Author Archives: Roger Matthews

Save energy and cut your bills

There will be a chance to find out how to save energy in your home – and to get a free energy monitor to help you do so – at an upcoming talk organised by local sustainability group Transition Stratford as part of this year’s Warwickshire Week of Thrift.

The talk, which will take place at the Ken Kennett Centre, 100 Justins Avenue, Stratford upon Avon CV37 0DA at 2.00 pm on Sunday 20 March, will be given by David Jullien, Chief Executive of local charity Act on Energy.

Act on Energy, which is based in Wellesbourne, provides advice on energy efficiency throughout Warwickshire. David Jullien’s talk will cover ways to reduce the use of energy in the home as well as ways to cut energy bills through switching suppliers. David will also be giving away free monitors which measure the use of electricity in the home – helping people to see where they are using energy and how they might reduce consumption.

The talk is open to anyone interested in the topic. It starts at 2.00 pm, but people are also welcome to come to a shared lunch beforehand, starting at 1.00 pm. To join the lunch, just bring some food to share with others!

For more information, contact Transition Stratford on 01789 298503.


Join us at our Summer Meeting 26th July 2015 at 2pm, Lifeways CV37 6PG.

Come along to our members’ meeting to find out what we do and how you can get involved.

We have a guest speaker, organic gardener and keen advocate of environmentally friendly gardening Judith Conroy who’ll be joining us at 2pm .

We follow our meetings with a shared tea, so why not bring a plate of something shareable and join garden harvest

Come to the Repair Cafe!

Don’t throw things away if they can be repaired! That’s the message of Stratford’s first-ever Repair Café which is taking place next Saturday 28 March as part of the Warwickshire Week of Thrift.

Repair Cafes are places where you can get things repaired, find out how to do repairs yourself, and have fun as well as coffee and cake! Since the first Repair Café opened in Amsterdam in October 2009, hundreds have been run around the world – showing people how simple repairs can give things a new lease of life.

The Stratford Repair Café will be held in the Ken Kennett Centre on Justins Avenue, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 0DA from 11.00 am – 3.00pm on Saturday 28 March. There will be volunteer repairers on hand with expertise in sewing, knife sharpening, simple electrical and woodwork repairs, and general household repairs. All repairs will be carried out free, though owners may be asked to pay for new parts if these are needed.

“Too often we throw things away if they stop working when a simple repair might keep things going for a long time to come,” says Tanya Butchers of Transition Stratford, who has been organising the event. “A Repair Café offers simple repairs for free as well as showing owners how things might be fixed in the future. There’s also an opportunity to learn and to meet with others over a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade cake.”

A Repair Café is not a substitute for a professional repairer, says Tanya. “If the repair is beyond the capacity of our volunteer repairers, we’ll try to advise where it might be fixed,” she said. “The Repair Café is not competing with specialist repair businesses: in fact we want to encourage people to use local professionals. That’s why Transition Stratford has compiled a list of local repair businesses which will be available free at the Repair Café.”

For more information about the Repair Café, contact Transition Stratford on 01789 298503. Continue reading

Discover the lost arts of thrifty (and low carbon) living

Transition Stratford’s next Quarterly Meeting on Sunday 25 January will be looking at some of skills needed for low carbon living.

One thing we know about low carbon living – and that is that we need to repair things rather than throw them away. And this is not difficult, as it’s how we all lived until a few decades ago, when it was called “thrifty living”!

So from knife sharpening to trouser patching, from repairing bike punctures to changing plugs, the meeting will be inviting people to share their skills with others. And if you don’t think you’ve got skills to share – then come along and tell us what you would like to know.

The meeting is the beginning of work in preparation for running a repair cafe in Stratford at the end of March as part of this year’s Warwickshire Week of Thrift, so if you have skills you would like to share but can’t make the Sunday’s meeting, why not get in touch on 01789 298503.

Sunday’s meeting will take place at the Ken Kennett Centre, 100 Justins Avenue, Stratford-upon-Avon, starting at 2.00 and ending with a bring-and-share tea around 4.00 pm.

Harvest Share gets under way

Transition Stratford’s Harvest Share, which collects fruit that would otherwise go to waste and puts it to good use, has started its fourth season of harvesting.

The scheme, which is one of the largest of its type in the country, launched at the beginning of August, and collected a quarter of a tonne for fruit in its first two weeks. Harvest Share will run until late October, and during that time will be making regular deliveries of boxes of free fruit to local care homes and children’s groups, and processing other fruit into juice, jams and chutneys.

To take part – either through picking or helping to sort and distribute fruit, contact Harvest Share on 01789 298503 or e-mail Jam makers especially welcome!

Transition Stratford meeting hears extreme energy warning

Transition Stratford is setting up a contact group to keep in touch with local “extreme energy” developments after hearing that an announcement is likely in the next two months of the award of licences to explore for oil and gas in the western part of Stratford on Avon District, up to and including the town of Stratford upon Avon itself.

Independent environmental researcher Paul Mobbs told a meeting organised by Transition Stratford that the Government had invited bids for licences over a large part of the country in 2010. It seemed that decisions on the award of licences have already been made, but the Government was delaying announcements until after the European elections towards the end of May.

Paul’s talk on “extreme energy” – the unconventional extraction of oil and gas, like fracking – identified a greater local risk in plans for underground coal gasification (UGC) to the north-east of Leamington Spa. Here Cluff Coal has made an application for the first on-shore UGC site in Britain. Paul said that though UGC was first piloted in the 1930s, there has yet to be a successful commercial scheme anywhere in the world. And from the point of view of pollution, UGC is arguably worse than fracking.

