Reading Group: ‘The Running Hare’

Blog post by Sue Cooper, Transition New Mills Reading Group

The New Mills Transition Discussion Group meets monthly in someone’s home to discuss a book or, occasionally, to watch a film/video or host a speaker.

Our book this month was The Running Hare (The secret life of farmland) by John Lewis-Stempel published by Penguin Books. In some ways this followed a theme set last time in our discussions of Wilding by Isabella Tree, looking at what happens when land is managed or farmed differently to the modern methods of intensive agriculture – in this case a field in Herefordshire which the author takes on for a year to grow a crop of wheat, using traditional farming methods, and a wide border of wildflowers.

The results are fascinating and heartening, showing the power of nature to recover from the mono-cultures of agribusiness which create quite ‘dead’ environments, as well as a celebration and appreciation of the skills and cultural history of traditional agricultural workers.

This book was a ‘lighter’ read than our usual fare; as well as being an observant ecologist cataloguing and describing the emerging and changing flora and fauna he includes anecdotes of rural life, poetry, songs, discourses on agricultural history, language and literature, a rich weave of fascinating facts and engaging descriptions. Some of us found his style of writing attractive, enjoying the richness and depth, others were less enthusiastic, but all agreed that is was an interesting read and a welcome reminder of the rhythm of the seasons and a celebration of our connection to the natural world.

It is an open criticism of modern agricultural methods; he writes of the ‘chemical brothers’ in the next field whose use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers together with modern farm machinery delivers high yields but a mono-cultural environment, ‘every time one buys the lie of cheap food a flower or a bird dies’. His field produces an abundance and variety of wild flowers, attracts all kinds of wild life including the hares of the title and also produces a decent crop of wheat but at the cost of some heavy physical work. No easy answers. We had a lively discussion on the book which moved on to include a debate on the Common Agricultural Policy, farming subsidies and Brexit, and the worrying issue of modern disengagement from the natural world.

Our next meeting, on Monday February 18th, will look at the 12 principles of permaculture, through song! Contact us at for details.

New Year, New Thinking

Post from Liz Longden:

It doesn’t seem that long since I was writing a blog for last New Year. Looking back at it, I have actually achieved quite a lot of what I said I wanted to do, the biggest one of which was to not let my life be ruled by anxiety any more. I can’t say that I don’t still struggle with this because I do, but the positive is that I have managed to move forward despite anxiety. In terms of the plastics campaign, lots happened last year. We had the One World Festival with plastic as a theme. I have managed to get our local schools involved, and have talked to 2 class loads of children and a hut full of beaver scouts. There is a good chance that we will have an Ecobricks project with the schools in the spring. We have Terracycle boxes for various packaging up and running.( Thank you Penny) We have been in contact with groups in Marple and Macclesfield, and had a stall at Hayfield Apple day. So a fairly productive year.
But this is a new year. Time for some new thinking. Plans are afoot in Transition New Mills, and I want to be fully involved with those plans. The obvious focus for a renewed effort is Climate Change. We have only eleven and a half years as a species to limit the damage to our home planet. It’s not long. So in line with the principle that you can’t talk the talk unless you walk the walk…
I am slowly moving our household towards a low meat diet. I think I could easily be vegetarian, but I am not the only one in the house, so, slowly, slowly. I haven’t quite got my brain around veganism yet, but perhaps I can reduce eggs and cheese slowly.
I am trying to be very disciplined with car journeys, and have been talking about ways to share a car, just informal ways at first, like friends using one car to do all their shopping.
I have been trying to deal with the bits of the house that are not well enough insulated, and will spend a big chunk of a small windfall on this.
I am planning a low consumption year. Not wasting food, or anything else that I can help. No impulse buys. I am trying to shop for locally produced food, and trying not to buy anything from outside Europe. (or wrapped in plastic-haven’t forgotten that.)
These are self imposed limits, and I am happy to accept them. The things that I really value, like the company of my friends and family, like good music, like being in our wonderful landscape, like reading; these are all still available, carbon cheap, and damn near free. These are the things that actually make me happy.

