GF Blog 23 – Week 14

5th – 6th May

Focus on a vitally important wetland area, plus Flying Scotsman triggers further research into biofuels and leads (inevitably?) to a topical review of King Charles III’s green credentials.

Historic tin streaming site, now Red Moor ponds     Flying Scotsman & Charles III, our Green King

The sun did actually come out a few times around May Day, so I was able to pick the flowers and make dandelion tea, at last! FYI it is not as bitter as I expected; with a little added sweetness of honey it was a very refreshing, light and pleasant drink. I can see myself drinking it throughout the summer. Thanks Jess, for this suggestion. 😊

But last weekend we still had not really settled into warm spring weather. Indeed, a reader wrote immediately, responding to my short piece and reinforcing the importance of her wood burner.

Jenny’s Comment:- We have a wood burner and it is our main source of heating in the winter, although we do have electric heaters in other rooms. We don’t have gas (and I get rhinitis in rooms where there is a naked gas flame).

Before we had the wood burner our house was continually damp with mould on the walls, which we struggled to keep clear. The wood burner dries the house out as well as being the most efficient source of heat for us.

What do we make of this? Is it right that she should be banned from burning what she later described to me as the very best quality of kiln dried logs?

Fossil fuel use, into the future I leave that question hanging in the air and come to another interesting one – should we still allow a few, select places with the equipment and expertise, to burn tons of big black, chunky coke for running steam trains? I ask, because – as you see from the photos – a damp, grey Sunday was enlivened for crowds who came to view the Centenary Celebration trip of the Flying Scotsman.

Passengers had paid approaching £400 to take the luxury journey from Bristol but at Par they bailed out to go and visit the seaside on buses and therefore actually missed the most special moment of the day, at St Blazey Railway yard. It was the moment of the engine changing direction on an historic and recently renovated turntable! If this is an interest of yours, you will find a film I made, quick to view on Facebook –

St Blazey was the old station, hardly known today because the mainline trains only stop at Par, a mile or so away. I am very fond of it, for being the original home of Thomas the Tank Engine’s little harbour trains, Bill and Ben (in real life named Judy and Alfred!). I was meeting some railway enthusiast friends, but while waiting for them to arrive I used the chance to talk with a number of other railway and engineering ‘boffs’, to whom I asked ‘are you able to help me contact the supplier of the Hydro Treated Veg Oil, for the Freight trains here? They were disbelieving, even when I assured them, I have photos and have done my homework; the trains are regularly fuelled at St Blazey. They could not grasp that HVO is a new, fully approved Biofuel because, of course it is not one that is very widely known in the UK.

Other countries are different. Here are some extracts from a web page that relates to Sweden ( ): –

VO100 Renewable Diesel is fully compatible with regular diesel, and therefore the product can also be used in all trucks, cars, vans, taxis and more.

It is therefore also possible at the Biofuel Express stations in Sweden to refuel as a passenger car, as there are pumps which provide 40 litres per minute.

Most manufacturers have already approved HVO100 for their diesel cars, including Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, SEAT, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Citroën, Peugeot, and Volvo, as well as major truck manufacturers.

Clearly Scandinavia is far ahead on this. But I did discover a handful of UK biofuel companies, which collect waste oil from chip shops and processes for sale. This one is based near Sheffield:-

My questions discovered that secretly people do run older cars on used chip shop oil in Cornwall. I was advised you can buy a kit on e-bay, to purify the oil. But what I found, on exploring, were some quite dodgy looking small company supply options and one seemingly respectable and trustworthy type of conversion kit from a German company I had heard of, ATG.

Apparently, the main problem one faces is that vegetable oil cannot attain a high enough temperature for efficient ignition, but this can be overcome with a 2nd tank. Your main fuel tank has vegetable oil in and a small secondary one has diesel. Every time you start it is in diesel mode, which you return to at the end of your trip. In the middle, when warmed up, you run on the Standard VO or Waste VO. 

Can you see a price with this?  I couldn’t and I bet it is only affordable for the wealthy!

Wealthy I am not, so don’t hold me to it, but I continue to have this aspiration for finding a suitable green colour motor, that I can convert and use myself! Think it would be great for advertising the centre locally, so I just need to set up an arrangement at ‘the Jolly Roger’ chip shop, a win on the Lottery and a lucky moment, finding one of these perhaps!

Lessons from a Green King

For me, as a pro musician, the best part of the Coronation is not be all the pomp and trappings, but the feast of sounds! Whatever your opinion, I wonder if you agree that we should rate our incoming monarch highly, for his green credentials. I think this is obvious… and boy would I love the chance to ride in his adapted eco sports car, which is not operated on biodiesel, rather on a blend of bioethanol and unleaded petrol.

