Transition Monmouth Chair’s Report – December 2022

The group has enjoyed a further year of achievements, underpinned by the hard work and dedication of members in pursuit of our ethos; building resilient and sustainable communities to combat climate change.  I am delighted to summarise these projects and actions below, having the privilege of holding the Chair over the last year. At fifteen years old, the group continues to develop and expand, with new ideas being put into action all the time.

The wider situation, having emerged from Covid hibernation, is that local communities are emboldened to bring about the kind of changes they want to see. Waiting for ‘big government’ action is no longer viable as the clock ticks down towards environmental cliff edges; we are faster and more agile at the grass roots.

If not already involved, it is hoped that you will be inspired by the breadth of our projects; there really is something for everyone to join. Maybe you’ve heard about the UK hitting over 40 degrees for the first time this year or have been wondering if we really need so much single-use packaging. Maybe you have ideas and want to make a difference. Join in the conversation, build community resilience and sustainability with like-minded, local members.

Monmouth Community Fridge – our largest project celebrated two full years in the Bridges Centre Stables and goes from strength to strength. It continues to make nightly collections of near use-by and surplus food from local supermarkets. Its doors are then opened seven days a week to distribute to the public. Masses of volunteers and coordinator resource comes together to make this operation possible, resulting on these astounding statistics over two years;

  • Food diverted from landfill = 51.2 Tons
  • eCO2 emissions avoided = 127.9 Tons
  • Customers served = 15273
  • Bunches of flowers redistributed = 6237
  • Volunteers managed = 35
  • Facebook followers engaged = 1800

Unsurprisingly, the Fridge has faced increasing costs at a time public donations are falling. With the monthly running costs around £430, the coordinators have been on a fund-raising trail to secure our position into the medium term. We are delighted to have been supported by Monmouth Rotary who, following a presentation by the coordinators, stepped in quickly to cover our utilities over the short term. This bridged the gap until our successful applications for a Monmouth Town Council Community Grant of £3000 and £1000 from Neighbourly, an M&S grant. Later success with You Decide (MCC Participatory Budget) led to £1300, followed by £1000 from Welsh Government Food Security funding. This hard work has left the Fridge confident of the year ahead, and will also cover servicing of the commercial appliances, and purchase of marketing materials and additional insulated bags.

A social event was held in October, with a game of skittles at The Royal Oak. It was a rare opportunity for both the day volunteers and evening collectors to come together, often for the first time, comparing notes and putting faces to names. In the same month, the Fridge hosted a visit by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford.

In addition to food and flowers, the Fridge has been distributing environmentally friendly period products, supplied by Monmouthshire County Council. These are given out from the Bridges location and other channels into the community, and are just another example of what makes this project so special. Well done and a huge thankyou to everyone who makes this possible.

Apple Pressing – with a fabulous apple harvest this year, we held well-attended community events at both Wyesham St James’ Hall and Rockfield Community Hall. These were fun and hands-on and were the first time we had seen some people since the lockdowns.

We completed our aim of donating the press and scratter set to Benthyg Monmouth in order to give greater access to the wider community. Based at Bridges, this is a community lending initiative supported by Transition Monmouth. Subsequently, a number of private and community pressings were able to take place using it.

Community Orchard – Two River Meadow – the fruit trees were suffering from neglected pruning over recent years, so two sessions were arranged. A late winter pruning of soft-centred fruit was followed by a mid-summer prune of hard-centred fruiting trees. Many thanks to local expert Helena Ronicle, who led the training and imparted much of the why and how of proper pruning techniques. She has also gone on to develop a site management plan, including grass cutting regime, that is awaiting review at this time. If you are at all interested, please join in and look out for our follow up pruning sessions in the coming year.