All I Really Want For Christmas

A festive blog post from liz Longden:

Looking back at my blog posts it’s been nearly four months since I last wrote anything. I had been thinking that it was getting hard to find anything to say about plastic that I hadn’t already said. But it’s almost Christmas again, and the season of buying stuff. The Christmas adverts are all there, telling us that we can’t have any sort of Christmas without ‘stuff’. They equate consumption of ‘stuff’ with love, with family togetherness, with children’s happiness’ . That one toy. The fifty inch television, that will do just about everything except wash the dishes. The phone that will connect you, just that little bit better or faster than the last one did. The tables groaning with food. The idea that are somehow uncaring if you don’t get something for every person on your list. Read the George Monbiot article about Christmas present buying.

Meanwhile, climate scientists tell us that it is now or never to save our planet from disaster. Last Christmas, I talked about trying to have a low plastic Christmas. This year, I will try very hard to have a parsimonious Christmas, and I don’t mean that I will try not to spend money, I mean that I will try very hard to try not to spend too much of the planet.

So, firstly, I will try to make sure anything I get is wanted and needed, properly wanted and needed. Maybe this will mean fewer surprises, but so be it.

Secondly, I will try to buy pre-loved things. Books, kitchen stuff, even clothes. This might make my Christmas cheaper than some years, but there are plenty of local charities where I can put any surplus. Local food bank for instance.

Thirdly , I will try to shop local, both for the shop where I buy and for where any item has travelled from.

Fourthly, the low plastic theme still applies. Plastic hasn’t gone away. (It never does, that is the problem.)

Fifthly, I will try to spend my time freely, for my friends, family and neighbours. Time. This is most precious thing we can give. Rich and poor, our time ticks by just the same. It’s what parents want from children, and children need from parents, (even if they don’t know it.), and what our lonely neighbours might appreciate more than any other thing. And it’s carbon free!

Sixthly, I don’t need any smellies, I don’t need any slippers, mittens, gloves, scarves or woolly hat sets. Get me a bottle of (European) red from Aldi, it won’t be wasted, and I will enjoy it. Make me some scones. A CD that you know I will really enjoy, I am more than happy if it is second hand. Or get me nothing at all, and keep your money till Brexit hits. Best of all, come and help me do some of the things I never get done, and I will do the same for you. Happy Christmas, and a fruitful, active, hopeful, greener New Year.

October 2018 Newsletter

If we needed a reminder about the importance of Transition and its related activities, this week we had had it with the publication of the latest UN Report. It makes for sobering reading; climate breakdown is happening now, and we are in the last chance saloon if we want to prevent it from going from bad to catastrophic (you choose!).
Clearly all of us has an individual moral obligation to make sure we install as much insulation as we can, travel less, consume less, eat less meat, but this alone is not enough. We need Governments to help us at all levels, and crucially we need some sort of collective response at a local level, and that is where Transition comes in.
Please contact us on if you’d like to be part of the reaction to this week’s report.

Summer Events
It was great to get out and meet people at the Carnival, One World Festival, Community Orchard Apple Day, and at the forthcoming Hayfield Apple Day this Saturday 13th Oct. There was loads of support and understanding from the community, which felt very positive. We now need to turn that support and awareness into practical action – so don’t hold back: pitch in, the world needs you!

One of the highlights was the Festival’s ‘Incredible Treadable’ walk, touring a variety of Transition’s and other partners’ projects to give examples of the types of activities we need more of in order to transition our economy and environment into what’s needed to tackle climate breakdown and other problems caused by pushing the boundaries of social and environmental boundaries. What pleased us most was that there was so much to talk about we couldn’t fit it all in. The projects and more can be seen on our Map Jam, and we plan to put the walk on website also.

