Not a Transition High Street?
It is no wonder really that Transition is quite attached to high streets. Not only are they centres of community they are also most closely associated with small market towns, such as Totnes and Kinsale, which is where the Transition model originated. They exist in some larger villages, although I still baulk at labelling anywhere with more than one shop a village! And there is a form of them in cities - there are definitely shopping streets and then there are small high street equivalents in some estates, but they aren't quite the same as a market town high street. The beauty of a genuine high street (or just The Street in Norfolk!) is that it provides for all of the day-to-day needs of the towns residents and excursions further afield are only necessary for harder to get items. In a city the centre is near enough that there is no point in the individual estates having enough services to meet their day-to-day needs and then the centre is too dispersed to be a proper centre of community and often rather counter-intuitively in the modern day seems to offer a smaller range of services than a towns.
I grew up near to a small market town in Buckinghamshire called Olney. It is a relatively well to do place and the High Street is only one street and still retains a remarkable number of services. Someone did put forward the idea of Transition Olney a few years ago, but unfortunately they approached it a bit too ardently for others to get on board. So even without a transition initiative or any obviously environmental groups how is Olney High Street getting on?
Well lets start with food provision. Although there is a smallish Co-op and a one stop tesco's there is still a very friendly green grocer, who sometimes has local produce, but unfortunately doesn't label where everything comes from. There are also two deli's one is mostly cheese and other goodies, but the other one has a selection of good quality - mostly local - veg and freshly baked bread and milk, it is however, rather pricey. There is a weekly market, which isn't massively inspiring, but the farmers market once a month used to be pretty good, although I haven't been for a while. Oh and I almost forgot that everyone else doesn't live on vegetables! There is a small chain bakers, not artisan, but better than supermarket stuff. Then there is a butchers, who as a vegetarian I have never frequented so cannot report on its quality!
Health wise Olney is doing pretty well. There is still a small GPs surgery and an independent chemist and there was an alternative medicine shop for a couple of years, but it has shut down again now. There are a couple of Opticians and a dentist and easy access to the countyside and sports facilities for a bit of proactive healthcare!! Oh and a rather expensive and not especially alternative therapy/beauty centre.
Otherwise there is a pretty comprehensive hardware and everything else shop, a cobblers, a post office, a cookware shop and several hairdressers. The clothes shops are fairly boutique, as you would expect, but there are a couple of charity shops too. Oh and a smattering of antiques shops thrown in for good measure. There are still a couple of pubs with reasonable real ale and a variety of restaurants and cafes most of which have decent veggie options and most source some of their food locally.
I think you could probably get by quite happily never leaving Olney if you chose to! As a slightly more demanding environmentalist I would probably request a wholefood shop and more local veg in the grocers, but to be honest it's got pretty much everything and it's not even in Transition! Maybe it's just easier if most of your population is middle class and relatively well off?
Photos: A frosty Olney yesterday (sorry I don't have any of the highstreet!), some of the surrounding countryside and some Hoar frosty haws!