When I discovered this bioethanol is made from waste products of a Winery and a Cheese factory I got quite excited! We have both options quite close to Meadow Barns, so maybe I need to approach them next? But let me explain!

In 1970 Queen Elizabeth made a gift to Prince Charles. It was a great bachelor option, a quite rare open-topped DB6 Aston Martin sports car. You may remember seeing Prince William driving it off after his wedding, when Dad loaned it to the couple for making a ‘splash’ departure!

Charles’s climate conscience goes back a long way. Eventually, it was almost inevitable he would cast around for a more sustainable fuel option to keep running this beloved car and in 2008 he succeeded: –

‘It was difficult,’ admits Charles. For years, he had been trying to convert his various cars to bio-diesel. ‘I even tried to get the Royal Train to run on old chip fat. It seemed that other countries were way ahead of us on alternative fuels, but we then discovered a splendid company near here, who specialise in turning waste products into fuels.’

Gloucestershire-based Green Fuels, which has since earned a Royal Warrant of Appointment, informed the prince that it could supply waste-derived bio-ethanol produced from a combination of wine unsuitable for human consumption, and whey, a by-product of cheese manufacturing. The fuel is blended as ‘E85’ by adding 15 per cent unleaded petrol, its higher-octane levels (105 versus the more typical 87 of unleaded petrol) making the car more powerful.

Aston specialist RS Williams carried out the DB6’s conversion. ‘At first, the engineers weren’t convinced that the conversion would work, but I insisted that it would,’ says Charles as we pass through Highgrove’s gates and head out on to the open road. ‘When the conversion was done, they had to admit that the car now performs better than ever.’

Find this at,run%20on%20biofuel%20in%202008.&text=Charles%20bought%20the%20car%20back,environmentally%20obliged%20to%20modernise%20it

Enjoyable as this article is to read, of course I still felt I ought to do a bit more looking into the truth behind the text. First, I went to Green Fuels website, where I find their research and development work extends to bio-fuels for all sectors of transport, even the tough ones like Aviation where they got a grant to explore conversion of sewage waste into SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel).

Their main work in the UK is creating and operating machines for processing the waste products that can be used in bio-diesel and then organising the collection of oil and processing. But they also help to set up and run systems in the developing world. Through partnership with Petrofac  – a very major operation – almost 10K people are employed worldwide.

Briefly, from the horse’s mouth – Green Fuels spokesman

This morning I was able to chat on the phone with one of the Green Fuels research team, Chris. He explained how the Cheese and Wine blend works in practice: – ‘every time the car is going to be used Aston engineers go through it with a fine toothcomb. Of course, it can’t be allowed to fail in the glare of publicity, so each journey with its tank of wine and cheese petrol has hours of preparation. At the end it is completely cleaned and checked.’

Through their interaction with the Prince, Green Fuels are signed up to Terra Carta, Charles’s initiative for sustainable commerce – This was presented to the World Economic Forum with Greta Thunberg in attendance, just before Covid hit in 2020- as reported here:- 

Founded in 2010, within 2 years the International Sustainability Unit was awarded a Lifetime Achievement at the 7th International Green Awards, for seeking solutions to key environmental challenges, such as food security, the depletion of natural capital and ecosystem resilience.

There is another film on the Sustainable Markets website, which really sums up Charles’s views and his call for action. It doesn’t take long, about 6 minutes. He concludes we must Live within boundaries, stop the ‘take take’ and learn to cherish nature and operate better industries. There is real hope, but we have to get our act together and remember that the natural world is what sustains us’. 

I think it is excellent that this website and others previously made, like Duchy Organics, Prince’s Trust etc have been quietly converted into long term platforms for views which as King, Charles is no longer permitted to express in person. You can see this in the little phrase in tiny font below each page or item on the sustainable markets page – The former Prince of Wales’ call to action.

Other elements

Going back to ‘wallpaper’ article, a later section tells us The Prince Charles way … is as much future-facing as it is ‘old fashioned’.

 The Home Farm at Highgrove operates an organic, agro-ecological system, using homeopathic treatments for cattle and sheep as part of a drive to reduce the use of antibiotics. Ninety per cent of the energy for office and domestic use at the estate comes from renewable sources, and 60 per cent of the power is produced on site. Solar panels have been installed at Highgrove and Charles’ London residence, Clarence House, while Highgrove, as well as properties in Scotland and Wales, use biomass boilers; any wood chips used are sustainably managed.