Incredible Edible update
Growing food locally has a much lower environmental footprint, is healthier, and good for your wellbeing, and can be shared with others.
A very hot and dry summer was a challenge for the Incredible Edible sites, but they survived and have largely recovered since:
– New Mills Primary School now have a polytunnel and have used the edible garden throughout the summer term for educational purposes
– we teamed up with Visit New Mills to establish planters at New Mills Central station, looked after by station staff
– planted herbs at the Tranquility Garden at Providence Church
– Torr Top car park and New Mills Central now have signs to explain what the various herbs and leaves are
– Thanks to a County Council grant, we are able to extend our activities especially for vulnerable young people and adults to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing.

If you would like to be kept informed of community gardening dates and short notice cancellations (usually due to bad weather), please email us at

Rethink Plastic
Those attending community events over the summer will have noticed much; plates made from renewable materials, refillable beer glasses, and recycling points, all made possible by sterling work with event supervisors, suppliers and the councils.
The One World Festival had reducing plastics as its overall theme, and the Transition stall had a range of plastic-free alternatives to many household products, and an Eco-brick making demonstration.
A focus for the next steps will involve working with younger people through schools and clubs.
If your school or club wants to be involved, please let us know at

Discussion Group Next Meeting
The Discussion Group has covered some interesting ground, including Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics and Wilding by Isabella Tree.
The next meeting is on Monday 15th October when the group will attend the RSPB meeting in Marple: Ian Rotherham talking about ‘Ghost Woods’, 7.30 pm at Marple Senior Citizen’s Memorial Hall.
Please contact us on for details if you want to meet up there or arrange lifts.

As agreed at the AGM, our page on the LocalGiving donations site has now been allowed to lapse due to the high operating costs and poor level of incentives and service. Until we find a suitable replacement, donations can now be made in cash at events, or by cheque to ‘Transition New Mills’ and posted to 28 Longlands Road, New Mills, SK22 3BY.

Special thanks must go to Jill Hulme, who has been offering some fantastic but surplus allotment produce to customers at the High Peak Food Hub in return for a voluntary donation. She has raised a fantastic £150 in this way, so many thanks to her and everyone who donated!

Balsam Bashing
We held ten official Balsam bashes over the summer to help keep the invasive weed Himalayan Balsam at bay in environmentally sensitive areas in the Torrs, Mousley Bottom and the Picker.

Transition Social
Held on the third Thursday of each month, usually at the Royal oak unless the pub quiz is on, from 7:30 to 9:30pm. Everyone welcome to come along to talk about anything from future projects to the football!

Taking It Further..

It’s the school summer holidays, and I’m using my extra time and energy to try and catch up with some jobs around the house, and also things I have been trying to get done for the plastics campaign for some time.
I have been going round the cafes in New Mills, asking for support for a scheme where you get your coffee or tea a bit cheaper if you take your own reusable cup in. In the UK, we buy 7.5 million disposable coffee cups every day. I have tried to imagine all those in one place and failed. That is every day, almost all going to land fill. Well every cafe I went into today was agreeable that you will get your coffee cheaper if you take your own cup. I haven’t been to them all yet, some bosses were on holiday, one cafe changes hands in a few weeks, one cafe was shut, but it was a positive and heartening response. So watch this space.
Next job is to try to work out a coordinated way of dealing with the recycling problems we have here in High Peak. For instance, we have spent months trying to find catering ware that can be composted in HPBC’s systems so that our street events and festivals can be greener, only to be told that HPBC will not collect commercial composting. I think we need to try to get all the interested parties together to try to exert some pressure with a concentrated joint effort. Or come up with an alternative, like composting our own food waste.
Another bit of the campaign that is going well is to get a chance to involve our young people. This is on hold for the holidays, but hopefully in September I will be able to drive this forward.
I am going to be spending some time in the middle of nowhere in a tent before I go back to school. This should give me a chance to write some of the blogs and articles for local groups that have been waiting to be done for weeks (or months.)
Last but not least, I have been try to think more holistically about plastic, that is, how our problem with the stuff sits with all our other serious difficulties, namely pollution and that huge one, climate change.
Each 500ml plastic drink drinks bottle takes an average of 83g of carbon to be made, filled and transported to the shop. At the rate of a million a minute round the world, that’s a lot of carbon, even if it’s only 1% -2% of the total. I haven’t even looked at the figures for coffee cups. This makes me feel even more strongly how ridiculous it is for us to be making anything for single use at all, ever. Convenience has got to go. Time to shape up.

