed and plant swap

The Malvern seed and plant swap will take place in the  Lyttleton rooms, Saturday April 14, 2018 10.00am – 3.00pm

A chance for you to start growing / diversify what you grow / share excess seeds / find new plants / meet like-minded people / contribute to a good cause.

  • Come and find seeds and plants for garden, patio, or pot.
  • Give your divided plants, excess cuttings and seedlings a new home and find something different for yourself.
  • Bring surplus seeds (in date and divided into small quantities) and swap; we have a variety of self saved 2017 seeds, really interesting new varieties from Tamar Organics and flower / veg offerings from Thompson & Morgan and Sarah Raven.
  • Donate unwanted / broken manual tools, sewing machines, good garden sundries.
  • Have some tools sharpened (noon-3pm)
  • Munch a home-made savoury muffin or cake and have a drink while browsing.

Proceeds to Tools for Self Reliance – tools for sale on the day.

Can you help on the day or offer cakes / savouries? if  so contact: Caroll Murphy caroll.a.murphy@gmail.com or  MaggieJo St John mjstj@me.com

Malvern Cube & Community Resilience.

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic in February 2018.

In the Oct/Nov issue of Hillistic we introduced the connection between Transition Malvern Hills interest in Community Resilience and our commitment to the Malvern Cube. In this edition we would like to say more about the Malvern Cube as we believe it to be a unique resource providing an integrated example of what we as a community need in order to be sustainable and flourish.

In a way it is a big village hall (with 8 meeting rooms ranging from 1 on 1 consultations to a 250 seater theatre) run by volunteers with one paid manager. So it is a place to meet, for support, informal learning, entertainment, enhancing our fitness and wellbeing and having a meal or coffee and cake, all in one very relaxed space.

But it is also so much more because visionary questions spurred it’s founding like:

Why not make the place itself an example of good sustainable practice?

So this led to all the energy saving changes like the wall insulation, new windows, large ones triple glazed, small ones double glazed, efficient heating systems, LED lights and the extensive 120 PV panels generating the electricity. We hope 2018 will see the last windows changed. It has taken 5 years of getting grants from charitable trusts and the setting up of the Energy Coop and underpinned by an unwavering determination to transform the building. There is more to do but there is a real feeling that it is well under way.

Why don’t we use the land in public view to create a Community Vegetable garden?

This led to all those raised beds with their beautiful organic vegetables – with Volunteers coming to learn how easy it is to grow vegetables. Being in public view maybe gets passers-by thinking why vegetables and not flowers.

Why don’t we use the Community Garden Vegetables in our In House café?

We have organically grown vegetables, so no fossil fuel fertilisers or pesticides and no air or road miles or packaging – that is climate change friendly (healthy for the planet) and healthy for the café visitors.

Can we ensure there are a range of activities that enhance residents’ wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a big one as it covers what we put into our bodies, how we use them (physical activity, posture and stretching), mental stimulation, crafts, emotional and spiritual support and growth. Over time we have attracted classes and courses that cover all these areas. It is great that the physical activity is so diverse from kick boxing to table tennis, from yoga to extend exercises for the less mobile. U3A run many of their classes to stimulate the grey cells from languages to the ever popular geology and bridge. There are craft based groups, music practice for a local Brass band, a death café and Celtic Festivals that are held 4 times a year.

We also have the Sunday Dog Training group. This is the longest running group, which started well before we took the building over in 2012. We feel sure Malvern has some of the best behaved dogs as a result.

Can we attract the diverse range of people that live in Malvern?

Perfect Circle the Youth Theatre organisation in Malvern have 2 age groups creating plays, rehearsing every week and performing every term.

We have been working hard to make the building friendlier for visitors with disabilities. Over the Christmas break we installed another Automatic door so now both Theatre entrances (front and rear) have these doors.

The Connect Services has its day room providing a great resource for people with learning disability and we have several classes for them. AA and Drug and Alcohol help, also use the Cube.

Can we create a week end performing arts centre? Our Theatre is big enough for reasonable sized audiences and low cost enough for the less famous but still high quality acts.

You might well have been to our music, dance, comedy, poetry or drama events and maybe noticed that we are increasing the number and range each year. A special mention needs to be made of the Feast Festival (Feast stands for Festival of Equality in Arts and Society through Theatre) and the recent events in November over 3 days beautifully demonstrated that title.

