It’s an all too common experience to plough on with doing Transition, from activity to activity, without pausing to reflect on or celebrate what we’ve achieved. It was delightful therefore to visit the New Forest this week, both to give a talk but also to see their ‘Live and Unleashed! New Forest Transition’ exhibition at the New Forest Centre.
New Forest Transition began in 2008, and has been hard at work ever since, working on a wide variety of initiatives. Doing Transition in an area with a dispersed community isn’t easy.
There are a number of town and village initiatives, some more vibrant than others, but given the amount of travel required to get everyone together, sustaining New Forest Transition as a network hasn’t been easy. The exhibition, however, is great testament to all that they have achieved.
They’ve done regular Green Open Doors events, energy efficiency work with local schools, raised over £2 million in shares for a community solar farm, thermal imaging surveys, a range of other work with local schools, including renewable energy site visits, projects to promote cycling and the New Forest Food Challenge, which led to a wide range of local food initiatives. They have 3 apple presses that are borrowed by people to make apple juice and cider. Here’s the trailer for a film they made about local food in the Forest:
There’s the Hale Village Market:
and of Energy Audits they did for local schools:
They have joined forces with Transition Southampton for a scheme offering people the possibility of buying fruit trees and shrubs at cost. Here are some photos from the exhibition:
There was also a rather fine globe made from recycled jeans. Every geography class should have one:
It felt to me like there was something very powerful about taking the time, as they put it in their publicity for the exhibition, “to celebrate our recent projects and to find out what we can all do in the New Forest in the future”. Perhaps it marked the culmination of one stage, one phase, in the evolution of Transition in the New Forest. Later that evening I gave a talk (see photos below), and the Q&A and subsequent discussions opened the possibilities of what might come next for the initiative.
The success of the solar farm fundraising shows clearly that there is demand for interesting Transition-esque investment opportunities. They have an established reputation for delivering projects. Discussions around what’s next focused on how to better build on coalitions with partner organisations, taking more of a REconomy approach, creating an Economic Blueprint for the Forest, perhaps running a Local Entrepreneur Forum with other organisations, identifying some opening for social enterprises and making them happen. It felt like there was both the enthusiasm and the expertise to take that step forward.
The next day, I was taken to see the Minstead Study Centre, one of only a few dedicated Sustainability visitors’ centres in the country. The Centre offers either a 3 or a 5 day residential experience for school kids, immersing them in thinking about sustainability from a range of angles, local food, a fairer world, energy, water and so on.
The centrepiece is a beautiful residential accommodation block, built using local timber, and to be a showcase for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Kids staying in it have a monitor which is set to zero when they arrive and which records their use of mains and rainwater, energy and gas.
The site also features a great food garden, sculptures and artworks, a clay pizza oven (when I arrived, a group were making pizzas having milled their own flour first), a beautiful tipi used as an outdoor classroom, sheep, a beautiful labyrinth modelled on the one at Chartres cathedral, a beautiful fire pit, a pond/wetland, a beautiful thatched wattle and daub roundhouse, willow sculptures and lots more.
I would love to have spent a few days there when I was a child. The place itself and the diversity of activities undertaken when there clearly have a rich impact. A delicious lunch with some of the Study Centre team and some New Forest Transition folks was followed by a dash to the station for the journey home. An inspiring trip, and it will be fascinating to see what happens over the next couple of years.
If you are in or around the New Forest, the Live and Unleashed! exhibition runs until Sunday 23rd November at the New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst Car Park, Lyndhurst.