Peter Morgan Community Orchard – this is a new project leading to the creation of a brand-new community orchard along the Redbrook Road in Wyesham. The land is very kindly being gifted and represents the first substantial asset for the group. In conjunction, coordinators have successfully applied for a Lottery Heritage grant to cover legal costs, contamination surveys, asbestos clearance, fencing and of course establishing the planting scheme. The grant award is the largest ever received by us, and will lead to a wonderful community asset that will be a biodiverse haven for wildlife and people. The team are currently navigating the legal aspects of conveyancing and property transfer, but ownership is expected shortly and site preparation can then begin.

Event Stands – the Wye Valley River Festival provided a fun event with lots of entertainment highlighting aspects of the river. The Bee Festival ran across a weekend in July. We opened up the Kitchen Garden and Wildflower Meadow sites at the Monmouth Comprehensive School for visitors to inspect how this otherwise bland area has been developed for biodiversity and pollinators. The following day we shared a large stand with Tools for Self Reliance Cymru, engaging the public, promoting our projects and selling plants and books.

In the same month we had a stand at Wye July, supporting the Friends of the Lower Wye in raising awareness of the condition of our river. Our ‘feather’ flags made their first appearance, helping to achieve a coordinated, professional look. All these events relied on Benthyg Monmouth for the lending of gazebos and equipment, not to mention the volunteers who prepared and staffed all the stands; many thanks!

Earlier in the year, we supported the Seed Swap event at Bridges with stands for Transition and the Fridge. Plenty of interaction with the public and also plants and books (and maps!) sold.

Hustings for County Council Elections – there was good attendance and some lively questioning of candidates standing for the County Council elections. The packed audience at Bridges were highly engaged on environmental issues and the proceedings were well facilitated by Haydn. Additional thanks to the team of cake bakers and refreshment servers.

Green Grow/Green Spaces – initiate and develop planting schemes around the town jointly with ACE members. Work around Monmouth Comprehensive School continues to attract public interest and improve biodiversity, air quality and flood prevention. This has been extended to include the Phoenix Building surrounds, for which a You Decide grant was successfully awarded. A tree nursery area has been established with the first tranche of saplings now in the ground.

The event stands and orchard maintenance already mentioned are also underpinned by this collaborative project.

Plastic Free Monmouth (PFM) – our PFM Chair Beccy has been increasing the profile of this project through meetings with MCC, new councillors and writing articles for Living magazine. She is in the planning stages of running PF Business sessions, supported by MCC.

Wyesham Community Woodland – the volunteers have emerged from Covid restrictions and continue to manage the woodland and put on community events, from the Big Jubilee lunch to spooky Halloween gatherings. They held another Christmas tree chipping session, turning cut trees from Wyesham residents into wood chippings for the pathways.

Collaborations – we continue to engage with other groups from schools, charities, business and local groups to Government bodies at all levels. This is not only a means to achieve more for our efforts, but sparks new ideas, actions and friendships. We are proud to work alongside ACE Monmouth, Benthyg Monmouth and Friends of the Lower Wye to raise environmental awareness and initiate actions that are kinder to the planet.

We are able to achieve much through strong relations with local Town and County level government and we are lucky to have members elected to both. On my recent presentation to the new Town Council, I outlined the range of projects we undertake; our efforts were well received and warmly praised. From County, we have strong support from Councillors and Officers, making it much easier to achieve our goals. It allows us to have quality engagement, like the evening with Mark Hand (MCC Head of Placemaking) where he presented on the Local Development Plan and we had wide ranging discussions on the planning process, transport links, water quality, housing efficiencies and natural flood management.

It is clear that our members continue to drive our projects with passion and energy. They also continue to engage the public in important environmental awareness, so delivering on our ethos of a more resilient and sustainable Monmouth community. Massive thanks to all our wonderful volunteers who make this possible.

Lastly, my thanks to fellow officers who put in so much and keep us going in the right direction; Claudia Blair (Treasurer) and Vivien Mitchell (Admin/Secretary). Congratulations to Vivien, who recently received the High Sheriff Award for service to the community, a tiny fraction of the recognition she deserves!

Bryan Miller

Chair – Transition Monmouth

December 2022