Thoughts on Climate Change

Thoughts on Climate Change – written by Andy Holdaway, Estate Manager at The Garden House

The evidence has piled up so high – climate change is a reality.  So what is my point?  What is really worth discussing is the seriousness  and the need for everyone to collectively try and steer our path to something better.  The more you look into the situation for yourself, the more you can understand just how important it is for us all to do what we can to reduce climate change and to help others to make a difference – not later, not when convenient, now.

4 years after its production, I recently watched Chasing Coral1  (available on Netflix, Youtube, etc.).  I hadn’t heard of it, but now that I have seen it, it really is a call to action, one of very many.

Coral death is just one casualty of climate change happening within the lifetimes of the current generation of humans on our planet.  It is one of the many ecosystems on which other life depends, but it is such a big part and though we are away from the sea at The Garden House, we need to understand the interconnectedness of everything on our planet.  

‘An estimated 25 percent of all marine life, including over 4,000 species of fish, are dependent on coral reefs at some point in their life cycle.’2  

With diminishing fish stocks from unsustainable fishing practices and more recently unexplained massive loss of crustaceans such as crabs3, what happens in the sea ultimately comes back to impact our lives on land.  I think what really hit home about the film Chasing Coral was the impact that a couple of degrees of warming has on particular living organisms.  The way corals live exposes it to the warming of the sea – like us being warmed by 2 degrees, imagine being warmed internally from 37 to 39 degrees – we wouldn’t last long in a state of perpetual fever.  That is the situation for coral in seas being warmed by two degrees.  It can’t cope and an ecosystem dies – that’s all the creatures that rely on that coral going with it.

Couple this temperature rise with a decrease in ocean pH level and the situation gets worse.  Much has been written about the ‘acidification of our oceans’4.  Greater levels of atmospheric CO2 combines with H2O to form more carbonic acid in the seas, and marine organisms find it increasingly harder to build their shells and coral formations of calcium carbonate.  Beyond the devastation of lost coral reefs, which really is devastating when you see it, there is also the loss of the carbon sink function, which would lock carbon into the sea environment, and the loss of food chains on which we have come to rely.

We might as well continue and say that the oceans are the major sink for the heat created in the atmosphere as well as a sink for CO2, so it is not good that with an increase in sea temperature comes a reduction in the ability of the oceans to absorb CO25 – and there is concern for the oceans releasing rather than absorbing CO26.

Looking at the last few hundred years, the impact humans have had on Earth is so rapid when compared to the the millions of years that Earth has existed and evolved.  Our ‘business as usual’ thinking is often so vastly at odds with natural ecosystems that we need to see how all the little impacts of our actions add up, and really do what we can to fit with nature rather than clash with it.

It is a mistake to underestimate the effect that our individual choices make, because these are what add up to create the whole impact and each person making choices knocks on to what others do – the things we buy, the way we travel, the food we eat, the way we manage land and (try to manage) nature, etc.  We can’t help but notice what others are doing and if we are seen to be doing something, others will see that as a guide to their choices.

“Oh look, they are cycling to school, we could cycle to school.” (‘Sometimes’ is better than no times)

More cyclists equals more perceived need for cycling infrastructure and greater understanding of cyclists needs, leading to more cyclists and less pollution – just one example of individuals’ choices leading to progress for others.

More understanding of some farmers practices being bad for the environment and choosing food grown in a better way equals more demand for better grown food.  Farmers who carry out poor practices will be forced to farm differently for economic reasons, if for no other reason.

Are we buying products from clear felled rainforest – teak, palm oil, soya, cattle meat?  Looking in to where products and food really come from and the impact that they have is very valuable.  If the origin is not known, it is probably best to expect the worst and look for alternatives with green credentials and an ethos of caring (not to be compared with ‘greenwash’).

I recently heard that if all farmers changed the way that they farmed and stopped deep ploughing this could have a massive impact on the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere – just one of the many solutions.  Supporting farmers who are making changes to greatly reduce carbon release is just one of the things that we can do.  I feel that it is our duty to ask about these things that we don’t necessarily know about – who is doing the good stuff?  It always seems that when there are enough voices on a subject things change.  I feel very aware that I should speak up more for what I believe in, hence this piece of writing.  I hope it helps.