Liz Longden

On thinking things through..


Latest in the series of Rethink Plastic blogs by Liz Longden:

Plastic news gets better – more people talking , thinking and acting, and plastic news gets worse – more and more plastic being found polluting the world, even in the most remote and uninhabited parts of our planet.

There is still so much we don’t know about the way this plastic is getting into the waterways and oceans. I don’t think we know yet how long there has been such widespread contamination, and we certainly know very little about the long term effect on human, animal and plant health.

Because of this, I always feel a little wary of embracing any of the myriad ideas you see on social media about ways to reuse plastic either before or after it has been through a recycling process.

For instance, plastic roads. Would they not produce plastic dust from the wear and tear of the passage of traffic? I don’t know, I am not a scientist, but it would comfort me to find out that this has been looked into before we start laying down roads left right and centre. So often mankind produces a solution to a problem without thinking it through, and it becomes just as big a problem. That’s how we got in this mess in the first place, isn’t it?

We have some ‘thinking though’ to do in respect of how we manage the several events every year when large amounts of street food are sold and consumed. We thought that it was an obvious move to say ‘no plastic’ to all the traders who wanted to have food stalls at these events. However after a lot of research into alternatives it appears that, as I write, there are no viable alternatives that we can use here and now. Nothing is as straightforward as it first seems, and products advertised as ‘compostable’ , will not break down in the system used by High Peak’s contractors. If we had gone ahead and asked for the food  traders to only use these type of products, they would have had to go into landfill, where they would decompose and produce methane, which is a powerful green house gas.  We may have to shift our focus completely onto making sure the maximum plastic gets recycled, at least for the present time.

All this is intensely frustrating, but still I think it is really important that we do no harm whilst trying to do good. So, slowly, slowly, and get it right. Patience.


Newsletter June 2018

At our AGM in April we reported on all the wonderful projects Transition supporters had made happen in 2017/18, and heard how we could re-engage with local food producers from New Mills Food Assembly and The Old Cowshed.
Now’s the time to start to do even better this year, and there’s lots of opportunities to get involved. Please contact us on if you’d like to know more, or want to start your own project.

Incredible Edible 
Now Spring is well and truly here, attention is turning to Incredible Edible again:

  • Come down to our event in Torr Top Car Park 11am-1pm, Saturday 2nd June for some homemade produce and a chat, when we will also be doing some weeding and planting, and raising awareness of the Incredible Edible projects and opportunities. Come and find out what it’s all about first hand!
  • We now have a brand new Incredible Edible Facebook page! Join the group to keep up to date with activities here.
  • New Mills Community Orchard and Forest Garden will be having maintenance sessions in the orchard starting at 7:30 pm on the 1st Thursday of each month in the summer, weather permitting. No gardening skill required necessarily, and you can help yourself to whatever is in season! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for any further details, and just turn up, with gardening gloves if you have some.
  • New Mills Primary School have started on their new Edible Garden project, with the help of a Lottery grant that has allowed them to employ an additional member of staff for it.
  • Inspired by this, Thornsett Primary School PTA approached us for help in setting up their Edible Garden project. They are after donations of edible plants, and possibly gardening equipment, so if you have any surplus seedlings or spare serviceable equipment they’d love to know. You can either drop them off at the school office from 4th June, or contact to make an arrangement for collection. Also, they could use the help of any handy DIYers out there who can assist them make some simple wooden planters like those at New Mills Primary. Let us know if you can volunteer!
  • New Mills Beavers and their parents had a great time working to help create an Incredible Edible garden at Watford House.
  • We hope to expand the planting up and ownership of the Planters for Peace this year – if you are interested in looking after one, please let us know!

