I toddled off to Poundbury today on the coat tails of some local ecopreneurs, and had a fascinating time. Poundbury is Prince Charles’s homage to Hardy outside Dorchester, which I’ve often passed ferrying children to play various rugby matches. As someone building a contemporary house in their back garden you would expect me to hate it and, it’s true, I just don’t get the architecture at all, which reminds me of Trumpton (talking of which, the neoclassical fire station is particularly odd; I’m not sure even Pugh, Pugh, and Barney McGrew* would be comfortable with it). It’s had enough of a pasting on that front over the years not to dwell on it. Having lived in Zurich for a bit I’m also suspicious of the Swiss approach to community living, which this seems to be like.
Anyway, what was interesting about the visit wasn’t my (rather predictable) reservations, but the anaerobic digester, which was the main reason I was there. Needless to say, the Germans have been generating gas from decomposing waste for years, and as needless to say we’re only just starting. The new digester at Poundbury is going to be just fabulous – really inspirational – and I can’t applaud the initiative highly enough. They’re going to be making enough gas for the WHOLE of West Dorset. The site is beautifully landscaped and – oh yes – it’s not smelly either. The end byproduct, “digestate”, can be used to fertilize fields and gardens. Interestingly for me, wildflowers might be a really good high calorific input for the plant, which would be brilliant; I’m always looking for economic reasons as well as the obvious ones for restoring what ecologists call “floriferous grassland”.
I’m really impressed when I see initiatives like the Poundbury “AD” actually coming to fruition. Actually happening. The people driving it don’t just have to be just hugely enthusiastic but also very bright. They have to be endlessy patient, good communicators, backed by an organization with deep pockets and a long term view. Most of all they have to be achievers. Whichever world I’ve been involved in over the years, from uber-capitalist to local conservation charity, this is a rare cocktail indeed.
Oh, and I should also say that, buoyed by my excitement, I popped into Dorset Wines on my way out of town. Poundbury works for them, and on the evidence of their enthusiasm and their Petit Chablis, Dorset Wines rather works for me. Next time we’re playing Dorchester RFC (away) I will return…
*This Trumpton reference attests to my advanced age.