Transition Monmouth Chair’s Report – November 2021

Once again, it is my pleasure to summarise the year’s activities carried out in the name of Transition Monmouth (TM) and highlight some of our achievements. It is self-evident from the range and depth of these, that the passion of TM members remains undiminished despite various physical restrictions brought about by Covid.

Whilst we have been pursuing local projects according to our ethos, building resilient and sustainable communities to combat climate change, it feels like wider society has become more aware of climate change as of late. This may be down to the sheer number of extreme climate events, which various measures report as the ‘highest/lowest since records began’. There has been record snowfall in Madrid and Texas, whereas record high temperatures have led to wildfires and evacuations throughout the world. New terminology has entered our vocabulary; many now understand the frightening consequences of a ‘heat dome’ for example. We have also seen major flooding and even rain (not snow) for the first time on the Greenland ice sheet.

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) has also provided a focal point, especially in the year it was hosted by the UK. It appeared to be actively followed by UK news outlets building up to and during the conference, giving a platform for leaders as well as other stakeholders on climate and social justice issues. This rightly reminded us of the multi-faceted nature of the problem. Here in Monmouth, we came together with a number of local climate groups to hold our own awareness-raising event to mark COP26.

Increased awareness is a stepping stone to action. A good starting point is the leaflet ‘18 Ideas to Help Combat Climate Change’, produced in association with ACE Monmouth and full of personal and local actions that are achievable. You may be inspired to join the projects described below, and we very much hope you do, or even have ideas and drive to start something new. Who knows, you may even be inspired to demonstration and activism, or even politics [Hint: local elections next May]. Rest assured, you can make a valuable contribution in any number of ways and build community resilience with like-minded TM members.

Monmouth Community Fridge – this incredible project celebrated its first anniversary in September and continues to reduce both local food waste and food poverty. It is only possible through the ongoing efforts of volunteers who continue to collect near use-by and surplus food, along with flowers, from local supermarkets. This is then offered to the public from the operational base, located in the Bridges Centre stables. Both of these operations occur every day of the week and have continued despite Covid restrictions. The sheer scale of the operation can be gauged from this year’s statistics:

  • Food diverted from landfill = 25.8 Tons
  • eCO2 emissions avoided = 64.4 Tons
  • Customers served = 7673
  • Bunches of flowers redistributed = 2960
  • Volunteers managed = 30
  • Facebook followers engaged = 1400

The Fridge goes from strength to strength, recently being awarded the highest level of a 5-star Food Hygiene Rating. Funding has been secured for future projects of a hot composter, for unavoidable food waste, and also to start satellite cupboards. These will expand reach to outlying areas of the town, starting with St James Hall in Wyesham. A presentation about the Fridge was made to Wyesham WI, who warmly support the project. The development of a paid coordinator position is actively being pursued but will come dependant on a suitable funding source being identified.

A big thank you to all the volunteers who work day in and day out to make this happen.

Green Grow – jointly with ACE Green Spaces: this grouping of hands-on projects continues to manage many planting schemes around the town.

Schemes around the Monmouth Comprehensive School continue to be managed for biodiversity, with the wild flower meadow beside the bike sheds beginning to settle down after initial domination by agricultural clover. Fruit and vegetable beds near the entrance are maturing and contributing to both the education of pupils and residents as well as providing a haven for local pollinators and many other small creatures. This scheme, along with the bus station Pollinator Garden, featured in the Monmouth Bee Festival trail. This provided an opportunity to discuss issues around biodiversity and pollinator-friendly planting, as did the TM stand at the main Bee Festival event.

There has been some initial work on renovating the Community Orchard, though long-term site management needs to be determined with appropriate detailing of pruning and mowing regimes.

Plastic Free Monmouth (PFM) – various events throughout the year provided opportunity to engage with people on the issue of single-use plastics. The Climate Future Festival saw the unveiling of Georgie Meadows’ wonderful dress created from discarded plastic items, complete with Covid test strips. The COP26 event in Monmouth provided further engagement and an outing for the dress.

Chair of the PFM group, Beccy MacDonald-Lofts, has secured a monthly article slot for Living magazine, where she will be exploring the issues around single-use plastics and the wider climate change agenda. We look forward to her future published works.

