How the water-cooler industry combines business success with eco-excellence:
If British woodland managers were able to charge for tackling air pollution and removing greenhouse gases, the service in the UK would have been valued at £1.8 billion in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics1. One company that could claim to be making a contribution to this positive effect on tackling climate change is Glastonbury Spring Water Ltd, which bottles Spring Water for both watercoolers and small pack.
The company is a Member of the British Water Cooler Association which this year published a challenge to its Members: the 5 for 5 Sustainability Pledge 2 asking Members to demonstrate what they were already doing well, to inspire others; and challenging them to perform even better across 5 areas of sustainability, over 5 years.
View from exterior of the bottling plant – Glastonbury Tor
Land management comes naturally to those producing ‘natural’ waters – that is Spring Waters or Natural Mineral Waters which must be microbiologically safe to drink without treatment. Therefore, without well-managed, unpolluted land, the aquifers below ground would not be capable of delivering the clean, safe water these companies need. Glastonbury Spring Water is an exemplar of good, sustainable management. They value the countryside around Glastonbury and the protection of it, this is not only driven by their business activities but through strong links with their local community & support for the historic town. The Spring Water itself is sourced from deep beneath 120 acres of idyllic farmland just outside Glastonbury at Park Corner Farm.
The family-owned company is run by David Tucker and was started by his father, Ian Tucker and mother Caroline Tucker, who are Directors of the business. Step out of the site’s front door and you see the iconic Glastonbury Tor reaching high above you and swinging round you see in the distance the Pyramid Stage of the Glastonbury Festival site.
Ian Tucker, David Tucker and BWCA General Manager Phillipa Atkinson-Clow
The water business started in around 1992 but the water was bottled from a different source which was bought ‘by accident’ at auction. The family bought a holiday cottage and discovered a water source beneath . “The supply was very substantial. Michael Eavis, who ran the Glastonbury Festival, didn't have a sufficient water supply and so my father bottled water for the Festival because they needed more for the fans. Glastonbury Spring Water was born,” explains David Tucker. “We did that for a few years, producing small packs (bottles) of water. My father purchased a small company in Taunton producing water for small packs and coolers and realised that the cooler sector was a good business to be in. We caught the growth of the sector in 1996-1997 and joined the BWCA fairly soon”. The company was initially based at an industrial estate in Glastonbury, tankering spring water because they had ‘grandfather rights’ (legislation does not permit tankering except under special circumstances).
Tankering was inefficient & costly, but more importantly did not fit well with the companies environmental aspirations. In 2006 Park Corner Farm became available by auction, a former County Council estate located on 120 acres of farmland adjacent to that of the National Trust. After successfully acquiring Park Corner Farm at auction the work began. When taking on the build the environment & climate change heavily influenced the way the company carried out their design. They developed a run down council farm into a state of the art production facility with every aspect of the design encompassing recyclable or renewable materials wherever possible.
All bricks in the build were reclaimed from the previous farm buildings. Sheep's wool was used as insulation for the roof. Under floor heating installed with a ground source heat pump to warm the offices & production areas. Solar panels were introduced to heat hot water in the production areas and a reed bed sewerage waste system completed the installation. All plastics, bottles, cardboard & wrapping are recycled locally & the water runs directly into the bottling plant from source without the need for transport.
Airy offices boast the original beams from the old cowshed and are around 100 years old. The company’s building was recognised through the CLA Rural Buildings Award and The Royal Bath & West Innovative Building Award.
The Tucker family is justly proud of the site they manage. They have a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme designation from Natural England for the farm, still very much active, and the land. Natural England initiative is partly based on the fact that the Tuckers avoid use of nitrate fertilisers. The site was designated a Local Wildlife Site in 2002 following a visit by the Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC). Even in those early days, three of the fields were judged to meet the Local Wildlife Site (LWS) criteria and official reporting shows that the conservation quality has continued to improve since first survey results reflecting “the ongoing sympathetic management”. The latest report3 records over 110 wildflowers, grasses, ferns, shrubs and trees present including wild scabious, wild geranium and two species of orchid: a few Twayblade (Neottia ovata) and a single Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa). They also have Pipistrelle bats. The family farm sheep and Hereford cows, but with no nitrates being used the land is completely clean of unwanted chemicals. The borehole is fenced off securely to prevent animals straying nearby.
The company bottles around 2 million litres of water annually, of which 75% is for water coolers, a highly sustainable means of supplying Spring Water as the containers are reused multiple times and then recycled. Some white label bottling goes on with contracts to supply other companies, but most of the products are Glastonbury branded. Water is mostly sold across the local region, as far south as Plymouth, across to Southampton and up to Gloucester. A fleet of 7 vans, 5 x 4 tonne vans & 2 smaller engineer vehicles service their customers, all of which are sent out full, to ensure they are as sustainable as possible in terms of logistics. The vehicles are changed every 3 years.