Don’t let us forget a major part of the rationale for saving the Cube was so we could ensure Malvern still has positive activities for young people.

Long may this continue, it is a financial struggle as there is no Statutory requirement for Councils to fund Youth Work.

Going back to the village hall idea we also need to be the place residents can have their party, celebration, wedding or the local charity can hold its annual event. All these are possible at the cube.

If you would like to find out more so you can use/benefit from the Malvern Cube or offer help as donations or volunteering contact www.malverncube.com or Jon White 01684 575363 manager@malverncube.com

Single use Plastic

Plastic jellyfish out of waste (TK)

Our echo chat on 11th April is planning to continue discusing our campaign on  plastic waste and what we can do about it. We are planning to creating a installation to highlight how you can use less plastic.

This has become a very topical problem now that China has stopped taking our dirty recycling.

The following is a list of links on the problem:

What is single-use plastic

9 reasons refuse single use plastic

9 really good alternatives to plastic

Greenpeace

Surfers Against Sewage

Best in glass – can the return of the milkround help squash our plastic problem?

Saving the albatross: ‘The war is against plastic and they are casualties on the frontline’

Pump Storage Hydro Power for Malvern

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic in December 2017.

This is an article about what at the moment is a speculative idea that explores how a problem may possibly be turned to a valuable local scheme for energy generation.

You may know the reservoir that is on the East side of the British Camp (Herefordshire Beacon). Many years ago this was built to store water and provide a header tank for Malvern’s water supply. It had its own treatment plant at the base of the dam. Some time ago it ceased being used for this purpose. We guess that this may have been as a safety precaution, we note that the water level has been kept low for some time or because treatment was centralised on a few large plants. Dams have quite rightly very rigorous inspection schemes for public safety reasons. The dam is owned by Severn Trent and if it is not being used for water supply it will be a financial burden with high maintenance costs. This will encourage Severn Trent to consider removing its water holding ability as a dam.

We pondered whether an alternative might be to create a pumped storage hydro-electric scheme. This would enable the dam to be a financial asset rather than a liability. It would work by releasing water from the dam into pipes that are linked to turbines at the bottom of the hill and then to a large pond. The turbines generate electricity at peak times. Then at off peak times, either cheap electricity at night or surplus daytime renewable energy is used to pump the water back up to the dam. To do this there needs to be another large pond at the bottom of the hill to store the water ready to be pumped back up.

For the electricity generating companies to provide us with peak power there are many power stations that operate for a very short time and therefore at very high cost. The payments made for this power are many multiples of the normal wholesale rate paid to generating companies.

As we change the mix of methods of generation from fossil fuels to renewables we need more storage solutions. Pumped storage hydro-electric is one of these. It needs rather special geography to be able to have two reservoirs with a big height difference and tends to be very capital intensive. In Malvern’s case at least we have the high level dam, easy access to the dam, pond, turbine and pump house site (this could also be below ground) and grid connections reasonable close.

It is possible that for safety reasons the existing dam can only be used half full but that is still plenty of water for peak power.

So it is a great idea but there are so many obstacles to overcome if this is to be realised. Initially it would need the full support of the AONB and the Malvern Hills Trust, Severn Trent Water, any other landowners, The Malvern Hills District Council Planners and local people. If there was at least tentative support from these areas then a major Feasibility Study would be needed to check the environmental, engineering and financial details. Raising funds for this wouldn’t be easy as there is always the risk that the scheme will not go ahead and an organisation would need to be created to commission the report and later on see the project through and become the operator.

Assuming all the agreements could be arranged and the environmental, engineering and financial feasibility is sound then it would be a case of raising the money to carry out the scheme. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could be funded by local residents. As we did with the much smaller and simpler Malvern Community Energy Coop for the Cube PV panels.

In a few years’ time there will be more local grids connected to the national grid and the local generation by renewables will be feeding our buildings at lower cost, might Malvern be one of these local grids. At Malvern Community Energy Coop we will be tentatively exploring the issues raised, no promises but what an exciting possibility.

If you would like to find out more, get involved or be kept up to date contact us on robin@robincoates.com

 

Community Resilience

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic in September 2017.

Transition Malvern Hills & Malvern Youth & Community Trust – Community Resilience.

