The environment is close to our hearts here at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village with environmental awareness and responsibility deeply rooted in the Trust’s ethos. Environmentalism was a key concern of G F Watts. His love of birds as a small child influenced one of his first Royal Academy submissions, The Wounded Heron (1937) which criticises the needless killing of bird life for sport. Later, Watts played a key role in establishing the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
When our Grade I and II* listed Arts & Crafts buildings were first constructed, provisions were put in place to ensure that they functioned sustainably and with minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. For 116 years, we have been recycling rainwater, harvested via an underground cistern, for use in maintaining our gardens and woodlands.
During our restoration work, the Trust ensured that this sustainable approach was continued. Insulation and lighting were upgraded with a focus on reducing energy usage, solar panels were installed on non-public facing areas of the Watts Gallery roof and materials were selected on their low-carbon credentials (such as FSC certified timber and clay roof tiles). This continued with the restoration of the Watts Studios, which has a low energy climate control system, energy-efficient LED lighting and PIR light sensors.
In our Tea Shop, takeaway cups, packaging, cutlery and straws are all made from biodegradable materials and water in plastic bottles are no longer sold, which ensures our use of single-use plastics is kept to a minimum. Water use in the Tea Shop has been reduced by approximately 50% with the installation of a new rinsing spray jet in the washing area and produce from our on-site allotment is served on the menu. Furthermore, we have installed 4 beehives to help pollinate the surrounding area of at least 1 mile, as well as installing bicycle racks to encourage visitors to travel to Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village in a more sustainable way.
Today, nestled as we are in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to care for and preserve the local environment for future generations. We have an established group of staff who work to ensure that environmental concerns are embedded across the Trust’s work. To date, we have made some positive progress to reduce our environmental impact. Our achievements include increasing our recycling by collaborating with Ellie’s Fund, who collect hard-to-recycle plastics such a food wrappers, pens and latex gloves to raise money for Brain Tumour Research & Support.
We are now excited to stretch our ambition and are delighted to announce that we are working with Julie’s Bicycle as part of the Arts Council Accelerator Programme in collaboration with the Courtyard in Hereford. This programme aims to advance the sustainable practice of selected organisations through training, mentoring and peer support and will allow Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village to take our efforts to the next level. We hope to be able to launch a series of initiatives in the future which focus on promoting sustainable travel options which can be shared with other heritage sites in rural locations, as well as benefitting our visitors and members of the local community. We look forward to sharing our progress with you as we continue to reduce our environmental impact!
Lauren Hall, Chair of the Environmental Sustainability Working Group.
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