Dexter’s on Cramer Gutter reserve

Dexter’s on Cramer Gutter Reserve, Shropshire

We interviewed Helena Hale, a Zero Carbon Shropshire volunteer, about her life and how she’s helping Shropshire achieve zero carbon by 2030.

Where in Shropshire do you live?

I’m in South Shropshire in Oreton, a rural community of around 400 households.

How long have you lived in Shropshire?

Since 2001. I moved around a lot before coming to Shropshire and this is the longest I have lived in one place.

Why did you get involved with Zero Carbon Shropshire?

Helena and Gooie

Because of a conversation I had with Sian, who is a volunteer also, telling  me about what was being achieved. I felt I wanted to do something and be part of a partnership that was about working to solve the problems we face with the climate emergency.

What have you done since joining?

I take notes for the weekly Energy Group meeting and help Chris, who chairs the group, with sending email messages and information. I talk to my friends and neighbours about the partnership and try to spread the news that we can do this.

I’m trying to change my dreams of travelling to far flung places around our beautiful planet to enjoying nature and my place here – as I’m of Indian birth and heritage it’s interesting to find myself at home in Shropshire.

What’s the most exciting thing you have learned since joining?

That there is the expertise and means of achieving zero carbon and we can do it. The talent and commitment of the volunteers on the partnership is very inspiring.

What do you do outside of Zero Carbon Shropshire?

We have  a garden and some land that  we try to cultivate with fruit, veg and flowers by swapping and buying plants locally.

I am learning to play piano from scratch and have a very patient teacher. During lockdown he’s been teaching me via WhatsApp and I’m looking forward to live lessons soon.

I play bridge online several times a week. It’s been a great way of staying in touch with friends during the lockdown and I’ve made some new friends too. I’ve also started Couch to 5K with a neighbour and, providing I keep injury free, plan to make 4K by the end of March.

I’m a member of my local Women’s Institute (WI) which is great source of friendship and support, and I get a lot of pleasure from reading and have been a member of a fabulous book club for nearly 20 years.

What did you do before that?

I retired from work in the probation service 10 years ago. It was a job I loved particularly when we were able to support people in difficulty. I like to make a positive difference and contribution in work and in my personal life.

What do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?

Shop locally, recycle and mend and I’ve always shopped in Charity shops. I have recently invested in an electric bike with the savings I have made over the last year – I want to feel confident to use it to get around rather than just for leisure.

I grew up in Bombay and even in the 1950s and 1960s when I lived there, it was a crowded polluted fascinating and beautiful city. We wasted nothing, everything was recycled, we didn’t have a trash can in our kitchen, I don’t think we were exceptional. Clothes were passed on and when too ragged were refashioned as cleaning cloths.

Bantams enjoying the sun

Do you have any pets/animals?

Yes, we share ownership of three Dexter cattle with The Wildlife Trust. They graze on the reserve and help to maintain and improve the grassland.

We have three hens and a cockerel and a very adorable 15 year old dog called Gooie.

Have you noticed changes in the natural world since you were younger?

When I moved to Shropshire 20 years ago, the curlew was very evident, there were many breeding pairs. Last year I’m told we were down to no successful fledges. It is such a loss and we are trying to work with a local bird expert to turn this around.

What’s the most important thing people can do to reduce their impact on the natural world?

Be mindful of what we use and how we use it, resources are precious. Put pressure on our politicians to listen to the scientists and environmental evidence.

Sign the pledge to support Zero Carbon Shropshire and think about how you can be part of achieving the Zero Carbon Shropshire Plan.