A few months ago we were contacted by Annelie Våhlin from Sweden, who told us:
We have four small villages in the countryside working in different ways to become more sustainable and less dependent on fossil fuels. We are planning for a study trip to England, to visit some other projects connected to the transition movement! And so I found your project with the Community Energy Coop! It sounds very interesting to me what you are doing in Gloucestershire and it would be great to visit you and listen to your story and what kind of ideas and experiences you have had so far.
Our treasurer Richard Walter is also the treasurer of Transition Town Cheltenham and Global Footsteps, so was in in an ideal position to take up the challenge. He roped in lots of contacts (and called in lots of favours) to put together a 3 day programme of visits. In March 2014, ten Swedish people came to be inspired. Here is a picture diary of what happened:
Day 1. First stop was to see our solar panels on the CityWorks building in Gloucester, here are the Swedish visitors posing for a group photo outside.
Inside, after an introduction to our co-operative, it was a chance for other initiatives based at the building to introduce themselves.
Reyaz Limilia talked about the local Fair Shares, which provides people with a way to share their skills, with the aim of bringing people together and strengthening the local community.
And of course no visit to the CityWorks building is complete without a tour of the Scrapstore. Here Lin Mathews shows off all the waste materials that the Scrapstore put to good use by providing to local playgroups and schools for art and craft projects. The visitors were like children in a sweet shop – so enthusiastic about the project and the materials available that Lin had to open-up the shop so they could buy some items to take back to Sweden.
Next stop Gloucester City Farm. This was of particular interest because the visitors were from four small rural villages around Sweden. We discovered that where we in the towns have ‘car share’ they have ‘pig share’, where a few families jointly own and care for a few farm animals and benefit from fresh food with a well know provenance.
A chance to get hands on with the feathered inhabitants of the farm.
Day 2. Back in Cheltenham the group heard about Transition Town Cheltenham and visited Annecy Garden in Sandford Park, where the food group from Transition Town Cheltenham have established an edible garden.
The group had a good look round, and of course were encouraged to do some weeding whilst they were there.
While the group may well have fancied a lie down by this point, they weren’t actually shopping for a bed, but looking at the Vision 21 Reclaim centre which redistributes high quality local furniture to families on low incomes.
And had the perfect weather for visiting a Passivhaus in central Cheltenham, which opens to the public once a year as part of Cheltenham Green Doors initiative.
Then it was off to appreciate the impressive Community Compost Initiative in Lansdown, Cheltenham. The group was shown round by Peter Clegg, who then took them back to his house, which also forms part of the Cheltenham Green Doors open weekend every year.
Peter organised an amazing lunch of local homemade and homegrown food, which the group enjoyed in his sunny garden.
After lunch it was off for a tour of Global Footsteps building and cafe (no photos of this one) before dinner and bed, ready for the final day.
Day 3. The final day took the group out of Gloucestershire to the edge of Worcestershire to learn about the work of the Sedgeberrow Sustainable and Manageable Energy Group organised and run by Mike Parker. This included a tour of the countryside and villages around Sedgeberrow, looking at initiatives like allotments and flood prevention, then a viewing of the Transition Film made by Evesham Transition Group.
And then time for home. Farväl!
After the visit, the Swedish group sent us the following message
We got back to Sweden safely yesterday and everything went well. A little bit colder here! +4 degrees and we all miss Cheltenham. We made a very quick evaluation yesterday before we all split up and everyone was so impressed with the organization of the trip and all the study visits. And we have all been very inspired during this trip! All of us have got many new ideas after those four days and we are all hoping to keep in contact with you and continue inspire each other!
So I think we can call that a resounding success.