Best UK village: Coleshill

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This classically beautiful village on the western borders of Oxfordshire with its village shop, tea room, pub and strong physical and cultural heritage is a hidden jewel of community-led energy efficiency and carbon reduction.

Over the last year, the village's 62 households have completed their own energy surveys and worked together to come up with ways to reduce their carbon footprint, with the added incentive of reducing energy bills too.

They started simple with basic energy-saving improvements – all houses now have sheep's wool loft insulation, for instance – but have since broadened their scope to include everything from eco-driving lessons to the use of real-time energy monitors.

Some residents are learning to become bee-keepers (the honey from the community hives will be sold in the village shop); others are helping set up a new community orchard.

Other measures coming soon include a biomass boiler which will use wood from the local estate to heat and provide hot water for the village shop, which is also to get a green facelift with new lighting and energy-efficient appliances.

The villagers have had terrific support and advice from npower and the National Trust to help them achieve all this. The village buildings are almost all older than the norm (pre-1930s) and many are beautiful vernacular examples; some are listed. This poses a challenge for energy-saving measures and renewable energy schemes. But what the community has shown is that people can think and act beyond the constraints of traditional buildings that often appear to stifle greener living in rural and historic settings. Coleshill has broken the mould and offers a great example to others.

Fiona Reynolds is director general of the National Trust

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