Pursuing the biomass situation, I find Charles had an excellent trainer in his own father, Prince Philip. It was he who (not long before he died) pioneered using renewables at Sandringham, where now a relatively modest £60K investment has helped achieve major reductions in energy costs as well as improving the carbon footprint for the Royal Family Christmas gatherings. The Daily Mail report below tells a lot more and ends with a couple of memorable points:-

Prince Philip was the first Royal to take an interest in conservation and ‘green energy’ issues, an interest then taken up by his 1st-born son.

For many years Philip used a converted London taxi, powered by liquid petroleum gas, to drive around the capital.

I wonder …

dare I finish this section with the pun,

Charles is a real CHIP off the old block!!

In Cornwall

At the helm of his Duchy, Charles has had a strong presence in the South West for all of his adult life. His tenure lasted a rather astonishing 70 years and during that time he has taken a hands-on approach to what happens on the land. He visits farms regularly and our local TV had an interview with tenants just this week, praising his organic methods and high standards.

But not everyone is so thrilled. 3 years ago Friends of the Earth wrote to the Duchy and the Church in a joint letter:- 

Open letter to the Duchy of Cornwall and Church Commissioners

SHARE:  Read our open letter calling for the Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall estate and the Church Commissioners to plant more trees on their land.

  Published:  04 Aug 2020    |      to the Duchy of Cornwall and the Church Commissioners,

Trees are a vital part of the fight against climate breakdown and provide homes for many species of wildlife.

Friends of the Earth’s new research has found, however, that your estates have startlingly low levels of woodland cover – 3% of the Church Commissioners’ landholdings, and 6% woodland cover in the case of the Duchy of Cornwall. England as a whole is 10% wooded. Out of the top ten institutional landowners in England, your two organisations ranked last in terms of woodland cover.

As two of the country’s largest landowners, we urge you to do more. The Duchy’s support for environmentally-friendly farming is world-famous, and the Church Commissioners’ commitment to reach net zero is a good first step. But it’s clear that all landowners need to do more to restore lost habitats and invest in nature-based solutions to climate change.

Other large landowners are stepping up to make ambitious commitments to increase woodland cover on their estates, from the National Trust to water companies.1

We appreciate that your estates also contain other precious habitats that need protecting and restoring – and we are certainly not proposing any expansion of tree cover that would damage these. Friends of the Earth’s mapping shows that it’s possible to double England’s woodland cover without impacting on other Priority Habitats, designated sites or valuable farmland. Nor are we suggesting simply prioritising quantity of trees over quality of new habitat – we’d love to see more landowners encouraging the natural regeneration of scrub and saplings, with more land being rewilded.

We would be delighted to meet with you to discuss the findings of our research further and provide assistance with mapping suitable land for trees.

Yours sincerely,  Guy Shrubsole Campaigner, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

NOTES The National Trust has announced it will increase woodland cover on its 
estate by 18,000 hectares by 2030. The UK water industry has committed  to planting 11 million trees by 2030.  

Maybe this letter played a part in helping to make the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee tree planting scheme happen, which Charles extended into 2023, so as also to become more of a memorial.

 The Queen’s Green Canopy is proud to be creating a living legacy with over a million trees planted in Her Majesty’s name across the nation during the first planting season, October 2021 to March 2022. The extension of the QGC initiative will build on this legacy and serve as a lasting tribute to Her Majesty’s extraordinary service to her country and her people.The interactive map created by The Queen’s Green Canopy to showcase the planting projects across the United Kingdom will also continue to the end of March 2023, giving people an opportunity to be part of this special legacy.

News just in

Following last week’s Hydro Forum online meeting 2 things have happened, to keep up our momentum towards the creation of Local Energy Clusters.

Kate Gilmartin of the forum emailed details of a proposal for a small community near Rossendale, which is aiming to become ‘The Net Zero Terrace Street’. The actual small town is called ‘Bacup’, which I think is a great name for a heat project that aims to supply constant warmth in old houses! I am very grateful that they have allowed me to quote this to you, even though it is clearly in the early draft stages.


RVE are leading on a project they have conceived, called ‘The Net Zero Terrace Street’, which aims to create a replicable, scalable model to decarbonise heat, enable deployment of a standardised package of fabric retrofit and ensure that low carbon heat is an affordable option for all. This is taking place within several rows of terrace houses in Bacup, within an area of an ENWL substation. This work is being supported through a Strategic Innovation Fund grant and a Net Zero Living Pathfinder Place grant.

