Our Generator Community: Old Walls Hydro

 
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At Bulb, we think it’s really important that you know where your energy comes from. We buy 100% renewable electricity and 10% green gas from a number of independent, renewable generators from across the UK. In this post, get to know the Fursdons. Gail and Miles are dairy farmers from Dartmoor in Devon. They built their run-of-river hydro scheme on their land themselves. See their story here:

 
 

 

Gail and Miles

 
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Gail and Miles’ farm, Old Walls, has been in the family for generations. Miles’ father was a dairy farmer and they still have cattle. They keep up the farming tradition, Miles says, because they just love the place where they live. Hill farming isn’t always an easy business. Just over twenty years ago, Miles decided to try something new.
 
Miles had always loved solving problems. His mum used to call him the ‘mender man’. From a young age, he’d wanted to build a hydro-electric power plant on the family farm. He understood the potential of the site, even as a little boy. So, in 1995 he set about doing just that. 
 

The Hydro plant

 
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The hydro plant starts at the Weir, where water from the River Webburn is diverted into a leat, a kind of channel, which keeps the water at a steady level while the river drops below. Every day, seventy thousand tonnes of water passes through the leat. All of it is natural energy in the making. At the end of the leat, the river water reaches a tank. From there, the water drops through two pipes into the powerhouse. The water has been increasing in pressure the whole way down. When the water flows down through the pipes into the powerhouse, it rotates the turbine, generating electricity.

Gail and Miles use around 15% of the energy they produce to power their farm. The rest is sent off to the National Grid, via a transformer on the farm. And that’s where Bulb comes in.
 

"We’re only caretakers"

 
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The Fursdons are happy to be part of the Bulb Generator Community. Creating the hydro and producing renewable energy satisfies Miles’ need to do something useful. Just like farming puts food on the table. And best of all, they create energy with no pollutants. Gail and Miles were careful to make sure the hydro blends in with the natural, wild Dartmoor surroundings. They did a good job - it would be hard to spot the plant unless you knew it was there. The leat also created a completely new habitat on the farm. The slow-flowing water attracted new insect and animal life, including otters who have turned up in the past couple of years.

Gail runs regular walks and talks to show visitors how the power plant works. She’s often surprised to learn how many people don’t know where their energy comes from or how it’s produced. At Bulb, we want our members to know what they’re buying. That’s why we’re so excited about meeting our generator community - and introducing them to you. Because we all have a share in our environment and our future. As Miles told us, "we’re only caretakers of this place. The next generation will take it on, but we’re only here for a short while. Perhaps we’ll leave something a little bit better than when we started."
 
Thanks, Miles. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.


Visiting Old Walls Farm:

If you want to find out more, Miles and Gail offer guided tours around Old Walls Hydro. On a two-hour trip, they will show you how they turn water into green electricty.

The Fursdons like to keep family traditions going. If you’re visiting, you can stay with their son Luke, who runs Lowerton Farm Bed & Breakfast. They have a 500 year old farmhouse and offer Full English Breakfasts. And there’s lots to do in Dartmoor, from horse riding to kayaking. Book a stay here.

In nearby village Widecombe in the Moor, the Rugglestone Inn is the local pub. We sampled some local ale and cider while we were there. And the menu uses produce from local Dartmoor farms.


At Bulb we think it’s really important that you know where your energy comes from. See all the members of our Generator Community here.

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Clementine Hobson