The Reading Hydro project is approaching its crescendo, with the actual “screws” – the turbines themselves – being delivered and installed earlier this month. Tony Cowling has compiled a photo-journal of the development of this amazing project:
A Christmas doesn’t have to involve a ‘real’ Christmas tree! Why not try an alternative approach such as an artificial tree that can be re-used, a succulent Christmas tree, or reusable wooden trees.
For a more real Christmas tree feel, a potted Christmas tree can be taken care of and grown outside each year to brought inside during the festive season.
For those who cannot compromise on a real Christmas tree, try recycling your tree at various recycling or collection points such as the Re3 recycling centre in Reading, Bracknell and Wokingham.
Christmas decorations and gifts:
Whether you are throwing out old unwanted decorations, starting a new Christmas decoration theme this year, or discarding broken or torn decorations, here’s how to do it in a safe and sustainable way. Does it really need to be thrown away, or can it be kept for future use?
Reading Hydro: Reading Hydro CBS is pleased to announce that following the recent reopening of our Share Offer to new investment, we have been successful in reaching our revised target of £980,000 to build and operate a twin Archimedes turbines by Caversham Weir in Reading, UK. https://hydro.readinguk.org/2020/09/14/share-offer-success/
Sustainability course: As we are still unfortunately stuck in COVID times, many have taken the opportunity of the large availability of online courses. One that is particularly interesting is Think Resilience – a course focusing on climate change and sustainability challenges. Consisting of twenty-two short videos, it is perfect to fit into busy schedules as people start going into work, or in a daily routine for those still at home. For joining the course, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sustainability podcast: Listening to a podcast is a great way to learn something new, whether it is while cooking a meal or taking a walk. The “Sustainable (ish)” podcast with Jen Gale covers some interesting topics ranging from food to fashion and many things in between.
Staying healthy: As everyone has no choice but to spend most of their time indoors lately, it can be beneficial to get out in nature for some light exercise, such as taking a health walk at Dinton Pastures Country Park. They are lead by trained volunteers and can be from 1-5 miles. Contact email@example.com for information.
Volunteering: There is an opportunity to volunteer near Reading, in Henley. Volunteers can be involved with looking at theoretical work for land ownership of woodlands and agriculture land around Henley. This is part of a project focusing on tree planting – for trees that have been lost to disease and storms. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It has been a busy year for Reading Hydro CBS, the Community Benefit Society that has been set up to build a hydro electric plant north of Caversham Weir. The twin Archimedean Screw system will generate 320,000 kWh of electricity per year, which is the equivalent of 90 homes at average consumption.
Our share raise, with a target of £700,000, ran from 30th December 2019 to 14th February 2020 and we were thrilled with the response, which attracted a total of £872,000. We are very grateful to those applicants who have supported us so strongly.
Achieving the target meant that we could get further into the detail of the design and construction. As we informed our members at the end of March, this has revealed that the project will cost more than the original budget and the directors are working hard on “value engineering” to bring the cost to the lowest possible level.
On May the 15th we secured all the required planning permissions for the
final design which means we can now start the construction phase, being very
mindful of the working arrangements necessary during the pandemic lockdown.
We have also agreed in principle to supply Thames Lido as our major
commercial customer and any excess production will be sold to a wholesale
The next steps are to fully finalise the project costs and if necessary
seek further funds from investors and then issue the shares. It is still
our hope to build the project in 2020 but the pandemic may reduce the
availability of contractors. If this is the case we will delay the
construction into 2021 and we will still qualify for the important feed in
We remain confident the plant will be built and provide zero carbon
energy to be used in Reading.
Being sustainable during coronavirus –
only a few relaxations on lockdown measures recently, there is still an
opportunity to take part in sustainable activities.
these tough times, taking on a new activity can boost mental health. Why not
try gardening? A sustainable quarantine activity with delicious vegetables as
the end product using compost and garden waste. Some easy to grow produce
includes onions, herbs, and tomatoes. See this article on some more ideas.
donating food to a foodbank or to Reading’s community fridge.
are open on weekday evenings with social distancing measures. This is a great
way to help those who are most affected by this crisis.
