Congleton Beartown communicaations – Best in the country!

Congleton Beartown communicaations – Best in the country!

It’s official! According to our peers in the communications world, the team and volunteers at Congleton Beartown Ltd ran the most effective “Best local Community Initiative” in the country.

This speaks volumes for the hard work and commitment that has been put into the project by our school children, teachers and volunteers. Achieved with the assistance of Cheshire East Council and Congleton Town Council and with logistics support from Plus Dane.

The award was made at the Comedy Club in Manchester on the evening of the 15th of November.

Paul Bates MD of Congleton Beartown said “ Sandie Isherwood and Andrea Armitt were present to represent the schools and  the children. Claire Fiddeman, Paul Bates and Dawn Gibbins to represent the team and its volunteers. Having sat through the seminar we went into the awards ceremony. We were a little intimidated by the strength , professionalism and the size  of our competitors, hopes were to say the least on the frail side.

In our sector, the best local community initiative, the quality in this  category was deemed to be so good that a highly commended award was to be given, this raised our hopes for an inclusion. Trepidation continued when this was awarded to Charnwood Borough Council & North West Leicestershire District Council for Don’t Muck Around.

BBC’s Andy Crane then said “and the winner in this category is ……………………  and there will be a big cheer from the left of the room Congleton Beartown Ltd  for Bearmania” Indeed Andy was correct in his prediction, noise ensued.

“We received the award said a few words and spent the rest of the evening letting it sink in.” Paul also added “On receiving the award it makes us realise that our ambitious plans for improving community life in Congleton in 2012 are realistic and can have a positive effect on the people and the area , it goes to prove no idea is a bad idea”

Congleton Beartown is now a multi award winning company

Congleton Beartown is now a multi award winning company as it adds the Golden Hedgehog PR Award 2012 to its collection which includes a HOW DO Public Service Award.Hedge hog award

This award was made at The Hilton Hotel Manchester at a black tie gala dinner on the evening of the 21st of March. Paul Bates who was in attendance said “the competition was fierce the PR professional crème de la’ crème being all present in the room is quite intimidating. 20 awards were made during the evening and the Best Community Engagement Campaign of The Year was deemed to be such a high calibre category that a highly commended award was to be given. BBC’s Andy Crane was the master of ceremonies and he announced the winner overall as Congleton Beartown Ltd for Bearmania. As I walked to the stage Andy said “this initiative was now multi award winning, and had structured goals and objectives that it met and exceeded its expectations and was highly successful in engaging with its home audience and a wider audience. The judges commended it on its ingenuity, innovation and highly professional execution.”

To win this award against the wealth of talent and experience on show at the awards is a fantastic achievement for the town.

Mediocrity is not for the “Little Town With The Big Heart”

Paul Bates:

“Our efforts would mean absolutely nothing without the breath of fresh air ideas which comes from our school children, the communication of those ideas from the teachers and the support from our team who made the event possible. Our thanks must go to that team of Congleton Town Council, Cheshire East Council, Plus Dane, Hammond McNulty, Michelle Jones, Jigsaw RTM, Ravensworth, Beresford’s and Top Nosh who all gave services free of charge. Plus the skills and dedication of the artists, the participating companies and the people of the town and the visitors from far and wide who completed the “Bear Trail”

Two More Awards For Congleton

Members of Congleton Partnership & Congleton Beartown Ltd with two awards received from ‘Action for Market Towns’ for ‘Bearmania’ and ‘Congleton Means Business’. The ‘Bearmania’ event, organised by Congleton Beartown Ltd and held throughout the summer of 2011, was amazingly successful, attracting many new visitors to the town to see the beautifully decorated bears and walk the bear trail.

‘Congleton Means business’ was organised by the Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council and Congleton Partnership and was sponsored by the Inclosure Trust. It was held in the Town Hall to provide information to developers, retailers and investors to promote the town as an attractive area for new businesses. During the first half of 2012 Congleton has seen a record number of new companies being set up which is, in part, an exciting legacy of ‘Congleton Means Business’.

Congleton is proud to be a transition town

A transition town? It’s one of those groundswell movements that started from tiny beginnings in a small town in Devon and has grown to 35 countries around the world.

In fact, it began only five years ago when a group of like-minded people would work on creating a more sustainable community to reduce their dependency on oil. Today, it operates from Latvia to Thailand, Nigeria, India and the US and South America.

In an interview with the Indie, its founder, Rob Hopkins, said the reason for this explosive growth is obvious. “Communities are realising they are more vulnerable, and the current situation means people are less complacent about where the economic activity of the future is going to come from,” he says. “Transition doesn’t wait for permission to get started; it is about ordinary people making things happen within a bigger strategic context.”

Most important, the movement is apolitical.