Supporting energy providers working towards renewable energy equals more demand and progress towards getting away from fossil fuels.  Greater understanding of the full carbon requirements of nuclear fuel is also worth understanding and consideration for the management of the radioactive waste and risk, both now and in the hundreds and thousands of years ahead, compared to the lower risks and adaptability of much renewable technology.  The Garden House currently uses Ecotricity7 for its energy to try and support best practice in energy production.

It frustrates me that those in charge of our country don’t seem to work to create the best environment for us to live in for the health of us, the planet and all of the other wonderful life on it.  Please aim higher!  Letting everyone know how important looking after our planet is to us cannot be underestimated, whether through voting, daily conversations, conversations with decision makers, representatives, social media, direct messaging, letters or other ways which constructively and healthily inform decision.  Isn’t it better to spend some more of our hard earned money on looking after the planet and ultimately our mental and physical health than going out with a bigger bank balance?

Where possible, within our means, choosing products and services which genuinely support our champions of good practice seems a better focus than those pushing the best prices for the sake of profit or self interest.   

Having a 5 year old son has been a good reason for me to read The Lorax8, a very effective story about the perceived need for things driving the depletion of resources, but I would have done well to have read it at some point, anyway.  Dr. Seuss, you clearly make your point!

The kind of people involved in projects like The Garden House often seem to be quite like minded in concern for our planet and its many environments, so I hope we can act as something of a hub for local people involved to share knowledge on the good practices out there and the good actions that we can support.  Thank you to those who have helped me to learn more.

As a sustainable land project, The Garden House is a place where you can learn about good practice for reducing climate change.  We are happy to help people learn about food growing, learn the value of ‘dead hedging’9 instead of burning garden waste, composting instead of creating methane producing food waste, planting and growing trees to absorb carbon, no-dig growing – reducing carbon loss from soil, building soil carbon content and holding onto carbon in soil – I would like to add biochar/charcoal to our soil for this purpose of locking carbon in.  Our casual exchanges have included discussing holidays in the UK, reducing the need to fly, reduced meat consumption, healthy diets and ways to enjoy the experience – little nuggets of knowledge and experience coming together, helping build our collective reduction in damaging climate change.  We have unfortunately also had conversations on the subject of adapting to climate change.  

We are supporting the growing of good, sustainable practice.  

With a solutions focused approach, I wish you, “Good luck, Everyone”, and please help to spread your knowledge of ways to a sustainable future.

Andy Holdaway, 15th December, 2021

Note from Andrew and Caroline 

When we developed our plans for The Garden House almost ten years ago, we set out to create a model environment through sustainable use of the land and buildings, adding value to the community, enhancing knowledge and understanding, promoting well-being, and leaving a legacy for the next generation.  Whilst these were only words at that time, the infrastructure and environment we have been able to put in place, and continue to develop, has underpinned this thinking.  And the energy and knowledge that Andy has invested in the project has brought to life many of the key elements outlined in our Vision.  He has achieved this in collaboration with the local community.  The steps we are taking seem tiny in a global context but, as Andy emphasises, our individual contributions and knowledge sharing can be powerful tools in the fight against Climate Change.

1 Chasing Coral – A film by Exposure Labs

2 https://www.epa.gov/coral-reefs/basic-information-about-coral-reefs

3 Apocalyptic: dead crabs litter beaches in north-east England – The Guardian, 29.10.21

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/29/apocalyptic-dead-crabs-litter-beaches-north-east-england

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification

5 https://www.carbonbrief.org/new-study-suggests-oceans-are-losing-the-ability-to-absorb-carbon-dioxide

6 https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-cautions-ocean-risks-losing-its-ability-absorb-carbon-exacerbating-global-warming

7 Ecotricity – green energy supplier

https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/

Free Carbon Footprint Calculator available on the Ecotricity website – see how you are doing! – A bit crude, but doesn’t take long and might help.

https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-news/2021/try-our-free-carbon-footprint-calculator

8 The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_hedge

Please feel free to share these thoughts where you think it might be useful.

Wondering what our Shed/Workshop sessions are about?

Patrick Abrahams gives a great little talk on men’s sheds which should give you an idea of what our community workshop is all about. We welcome both men and women!

Our shed/workshop now runs on Tuesday afternoons between 14:00 and 16:00. We are looking for local people who might like to join us. Please contact us in the first instance. We would be very grateful if you are able to pass on this information to those who may be interested. Many thanks!