Food for thought – learn
from this informative article on Transition Towns, relocalisation,
COVID-19, and the global oil supply. There is high value in effectively and
efficiently utilising resources, and how communities can build their resilience
to cope with future challenges.
Increase your knowledge on permaculture – try reading one or more
of these top 10 permaculture books as recommended by the
In the present highly uncertain and unsettling times, the embrace of the budding spring seems to feel even warmer than normal. Kinder communities have emerged, and any enforced distancing is merely physical, not “social”, as coping with the coronavirus crisis draws us more closely together in spirit. Through the power of modern technology we are still able to communicate, even though we may not be able to touch, hand to hand.
Transition is an ongoing process in which the present, fragile globalised society is transformed to a far more resilient version, based on re-localisation and strong local communities, and an overall curbing of resource use, particularly energy.
Most buildings in which people are currently housed, require a lot of energy to run them (and to build them in the first place), and a superlative example that huge energy savings can be made over current costs is provided by “Tony’s House”, designed and also mainly self-built by Dr Tony Cowling. http://tonyshouse.readinguk.org/
As it is about ten years since its first foundations were set, Tony has provided the following, highly informative and inspiring, overview of how the house has weathered the elements of the past decade.
Many people seem to think that wood should not be used on the outside
of houses, especially for fascias, soffits and bargeboards. The track
record of all the major house builders around the turn of the century
gives them good reason to think this, with widespread failures of eaves,
corner boxes and barge boards, especially when used in conjunction with
under-cloaks. When I built my house, one of the design rubrics was
‘low maintenance’; ‘sustainability’ was high up on the list of
priorities too. So having completely precluded the use of uPVC, I chose
cedar for both my facials and my barge boards, untreated softwood for
the soffits and oak for the framing on the front of the house. So let’s have a look and see if the ideas have worked out in practice and whether there have been any problems.
I am planning to re-lime-wash the render even though it looks exactly
as it did ten years ago. It has become a little frayed around the edges
and it didn’t look very good when I did it, but it has survived well
and has the effect of making the house look older than it is.
I am a bit disappointed with the slightly open mitre on this rear
corner, but there genuinely are no problems with the timber work or
gutters. I was kind of expecting that the copper gutters and downpipes
would gather a greenish patina, but am delighted that they are staying
brown. There have been no leaks, no drips, no repairs and when I cleaned
them out for the second time this year, there was very little to clear,
just a few clumps of maple leaves and keys. I have leaf extractors
just above the rainwater gullies at the bottom of the down pipes to stop
leaves getting into the underground rainwater recycling tank.
The untreated softwood soffits have darkened beautifully and tone
really nicely with the cedar fascias. The soffits never get any weather
and are well protected – I can see them lasting a hundred years or more.
Note how there are knots in the soffits, whereas there are none in the cedar fascias or bargeboards, nicely defining the different species of wood utilised.
The fascia boards are well protected behind the gutters so they
rarely if ever get wet. I am wondering if I could have got away with
softwood fascias. but the risk would be high were they to fail, and the
place where they meet barge boards would have been a weak point. Had I
gone for this I would have tucked the square cut ends of the fascia
boards behind the bottom end of the barge boards and over-sailed the
ends of the barge boards by 15mm to protect the fascias.
In this photo we can see the oak frame, the cedar bargeboards and
the softwood soffits. The cedar is well weathered but does not rot and I
am very happy that it has stayed fairly dark, rather than going the
more commonly seen silvery colour. The cloaked verge protects the
bargeboards so well that they will never need replacing. These also have
untreated softwood soffits but they are well recessed.
nice little lead detail that I incorporated above the horizontal oak
frame members has protected them beautifully. These were cut with a
fifteen degree chamfers top and bottom so that water is shed nicely from
the top and drips away from the render along the bottom edges. The
corner posts that appear to be 150x150mm are in fact corner pieces made
from 150×150 posts with 100×100 cut out from their backs. I was worried
that they might split but thankfully they haven’t and now won’t until
the house is demolished and even then may not. The bottoms of the posts
wee also given the fifteen degree undercut chamfers. I screwed the oak
to the recycled aggregate blockwork and plugged the holes with home
made oak pellets glued in so that the grain matched, these pellets are
now extremely difficult to find. The corner posts, which appear to be
150x150mm, are in fact corner pieces made from 150×150 posts with
100×100 cut out from their backs. I was worried that they might split
but thankfully they haven’t, and now won’t until the house is demolished
– even then they may not. The bottoms of the posts were also given the
fifteen degree undercut chamfers. I screwed the oak to the recycled
aggregate blockwork and plugged the holes with homemade oak pellets,
glued in so that the grain matched. These pellets are now extremely difficult to find.