When the Transition Towns initiative was set up it was recognised that helping individuals reduce their Carbon Footprint needed to go hand in hand with supporting the development of community resilience. As this would assist individuals and communities feel more able to face the challenges ahead.

Sadly we now regularly see extreme weather events from around the world on the news and of course more each year as global warming increases. We can see how devastated communities can be. Also there are many examples of how communities get together to create enhanced conditions and possibilities in times of need but not devastating crisis.

In this article I want to talk about what felt to some of us a local crisis and has been turned into being a wonderful local resource, doing great things daily. It is a story of great collaborative effort by Malvern residents committed to supporting the Community.

In 2012 Transition Malvern Hills heard of Worcestershire County Council’s plan to demolish most of the Youth Centre on Albert Rd North and it was decided to join the group that was emerging to support the campaign to save the building as a Youth and Community Centre. After much sweat and tears by all the campaign team our efforts succeeded in WCC leasing the building to the organisation we helped to set up, the Malvern Youth and Community Trust. Whilst the lease didn’t require us to pay a rent it didn’t come with any support and we are responsible for all the costs (running, maintaining and developing what was a very dilapidated building). This meant the building had to be used extensively by the community to generate sufficient funds to at least pay the running and minor maintenance costs (approx. £75,000 per annum). In addition there would need to be a major effort submitting grant applications to charities and potential donors for all the repairs and development of the building and projects.

The centre’s new name was the Malvern Cube and we have recently had our 5th birthday.

What a vibrant place it is serving over 3,000 residents a month. Where else in Malvern can you see/partake in the variety of activities and support groups on offer and go to a café that has all ages and all abilities sharing the space.

Whilst many residents might just come for their Bridge Group, French Lesson, a favourite band or wellbeing group many will notice the enormous variety of offers and people using the Cube. When we encounter difference in a relaxed and friendly environment it helps us break down our stereotypes and reduce any tendencies we have to isolate ourselves. This together with joining, engaging, learning with others and supporting one another are a key part of creating resilient communities. Unless we have the meeting spaces where we “bump in” to difference rather than stay in our same grouping this doesn’t happen. (To get a snapshot of what goes on see the calendar of events on www.malverncube.com).

The Malvern Cube is designed to be such a space with Jon the welcoming manager, a café, 7 different sizes of meeting rooms and a building slowly developing and improving. The Volunteer Trustees group and all the volunteers, so essential to making the place work are very proud of what we have created, for and with the Community, which of course we are all a part of.

Have you visited lately, this August and September after lots of grant applications we were able to resurface the Basketball court/car park, improve the disability access to the rear Theatre entrance with an automatic door, lay new flooring and decoration to the entrance lobbies, bring the Theatre floor it back to its former glory and install energy efficient windows to the back stage rooms and toilets.

Over the 5 years we have spent over £250,000 improving the building. The grant giving organisations and local businesses who have supported us are listed on our website.

In line with Transition Malvern Hills energy reduction aims we have dramatically improved the energy efficiency of the building replacing one of the boilers and heating systems, insulated the wall and installed new windows. The Co-op we created (Malvern Community Energy Co-op) enabled 60 local residents to raise the £40,000 needed to install 120 PV panels on the roof. They generate the same amount electricity that the Cube uses altogether (but because they only generate in daylight hours this provides half the Cube’s consumption and balancing the import and export with the grid).

We mustn’t forget to mention the lovely garden with the community vegetables in their raised beds, the Quaker Peace garden, the Connect learning disability beds and the new Pizza oven. All helping to remind us of our connection with Nature, the wider community of life.

If you would like to find out more so you can use/benefit from the Malvern Cube or offer help as donations or volunteering contact www.malverncube.com or Jon White  manager@malverncube.com, also transitionmalvernhills.org.uk/wp/events/ Robin Coates robin@robincoates.com

Sustaining the Energy

We will be holding our Annual Network Meeting on 19th June 7:45pm at the Cube,  Select here for a map.

The main talk will be by Jon Halle, who is the co-founder of Sharenergy Co-operative, which has helped over 100 community energy groups across the UK to get up and running – from solar in Somerset to wind on Shetland. The talk is Sustaining the Energy, How to keep building community renewable energy in turbulent times.

There will also be a talk on the latest Zero Carbon Britain report by Robin Coates.

Select here to download the PDF of the poster.

For the formal part of the Annual Network Meeting here are:

New Year from Despair to Hope?

 

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic.