Pollinate – Sharing Experience

Having worked in the areas of sustainable living, organic gardening, small scale organic farming, sustainable land management, community and social projects, and dabbling in rural crafts, I have been thinking about the scope for crossover between projects and individuals and the value of skills and knowledge sharing.  Pollinate is the result of this.

The idea is to network and collaborate for mutual benefit – assisting other people and
projects, whilst learning from others; sharing skills, knowledge and experience.

I will focus on local connections in the Surrey and surrounding areas, but will travel further as appropriate.

If you would like to link on this, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Andy Holdaway, at:

thegardenhousesurrey@gmail.com

07557 554261

Orchard Pruning 2022

Thank you everyone! We had a good morning tending to the trees and working out the annual conundrums. Should it be called tree pruning or zen with trees? There are plenty of fruit buds in place, so fingers crossed for a good harvest!


Thursday 3rd Feb, 2022 – from 10a.m. Free to attend, but BOOKING ESSENTIAL as numbers will be limited.

Now in the 8th year of growth, the orchard has matured more in some parts than others, and following what seemed a generally low yielding year in 2021, the trees look set for a much more productive year in 2022, weather and acts of nature permitting! We will be working our way through the orchard assessing what can be done to maintain a healthy orchard and carrying out pruning related work – there could also be the odd bit of tying, irrigation repair etc. You are welcome to join in and can ask questions relating to your trees and further your knowledge in our relaxed session here at The Garden House. Assistance will be provided as necessary. Prior knowledge not necessary.

Please contact us for further info and to book a place.

Orchard at The Garden House on a chilly winter morning (Winter 2021/22)

More info about The Orchard

Annual Willow Cutting 2022

Thank you to everyone who helped with the willow chop! Willow stems are being distributed to a school, a woodland, a garden and a farm, and will be available for participants to use in The Workshop. We are now ready for the coming year’s growth of bright useful stems! The chop worked out very well on the day between Storms Dudley and Eunice. Not sure how we managed to plan that so well!


Thursday 17th Feb, 2022 – from 10a.m. Free to attend, but BOOKING ESSENTIAL as numbers will be limited.

We are preparing to do our annual willow chop, pollarding last year’s growth, which encourages new straight and colourful stems in the coming year. Not only does this keep the plants looking interesting, but it provides a useful resource for crafts and reproducing willow. Willow is very easy to grow by just inserting a stem into the ground (12 inches is a useful depth guide) and keeping moist whilst establishing.

If you are looking for resources to plant willow in your garden or on your land, or would like to try basket making, sculpture making, build a living willow sculpture or make a fedge (a living fence hedge hybrid), we may be able to help.

Please contact us for more information or to be included in arrangements.

Update – Summer/Autumn 2021

It is great that activities have been able to restart with groups at The Garden House.  The Growth Team from Surrey Choices are back weekly with us, working on estate maintenance and projects such as the ditch water feature, feeding into the woodland pond, which has lain as a dormant project during lockdown, but we are now holding water!

We hosted a Welly Walk in July with the Cranleigh and District National Childbirth Trust (NCT) group who had a walk around the estate and enjoyed a piece of cake in The Garden (Thanks for the lovely cake, Molly!).

Steve has been back with his creative group of green woodworkers – Surrey Group of The Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers

The amount of rain this year has been very useful for the development of our woodland which is now in its 8th year.  We are suddenly finding that the canopy is closing in and shade can now be found along with a feeling of being ‘in’ the woodland, which is a new and pleasing development!

The walks around the estate are an increasingly immersive experience with wildflowers supporting many insects. Dragonflies and damselflies are busy around the ponds and crickets and grasshoppers can be heard in the tall grass.

In the garden this year, we have been busy installing irrigation to try and ease the amount of time required for watering.  This has taken quite some time to work out, but now that we have become familiar with the components, it means that the tinkering and additions are much easier to deal with. Initially putting in ducting before paths were created was useful planning ahead for the irrigation system.

The Orchard has been a mixed bag this year. We have had good pears when we haven’t had good pears in recent years due to frost damage, and yet this April was said to be the coldest April in 60 years! Other crops, such as Bramley 20 and Discovery have come to all but nothing this year.

The large pond is maturing nicely and we will need to do some weed removal this autumn to keep some of the water areas open.