Friday, 18 March 2011

A green celebration at Wheddon Cross on Exmoor

Dick Strawbridge, of  the TV series 'It's Not Easy Being Green' (and, more recently, Celebrity Masterchef) fame was the star speaker at a Carbon Neutral Exmoor Celebration last night. 

Over a hundred people filled the Moorland Hall at Wheddon Cross to hear about green projects in six villages on Exmoor, which have been funded through the Low Carbon Communities Challenge. Exmoor National Park has an ambitious target: to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

Representatives from the communities of Roadwater, Parracombe, Wootton Courtenay, Porlock, Dunster and Wheddon Cross shared their experiences of the various projects, which included low carbon energy installations at village halls, a community-owned shop, an information centre and a sports ground.

We had a look at the Moorland Hall's newly installed wood-burning boiler, which keeps the building toasty warm. The hall now also has sheepswool insulation and a state-of-the-art heat recovery system. At our local pub, solar panels and a solar photovoltaic system have been fitted, also with the help of funding from the community project.

In fact Wheddon Cross may well hold the record for the widest range of green energy technologies on Exmoor: the new houses currently being built for local people have solar panels and the development will include some air source and ground source heat pumps. Some of our neighbours built their own eco-homes a few years ago.

Dick Strawbridge was very entertaining and down to earth; he and his family practise what they call 'practical self-sufficiency', which makes excellent sense. Many of the people at the meeting already try to be as green as they can, but I hope he wasn't only preaching to the converted. I think, though, that the celebration evening will have the desired effect of inspiring people to go that stage further and look at generating their own power or using more sustainable alternatives. It helps to know that others locally have been down this road and can offer the benefit of their experience.

The final part of the event was a visit to the Rest and Be Thankful pub, where Eric and Julie provided a great buffet and there was some Irish music (it was St Patrick's day after all). It was too dark to see the solar panels properly, but we've been able to see the installation as it progressed. Some networking and general good company finished the evening off nicely. A big thank you to all at Exmoor National Park who've worked so hard to help bring everything to fruition, against a very tight deadline.

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