‘Just ordinary folk, doing what they do to try to make the world a better place.’

Think you can’t make a difference on a personal scale? Think again.

There’s this group in a relative small community of approximately 800 households, on the outskirts of the city of Winchester, Hampshire that is quietly getting on with something that is producing what I would describe as significant results.

I want to shine a light on the changes they are effecting , see if it can be replicated throughout the country…

Listen to my audio intro

How Did This Start?

Born out of wanting to encourage South Wonston Parish Council to put the climate change emergency on their agenda, South Wonston Sustainability was formed. Initially of course, just a few likeminded people that decided to meet with the Winchester Action on the Climate Crisis (WinACC) in April 2022 and then they were off! WinACC started WeCAN – Winchester Climate Action Network to encourage community groups and Parish Councils across the district to take action, and they helped them get started.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: If you engage as parish residents with parish councils, you DO stand a chance of getting something you feel passionately about, to be considered.

Picking five areas in which they felt they could effect change and reduce their carbon footprint – Energy, Travel, Food, Circular Economy and Biodiversity they organised themselves. From meeting to discuss generating their own renewable energy to power the village to a ‘Give, Swap, Buy’ May bank holiday event they are taking action. Dividing themselves up depending on individual interest, each of the five action groups has made progress, naturally some more than others. The power of small teams…

Picking out three or four, let’s look at what they have achieved so far.

Energy Group

Government carbon neutral targets are set currently at 2050 but Winchester City Council’s district target is to achieve this by 2030.

First stop for South Wonston Sustainability is a Thermal Imaging Camera loan scheme – you can identify ‘heat leaks’ in your home and buildings, and consider additional insulation. On a wider scale, the energy group held a workshop in October run by representatives from the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Bristol. Renewable energy generation, solar panels or wind turbines would be acceptable, as long as its of benefit to the residents. The group learnt how much of the village’s energy needs could be met by this method.

Next steps? With waste ground identified that could house some type of renewable energy system, plan is to share the outcomes from the workshop with the wider village and see if they can move this forward.

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Biodiversity Group

A good friend of mine and her husband have spearheaded this team, kicking off with information sessions for their fellow villages on the importance of biodiversity. What’s followed from those sessions is pretty cool, well the Swifts think so for sure. With Swift Box installation for the village pavilion the main aim – now installed – many of the residents also purchased them too. Swifts are on the amber list in the UK’s birds of conservation concern. With plastic soffits, and increased insulation of our buildings – not all bad of course – we have unwittingly blocked or prevented many of their normal nest sites.

Talks with to the local Scouts group and a wild flower seed ball workshop with them is a great hands-on way of getting these messages through. This worked well at village fete’s and other community events.

This one took a little more effort but their bug hotel made by local community shed group, was recently installed on their recreation ground – on a particularly wet day!

Early October 2023, using the wildlife app i-naturalist on what they called ‘the South Wonston BioBlitz’, participants carried out a bio-diversity check in their village. Three species, not previously reported for the village were identified – Common Striped Woodlouse, Noon Fly and the Ivy Cellophane Bee. Great way to encourage use of this app and contribute to the data being collected to measure our biodiversity.

Love this video they provided of one of the groups’ children finding the Bug Hotel, that’s what its all about.

With a simple but effective website, they are building so many resources both to encourage those living in their village to get involved, but also communicating what they are doing to the wider community, making it very easy for other villages to consider doing the same. With postings on what’s coming up from each group, results of their activities and requests for resources, what I really loved to see were things like ‘Never Stop Learning’ and ‘Think Before You Shop’ on their WHAT CAN I DO page!

Food Group

Not just a good reference list of actions that everyone can try, particularly around food waste and the connection to climate change, this group has really got their hands dirty with a first stab at a community allotment. Read about what happened HERE, it’s short and worth it. As the story unfolded for me, the setbacks this small group – adults and children – overcame showed true determination and community spirit with the fun they had and the sense of achievement when they harvested their crops, shining through.

In our first year we’ve harvested 101.3kgs of produce, saving the equivalent of £319.42 and 58.06kg of CO2

South Wonston’s Community Allotment

Circular Economy Group

Litter Picking and Sorting for Recycling

Primarily promoting reuse and recycling all sorts has happened under this banner. From promoting the clothes bank, to prom dress ‘hire rather than buy’.

Not everyone has the skillset to repair things, even if they are willing but a Repair Cafe is a good way to reduce items heading to landfill and is one the group is working on. An initial evening meeting in March brought together anyone that might help this to become a reality.

First May Bank Holiday Monday a very successful ‘Give, Swap, Buy’ event hosted at the Pavilion was well attended.

Conclusions: There’s some support from the Parish Council in South Wonston through necessary programmes to address the climate emergency – very helpful. This group is now a Working Party and part of the Parish Council, with some financial support from them for specific activities, which is good progress – joins up efforts. Their website as a resource for everyone and the place for much of the communications has been a valuable asset. A private South Wonston Sustainability Facebook group – now 350 strong – plus a public page and Instagram presence aids communications of achievements and events. A monthly newsletter provides additional ways to connect, with the local news South Wonston Eye Facebook group amplifying comms to the wider community. This stuff isn’t easy, but they have shown what can be achieved. It just takes a few willing people to kick start it….

Just ordinary folk, doing what they do to try to make the world a better place? What do you think?

Don’t wait for the government to act, get on and act in your own community

just like South Wonston has…

Resources and links:

South Wonston Sustainability Website

South Wonston Sustainability Instagram

South Wonston Sustainability Facebook