Build it and they will cycle

2015-07-29 11.08.11“Ba ba badda, ba ba badda! Take the Trans Pennine Trail at the speed of a snail…” I have to amuse myself on the long cycles somehow. Going from East to West from Penistone, the Trans Pennine Trail is well surfaced and only gently inclining as it is along the route of a closed railway line, it’s also very well used.

We often think of the Netherlands as being a biking heaven, yet it wasn’t always that way. In fact they had very high car use. It was only through changing government policy and building biking infrastructure that they turned it around.

Where routes are easy to cycle, safe, and going where people want to go, people will cycle. My memories of the Pennines had me dreading crossing it by bike but it was beautiful. Once you hit the beginning of the old railway tunnel however, you have to over the top and things get bumpy and steep but at least it’s mostly downhill. Unless you’re a masochist I wouldn’t go West to East from Manchester at the moment.

The story of the Netherlands shows how a transport system can be remodeled and people’s behaviour will then shift. The current government is investing heavily in new roads, which leads to increased car use and car ownership. If we want more sustainable transport, first we have to commit to it. Build it and they will cycle.


Vaccinating badgers

badgerA chance encounter with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust introduced me to their new project to vaccinate badgers in the local area. The government policy of badger culls to reduce TB in cattle has not been backed by scientific evidence, in fact it is understood to make matters worse by causing the remaining badger population to migrate. In areas surrounding TB infection, DEFRA is offering to fund half the cost of vaccination and the wildlife trust is trying to raise the other half.

“The Trust, which is opposed to culling as a means of controlling the bovine TB, believes badger vaccination can play a crucial role in preventing the spread of the disease in both badgers and cattle.”

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust does a huge amount of good, managing a large number of different reserves and works to protect habitat and wildlife. Like many conservation groups, some of the Trust’s funding comes from the government, putting them in a difficult situation when government measures are harmful to wildlife. You can find out more about the vaccination campaign from the Trust’s website.

Cambridge new developments

Walking through Cambridge last year I did not notice a huge difference between it and a certain other academic City, but on bike the difference is very apparent. Special bike paths, bike traffic lights and bike lanes in the roads that are actually wide enough, all make you feel much more welcome and safe as a cyclist.

During a visit to Cambridge botanical gardens I came across this fascinating new development using plants to generate electricity. The botanical gardens are also investing in a new research area for using algae to make biofuels.

Why be a city councillor?

I first met Oscar during last year’s Buzz Tour because of his connection with Transition Cambridge and neither of us spoke much of politics. Yet when I met him in the days running up to the election, I was on the Green Party campaign bus and he was speaking to hundreds of people on the street explaining why he wanted to get elected. At the last election Oscar became Cambridge’s only Green Party city councillor, having never been a councillor before.

In his maiden speech last week, Oscar made two proposals that were passed by the council, one about TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and one in defence of human rights. As a result, Cambridge has joined 18 other UK cities in pledging against TTIP.


Friends along the road

rookeryI am fortunate enough to be sustained along the road by warm hearted people and friends new and old. In Farringdon after a exhausting and painful ride I met Lesley in The Rookery, an organic café and hairdressers, where two Frappes, a deep conversation and two hugs later I was recharged and ready to roll.

2015-07-19 12.31.13Coming into Oxford over the lock I heard someone shouting “Eve!” and was shocked to find my friend Ben on a boat, passing the lock at exactly that time. In Oxford I visited2015-07-19 12.54.37 the newly opened Wild Honey for the first time and saw the wide range of ethical and organic products as well as yoga classes.

2015-07-19 16.39.33Oxford’s Lush hosted me again for the afternoon so I could sell our book and tell people about the journey. They also gave me a gift of some of their beautiful makeup that I had an eye on. Lush’s makeup confused me – it’s healthy liquids in little coloured bottles and looks like nail varnish but actually it’s lipstick, eyeliner or eyeshadow depending on the brush attachment that you choose. Now with confidence about how to use it I’ll be enjoying some girly beautification.

The day finished off with a cosy film screening with friends. It was such a pleasure to show the film to the bees Rupert and Miranda for the first time!  2015-07-19 22.21.58

Growth at Hawkwood

Hawkwood college runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) biodynamic farm and this month they have opened up a share offer to help the farm grow and take on new land.

The college is a centre of learning about food, crafts, art, music and social change. This weekend was the very special Seed Festival, the speakers for which included: Charles Eisenstein, Satish Kumar and Natalie Bennett. I could only attend the first night but with an attendance of only 500 it’s a fantastically intimate festival and a way to learn about a wide range of things in a fun environment.

Local people become members of the CSA in exchange for their vegetables, and the monthly fees give the farm workers a steady income. The land to the south of the college farm has recently come on the market and the college wants to raise £380,000 to purchase the land and run it biodynamicly as part of the CSA. The share offer closes on 24th of July 2015. Anyone can buy shares and if you are interested in investing and helping Hawkwood to grow you can find out more on the biodynamic land trust’s website.


They’ve made it in Stroud

I2015-07-17 13.43.14t’s comforting when things you love are stable, and in Stroud it was mostly the things that hadn’t changed which caused a contented smile on my lips.

The shop Made in Stroud is still thriving (but with a few more awards), still selling locally made goods and making positive influences everyday.

The Stroud Valley’s Project is still promoting conservation and offering educational courses. They recently ran a scything workshop after seeing it done wrong on Poldark! Scything is less damaging to the environment than mowing and also helps you to easily leave rare species. The day I visited they were about to run a bat ecology course and head out with bat detectors. 2015-07-17 14.23.11

Those creating positive change in Stroud had a higher average age than people I met in other towns, and had been in the town for longer. As Julie, the fundraising manager for Stroud Valleys Project says, “Who would want to move once you’ve landed here?” The town has a more stable, developed feel to the community than other places I visit. In the Stroud Valley’s Project office they have a reciprocal arrangement for work or rent with the Car Club and Transition Stroud. Transition Stroud have been running open eco-home event and open garden tours with about 1000 house visits. A new addition by Transition Stroud at the back of a closed pub is a pop-up “rain garden” to make efficient use of rainwater runoff from roofs. So simple it makes you wonder why on earth we normally pipe it all down the drain.

Stroud Against the Cuts has had a great turnout at its events and Stroud Co has become a thriving hub for selling home grown food surplus.

It feels like there are lots of people steadily making improvements in Stroud and the cumulative effect of that over many years is to have made a very special place and a very special community.