The porch continues the theme of cedar for the fascias and barge
boards, but as the ceiling of the porch is entirely made of cedar, this
simply extends to the back of the fascia.
There is some watermark staining Just visible to the front of the
porch ceiling and to the bottom oak rail. These do not seem to be a
problem and I am loving the condition of the bottom ends of all the
barge boards, no fraying, no rot nor any decay.
None of the exposed wood has had any treatment or cleaning of any
kind and does not look like it will ever need any. By the time you add
in the cost of preparation, filling, priming, paint/staining and labour
it works out cheaper to use cedar than other less durable wood. Further
there are ongoing maintenance costs.
The first three years in our new home were the coldest three in
living memory for me with recorded temperatures as low as -11°C &
-6°C during those winters. I had designed to go to just below freezing
with no heating so we had to put a small electric heater on, it used
about 60W when the temperature was -3°C and 300W when we had -6°C. It
was a simple electric convector heater connected to a plug in
No treatment is necessary for the oak
frame as oak is very resistant to decay, it was green oak so some joints
have shrunk to leave a crack this is part of its beauty. If it must be
treated then use one coat of boiled linseed oil every five years, having
started with two coats the first time round. I have no intention of
treating my oak. The eagle eyed among you will have seen that I used
tiny lead cover flashings to protect the top fully chamfered edges of
the horizontal members.
The solar panels are working and collecting heat very well. My solar
control software is controlling three panels, two tanks, three pumps,
several solenoid valves, and dumping excess heat to my interseasonal
I used to live in a house with a solid
uninsulated floor, I have measured the temperature under my floor at
various depths and found that they are a lot warmer than is generally
believed. This is because I lived in the house and it had been heating
the soils under my floors, the heat lost to the ground had warmed up the
sub strata and immediately under the floor it had assumed the average
temperature of the house (this should in my opinion also apply to
insulated floors as insulation slows the passage of heat but does not
stop the flow of heat completely).
Uses about one third of the maximum energy allowed by Passivehaus
Ground warmed up,
No condensation anywhere or any signs of it
Green oak shrank and pinged off some edges of the lime render,
Lost some logged data,
Problems with auto shutter controls,
Heat exchanger tries to keep house warm in the summer!
The house is so well sound insulated that the easiest way in for
noise is through the ceiling and even with 450mm of glass fibre quilt it
is noticeable and I wish that I had double tacked the ceilings.
There was an unusual problem with condensation forming on the basement window lintels in the cavity and running down the outside of the window glass.
Front door lock broke several times in the first four years now it is fine.
The house was designed to be very low on maintainance but as with all building things need to be done
changes to MVHR, cleaning windows and frames, service window ironmongery
– clean and silicone lube, I had relay patio near house due to
settlement of soil fill near house sinking into the excavation batters.
Six new porch lights (remarkable misfortune), replace recessed LED
strip lights to elliptical ceiling (too cheapo ones used initially),
replace electric curtain motor, replace electric front door lock, three
popped nail heads in plasterboard ceilings, one in basement two in front
bedroom- filled with “onetime” filler and touched up invisibly with the
original natural calico paint used on most ceilings.
Welcome to Transition Town Reading’s bi-monthly Newsletter! Here you’ll find relevant news about being more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
The dark side of winter: If you find yourself eyeing the
thermostat with thoughts of turning it up this winter or would like to save on
energy bill costs, then it’s time to think about draught-proofing your home. This
uncontrolled ventilation can cause heat loss and spaces to be colder, meaning
more energy waste. The good news is that an amazing team of volunteers can help
to fix this problem. Draught busters is an amazing team of volunteers that can
analyse how your home can be more energy efficient and draught proof it for
you. You can also see their website here for tips on how to
draught proof your home on your own so you can avoid unnecessary heat loss and
can also help your neighbours be more energy efficient.