A big thank you to Emma Jacobs who has kindly submitted the follwing article on Transition Towns

Transition Towns – Their History and Ethos

Congleton is extremely proud to be a Transition Town. Put very simply, a Transition Town is a place with a conscience, which wants to exist in harmony with its environment and the world in which it lives. It’s a growing movement, with an interesting history, and Congleton has experienced great success in implementing sustainable initiatives to reduce the human impact of Congleton upon the planet. However, some may be confused as to what sort of things being a Transition Town entails, and whether it will impact negatively upon their lives. Here, therefore, is a short explanation of the history, aims, and implications of the Transition Town movement.

Early Irish Beginnings

The Transition Town initiative first took place in Totnes, Devon. However, the birth of the movement was a few years prior to that. It all began in Kinsale, Ireland, in 2004, when Totnes native Rob Hopkins encouraged permaculture students at the Kinsale Further Education College to think of ways in which they could reduce the town’s reliance upon unsustainable resources like oil. The report produced describes it as “the first attempt at setting out how Kinsale, a West Cork town of about 7,000 people, could make the transition from a high energy consumption town to a low energy one.”[1] The main aim of the game was to implement sustainable policies before the world reached an oil peak and subsequent energy crisis – “The impending peaking of world oil production will lead to huge changes around the world, and Ireland will not be immune to this”.

Growth in Totnes

Proud of their work, the students and their teacher duly took their report to the Kinsale town council, who supported the findings and promised to work towards sustainability. Kinsale was later to become Ireland’s first Transition Town, and remains an enthusiastic participant[2] in the Transition Network. However, it was not until Hopkins moved back to his native Devon that the Transiton Towns movement truly spread its wings. The first Transition Town in the world was Transition Town Totnes – an initiative inspired by Hopkins’s work, which grew out of what Totnes describes as “open space” meetings[3] for the whole community on the topic of sustainability. Over the course of these meetings, several themes would emerge which would go on to become the core concerns of the Transition movement – “food, transport, energy, business and livelihoods, health and wellbeing, building and housing, and inner transition”. It did not take long for a working Transition model to be developed, which would be applied to the town’s infrastructure with excellent results. Now, Totnes is described as “the most forward thinking eco-settlement in the world”[4], and hailed as the future of post-oil reliance living.

The Movement’s Spread

The success of Totnes and its Transition initiative proved inspirational for towns worldwide. In less than a decade, hundreds and hundreds of towns all over the world have been declared Transition Towns and committed to the ethos thought up by college students in Kinsale. The movement has even taken off in Japan – a world away from the little Devonian town of Totnes – where there are reportedly a staggering “48 groups…active nationwide”[5]. In the UK and Ireland, where the initiative started, the movement has grown to encompass an enormous number[6] of our towns and cities – among them our own Congleton. Cycle paths [7], solar panels [8], and all round renewable initiatives are the order of the day.

Growing Green Consciences

The idea has even taken hold for those people who do not (yet) live in Transition Towns. Seeking sustainable solutions to everyday problems has become a matter of course for many. Renewable energy is a particular fulcrum of the Transition ethos – as point out, “Looking after the environment and using sustainable, green, alternative energy sources is becoming more and more important to many of us”[9]. There is considerable evidence that concern for the environment and the sustainability of our future is rising amongst the populace – perhaps due to more education on the topic in schools, perhaps due to the possible impending energy crisis, but almost certainly partly through the inspirational example of Transition Towns like Congleton. People are recycling, switching to renewable energy sources and, according to a recent government press release, making stringent efforts to “choose greener ways of travelling”[10]. Providing greater accommodations for bicycles, walkers, and public transport users is one key concern for many Transition Towns, and it seems to be spreading into the wider world.

Congleton’s Transition

Congleton itself became a Transition Town just a few years ago[11], after a lot of good work by the Congleton Sustainability Group[12]. Ever since, the town has been working diligently to bring about a more eco-conscious, sustainable [13] way of doing things in Congleton, bringing Congleton into harmony with the environment and its denizens. The Sustainability Group is a community-based initiative comprising local people, schools, community groups, environmental campaigners and individuals with a conscience. The community-led aspect of the Transition ethos is a big part of what has made it so successful and appealing. Congleton is no exception. In particular, Congleton has been extremely successful in Transitoning its schools. Congleton schools are largely part of the Eco-Schools project, which gives ‘Green Flag Awards’[14] to schools which show exceptional commitment to ecological improvement. Of Cheshire East’s ten green flag schools, five are in Congleton. This is especially good for the children of the town, who are not only learning sustainable methods of living which will serve them well in the future, but also find their journeys to school and around the town much safer due to initiatives aimed at improving walkways and cycle paths while simultaneously reducing the traffic. Indeed, only last year the Council voted to implement a variety of new traffic-related measures, including “To relieve existing town centre congestion” and “To reduce traffic related pollutants”[15].

A Hopeful Future

All in all, the Transition Towns initiative has come a long way in under a decade. From its humble beginnings in small towns in Devon and Ireland, it has spread worldwide, sweeping up in its wake places like Congleton. That Congleton shall benefit from its sustainable ethos is little in doubt – already the environmental health and wellbeing of the area is reaping the rewards, while the town’s citizens feel that, through the Sustainability Group, they can have an active say in the direction their town takes. It is to be hoped that the good work continues and grows, until Congleton is truly sustainable and ready to face anything the changing climate throws at it.