The key to scaling this model, is an engagement methodology that can be used for repeated to any communities where the Net Zero Terrace Street model is suitable for deployment. Without buy in from individuals, the community scale model will not be economic and therefore cannot be delivered. This methodology is planned and delivered with an emphasis to reach, engage and retain each person that we work with. The over-arching Net Zero Terrace Street project is devised to offer a homogeneous, inclusive solution that gives everyone the opportunity to access low carbon, affordable heat as part of a just transition, where no one is left behind.

The Net Zero Terrace Street methodology is based on deploying the following 4 key deliverables. Each deliverable must succeed for the model to be replicable and therefore scalable

  1. A technical solution: Clustered, boreholes with shared ground loop and individual household shoebox heat pump, a standardised package of retrofit, smart water cylinder and shared solar PV. The solution has to enable affordable, low carbon heat.
  2. A financial solution: Investor backed delivery at no upfront cost to householders, but a longer repayment through a standard charge. Local generation model to subsidise the energy bills of householders participating.
  3. Grid: Areas will be engaged within their individual substation and each Low carbon heat project will be delivered within the constraints of the substation. This will be a Smart Local Energy Solution with all technology deployed being smart and able to be agile within the needs of local grid flexibility.
  4. Engagement: The engagement methodology is central to the success of the Net Zero Terrace Street. If people do not sign up, then the economics of the model will not be viable or therefore deliverable.

Most of the bold text is in Kate’s original document but I added a couple for even greater emphasis. These same elements, of community engagement and co-operation, and a model to copy widely are central also to my ideas. One difference though – their scheme is tied to one substation of electricity supply, but I am working towards an entirely separate ‘private wire’ model and new options for storage.  I shall be writing further about this and keeping up the comparisons, as things progress.

You may have noted I said 2 things have developed this past week. The 2nd is a clear challenge, posing the question ‘Ecology vs Renewable Energy – can they co-exist?’ And this arose at a public consultation meeting last Tuesday evening. We heard from Chris Jones about his beaver enclosure at the farm near Truro (I have written more than once about this, most recently in autumn 2022) and the plan, evolving with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, to introduce beavers at their wild area of Breney Common and Red Moor.

The CW trust call this Helman Tor Nature Reserve and SSSI, but it is a misleading name since their interest is not in the granite rocky tor area, only in the freshwater habitats. I think this page may be a better introduction:-   from which I quote just a small snippet here

Breney Common and Red Moor form a large wetland complex with a fascinating and complex history. The location of many of the ponds, wetland, and dry heath areas result from tin-streaming, one of the earliest methods used to extract tin from open cast mines. In more recent times the biggest challenge has been to remove and control excess scrub and tree cover, and create the infrastructure needed to allow extensive grazing of this landscape.

Breney Common

Breney Common has been identified as a Flagship Pond site because historically it has supported existing extensive areas of open water and wetland habitats with a wide variety of flora and fauna including priority freshwater species such as Pillwort Pilularia globulifera and Western Bladderwort Utricularia minor. As well as supporting interesting flora, the ponds and ditches across the site also support a large suite of dragonfly and damselfly species, including Small Red Damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum.

My questions to Chris were a) Please explain how the fenced enclosure works at your farm? Can the wetland at Breney be fenced too? –  The answer was ‘we want the beavers to run freely from here throughout the Par River catchment down to the sea’.

My 2nd question was, how do you think that plan can be compatible with preserving and hopefully restoring hydro operations of the historic leats system in Luxulyan Valley? Chris and the colleague admitted this had not been addressed, as yet, but must be part of the consultation process.

Cutting a long story short, as it is almost time to watch a bit of Coronation, this beaver moment has become an important catalyst. Either the leat system will be saved and made operational, or it will lapse into decline and become a habitat for beavers and re-wilding. I do not see that you can have both and it would seem highly likely that the World Heritage Site status will be lost, if beavers are introduced.

I am delighted that the portfolio holder for Environment in Cornwall has now agreed 2 meetings over the next 3 months, which should help resolve matters, as we discuss ways our local cluster plans, with hydro restoration at the heart, can play a vital role in helping the county reach Net Zero by 2030 (that is their pledge, still seeming a distant and unrealistic dream!).


On 16th to 18th May, there will be a series of 3 days for Members at the centre, who need only to call or email, plus people who run a business or represent a member organisation close by – Fowey, PL24, Luxulyan, Lanlivery and Lostwithiel are the catchments.

To book, they should simply go to a new page on Eventbrite

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