The small village of Derrington just outside Stafford, is pointing the way to low-carbon living across Stafford Borough. The Derrington Way Ahead low-carbon community project was launched in spring of 2009, and is at the forefront of efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of Stafford Borough. The initiative was led by the Borough Council, but centres on the involvement of the local community, with input from specialist agencies including Beat the Cold and Sustainability Matters. In 2009, the project gained national recognition by winning a prestigious Green Apple award, and subsequently was regional runner-up in the NEA Footprint Award.
Villagers at the Derrington Way Ahead Launch Event, May 2009, are praised for their
initiative by Stafford Borough's Deputy Mayor, Malcolm Millichap
First steps: spring 2009
February Invites to inaugural meeting sent out
March Steering group formed, with about a dozen people
April Questionnaire compiled to assess level of interest of villagers, on topics including household energy saving; food/gardening; waste and recycling; transport, health, natural environment and wildlife.
Highest-scoring issues were: improved public transport; household energy advice; buying local produce; and improved recycling facilities
May Launch event in the Village Hall, attended by over 150 people, including the Deputy Mayor. A host of local groups provided advice and information on various themes relating to sustainable communities, including energy efficiency, waste reduction, cycling and wildlife.
Home energy audits
Some 15% of all homes in the village received free household energy audits from Stoke-based charity Beat the Cold, and advice on energy efficiency measures. As a result, in the first year, nine homes installed or upgraded their loft insulation and four installed cavity wall insulation. There was also widespread interest in the free energy monitors and power-downs, and adoption of low-energy lightbulbs. The average carbon footprint was calculated at 7.6 tonnes per person per year.
Local Food Festival
Held each September, the Derrington Local Food Festival brings together local farmers, growers and consumers, enabling people to buy produce grown on their doorstep. Local gardeners are encouraged to display samples of their homegrown fruit and veg, with prizes for the best presented or most original items. There are also stalls, displays and talks about various aspects of food, and members of the local WI provide homemade refreshments. Exhibits of produce are auctioned at the end to raise money for the Village Hall.
The first Derrington Local Food Festival, held in September 2009,
attracted some 200 visitors, and has since become an annual event
Village Hall solar panels and energy makeover
Improving the energy efficiency of the Village Hall and equipping it with solar panels has been a key aspect of the Way Ahead project. Click here for the full story.
A range of other initiatives have contributed to creating a more sustainable community in Derrington; some have helped to raise awareness, while others have more tangible outcomes.
- Creation of an orchard at the local primary school, and ‘adopt a fruit tree’ planting in villagers’ gardens.
- Two seasons of films dealing with environmental issues, such as climate change, shown in the Village Hall.
- Led health walks
- Community bench building, along the local ‘Greenway’ cycleway
- Work with children on eco-activities such as potting seeds, bird box making, and environmental art sessions
- Community IT project – introductory sessions on computing held in the Village Hall
- Recycling ‘node’ installed initially in the Red Lion pub, subsequently moved to the Village Hall.
- Designed and installed cycle parking at four sites around the village
- Made some 300 bird boxes and bat boxes
- Successfully bid for grants totalling £100,000
- Created a Village Trail with themed interpretation panels
- Annual 'Wild About Derrington' events on the Millennium Green
Tree planting at the local school proved popular with all age groups
Communicate and promote
The Way Ahead project was given space on the existing Village Hall website, to help communicate news about the project to villagers and the world beyond. This helped boost visitors to the site overall, as well as being a good platform for advertising 'Way Ahead' events and also publishing stories and photos on the latest news.
Major events, such as the Food Festivals, have been promoted using flyers, distributed door to door, as well as posters. A printed newssheet has also been produced periodically (now about six-monthly), with a roundup of progress and forthcoming events. The Steering Group meets regularly, usually every 2-3 months, to report, plan and assess.
Funding and support
The all important question – where did they get the money?
Funding for the initial phase of the project was initially accessed via the Learning 2 Deliver programme, with support of officer time and some seed funding from Stafford Borough Council. Further funding came from the Staffordshire Aggregates Levy Grant Scheme (SALGS).
See Village Hall energy makeover for details of how the energy efficiency measures and solar PV for the Village Hall were funded.
But by far the most valuable inputs have been the time, energy and ideas of the people of Derrington, without which nothing is achieved.