Imagining a possible future walk through Durham
This is the first of two or more blog posts to playfully explore some Green Durham themes connecting what we do today with some glimpses of a possible future.
A sunny April morning in 2034 and I set off from my home at the bottom of Crossgate Peth heading up the hill towards Neville’s Cross and down into Langley Moor to the Durham Health Food Shop . Buying a few bits and bobs too but mainly to catch up with friends and to join this month’s Green Durham Talks. Green Durham Talks has become quite the event as the online community that grew out of the original Green Durham website soon got tired of community-life-on-screen-only. People wanted to meet each other again, as in talk, sing, eat, drink, dance, and maybe hug whilst in the same place at the same time. Quite the concept! Well, it felt like it after the first pandemic. Oh, and those Green Durham folks, they do love to talk.
Walking up Crossgate Peth I take a deep breath noting that it’s been five minutes since I’ve last smelled Diesel exhaust. Gazing at the delivery e-bikes, e-vans and e-buses whizz past, my shoulders relax. From 8am to 4pm this road is now closed for individual transport cars; so it’s a good time to walk. Remember back in 2020 when Durham Health Food was the first company in Durham to use a cargo e-bike for their deliveries? It took another five years and much debating of details but from 2025, Green Durham required all transport for listed products and services to be fully electrified.
Gut wrenching. Devastating. Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah , killed from air pollution in 2013. As painful as it is to acknowledge that it took a little girl’s life, and eight years of inquiry, it was Ella’s law in 2021 that gave UK local authorities the push and the power to move faster on air pollution. Finally. In Durham, first, the whole of the county banned polluting cars for an hour during the morning and afternoon school run, then, gradually, they extended the hours. ‘We breathe hours’, as they became known.
It’s not just the air that is so much better, I can also hear the robins, blue tits and blackbirds sing. They are quite close too, since most of the trees along the road are still quite small. What a shame all those Ash trees wasted away in the 2020s but at least we got new oaks, beeches and maples planted early enough to take their place. In due time this bit of Crossgate Peth will be that green tunnel again that it once was, and this time with no stink and less noise.
Passing St Margaret’s School I hear the children’s voices – what a victory that was when we got all County Durham schools to sign up to Green Durham certified food in 2028! What a torrent of activity that unlocked! Durham Health Food had to rent a second warehouse in Mill Road. Organic growers across the county increased their sales tenfold over five years, and thousands of school kids got their hands dirty whilst spreading compost, sowing, weeding, and – finally – picking (some of) those peas and cucumbers for their school meal. The share of kids who eat chard skyrocketed from 3% to 5%. Talking about leafy things – who would have thought in 2021 that Durham become mildly famous for its CabbXnnovation festival, celebrating the harvest season every third September Sunday? Green Durham strategists and advertisers hit on a winning combination when they first promoted a mix of bass-heavy live music, stalls offering local variety apple pies and ciders alongside the central cabbage innovation competition in 2025. Jump aboard the cabbage bandwagon Green Durham cried, and jump they did. Never since 1346  have the fields alongside the river Browney been so busy.
At the crossing atop the hill, I get to rest a bit longer than expected. It takes the convoy of hydrogen lorries carrying 35-metre wind turbine blades and stems five minutes to pass. What a spectacle! With the hydrogen plant in Middlesbrough, the wind turbine manufacturer in Darlington, and the facilities around the Port of Tyne, those offshore wind farms are maybe the best thing that’s happened to the Northeast throughout the past few decades. They even turned out to withstand the Arctic super storms we seem to be getting every winter now. Anyway, it’s spring time now, Darlington Road is clear, and on I go, down towards the river Browney.
In the next instalment of this series, find out more about Green Durham in 2034 and what exercises those congregating at Green Durham Talks.