Chippenham Park Water Fountain – this project has come to completion and we were delighted to contribute to the new drinking water fountain that will serve the primary sports fields and new children’s playground. The opening ceremony was timed to coincide with that of the playground, both much needed assets for the town and supported by many TM members. The fountain will contribute to reducing single-use plastics and building resilient community here in Monmouth.

Many thanks to Hywel Rees and Roger Finn of the Monmouth Fountains Group, along with our Treasurer Claudia Blair, who together ensured smooth progress throughout.

Apple Pressing – with enhanced Covid precautions, a pressing event was held at Wyesham St James Hall ahead of the Climate Future Festival. Despite a poor apple harvest, the event was fun and informative for participants, linking people to an important local food source.

It is intended to donate the TM apple press and scratter to Benthyg Monmouth (Library of Things), once it becomes operational, in order to make it available to a wider range of groups.

Wyesham Community Woodland – after a bit of a hiatus due to Covid restrictions, the group is active again in woodland management and event planning. Following a kick off meeting, working groups came together to improve paths and benches before organising and putting on the well-attended Halloween Spooktacular family event with ghostly trail and storytelling around the fire, complete with hot chocolate. Further site management is planned by volunteers and MCC.

Collaborations – a good number of TM members continue to promote our ethos though partnerships with other groups from schools, charities, business and local groups to Government bodies at all levels.

At County-level, we participate in initiatives like the Climate Emergency Working Group and Climate Change Champions. In this way, we both help to shape the conversation and participate in the solutions that filter down. We contribute to Monmouth Town Council (MTC) Active Travel group and are pleased to witness the increased cycling infrastructure installed this year; long may it continue.

A new collaboration this year is with the Monmouth School for Boys. In order to contribute to community-based environmental projects, a number of boys have already been enjoyed raking cuttings at the Community Orchard.

Benthyg Monmouth is a ‘Library of Things’ concept coming to town, whereby a large range of items can be borrowed for nominal amounts. The idea is to prevent additional strimmers/tents/sewing machines etc being purchased when they are only required for short term use. It is supported by Welsh Government Circular Economy funding and managed by Monmouthshire County Council. Transition members are actively supporting this project, based in Bridges Community Centre, and are currently forming a volunteer group to operate. The intention is to combine with the Repair Café (ACE) group, due to the complementary nature of reusing and repairing.

Undoubtedly the largest collaboration of climate groups this year produced the Climate Future Festival, organised by ACE Monmouth. This ‘Action on Climate Emergency’ working group was formed after Monmouth Town Council (MTC) declared a Climate Emergency, with the festival as one of its key projects. This resulted in an activity-packed week with over 100 presentations, workshops and other events across the town. Issues across the climate spectrum were highlighted, from social justice to mental wellbeing and right down to protecting our local river. Huge congratulations to the volunteers and organisers, many of whom are also TM members, for pulling off such a mammoth task. As we wind down and digest just how well it went, I know the Festival team are actively looking for next year’s volunteers!

A further collaborative event was put on to mark the COP26 and a number of local environmental groups came together on the Cattle Market grassy area. The ‘mini festival’ format housed various displays, groups and the band Kahlo-After Frida. The atmosphere was positive and optimistic. There was also a procession by the Earthrite group and their giant globe. The focus was on the range of great local initiatives and how the public could participate. To this end, a new leaflet was devised ’18 Ideas to Help Combat Climate Change’, that could be used to start conversations. It is full of local and personal actions that can be taken by everybody. Like the Festival before it, this event proved a great opportunity for like-minded groups to network and formulate new ways of working. It was also a valuable way to engage with the public and garner support and possibly new recruits, whilst the COP26 was still in people’s minds.

 To summarise, it has been a tremendous year of public engagement on climate issues, despite Covid restrictions. This important work was brought to the fore at Monmouth’s first Climate Future Festival, which set a very high bar for following events and showed what can be achieved when local, dedicated people and groups collaborate.

I see Transition members efforts rewarded in the number of success stories and heartening projects that are underway. As always, a giant thank you to the tireless efforts that underpin these. Day after day, our members contribute to a more resilient and sustainable community right here in Monmouth.

That just leaves me to warmly thank my fellow officers for all that they do for Transition Monmouth, and keep the whole operation on track; Simon Durant (Deputy Chair), Vivien Mitchell (Admin/Secretary) and Claudia Blair (Treasurer).

Bryan Miller

Chair – Transition Monmouth

November 2021