My Weekend At Transition Heathrow...


So a couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my parents couch, relaxing on my phone with the programme Jon Richardson Grows Up on the TV in the background. The episode was investigating into different peoples opinions about money and I was only partially listening to it, when one of the places the British comedian went to caught my attention. It was called Transition Heathrow.

In the programme, he met the unique residents and took a tour of the beautifully green site, learning about how they manage to live a full life with barely any money and also joined in on tasks such as gardening the home grown fruit and vegetables. There was just something about this bohemian lifestyle that just pulled at my passions and made me want to find out more. With the interview still in the background, I grabbed my laptop and searched for Grow Heathrow and found that the grassroots action group welcomes visitors and even hold events where you could get involved! One particularly caught my eye ... how to make a Solar Panel! I booked my space and train ticket that night.

On the train to the village of Sipson, London, where the grass roots community is based, I downed my second can of energy drink that morning. I wanted to make sure I was there early and with a 2 hour train journey, and the fear of getting lost I had anxiously got the 5am train. It seemed like a good idea at the time ... I arrived at the site much earlier than expected so decided, before opening times, so I decided to just sit and wait patiently for a while, instead of risking immediately getting on the wrong side of the residents by disturbing them at such early hours.Yet 15 minutes into my sitting with my iPod and waiting patiently plan, a young guy strolled towards the gates, watching me sit their on my own and smiling at me. "Are you here for the workshop?" A resident of Grow Heathrow, I quickly realized. "Yes! Yeah I am sorry, I'm, a bit early, sorry..." I said nervously as I stumbled to my feet picking up my sleeping bag and trying to make sure that no clothes fell out of my bag, (I had brilliantly broken the zip the day before.) He smiled chuckled and his wide, friendly smile continued as he unlocked the gate and invited me in, "It's alright, come in..." I followed after him and could not help but stare at my surroundings in awe. I had never seen anything like it. In front of me was former
glass houses converted into funky, bohemian living quarters, like a giant craft project, the whole site is living proof that anything and everything can be turned into something amazing and one persons dis-guarded materials, really is another's treasure. And the green... so, so much of gorgeous green leaves that covered the land.

Whilst I was there I tried one of their home grown tomatoes and I have to say, it was The Best tomato that I have ever had in my entire life. They tasted nothing like what you buy in a supermarket and although I have never really been much for gardening, the whole place managed to inspire me to want to grow my own food to eat and trees to climb.

Transition Heathrow was started up 4 and a half years ago as a resistance against the 3rd runway being built at Heathrow airport that threatens the very existence of the villages around it. Whats used to be a dumping ground, is now where the residents of Grow Heathrow have built their Eco friendly homes, complete with a renewable energy from the wind, burning recycled wood and solar panels.

I was welcomed with open arms by everybody there, each person loving the fact that I came all the way from Wales to be there that day. As soon as I was there I was offered food, a drink, everybody had questions and really wanted to get to know me and listen to my answers when I introduced myself - something that is rare in people in today's society. Sometimes people can be so busy with what they are doing and living their hectic lives, that they fail to make the time to really listen and get to know people and the world around them and in failing to do that, unfortunately we can often succeed at missing out and a lot.

Another thing that I found so refreshing in the Grow Heathrow community, is that the women did not shave underneath their arms, (I did not see any where else, so I cannot comment, but I am assuming they do not shave anywhere.) And actually, I have to say, I loved it! It in no way looked 'disgusting' or 'weird', (but what is weird!?), at all.! It just looked natural. And they were all so completely comfortable with themselves to wear sleeveless tops without a worry and the guys also seemed pretty comfortable with it as well. Personally, I have never liked having body hair on my self and I cling to my razor and tweezers each shower just in case I missed one somewhere and I had to admit, it can just be exhausting! Especially during the summer when bikinis and shorts are a more common attire. I do admit to wearing jeans or a sunny day because the effort of shaving my legs is just too much, but whether or not I would be brave enough to ditch the razors for good and go all natural like men get to freely do..? I don't know... in thinking about it, although no guy has ever specifically told me to remove any body hair that isn't on my head, society in itself only ever encourages us females to do so. Maybe if I spent enough time at Grow Heathrow I could be braver...

The building a solar panel workshop was put on by a lovely lady called Emily Donavan from Demand Energy Equality. She taught us the science behind how solar panels work as well as how to actually build them. A process that I was soon to learn was a lot fiddlier than I had expected! The solar cells that we used to build our 18 watts solar panel were made out of thin silicone that if held too tightly, would crumble in your hands. Cautiously placing the metal strip over the solar cell to attach the current to each, I was reminded of my school day science classes as we soldered them together. Fun science fact that I was reminded of: Power = Voltage x Current! Next came the gluing the solar cells to the glass, a process that, if I wasn't having so much fun with the people around me, would have sent my patience over the edge. I began to feel guilty of the amount of solar cells that was being wasted when cracked.

There seems to be a constant positive energy at Grow Heathrow. From everybody being so welcoming and friendly to being eager to share their lives and the way they live with people. They continuously made such that we were all always warm by lending us coats from the 'Free Shop' and ensuring that we did not go hungry, thirsty, or even want for anything. I spoke to them about how they discovered the community and how they found their lives here. Each came from different backgrounds, some different countries, and had been there different lengths of time, but they were all like minded individuals who see more in the world than materialistic commercializing. They are each living proof that living an Eco-friendly, bohemian lifestyle does not always mean having to give up on modern day luxuries such as phones and the internet and that the life of an activist does not always have to mean getting arrested on a regular basis. Just by altering little everyday things, like recycling more, not taking the car as much, using recyclable materials and making use of sprays with chemicals that do not destroy the ozone layer; all of these things help the environment and by doing these things, you are acting, and you are being an Eco friendly activist! If I wasn't inspired to stand up to climate change before, my weekend at Transition Heathrow has certainly gotten me motivated!

My home made solar panel turned out a lot better than I expected. With the ability to harness enough energy to power charging something like a mobile phone, I decided to donate it to Grow Heathrow, since I figured that they may make a better use out it then I will. However whilst I was there, a resident introduced me to fold-able, portable solar panels that you can take and use anywhere and can cost as little as £30 - something that I will definitely be buying myself.

Transition Heathrow, complete with land to discover, books to read, games to play, instruments with some great musicians and of course plenty of people to talk to and gardening to be done, there is always something to do and never a dull moment. Luxuries such as televisions and shopping are just not of importance to the residents at Grow Heathrow, they communicate with each other and the world around them and are truly grateful for everything that they have and what Gods creation, Mother Earth has given them... and I love that.

Although the free spirited and at one with nature lifestyle may not cut it for some, if we continue to treat our planet as replaceable and just ignore the countless environmental issues around us, we as a human race, won't be left with much of an alternative when it comes to how we live. Each country has its issues, and we as a world are not perfect, but that does not excuse us from at least trying. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, regularly has car free days. Now this may currently seem like a stretch for the UK, for example, but does this mean that we could not try and compromise - even just personally by walking more ourselves. There are so many people in the world who would give anything to be able to walk and driving distances where it is not needed is just a waste. If anything, being Eco friendly is at least cheaper and healthier, for the world and for ourselves.

My weekend at Grow Heathrow was an amazing experience with amazing people and making the solar panel was definitely a workshop worth doing. I was previously unsure of what to expect beyond lots of plants and a need for a sleeping bad, but I am so glad that I went and with all of the residents being so welcoming and inclusive, I can't wait to go again. They are the definition of my hash tag,

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