November 2022

Dear Transitioners

Another email, but a brief one. We have two great projects that need funding, and we need your
vote – please!

We have the Community Fridge. An amazing band of volunteers collects food from the
supermarkets each evening, seven days a week – and the following day this food is available from
the Community Fridge at Bridges. It also gets distributed to Monnow Vale, the shelter, and
elsewhere, and is hugely appreciated. This is food that otherwise would go to landfill – about two
tons a month of it! But this costs, mainly rent and utilities – hence the need for funding.

Green Grow is the group that plants trees, hedges, develops wildflower meadows, etc for
biodiversity, pollinators, resilience, and natural flood management. We welcomed the rebuild of
Monmouth Comprehensive School but, inevitably, this resulted in the loss of much habitat so we
have worked on various planting projects – the Kitchen Garden, wildflower meadow, hedges and
have now started on wildflower areas and a ‘Food for Birds’ garden at the Phoenix Building. It all
costs – hence our request for this funding.
We have applied to You Decide and both projects have been selected to go forward to the final
round, but competing with other Monmouth community projects, the amount dependent on the
number of votes we can get – so please vote for the project of your choice at:

Thank you!
Vivien Mitchell

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

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