I leave Long Eaton and return to the canal path. This time I veer off it and follow back roads and lanes all the way to the village of Shepwell and its many pubs where I meet Graeme Trug and William Barron of Transition Derby and their wives Bronwen, and Maryvonne and dog Jacques.
We walk to Derby together. It is lovely to have company again. I had been getting quite lonely walking alone through the Midlands. The constant challenge of avoiding fast roads, avoiding farms with unmarked footpaths through their cattle fields, and never knowing if the way through is straightforward has been getting to me and to walk in company gives me heart again. We get lost trying to negotiate a field of sheep and thistles where the path disappears but Graeme’s great map reading skills soon have us on track again, and have a little difficulty negotiating Derby’s ring road but manage it all on pavements in the end. I think we may well have been better sticking to the river path; it was interesting though for the group to have experienced with me what the convenience of a road does to our power to walk in and out of our settlements. When we are about half way through our walk William says we are almost their now; Maryvonne says
“Well, we are more there than we were before”
And we laugh and agree that this is not only appropriate for our walk today but also for the transition movement!
Derby has canal, rail, and road and I hear all about its history from William; first agriculture, then malting, which he said grew significantly in the 1800s at time when people could brew at home and make money forming many pubic houses in addition to the inns, and then losing their beer trade to Burton on Trent because Bass the transport man who had taken up transporting the local beers and found beer- making more profitable than transport found Burton’s hard water transported better than Derby’s soft water beer.
So Derby needed a new trade and the East Midlands Railway company was formed. This led to the people becoming engineers and with this expertise they became the ideal place for the car industry and Rolls Royce was based there. When the car industry moved elsewhere in the 70s Rolls Royce specialised in aero engines instead.
Derby had only three main employers; the railway, Rolls Royce and the chemical industry. It had none of the intermediary and smaller companies needed to keep a town’s industrial employment healthy so when one company suffered lots of jobs were lost and the city, granted this status in the 70s, but basically a market town, suffered.
Its identity is market town but it now has no respect for its market; it lost its soul in the engineering. This is so sad to hear and I see Maryvonne, William’s Brazilian wife’s face light up for maybe the first time when we talk of transition and markets. She talks of the lovely markets back home, and abroad and how she doesn’t have access to the market here, she works on the day it is held. It seems that reviving the love and respect of the market would be a good thing for Transition Derby to take on.
I talk about the Celebration group I was so inspired about hearing in the New Forest; I think of Magda and Thea in West Bridgeford, and Maryvonne here, and what a necessary piece of the jigsaw this is. Transition Derby have done a lot of strategic work in Derby bringing the council on board and reaching out to businesses; Graeme is part of transition network’s training and consulting team (http://www.transitionnetwork.org/about/training/era ). This is necessary work but doesn’t necessarily inspire other, non business people to get involved. As William says; to celebrate our achievements as much as working towards achieving them is as important. This would help bring more people onboard; many do not enjoy, have no skill, for meetings, but would be wonderfully inspirational in talking to people about the practical projects they are involved in.
William takes the idea up and tells Kerry and Dave when we meet them at the forest garden project at the local primary school. They come up with a beer tasting event as they are all making home brew now! It feels like a re- taking up of their heritage in some way.
The forest garden is great. The school also has raised beds and keeps chickens, and the children are involved in looking after all of these including coming in during the school holidays. I am inspired and think back to being told in schools that it is hard to have growing projects because no one takes care of it all in the holidays. As transition member and teacher Kerry says, they could not do this project without the children and they love doing it. Her own daughter is with us and wants to visit the chickens. I am taken to see them and ask how many, they lift the door, the chickens have already been put to bed, and I see 7 chickens, all protesting that their door has been opened when they have gone to bed!
The forest garden trees were planted 2 years ago, there are nitrogen fixers, and fruit trees; the next layer was planted after the group went on a permaculture course this March, and in May they did a perennial growing course and have now planted the base layer and have strawberries already ripening. Their headmistress is doing an MA in sustainability and is totally supportive of the project, which they hope to show off to many official bodies around the city. Their vision is to see a forest garden in every school in Derby, in every school in the country I add, and we laugh and say yes, the whole country.
William takes me to Quarndon where I am to spend the night with storyteller Sophie Snell and her family; partner Rob, sons Jaspar, Ben and Jamie and Merlin the cat.
Jaspar, 6, says he’d like to walk to school but he can’t as it’s 3 miles away and along a dual carriage way! He looks at my pendant and guesses immediately that it stands for 10:10, the very first person yet to recognise what it represents, and wants to know what it means. I tell him about Franny Armstrong’s campaign to reduce our carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 (http://www.1010global.org/uk/tags) and how by walking I am saving carbon.
Sophie and I talk about storytelling and she gives me lots of storytelling contacts for my walk further north. I retire to my room to start thinking about my route further north and to write up my day.