A community saved Britain’s most remote boozer, there were conservation victories in England, and renewables reached a major milestone, plus more stories of progress
Punters at mainland Britain’s most remote pub have secured the future of their beloved boozer after raising enough money to buy it through a community share offer. The buyout is a triumph not just for locals, but for a model of ownership that is saving many UK pubs.
Accessible only by boat or a two-day hike through rugged Scottish scenery, The Old Forge is the sole pub in Inverie village (population: 110). For years, it has been a hub for the community and tourists, but its future looked uncertain when the previous owner closed it during winter and put the place up for sale.
Emboldened by other community buyouts, locals got organised. They formed the Old Forge Community Benefit Society and raised £320,000 through a community share offer, with additional funding coming from the Scottish Land Fund and Community Ownership Fund. The pub is set to reopen at Easter.
“When you live in a place like this, you need these kind of spaces – they are so much more than a place to go and drink,” Stephanie Harris, the society’s secretary, told Positive News. “We can now tailor what we provide to make sure we are benefiting as many people as possible.”
Image: The Old Forge
There was good news for the surging renewables sector this week. Analysis revealed that wind and solar generated 10 per cent of global electricity for the first time in 2021.
Overall, clean energy accounted for 38 per cent of the world’s electricity supply last year, according to climate thinktank Ember.
However, the positive news was tempered by an increase in the use of coal power. The dirtiest fossil fuel was reportedly burned at its fastest rate since 1985, as demand for energy surged following Covid lockdowns.
Image: Andres Siimon
The bittern – the UK’s loudest bird – has bounced back from the brink of a second national extinction, according to Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
The charity’s latest bittern census counted 228 males – the highest number since 1880. The species, which sounds like a foghorn, was pushed to extinction during the Victorian era, but returned to the UK in the 1990s.
By 1997, however, the male population had slumped to 11, prompting fears that the bird was facing a second national extinction. Subsequent conservation efforts, including wetland restoration, have helped boost numbers.
Simon Wotton, RSPB senior conservation scientist, said: “The bittern’s recovery shows how quickly nature can bounce back when given the chance.”
Image: Henkvan Dorp
While 2021 was a bad year overall for the UK’s butterflies (owing to a soggy spring), some endangered species bucked the trend thanks to ongoing conservation work.
An annual survey of the insects – known as the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme – found that the endangered heath fritillary (pictured), which is the focus of conservation efforts in southern England, was among the species that had a good year. Ecologists report that numbers have increased 112 per cent at monitored sites over the last decade.
Dr Richard Fox, from the charity Butterfly Conservation, said the results “demonstrate what can be achieved through dedicated long-term conservation effort”.
Image: Darius Baužys
Thousands of people in England have been spared type 2 diabetes thanks to an intervention programme run by the National Health Service (NHS).
The aptly named Diabetes Prevention Programme identifies people at risk of developing the condition, and gives them a nine-month plan to overhaul their lifestyles. The scheme launched in 2016.
Researchers at the University of Manchester studied the impacts of the programme, and concluded that it had resulted in 18,000 fewer people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 2018 and 2019. That’s a seven per cent reduction.
“This research adds to the evidence that many type 2 diabetes cases can be delayed or prevented with the right support,” said Emma Elvin, senior clinical advisor at Diabetes UK.
Image: Jenny Hill
A woman who didn’t think she would make it to last Christmas is celebrating a new lease of life, having had a remarkable response to an experimental bowl cancer drug.
Terri Hurdman (pictured) from Worcestershire, England, saw her tumour shrink by half within three months of trialling the drug. Hours after taking her first course she was easily able to climb stairs, having previously been left out of breath by routine tasks.
“It’s like a miracle,” said Hurdman. “I didn’t think I’d make it to Christmas, but now I’m looking forward to celebrating my 50th birthday in July. I feel myself again.”
Dr Matthew Krebs, medical oncologist from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, which is leading the trial, said: “We are delighted at the response Terri has had to this treatment. This is promising for a drug early in its development.”
Image: The Christie NHS Foundation Trust
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) kills thousands of people every year and has no cure – but not for much longer perhaps. Scientists believe they may have identified effective treatments for the disease, which is caused by smoking, air pollution and genetics.
Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that existing drugs, used to treat other conditions, helped reverse damage caused by smoke in the lungs of mice. The findings raise hopes that the treatment could also work on people. Further research is needed.
“The big benefit of the drugs we’ve identified is that they’re already used to treat other conditions, so we know that they are safe,” Reinoud Gosens, from the University of Groningen, told New Scientist.
Farmers in England will be paid to use green fertiliser instead of artificial alternatives, the UK government announced this week.
The rising price of gas, which is used to make fertilisers, is adding to the spiralling cost of producing food, putting more pressure on struggling households.
To help with costs, the government said on Wednesday that it would pay farmers to use ‘green manures’ and sow nitrogen-fixing plants that reduce the need for artificial fertiliser.
Farmers welcomed the move, but called for more support.
Image: Randy Fath
Five thousand smallholder farmers in Rwanda were handed ownership of the country’s largest tea factory this week.
Shares in the Mulindi Tea Factory were signed over by The Wood Foundation Africa and Gatsby Africa, the British philanthropic investors that acquired the company in 2012. It is the first factory to be owned 100 per cent by smallholder farmers in Rwanda.
Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, the country’s minister for agriculture, said: “This is a historic event for the Mulindi tea farmers, and I am so happy to see this empowerment at the rural level.”
Image: The Wood Foundation
Main image: The Old Forge Community Benefit Society