[1] Kinsale Further Education College & Rob Hopkins, “Kinsale 2021: An Energy Descent Action Plan”, Kinsale Town Council, 2005

[2] Leo McMahon, “Transition Town Kinsale leads the way in Community-Supported Projects with Local Farmers”, The Southern Star, 14th November 2013

[3] Transition Town Totnes, “History

[4] Lucy Siegle, “Totnes: Britain’s Town of The Future”, The Observer, Sunday 6th February 2011

[5] Winifred Bird, “All Change – For A Transition Town Near You”, The Japan Times, 15th March 2014

[6] “Official Initiatives By Number”, Transition

[7] “National Cycle Network“, Sustrans

[8] “Solar Panels“, Energy Saving Trust

[9] “Looking after the environment and using sustainable energy sources”,

[10] UK Government Press Release, “More People Choosing Greener Journeys”,, 13th December 2013

[11] “Congleton Becomes An Official Transition Town!”,,

[12] “Congleton Sustainability Group”, Transition,

[13] “Ecological Surveys and Advice in Congleton, Cheshire“, United Environmental Services

[14] “Green Flag Award Criteria”, Eco Schools

[15] Cheshire East Council, “Decision Details: Congleton Transport Infrastructure Study Revised Objectives”, 17th April 2013,



Quarter of a million pounds environmental win for Congleton with Dane Hydro

Hydro project River Dane CongletonPeter Aston of Congleton Sustainability Group reports:

The Town has been successful with a bid for £250k of European Funding through the Rural Carbon Challenge Fund to build the hydro scheme on The Old Weir on the River Dane.

This is a real win/win situation.

  • The Hydro scheme will deliver low carbon electricity. A win for the environment
  • The profits from selling the electricity (Aldi have already expressed interest) will be used for energy saving initiatives (such as home insulation) to further reduce electricity demand and again lower the town’s carbon footprint. Another environmental win.


River Dane a very fast running river. An ideal place for a hydro scheme is a weir – and we have lots around Congleton because of our industrial heritage.

Four years ago the Dane Renewable Energy Project Group was formed, and they have assessed the Old Weir for suitability and found that the Weir offered a huge opportunity to demonstrate what could be achieved in terms of local renewable energy.

They have been campaigning to get funds and have targeted the Rural Carbon Challenge Fund. Six months and a very detailed 55 page report later they have secured a quarter of a million pounds of EU money to create electrical power from the flow of the river.

It is planned that it will be operational early in 2012. A Community Enterprise will be created so that the earnings from selling the electricity will fund energy efficiency projects around the Town.


Congleton Apple Juice Wins Regional Award!

Award winning Congleton Apple juice Congleton and its Congleton Apple Juice project is one of six Market towns in the north of England to receive an accolade from ‘Action for Market Towns’ for work to create thriving communities.

The six communities have beaten off stiff competition from small towns across the north of England to win recognition for their efforts to nurture thriving communities entering enter projects into one of four categories: Business & Economy, Environment & Culture, Partnership & Strategic Working and Social & Community.

Congleton Sustainability Group entered the Congleton Apple Juice project into the Environment & Culture category and were delighted to be judged joint winners with Renaissance Knaresborough.

Peter Aston, Chair of Congleton Sustainability Group, when asked to describe the project in 50 words said “In 2010 three tons of Congleton’s home-grown surplus apples were saved from the compost heap, juiced and bottled. Profits from the much-praised Congleton Apple Juice funded mini-orchards in the town’s schools”.

Peter paid tribute to everyone in the town who contributed apples to the project, Astbury Mere Visitor Centre’s help consolidating the apples and Eddisbury Fruit Farm making and bottling the juice.

Peter praised members of Congleton Sustainability Group and the many shops, cafes and restaurants and the Tourist Information Centre who have worked hard selling the juice. Profits from the juice together with funding from Cheshire Community Action and The William Dead Trust have enabled the schools to plant over 85 apple trees to create mini-orchards in all 16 Congleton Schools.

Peter particularly thanked Patti Pinto, of based in Congleton, for all her hard work creating the mini orchards in the schools.

Chris Wade, the chief executive of AMT said: “The quality and quantity of our entries shows that the big society is flourishing in many small towns across the north of England as communities show the spirit of self reliance”.

“AMT Awards help celebrate and share good ideas across the countries and include planned events where winners will showcase their talents.”

Action for Market Towns (AMT) is a national charity committed to the vitality and viability of our small towns.  They founded the awards scheme in 2004 to recognise and showcase initiatives that are helping our small market towns to adapt to change and flourish.

An overall regional winner will be chosen on 20 June at an event in Middlewich and the winning projects go forward to Action for Market Town’s national award – the winner will be announced in October at a ceremony in Ludlow. They will also be automatically entered for this year’s Regeneration and Renewal awards. The Action for Market Towns National Awards is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.