Renewable energy: Reading hydro is a leading community
scheme focused on just this. The focus
is on building a hydro-electric scheme on the Thames in Reading that generates energy
from the power of the river. It is a community project where local people can volunteer
and get involved in different roles as well as attend events which can be found
on the Facebook page,
as well as invest their money and later get a return on their investments. The
current phase is progressing with funding to order parts for construction.
Surplus fruit in your back garden? Unable to pick it all
yourself? The Abundance Reading project will harvest it for you, leave you with
as much as you want and donate the rest to local communities and groups,
including Reading Town Meal. Picking is done by volunteers who collect fruit
from back gardens and trees in Reading. Joining in with picking is a great way
to help those around you and contribute to the community, who love to receive
the local abundance of fruit. Become a
volunteer or get in touch for further picking and opportunities in 2020,
as the season for 2019 is now complete.
The Transition Apple Press is used to transform apples,
pears and grapes into delicious juice. You can see the kit in use every year at
Reading Town Meal. It is available for community and school events, and can be
hired for personal use too.
Super buses in Reading? These bio-methane run buses produce
84% less Carbon Dioxide than a regular double decker bus. Food waste and cattle
slurry is used in producing the bio-methane, giving it better use than to
simply let it biodegrade. It’s a trial
run for now so do watch this space!
TTR is looking for a volunteer Communication Officer to run the bimonthly newsletter. It’s a great opportunity to connect with the local community and share your passion for permaculture and sustainability with really nice people! Please get in touch at email@example.com
C O M M U N I T Y A SPACE COME TRUE by Marta Rossato
People and ideas need the right space to thrive. Open, inclusive, beautiful and affordable. This was the challenge that triggered the Oxford based project MakeSpace, a community – led working space where individuals and organizations can operate and connect to ignite social or environmental change. With a focus on sustainability, both the renovation of the building and the activities taking place at MakeSpace demonstrate how powerful can community action be. How a handful of individuals can join ideas, skills and resources to address something seen as a fundamental need for the community itself.
We are featuring their story hoping to inspire other socially – driven people and organizations living and working in different places but facing the same challenges.
In this interview Emma Gordon, co-ordinator at Makespace Oxford, tells us the whole story, explaining how different groups started collaborating to make it happen and the impact it is achieving for the different local communities in Oxford.
MS is a physical space but most of all is a hub, a “catalyst” for community – led and socially innovative projects. How did it all started and what triggered it?
Makespace came about because of the need for socially affordable work space. It started with this need and then formed into four founder organisations: Transition by Design (T/D), Community Action Group (CAG), Broken Spoke Bike Co-op (BSB.) and Aspire, coming to gather to search in earnest for affordable space. Makespace Oxford was formed as a result. An organisation that could broker and manage meanwhile spaces to offer below market rate rent to organisations trying to affect positive change. From the first meeting to acquiring 1. Aristotle Lane took four years. Finding an available building and refurbishing it, as well as building a strong partnership must have been quite challenging. Can you tell us a bit more about these aspects and how you addressed them?
There were many forms before we came to what is now our hub in Aristotle Lane. First there was a meanwhile space on the opposite side of Oxford. Ideal, but precarious due to a two week notice period. There was excitement and effort put into a warehouse space in Cowley that did not come to fruition and a number of small nibbles elsewhere, before finally Wadham College got wind of what Makespace was trying to achieve and gave us the possibility of our current building. Often buildings that are standing empty are in need of some work in order to make them safe and with the expertise of Transition by Design (an Architectural firm) Makespace were well placed to assess and make good these improvements. But they do cost money, and Makespace applied for grants and loans to make the project work. Amazingly it took only two months, from signing the tenancy to 80% occupancy in the case of Aristotle House, and Makespace are working toward being able to do rapid retrofit and turnarounds, as this is imperative for buildings in which there is a limited time in which to occupy them. MS is definitely a champion of a successful partnership project: being presented the Innovation Award by Oxfordshire Community & Voluntary Action and being shortlisted for the Working Together Award acknowledge this. Can you share the story of this partnership and the process of building it?
