Wilmslow - a town in transition

We meet the Wilmslow people dedicated to making their town a more sustainable place to live WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

What do you think of Transition Towns in Cheshire? Are you already involved with your own local group? Please write to letters@cheshirelife.co.uk or write to Letters, Cheshire Life, 3 Tustin Court, Port Way, Preston, PR2 2YQ.

To find out more information about Transition Town Wilmslow or to get involved visit www.transitionwilmslow.co.uk

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 

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We all know we should be doing more to help the environment, whether that be walking rather than driving, using eco-friendly alternatives in our homes or by growing our own fruit and veg. But a group of residents in Wilmslow has taken their efforts several steps further and they have created a plan to make the town more sustainable.

Rachel Corrigan decided to take action in 2009, after reading about the Transition Town movement. The 39-year-old, also the group’s chairman, said: ‘I’ve always been environmentally conscious and have campaigned for organisations like Greenpeace. But that was always on a national level.

‘I’d just had my daughter, Katie, and as a new parent it does make you more aware of the world you are bringing your children into. I wanted to do something. The reason I loved the Transition Towns idea was that it was local. You can get out there and do things in your local community and not leave it to other people.’

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Since then she has galvanised the support of many members of the community and the Transition Wilmslow group has more than 70 members. Together they are working on an Energy Descent Action Plan that will consider ways the town can become less reliant on peak oil and become more self-sufficient.

Rachel, who also has a ten-month-old son, Finlay, said: ‘Everything we rely on at the moment is oil, how are we going to fill that gap? Transition Towns are looking at how we can do it from where we are now to how we might have to live in a world with less oil.

‘In years to come, if the effects of climate change start to come true, we need to be able to be more reliant on what we have got in this town.’The group is now at the point of applying for official Transition Town status, making them part of an international network working to reduce carbon emissions and be more self-sufficient.

The movement began in Totnes, Devon, in 2006 and there are now hundreds of towns around the world, including several in Cheshire, following the blueprint towards creating more sustainable communities.The Wilmslow group has already worked on several projects aimed at raising awareness of climate change and peak oil. Environmentally-themed film nights have been held, the group organised the Wilmslow Big Family Bike Ride with Cycle Wilmslow in a bid to encourage more people to use their bicycles to get to the Wilmslow Artisan Market.

They have recently planted an orchard on land in Gravel Lane to encourage people to grow their own.

Rachel said: ‘You can buy apples from around the world in supermarkets but we’re a country that’s good at growing our own apples. We have some fantastic varieties and the orchard is a great way of encouraging people.

‘The more we can do to raise awareness and get more people involved the better. Events like this really help. The orchard is one step closer to making us more sustainable.’

But Transition Wilmslow also has plans for 2012 to help further their cause and they are working with other local groups, including Incredible Edible Wilmslow, who they helped plant fruit bushes and strawberry plants at Wilmslow Station. Community events will be held at the new orchard and workshops will be arranged to show people how they can grow their own.

They are applying for funding for thermal imaging cameras to conduct a survey on heat loss. Then they will take pictures of around 100 homes in the town and display them in an exhibition at Wilmslow Library. They are also hoping to organise a survey of church halls to see how their energy consumption and heat loss can be rescued.

They would like to establish a community allotment and are meeting with experts at Reaseheath College about the advantages of installing an anaerobic digestion facility in the town. This would use waste to create energy, reducing the reliance on things like fossil fuels.

‘The ultimate aim is to come up with our own Energy Descent Plan where we work together as a community to become more sustainable,’ said Rachel. ‘It’s also about re-educating people too. We need and want to provide opportunities for people to learn about how to grow their own. These are the kinds of things our parents and grandparents would have done.

‘We’re great with iPads and iPhones but we are losing these important skills. We want to help reintroduce some of these.

‘It takes commitment but the more people get involved then the more we can achieve in Wilmslow.’