Gary the Goose tends the sheep in the field beside the bottling plant
Of the 16 people employed by Glastonbury Spring Water Ltd, four are family members and one senior member of staff, Sales Director David Lem. David Tucker completed his ‘A’ levels some 20 years ago and took what was to have been a gap year. The gap widened, he didn’t go to university to do a degree in fire engineering, instead at 41 he runs a successful water business. David is also a Retained Fireman, one of many locals who are called out some 300 times per year. David is proud to be carrying on a family tradition. Both his father, Ian, and his father before him were part time firemen.
Glastonbury Spring Water is heavily engaged in supporting good causes locally, the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance receives ongoing support. Members of the team support Cancer Research & the company is always keen to help local charities & groups. Schools and organisations in the nearby area are often given donations of water for sports and events.
In addition to local sponsorship the company hosts a webcam of the Tor which is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide: http://www.glastonbury.co.uk/webcams/tor/index.php
A branding update brings an attractive fresh new logo with colours that evoke the rolling hills of the Somerset countryside, whilst fully focusing on the historic Glastonbury name. The branding was a concept developed between Glastonbury Spring Water & Hola Group, in nearby Yeovil.
Glastonbury Spring Water is an example of excellence in an already sustainably managed industry and demonstrates how business and good environmental management can work in harmony.
1. ONS report published on 25 July 2017 and reported in the Financial Times on 26 July 2017
2. The 5 for 5 Sustainability Pledge details can be found on the BWCA website
3. History of Local Wildlife Site Designation http://bwca.org.uk/about-bwca/our-sustainability-programme/
The site was designated in 2002 following a visit by SERC. Fields A, B1 and B2 were judged to meet the LWS criteria (see site map below). Overall, the fields have clearly improved in conservation quality since the 2001 survey which reflects the ongoing sympathetic management. Field A Field A is on a steep north-west facing slope. It has numerous small terracettes and a few notably wet patches. A flat strip at the bottom (north-west) of the field was not surveyed as it is not typical of the field and was significantly affected by pond and gully clearance work over the winter. This field contains abundant Pignut (Conopodium majus), Bracken (Pteridium aquifolium), Cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris radicata), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), and Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys). Species frequently found were Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Common Knapweed ( Centaurea nigra), Common and Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus and Lotus pedunculatus), Field Wood-rush (Luzula campestris), Changing Forgetme-not (Myosotis discolor), Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and Tormentil (Potentilla erecta). The predominant grass species was Sweet Vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum), with Common Bent (Agrostis capillaris), Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata) and Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) also frequent. Other species of interest were Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca), Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta) and two orchid species: a few Twayblade (Neottia ovata) and a single Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa). The small wet flushes contained several rush species (Juncus): Soft-rush (J. effusus). Hard-rush (J. inflexus) and Sharp-flowered Rush (J. acutiflorus). There were also two horsetails (Equisetum): Field Horsetail (E. arvense) and Marsh Horsetail (E. palustre). A patch of Bog Stitchwort (Stellaria alsine) was found in a flush on both sides of the hedge between this field and field B1. Field B1 Field B1 is on the same north-west facing slope as field A and is similar in character and range of species although somewhat less varied. There is a large terrace-bank near the top of the field. Again, there is a flat strip at the bottom used for access to the fields. Bracken has only colonised a strip near the boundary with Field A, but Pignut is abundant. Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) is more frequent in this field. Field B2/C These two fields were surveyed together. They slope down around a hollow. The eastern slopes are steeper while the western side is terraced with a series of steep banks. At the time of the survey the eastern field was being grazed by cattle. 5 LWS Report Higher Wick Farm The eastern slopes are similar botanically to field B1. The lower part of the fields (the eastern part of former field C) is dominated by grasses and some dock. The steep banks on the western side have a notably more lime-tolerant mix of plants with the following species appearing in small numbers: Quaking-grass (Briza media), Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea), Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis), Fairy Flax (Linum catharticum), Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) and Burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga).
The upper terrace on the western side contains a clearly defined area dominated by grasses, notably Soft-brome (Bromus hordeaceus), but around half of the western field is flower-rich with abundant Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium) and Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill (Geranium dissectum). This area appears to have improved significantly since the first survey, when Field C was excluded from the LWS. Conclusion
This site continues to be managed by cattle and sheep grazing with no additional inputs. This is preserving the existing flora and has apparently increased the range of plant species. The higher parts of the former field C have significantly improved since 2001. It is recommended that the boundary of the LWS is extended to include this area.