We have recently been collaborating with award-winning environmental photographer Toby Smith. Toby has created a series of photo-essays showing the effects of climate change in the South West, and how businesses and communities are working to adapt to and overcome the challenges caused by this.  

These essays look at a range of topics such as sustainable farming, British cider and wine production, as well as the new geothermal drill that provides renewable heat energy to the Eden Project.  

Ticking the organic veg box 

Riverford Organic Farms have become one of the UK’s most successful and well-known vegetable and grocery box delivery companies. Their organic farming system focuses on biodiversity, combining tree saplings and crops to encourage natural pollinators and other beneficial insects.  

The majority of their crops are grown in polytunnels, meaning they haven’t been too badly affected by the changing climate so far. However, their plastic roofs can be damaged in heavy wind or rain so will require extra costs to replace or repair.  

View the full photo essay 

Regenerative or regressive farming? 

Sustainable farming doesn’t just extend to fruit and vegetables, as there are also sustainable and regenerative methods of farming animals. Various farmers in the South West are turning to ‘no-till’ methods of farming, in which rotating crop growth with animal grazing can help to fertilise the land and sequester carbon in the soil.  

Land can also be shared between trees and livestock, where animals graze amongst trees, to attempt to repeat the success of the European Silvopasture model. This is a good way to reduce excess land usage as well as increase biodiversity in the area.  

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Going deeper underground with Eden Geothermal 

A large drilling rig has been installed in a retired clay pit, just behind The Eden Project in Cornwall, with the hopes of extracting renewable geothermal energy from hot rock over 4,500m below surface level. This energy will be predominantly used to heat The Eden Project’s biomes with any extra energy being used to heat local businesses and homes.  

After the success of the first phase of this project, plans are in place to drill a second well to a similar depth. Cold water will flow down one well and will then be pumped back up the other well to a turbine which will generate electricity as well as heat. 

Continue reading 

Fermenting fruit: the evolution of British cider and wine 

While much of the UK’s climate isn’t ideal for growing grapes to make wine, rising temperatures in the South West because of climate change have led to an increase in the popularity of English-grown wines. 

The changing climate is also leading to subtle changes in harvest time and the flavour profiles of English varieties of apples used in cider production. In general, apples are very adaptable, so cider makers are not currently facing much difficulty when it comes to the annual harvest and preparation of the apples.  

Full photo essay 

Community and food innovation in Bristol 

With plenty of green open spaces, Bristol is home to a range of sustainable farming initiatives, from a herd of Street Goats that help with land management, to vertical aeroponic farms built in old shipping containers. These different farming schemes explore the links between community, innovation and food production.  

Advancements in technology as well as increased understanding of optimal land usage mean that community farming initiatives are able to continue growing and working despite recent changes to the climate. 

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Since this article was published, Toby has produced a mini-series of photo essays exploring coastal erosion across the South Coast of England, from Norfolk to Cornwall. 

Climate and coast: Shifting Sands of Norfolk 

Norfolk’s coastlines are receding, with whole parishes being lost to the sea over the last 5000 years. This erosion is being accelerated by extreme weather events occurring as a result of climate change, which cause landslides from the soft cliffs. 

Find out how this is affecting local people

Climate and coast 2: Coastal Heritage and Community Resilience 

Toby documents iconic landmarks across the South Coast which have been hit with increasingly severe storms. Some areas of the East Sussex coast have experienced seven years’ worth of erosion in only two months because of these storms, leading to houses and businesses becoming dangerously close to the cliff edges. 

Read about how communities have come together to save these landmarks, and make the most of the remaining coastlines. 

Continue reading 

Climate and coast 3: Engineering and Adapting 

Along Britain’s exposed coastline, defence structures are being built in the hope of preventing as much additional erosion as possible. The Southsea coastal scheme is one of the largest such projects in the UK and is creating and reinforcing protection for over 10,000 homes and businesses. But can all erosion be stopped? And how do you decide when to adapt, and when to retreat? 

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