Sunday, 13 April 2014

Spring Fair

The weather was gorgeous and hot on Friday, so of course it was grey and a bit cold on Saturday for the Spring Fair in the Castle grounds. Despite that, a lot of people turned up, and there was a lot to see. In the main tent there were crafts, many of them either recycled, Fairtrade or wildlife related, together with Green Valleys giving out booklets on their new share offer - they're raising money for four small hydro-electric schemes somewhere in the Brecon Beacons.
There was a food and beer tent - the beer was local, and the Fairtrade group were running one of the teas and cakes stalls (and doing very well, when I passed by).
A third big tent held activities, including spinning, peg loom weaving, pottery and wicker basket making.
In between the big tents there were little tents, selling herbs and bee related products and so on. One lady had come all the way from Warwickshire with her Squeaky Green towels and washing kits. Another tent was providing balls of various sizes for children to play with. There was a stage - I heard the community choir singing, and there was a samba band later. There was a chainsaw artist, too - I rather liked this one:

In the Castle, there were talks on Green issues all day, starting with Nigel In Transition, a film about setting up a Transition Town (which is a town coming to grips with the problems caused by the world coming to the end of cheap fossil fuel energy and becoming more self-sufficient).
I had been in the Mending Shed, the Hay Together venture on the other side of the castle, where various experts were waiting to mend anything from computers to holes in cardigans. There were a couple of bikes to mend, and one or two electrical items, and I sewed up the holes in Ellie's cardigan, but after that I wandered off and caught the talk on Energy.
The general idea was to look at Hay and the surrounding area to see where we could produce our own energy as a community, but of course the speakers also went off on various tangents.
So, we have a big river - but it moves slowly and the weir on the Warren isn't really worthy of the name according to a man who has canoed down it. The tributaries, which drop a long way over a short distance are a better bet for producing hydro-electricity.
We have some public buildings upon which we could place solar panels - at the moment Dave Prescott from New Leaf, one of the speakers, is involved in setting up solar panels on an old landfill site outside Hereford, which is land that can't be used for growing crops or for building on because of the landfill contamination. In Leominster, there is a community project which has solar panels on the leisure centre and the school.
We have woodland which was once coppiced, and could be again, to provide biomass, as is being done in Fownhope.
We have wind - but the proposed Clyro wind turbine recently failed to gain planning permission, with a lot of local opposition. One of the wind schemes that was mentioned is in Scotland, where 50% of all energy is now renewable, and wind is quite popular. As one chap in the audience said - roads are polluting and noisy, so we should close the roads and build turbines instead!
One chap at the back of the hall said that he was interested in starting a co-op in Hay to provide community energy, and asked about the possibility of a regional framework rather than one local co-op after another. It seems there are a couple of reasons why schemes are done on a small scale - one is that each new co-op gets a certain amount of tax relief, and the other is that people who are passionate about solar power are often not interested in wind power, or other forms of renewable energy, so it's best to be specific rather than general with schemes. The chap who wants to start something in Hay was hoping to go for solar panels on public buildings first, and then branch out later to hydro-electric and finally wind power, while collaborating with Bronllys and Talgarth.
I was going to come back to listen to the talk about affordable housing locally, but by that time I was ravenous and disappeared back home to eat.

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