There can be no doubt that 2016 will be remembered as a year of seismic political shifts. We now live in a world where the President of the United States has espoused climate change denial and has installed a climate sceptic to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, whilst the former CEO of ExxonMobil is the Secretary of State! Meanwhile here in the UK, most established environmental policies are up for grabs in the Brexit negotiations and Government action on renewable energy is sadly lacking, although the cost of onshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy. It would be hard not to feel despair in the face of our new reality.

We can’t deny having those feelings but there is also a great deal of hope. For the first time, we (and the majority of nations) have ratified the international Paris agreement that begins to address the key issues of climate change. Investment and operating costs of renewables are outperforming fossil fuels across the world, and global businesses and finances are coming on board and disinvesting from fossil fuels – the momentum appears irreversible. Alongside this (whilst it might not always feel like it), public opinion supports tackling climate change and renewable energy, that makes us really hopeful.

Another hope indicator was the Marrakesh Climate Change meeting in December. Where despite Trumps pronouncement’s about not ratifying the Paris agreement, there was overwhelming support to redouble efforts to tackle it. China, now by far the biggest investor in renewables, is leading the way and India now realises, it is a cheaper option than coal and allows them to help their massive rural population without having the expensive and long lead times of building a grid. There are also a number of States in the USA who have told Trump they will take him to court if he renegades on the Paris agreement.

The other big shift is all the new thinking and investment on energy storage.  We are now seeing the possibilities of household batteries, use of parked electric cars batteries at peak times and major battery installations, like those of Google all happening. Other large scale storage solutions are either being installed or seriously being considered like compressed air, electricity conversion to hydrogen and chemicals. All this together with local grids with smart systems that can shed load and charge differential prices for peak time electricity and manage supply and demand in new ways. These approaches can make the intermittence of renewables a benefit rather than a problem.

We citizens need to keep talking to others about all this to realise that a consensus is building and take every opportunity to put pressure on the Government to get back into renewables, rather than the Fracking dead end and the unbankable nuclear option. The UK needs to return to leading on these issues, most of the good work that has been done to date was as a result of the pre 2008 government, the frameworks they put in place that allowed on and off shore wind as well as PV have now been dismantled.

Phasing out fossil fuels gives us a chance to reverse a number of serious problems. The obvious ones are environmental climate change, devastating pollution in many poorer countries around the mines and oil fields, acid rain from the power stations. There are also political problems, oil rich states are very often totalitarian as they can “bribe” the people to keep the status quo, in democratic oil rich states the lobbying has distorted democracy (see USA). The plight of indigenous peoples has often been extreme as their lands have been plundered and destroyed.

It is to be hoped that this move from fossil fuels will allow more people to wake up to the need for humanity to deepen its awareness and change its relationship with the whole of creation. This consciousness shift has been growing (it is what our Inner Transition Group is all about). More people are aware of the devastating impact of believing humankind are separate from the natural world and can use it as we please as if it is inexhaustible thereby creating waste, destruction, pollution and actual progressively harming ourselves by losing the clean air, water, fertile soil, heathy animals, wilderness and climate that supports us and all life.

It would take a long article to outline the many influences that have lead us into this dead end of separateness from most of creation. It is important to see it as a progressive blindness that has come over the developed world.

Although this process started before the Enlightenment, its influence and subsequent educational emphasise placed an over reliance on so called “rational thinking” and the idea that the material world is the whole world. This has led to us subordinating or discounting our imagination, intuition, embodied experiences (feelings, emotions and things we know but can’t yet put into words), sense of mystery, wonder and the sacred.

So, the hope for 2017 is that the technical solutions to our/the earth’s problems happen in parallel to humankind’s consciousness shift to understanding and being part of all creation, if we care for all creation we will be caring for ourselves.

 

 

MalvernSoup

Crowd funding for micro community projects

MalvernSoup is a new start-up Soup following in the tradition of Soups around the country  and inspired by Detroit Soup. 

So what is MalvernSoup?  They are a Group of volunteers who will organise a Sunday lunch get-together four times a year somewhere in Malvern.  You’ll pay an entrance fee which will go to the winning project.

The next Malvern Soup is to be held At:  Malvern Town FC Langland Avenue, Malvern WR14 2EQ. On:  11th December, 2016 At:  3pm to 6pm.

see malvernsoup.co.uk for more information.