The WOJO Interview 

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    Environment Editor Wendy Cotton
talks to

  Kate Gathercole

Herefordshire environmental professional and co-ordinator of the Herefordshire Green Network.  

Background: Kate Gathercole has a lifelong interest in environmental issues. Her work includes sustainability advocacy, engagement & activism, event coordination, project management and group work facilitation. She is a folk singer and musician, a hopeful permaculturist and a professional registered homeopath. She takes on too much, and her home & garden are neglected, but loved.


What first sparked your interest in the environment?
My family upbringing encouraged an early political awareness. As a young teenager, I took an active part in the marches that were part of the CND Protest and Survive movement of the 80s. Around the same time, during a very wet holiday in Machynlleth in Mid Wales, my parents took me to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology. I still have strong memories of that visit: the distinctive smell of lentil soup and wholefood café aromas; the incredible gardens; fascinating bookshop and wealth of new ideas. It had a profound effect which has stayed with me ever since.



The deep impact of austerity has left many communities struggling to meet basic needs and that, coupled with the ramping up of corporate power, makes me feel like we are caught up in a web which is not easy to escape.​

You were a founder member of Herefordshire New Leaf Sustainable Development 8 years ago. How do you think that the challenge of living sustainably has changed over that time?

In some ways, the challenge should feel easier – there is probably more mainstream momentum. But actually things feel more complicated. The deep impact of austerity has left many communities struggling to meet basic needs and that, coupled with the ramping up of corporate power, makes me feel like we are caught up in a web which is not easy to escape. We perhaps brought a hopeful naivety to beginnings of New Leaf which has changed over time - but I am really excited about what New Leaf are doing now as joint managers (with the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust) of Queenswood Country Park and Bodenham Lake, as well work on other initiatives in the County and beyond.


What would be the main message that you would send to people thinking about living more sustainably?


I am studying for a permaculture diploma and find it a really useful tool in many areas. Using permaculture principles I would say that the first steps are to observe where you are – and then look for creative, health-giving changes which can be integrated into your life easily.


Can you tell me more about the Herefordshire Green Network?


The HGN is a non-political alliance of local environmental organisations, individuals and business motivated by carbon reduction and other environmental issues. It is a network based on the energy of many people who have been doing incredible work over many, many years – sowing seeds of change in the communities that they are part of. They bring amazing experience, expertise and ingenuity from a whole host of approaches: those who have lived off-grid for decades, those who have done DIY conversions in their own homes and even someone who has built an electric car from scratch. Their tireless energy is inspirational …
HGN was previously called the Herefordshire in Transition Alliance and has always been linked with the national Transition Town movement. In Herefordshire people felt that the “Green Network” name better captured the accessible nature of what we are trying to achieve...


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I suppose I have a strong feeling about the interconnectedness of all things. Degraded broken and unhealthy eco-systems and environments benefit no-one and no-thing. 


Are you working on any projects at the moment?

There is always lots going on in local organisations and at a grassroots level in communities across the county! There is a host of information on our website – news, articles and a calendar of events. A particular focus for this year is food security and action on single use plastic. Our monthly discussion evenings at De Koffee Pot in Hereford which will cover these, and other current topics.


Do you have a favourite environmental author, activist or someone who has been a positive influence on your work?


There have been so many influential books. The one I am currently enjoying is “Playing for Time (Making Art as if the World Mattered)”. It is compiled by Lucy Neal and is a brilliant collection of writings, thinking and ideas aimed at artists, activists, and anyone else who is engaged in reimagining the world and combining ideas with action.


What do you like to do when you are not working?


I love to work with my hands – particularly getting them dirty:  in the earth working on our land; drawing with charcoal and painting. I’m also at my happiest playing music with friends.


The environmental piece in this issue of WOJO talks a little about what motivates us to take action – what motivates you?


Issues of social & environmental justice – and inequality / injustice… I suppose I have a strong feeling about the interconnectedness of all things. Degraded broken and unhealthy eco-systems and environments benefit no-one and no-thing. 


Do you have any tips for anyone who is interested in getting involved in the exciting things that are happening in Herefordshire (and outside Herefordshire)?
Keep an eye on the HGN website (www.hgnetwork.org) and join our mailing list for a weekly Friday evening review of what is going on locally. Ideally, we hope that people will use HGN as a stepping stone into action in their own communities, so if you would like find your local group have a look on the HGN list of Members, and if you can’t find what you are looking for there then email me and I’ll help put you in touch: kate@hgnetwork.org 




Kate was talking to Wendy Cotton, WOJO Environmental Editor