As mentioned above it was a group effort between numerous organizations, and a long road. There were surveys done, meetings with various interested parties, regular strategy meetings etc.. which all paved the way for the brilliant project we have today. And the collaboration still continues. Our current space is a hive of activity with lots of collaborative projects happening as a result.
MS is a co-working space open to social enterprises, workers cooperatives, small charities and creative individuals. How did you make this project financially viable?
Initially this was grant and loan money, however as time goes by the revenue from the residents will start to make the project self sustaining. North Oxford building owned by Wadham College is awaiting redevelopment. What happens next?
We have three prospective buildings in our sites. We are working on the feasibility of converting these to be fit for purpose and creating a strategy for how we start to manage multiple small sites and fill them in the fairest and most inclusive way possible. It is exciting times in Oxford as there is allot of energy and enthusiasm about what is happening with Oxford’s empty shops. We are in the thick of the conversation and trying to establish ourselves as the go to safe pair of hands for landlords who have meanwhile spaces they want to put to good use and then to have the right links within the community to be able to fill them with organizations who are makings roads towards improving society for all.
More about MakeSpace Oxford here C O M M U N I T Y G R O W S Do you have has some spare garden space? You could be part of the “growing team” to grow some vegetables for the Reading Town Meal (Saturday 28th September – Forbury Gardens) All seeds provided free!
All info here S A VE THE D A T E HOW RESOURCEFUL IS READING? In the last few decades we became used to see urban ares as major cause of irresponsible consumption of soil, air and water, with much of the discussion rightly focusing on the distortion caused by all that. But cities and towns are also places where people meet, connect, get inspired and innovate. There is an urgent need to highlight ideas and projects creating a positive impact to help them connect and create a critical mass, globally and locally.
This is what RESOURCEFUL READING does, showcasing ideas and initiatives that people and communities in Reading are already doing to make life more sustainable.
The display, featuring pioneering projects and more recent initiatives, is in Reading Museum’s community cabinet in the welcome area of the new ‘Story of Reading’ permanent gallery. Resourceful Reading is put together by The Reading Sustainability Centre and Reading Museum. Until end of May.
More info. My toaster has a lever which no longer holds toast down. The fan in my laptop is not working so it gets overheated. My leather case needs stitching. My hairdryer is broken.
What can I do? Toss them? No way, take it to the REPAIR CAFE’ where you will find experts in fixing pretty much anything. Out of passion and great know how. W H E R E & W H E N
SUNDAY 16th JUNE @ READING HACKSPACE rLab, Unit C1, Weldale St, RG1 7BX 12:00 – 4:30 pm | Tea&coffee&cakes offered. Find out more on our FB page Reading Repair CaféS I G N U P !
Would you like to see more renewable energy in and around Reading?
Would you like to make a return on your investment while supporting
local sustainability initiatives?
Then our new share offer could be for you!
Building on the success of our 2016 solar panel scheme,
we are pleased to launch our new share offer, providing the opportunity
for you to invest in the installation of solar panels in the Reading
The scheme will help deliver cost-effective, low carbon energy to
local organisations and businesses. We plan to install free solar panels
on at least 8 buildings this spring, with 2 further opportunities also
in discussion. The building occupants will receive fixed price
electricity for the 20 year life of the project, with surplus funds
ring-fenced to support further sustainability initiatives in the local
Applications are now open for individuals, organisations and
businesses to invest in the scheme, with priority given to local
investors (defined as having an RG postcode) and existing investors of
the Society. We are looking to raise up to £363,000, with investments
from £200 to £20,000 being invited. We are targeting 4.5% returns in
years 1 to 3 and 5% returns from years 4 to 20.
The Transition Town Reading Christmas Party will be taking place on Wednesday 19th December in Room 3 at RISC, London Street from 7.30 – 9.30pm. Come help us celebrate another successful year in Transition!
The event will begin by showing a 35 minute film about permaculture: “Surviving Collapse, Designing your Way to Abundance”, followed by party.
We’ll be joined by Reading Friends of the Earth, Berkshire Greenpeace, and other local groups. Please bring along food to share.