Graham Truscott tells the story of how Melbourne Area Transition bought a redundant cabbage field and turned it back into biodiverse, fruitful, community-owned land.
With the opening of a beautiful new hub building in October 2018, 4 hectares (10 acres) of former cabbage field (last held in common ownership in 1791) celebrated the fifth anniversary of its return to cooperative ownership and a significant transformation. The ‘big idea’ in March 2013 had been to turn this rather ordinary field into a multipurpose resource for the local community, an educational showcase and exemplar for permaculture principles and a fighting (albeit local and small-scale) response to the multiple threats affecting the biosphere. We were then a small Transition group in a rural/suburban area of South Derbyshire.
Melbourne Area Transition members had achieved a few small practical successes. A thriving forest garden had been created at the local school, a 10kW solar PV system placed on the roof of the grade 1 listed parish church and a number of other projects and activities drew attention to the big issues … But raising the money, fighting off housing developers, equestrian and other local property interests, managing land as an inexperienced group? That’s how daunting it looked when the commercial ‘For Sale’ signs appeared by the side of the road. By October 2013, however, not only had we figured out how to do it, got ourselves and our new cooperative approved by the Financial Regulator, gathered more than 150 members, done all the legal stuff etc. – and raised the cash – we were holding our first celebration on our own land.
The unequivocal support of The National Forest was critical. Within three days of hearing of our hopes, the promise of a capital grant from this forward-thinking organisation to start the fundraising forced us to turn thoughts into action.
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