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© Anita Corbin

The Unstoppable Transition Town!

Learn how a town in Somerset has become a big hitter when it comes to buying up private land and turning it into community gardens and green spaces

It’s June 2021, and I am standing in a field not far from where I live, on the outskirts of Wellington in Somerset, and feeling like a bit of a lemon. I’m here with my friends from Transition Town Wellington – Sue, Andreas, Steve and Anita Corbin – and we’re trying to set fire to a smudge stick. It is a landmark moment – the start of work on a new piece of land, a beautiful rough piece of former pasture land known as Fox’s Field – and we want to celebrate the culmination of months of planning, campaigning, consulting and administrative work, and bless the beginning of the ‘real’ work: creating a community forest garden on part of this 3.44 hectare (8.5 acre) site.

It’s hard not to giggle a bit, and we do. But this ad hoc little ceremony suddenly seems serious and heartfelt: a blessing and a prayer. Asking the land for its permission to do our best for it, and not only for ourselves. Smudge stick safely dampened, we pick up our scythes and set to work.

It’s hard to know exactly where to start this story: how we got to where we are now. It’s a good story to tell though – of how a community came together to ‘reverse the Enclosures’ and take back control over a piece of privately owned land for the common good. In November 2018, a lady called Gina Deacon noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign on the gate to Fox’s Field. “Potential development? Not on my watch,” she said, hurrying home to set up a signature campaign to ‘Save Fox’s Field’. It soon clocked up over 600 signatures. With so many people on board, a local community interest company – Wellington Mills CIC – put in an application to have the site registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). This is a useful tool to put a temporary halt on a sale, as the owner is legally obliged to give the community six months to gather finances to put in an offer on the land if they so wish.

issue 117 autumn 2023

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