FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All


Watch our video here to learn more about sustainability at Flatford:

Green Tourism Award 2016

GT Generic Awaiting Grading2

This year Flatford Mill are working towards the Green Tourism Award which will help us develop further as a sustainable business and encourage a more sustainable lifestyle for our customers. We are currently working through our Green Action Plan and implementing our Green Policy; involving all staff departments at the centre. This work includes further reducing our energy usage, providing environmental understanding to the local community and our customers and using locally sourced food in our kitchen; to name a few.

We are awaiting grading with a grading visit scheduled for March.

For more information about the award, check out the Green Tourism website: www.green-tourism.com

Willy Lott’s Sustainable Garden

A number of paintings by John Constable show a garden to the south of Willy Lott's House. Over time this had been lost and overgrown, but as part of the recent building project the land was cleared and fenced so that it could be re-created as a productive  garden, growing vegetables for the Centre kitchens, flowers to brighten up the communal rooms and reducing the food (and flower) miles as well.

In 2014, using money kindly donated to the Field Studies Council by the Oakley family and funding made possible through Dedham AONB, we were able to re-establish the garden with the help of a crew of volunteers. Once established  the area will add to the natural beauty for the benefit of our numerous visitors to the area. It will enable us to enhance the area around Willy Lott’s House, for the particular benefit of our customers and staff. Once developed. It will provide a fantastic educational resource for school groups as well as adult education programmes, in addition to providing produce for our kitchen.

Local suppliers and contacts for items such as a local willow worker, a local saw mill for key materials as well as the National Trust and the RSPB are assisting with some resources such as woodchip from locally fallen trees and share plants from their already established local gardens. We will also be asking local suppliers to help contribute the project in the form of supplying gardening resources and plants.

The work is being carried out by members of the staff team in their spare time as well as a variety of volunteers and Centre customers. For example, the design for the garden has already been completed by a group of adults staying at the Centre for weekend on a sustainable Garden Design course. Other volunteers will be recruited from local schools in the village as well as from our customers, the local Youth Ranger Scheme we operate alongside the RSPB and the National Trust and local volunteer networks, supported by our staff members with guidance from permaculture experts from the Apricot Centre, a local Centre offering training advice in this field.

The garden will help the Centre save money as it will be producing vegetables for the kitchen. It will also provide a valuable educational resource for a range of courses, arts, crafts, sustainability programmes as well as school and youth programmes.

The garden will help to develop a new line of educational programmes in sustainability and garden design, producing food at home. It is also anticipated that further areas will be developed around the site during future courses, using the initial garden as an initial model. We have already used the garden for one training course in sustainable garden design. This provided the design of the garden. We will be setting up more courses associated with the garden that will help to increase skills and knowledge, making participants more employable.

East Anglian Times article on our sustainable garden project

Carbon Reduction

In the early 1990's Centre staff started to recognise the implications of the emerging science of climate change. As well as drawing attention to these issues on our courses, we began to monitor the specific impacts of our own business. By 1996, alongside meters provided by utility companies we had installed additional meters in every relevant building, allowing us to calculate annual consumption of electricity, LPG and heating oil.  Using conversion factors, we found that in 1996 total CO2 emissions from the premises were around 189 tonnes. Using these data as our baseline, we resolved to reduce emissions year on year wherever possible. By 2000, with coal removed from the energy mix and an initial programme installing insulation, secondary glazing and low energy light bulbs, CO2 emissions were down to 158 tonnes, a 16% reduction over four years. We continued by setting 3% annual reduction targets and involving staff and customers equally in helping to meet them. By 2010 emissions were down again at 146 tonnes, now 23% below our 1996 baseline.

However, having implemented the more obvious 'fixes', we realised that further reductions would now require structural changes to the energy mix and the heating, cooking and lighting systems throughout the premises. These became key elements within the Flatford Mill project to upgrade facilities. With appropriate Planning Consents in place, building work commenced in December 2010 and was completed in early 2012.

The challenge for this project was how best to modify the energy systems in buildings that have existed for between 60 and 600 years and converted from their original uses to a residential Field Centre, accommodating up to 80 visitors. Each building had its own 20th century energy system, initially installed when fossil fuels were much less expensive and concerns about the greenhouse effect were well in the future. The carbon reduction elements of the project were therefore planned around three main measures:

1. Extending the rolling programme of insulation, draught exclusion and like-for-like equipment replacement. Examples include:

  • Optimum insulation in the loft spaces of Valley Farm, the Mill Granary, Willy Lott's House, Babergh Bungalow and the Old Bath House.
  • Complete retrofit of wall and roof insulation to convert a former cart shed into a modern seminar room.
  • New secondary glazing in Valley Farm and double glazing in Babergh Bungalow
  • Replacement of 1960's oil-fired boiler in the Mill with a modern, more fuel-efficient model
  • Replacement of outdated central  heating controls with 'smart' electronic units and thermostatic valves.

2. Changing the energy mix to reduce the reliance on grid electricity for space heating.

Because of losses through transmission, the carbon loading of grid electricity at 0.52 kg CO2 per kWh is around double that of fossil fuels such as LPG and oil at 0.21 kg and 0.27 kg per kWh respectively. It therefore made sense to take as much of this electricity out of the mix as possible. Examples here include:

  • Installing oil-fired space heating in Valley Farm, previously provided by on-demand electric convectors
  • Installing LPG-fired space heating in Babergh Bungalow, previously provided by on-demand electric convectors and storage heaters


3. Installing renewable energy technologies to make best use of the opportunities offered by the site.

  • Listed Building status currently precludes use of solar photovoltaic panels on the roofs of these buildings, but air and water provide alternative sources of green power and we made use of these by:
  • Space heating the seminar room conversion with an air source heat pump
  • Installing a 10kW Archimedean Screw Water Turbine in the former Mill wheelrace to generate zero carbon electricity from the river flow

Arguably the most high profile carbon reduction element of the project, the Archimedean Screw installation was completed by January 2012. Even allowing for being offline during periods of very low and very high river flows, the turbine generated 12.8 megawatts of electricity during 2012 and saved 6.7 tonnes of CO2.  Most of this power was consumed on the premises, with a small proportion exported into the grid at night.

As noted earlier, a total 22 tonnes of CO2 has been saved from the buildings element of our business operations compared to 2010 before the work commenced. The turbine has therefore contributed around one third of the savings and other improvements have contributed around two thirds.     

Eco Centres 2000 - 2015

In 2000 FSC Flatford Mill became the first UK 'Eco-Centre', a scheme running in parallel to the Eco-Schools programme. Both awards recognise successful programmes of improvements to buildings, grounds and systems that help to reduce carbon emissions and benefit the wider environment. Flatford Mill staff were fully engaged in the process through an Eco-Centre committee and customers were encouraged to help us achieve our objectives through thoughtful actions during their residential and day visits.

The Eco-Centres flag and certificate was re-awarded in 2003. With new funding now available, the Eco-Centres programme was relaunched with Keep Britain Tidy. Flatford Mill (along with the other 16 FSC Centres) signed up to the new programme and in due course expects to be able to show the assessors how much more has been achieved in the intervening years!

We are currently working through our Eco Centre Action Plan and implementing our sustainable Procurement Policy. Part of our work is to educate and inspire school children that stay at the Centre during field study trips and, so we are also making use of our Eco Centre Code and Our Eco Tree to help communicate some of the concepts.