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Reskilling the VAlley - March 2010

posted 31 May 2014, 13:19 by Mark O'Connell   [ updated 31 May 2014, 13:25 ]

Reskilling the Valley InvitationOver the next 20 years we need to cut back on the amount of oil we use, because of climate change and because we are approaching “peak oil”. The point at which production of oil starts to decline. How are we going to live rich and fulfilling lifestyles with less oil? We can look back 60 or more years to ask people how they lived with less oil, and we can look forward to see how coupling these skills with modern technology and new ideas can create a vision of a resilient future to look forward to.


This is the thinking behind the Transition Town movement that started in Totnes Devon in 2006. The Transition (Stour) Valley started in 2009 - with the question “how can the communities living around the Stour valley make a transition to the post peak oil world?”

The Re-Skilling Project is an initial step to understanding and mapping out the skills that exist in the Dedham Vale that are necessary to create a low carbon lifestyle. We designed a simple questionnaire and went to visit the people we knew had these skills, finding more people via word of mouth. We spent 4 months interviewing about 40 people and have summarized our findings in this booklet, and on our web site. We also ran 8 workshops for the public and 4 workshops in primary schools on these skills.


The Dedham Vale is an area of outstanding natural beauty where John Constable painted his famous scenes. A rural area of rolling hillside with mixed arable, pasture and woodlands, with the River Stour meandering through its centre. The population of the Dedham vale is 15,000 people and it covers 90 km2. This works out at approximately 3 hectares per family of 4 – could we sustain ourselves in food, clothes, energy and homes from this much land?

We found a very rich mix of skills throughout the Dedham Vale, of old skills and new skills. Many people spoke about their love of their work. The main difficulties local food producers are facing are environmental changes bringing new diseases and pests so they were having to adapt their practice. In the craft areas it seems that the connections of similar minded people need to be re-woven, local felt makers for instance can’t source local wool, and local sheep farmers throw out their wool as there is no market. Perhaps this is a little step on that path. Most we interviewed had learnt their skills at an early age, from a practitioner in a practical way, with a little help from books or groups and had honed the skill by practice and by experience - trial and error. Traditional apprenticeships such as the blacksmith took 5 years to learn their skill. Some people are passing their skills on. These skills have to be done for love it seems!

We have had a lot of fun doing this project and we hope you enjoy this book.


March 2010

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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:19
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:19
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:21
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:22
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:23
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:23
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:23
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:23
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Mark O'Connell,
31 May 2014, 13:23
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Mark O'Connell,
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