These are great practical projects; if you want to get involved, come along to an event, or donate plants to Thornsett School,email us at

Rethink Plastic!
Lots to report here as well:

  • we’ve been involved in the One World Festival, with its plastics theme, and will have a stall there
  • Liz has been working with the pupils at St Georges School, and raised awareness amongst the other High Peak primary schools
  • We’re also working with the festival and councils to try to reduce single use plastics at street events
  • look out for an Eco-bricks project, which uses discarded plastic in the construction of useful items
  • meanwhile, don’t forget to use the Refill app when refilling your water bottle this summer!

Summer Events
New Mills is all about summer events, and Transition New Mills will be there at each. Apart from the Torr Top Incredible Edible event on June 2nd, you can come and see the stall at New Mills Carnival on June 9th at Newtown Rec, then at the One World Festival on July 7th, when we’ll be focussing on the festival’s plastics theme.
If you can help out on our stalls, even for just an hour or so, this would be really appreciated – please let us know if you can, as it’s a big commitment for the admin committee on our own!
We’ve also got a surprise event in development for the September Festival – watch this space!

Map Jam!
Our Transition New Mills map jam has been updated, and is now embedded on our website.
This maps all transition and related projects in the town that are helping create a more sustainable and resilient future, and includes local producers (including local farms, people selling eggs, and breweries), Incredible Edible sites, local renewable energy producers and balsam bashing areas.
Let us know what you want to see on the map by emailing us at

Balsam Bashing
The balsam is growing, and we are planning a further series of balsam bashing sessions to complement all the informal bashing going on. It is amazing the impact that a group can have in a concentrated area. Look out on the Transition New Mills Facebook page for details of the events.

Discussion Group Next Meeting

Next meeting is on the evening of Monday 18th June, discussing the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling.
Please contact us on for venue details if you want to go.

Local Giving

The Local Giving website is up and running making it easy to donate money online, and offering the opportunity to gift aid it.
We don’t charge for membership any more, so rely and grants and donations. Donations are especially valuable to us as they help us get projects off the ground, and worked up to a position where we can apply for grant funding. Please donate as much or as little as you want at Transition New Mills | Localgiving

The eagerly awaited Food Hub, that we heard about from Esther Morrison at the AGM, is due for launch in June. It will allow you to place bespoke orders direct from local producers for collection from the Torrs Butterfly House on Thursday evenings. Keep an eye on the Food Hub Facebook page for details.

Clean Air Day
Thursday 21st June is Clean Air Day, with various events around the region. It’s a chance to find out more about air pollution, share information with friends and colleagues, and help make the air cleaner and healthier for everyone.

No current newsletter is complete at the moment without mention of GDPR. We have taken advice from the Information Commissioner, and were advised that as everyone on our contact list has already given consent to be contacted for updates and newsletters, it is not necessary to have everyone reconfirm this. We have, however, updated our privacy notice: Transition New Mills holds the contact details of those people who have asked to be kept in touch with news, events and opportunities about projects they support. The Administration Team only have access to it, and will not share it with any other third parties.   You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking unsubscribe at the bottom of this newsletter, or emailing us at with the word ‘Remove’ in the title line.

Just Do It!

The 7th in our series of blogs by Liz Longden.