Paul’s well-attended talk was focused on the different ways in which oil and gas companies are seeking to tackle the long-term decline in conventional oil and gas production with unconventional new extraction techniques. All were more expensive than conventional production – so they would not bring down fuel costs. And all increased the risks of pollution, which would damage land and adversely affect people’s health.

Paul said although politicians and business leaders are unswervingly positive about extreme energy, those working on the subject professionally are much more cautious. There is an increasing volume of high quality research, mainly from the United States, showing the environmental pollution and the effects on health of extreme energy projects. This research also showed that our understanding of the nature of the problems caused by techniques like fracking need to change. In the case of fracking, for example, the significant problems with pollution tended to arise not from drilling but from the difficulties in disposing of the large volumes of polluted water used in the extraction process.

To join Transition Stratford’s group to stay in touch with these issues, contact us at

New community energy project gets under way

Community Energy Warwickshire, the energy co-operative which Transition Stratford helped to set up, has launched a new project to put more solar panels on the roofs of local hospitals.

Community Energy Warwickshre’s Solar-Powered Hospitals scheme put solar panels on roofs at Stratford and Warwick Hospitals in 2011-12. These panels are estimated to have generated around 120,000 units of electricity since installation, saving 60 tonnes of carbon and bringing in £45,000 in income.

Now the co-op is launching Phase 2 of the Solar-Powered Hospitals scheme with a plan to double its size through installations of panels at Leamington Spa and Warwick Hospitals. The Phase 2 scheme will cost £110,000, and Community Energy Warwickshire is inviting people to buy shares to fund the project.

Shareholders will receive a modest interest on their shares, and Community Energy Warwickshire will also use a third of its financial surplus to fund local social and charitable activity.

More details about the share offer and how to subscribe can be found on Communtiy Energy Warwickshire’s website at

Harvest Share saves over two tonnes of fruit!

Transition Stratford’s Harvest Share scheme, which collects fruit that would otherwise go unpicked from gardens and orchards in and around Stratford upon Avon, has saved over two tonnes of fruit from going to waste this autumn.

Now in its third year, the scheme put over 2.3 tonnes to good use in 2013 through free weekly distributions to local care homes and children’s groups and through processing fruit into jams, juices and chutneys. Since its launch as a pilot in the autumn of 2010, Harvest Share has saved over 6.5 tonnes of local fruit from going to waste.

Harvest Share organiser Roger Matthews praised the work of the volunteers who pick the fruit and help to sort and deliver it. “Over 350 hours of volunteer time has gone into this year’s Harvest Share,” he said. “Without the support of volunteers, Harvest Share would not be possible.” Pupils from Welcombe Hills Special School in Stratford are among the regular pickers.

He also highlighted the contribution of tree owners who offer their fruit to the scheme. “The orchards at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm, which are contributed by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, are the backbone of the scheme. Together they have contributed half this year’s fruit. But the trees in private gardens and orchards are just as important. We have had several new gardens contributed this year – in fact, we were not able to pick all the fruit on offer.”

Harvest Share works by picking regularly three-four times a week from the beginning of August to the end of October. Fruit is put into a temporary store – this year the Mulberry Centre in Stratford town centre, which was held on a short-term lease from Warwickshire County Council. The fruit is then sorted and distributed every Monday.

This year’s harvest was complicated by the late ripening of the fruit, following a cold start to the spring earlier in the year. Very little fruit was ready to pick in August, while some fruit was still not ripe at the end of October. “But despite these difficulties, we have made a good harvest in 2013,” said Roger Matthews.


Let’s get picking – Harvest Share gets under way

Stratford Harvest Share got under way on Saturday 17 August when a team of volunteers picked early apples (and a few early plums) in the orchard at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, near Stratford upon Avon.

The team picked 80 kilos of fruit – mainly Beauty of Bath, a variety which was prized by the Victorians for ripening in July. The delayed harvest this year meant we were picking in mid-August, about three weeks late. The fruit has gone to make the first juice of the season, while the plums have already been turned into jam.

There’s a good crop of fruit on the trees – in particular, apples – but most of it is still far from ripe. There’ll be some good harvests as we get into September and October, but at the moment, pickings are still quite small.

If you would like to take part in Harvest Share, volunteers are needed for picking – Wednesday mornings, Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings – and for sorting and distribution on Monday mornings. Contact Transition Stratford on 01789 298503 if you would like to help.

Harvest Share volunteers with some of the harvest at Anne Hathaway's Cottage, 17 August 2013

Harvest Share volunteers with some of the harvest at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, 17 August 2013

Stratford Growing Together

Stratford Growing Together, a proposal by Transition Stratford to improve access to local food for people in Stratford upon Avon, is one of 11 projects chosen from 70 initial applications to go through to the second and final round of the £1 million Community Challenge organised by Stratford Town Trust.

The Stratford Growing Together project aims to combine a community “market garden” with special provision for vulnerable people and outreach to help people take up growing opportunities wherever they live in Stratford.

Transition Stratford Chair James Pavitt, who already runs a small-scale community garden in the middle of the town, said: “We are extremely pleased that the Community Challenge panel has selected out Stratford Growing Together project for further development. Our aim is to increase local access to healthy, affordable food, bring together people of all ages and abilities in shared activities, as well as offering practical experience of food growing.”

Final applications for Community Challenge funding have to be submitted to the Town Trust by 22 October. “We’ll be working hard over the next few months to put together the detailed plans for a project which will bring benefits to a significant number of local people,” said James.

For more information about Stratford Community Growing, contact Transition Stratford on 01789 298503 or at