Well into 2018, and plastic pollution is being talked about in mainstream media more and more. Even the BBC have recently featured a family who agreed to try to go completely plastic free for ten days. It’s possible now that most families have at least been giving some thought to the way they shop. It’s all very encouraging, isn’t it? But from the start of our campaign we have never thought most people or families can live a plastic free life, because we have to stay in our ordinary lives at the same time. We use computers with plastic housing, we fill our plastic rubbish bins, we are constrained by our incomes to buy the food we can afford, in the time we have, in the shops that are available to us.
At the same time, we have become accustomed to comfort, convenience, and a huge range of choice in products, in drinks, shampoos, conditioners, and laundry products. Huge range of fresh fruit and veg all year round. It’s hard to do without these things. It’s very easy to persuade yourself that what was a luxury has become a necessity.
So, this is a blog about not needing to beat ourselves up. About recognising that it is impossible to be absolutist, and that we can all only do what we can do. My friend Lorrie is writing a blog about how she has changed her shopping habits, which is full of information and ideas about replacing plastic with alternatives. Lots of information in there for those that are able.
However, this is also a blog saying: ‘no more excuses’! I am coming to think that it’s time that EVERYBODY should be thinking about this and taking what action they can. No matter how busy and stressed your lives, there will be some changes you can easily make that will make a difference. I understand that all we have been talking about, for some people, is very difficult. For instance, a few people really need straws to be able to drink safely and independently, or without pain. But most of us don’t. That’s what lips are for, and for most of us they work really well. So, ditch the straws, and replace them with nothing.
Yes, nothing.
Go back to powdered washing powder. It’s cheaper, lasts longer, and for most people, will cause no problems for your skin.
Go for the unpacked fruit and veg whenever you can. You don’t need to bag it.
Put your leftovers in a bowl in the fridge, and put a plate on top. No expense, zero waste , zero carbon, zero consumption.
DON’T BUY BOTTLED WATER! You know that plastic contamination has been found in your bottled water now? I have to admit that that kind of made me laugh, but not in a good way.
These changes would require no extra time, effort or money. They may lead you to make more changes, maybe not; either way they will make a difference, and they will start you thinking.

So, I am no longer asking will you, can you, could you? I’m asking, why aren’t you? And I’m saying, I think you can, and I think you have to.

Rewilding Derbyshire’s Uplands

Carrifran 2015

Yesterday a group of Transition New Mills members went to a well-attended Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s talk by Tim Birch on rewilding Derbyshire’s uplands.

Tim began by outlining his vision for 40 years hence, where parts of the National park had been allowed to rewild, allowing some iconic species such as goshawks, peregrine falcons, red squirrels and even golden eagles to prosper in a fully functioning ecosystem at a landscape scale. This was based on success stories from elsewhere, including Dovestones RSPB reserve near Greenfield, Knepp in West Sussex, and Oostvaarderplassen only 30 minutes from Amsterdam.

The potential benefits of rewilding are many. Apart from helping a great number of species in decline, bringing natural wonder to people, the practice can address flooding problems (where vegetation can help the soil retain water, and beaver dam construction can slow river flow) and help revitalise rural economies through eco-tourism.

There are some barriers to overcome before this can be realised. Tim focussed in particular on incompatible grouse moor management practices which focus on burning heather to keep it low, removing any trees on which predators could perch, and often trapping and persecuting wildlife such as mountain hares, foxes and birds of prey. Local wildlife reserves often have limited effect because the surrounding land is often hostile to wildlife which has no regard for boundaries. Tim questioned why such practices were so widespread in the National Park which is supposed to be an area whose purpose is to connect people with wildlife and nature, and made a call to arms that the aims of the Mass Trespass needed a further push to be finally achieved.

There are some promising signs and opportunities. Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary is said to be interested; Brexit offers opportunities through changes to a farming subsidy mechanism which pays farmers to keep land bare; the Moors for the Future programme is making progress (although the next stage was questioned – what wildlife will be allowed back when the moorland is regenerated?); projects in Derbyshire had been identified (most in the south and east, although Ladybower and the Upper Goyt Valley was highlighted as having great potential)  and hill farming is in crisis and eco-tourism offers a good way of diversifying rural economies. There is growing public awareness and support, although it was stressed that there needs to be much more public debate of the issue. There will inevitably be compromises necessary, and one solution may be to follow the New Zealand model of  ‘Spare and Share’ where some areas are identified for rewilding and some where retaining cultural assets are given priority.

Overall, the mood was very positive, and it was noted that some improvements are capable of being seen in 10 years or so, which made the prospect all the more tantalising.

If you are interested in finding out more about rewilding, check out Rewilding Britain, or read George Monbiot’s book ‘Feral’.