Glimmers of hope … and action!

Dear Transitioners 

We hope that, after the initial shock, you are all settled into a new way of life in this strange new world.  Can we start by reiterating:  If you or a friend or neighbour needs help, be it for shopping, financial or health matters, please let us know – there is much help out there – but you have to ask!

And yes, after that initial shock, there is much going on that points in the direction of a better world for all.  We can be particularly proud of the way the Welsh Government is handling the crisis.  To deal with the effects of Covid-19, Sophie Howe, our Future Generations Commissioner, has called for urgent action to implement Universal Basic Income, a four-day week and a well-being economy – yes, invest in our people and future generations.  There will be no hand outs to companies registered in tax havens, and Wales remains in lock down.  Yay!

In Monmouth the Repair Café is posting repair workshops on their Facebook page, the stalwart Food Sense group is continuing under the most difficult of circumstances to distribute surplus food to 94 households and nine groups, Green Spaces has a range of activities – see their Facebook page – they are looking for volunteers to monitor/audit our green spaces – and we continue with work to improve our natural environment.  With this we need help! – in particular:-

  • We need top soil, even the old soil from your planters
  • We have bark chippings but they are in the wrong place – transport needed
  • We have a surfeit of clover – great for your compost heaps – we need it removed – we can cut but it would be really helpful if you cut your own – tools available but we are short of gloves
  • We need gardening help

This is all good outdoor activity that can be undertaken in isolation.  Offers of help please to me – vivienmitchell@yahoo.co.uk or phone 01600 715065.

We can also be proud of Monmouthshire County Council.  We are working with them to put together a recovery plan that embeds sustainability and carbon reduction.  First off we are working on temporary measures (which might become permanent) to improve sustainable transport, sustain social distancing and encourage active travel (walking and cycling).  The focus is on low cost / high impact imaginative measures.  Please send your ideas, pictures or links to things you’ve seen elsewhere and that you think could work here to ActiveTravel@monmouthshire.gov.uk by 4 June.  Other measures under development for long term changed behaviours include:-

  • Home working and video conferencing to reduce commuting and business travel
  • Habitual walking and cycling as part of daily exercise and to reduce pollution
  • Greater connection with nature and wildlife in your garden and the wider environment – good for wildlife, mental health and exercise
  • Reduced mowing of verges and green spaces to benefit pollinators and reduce fuel use
  • Support for our local independent shops
  • Cooking from scratch and reducing domestic food waste
  • Re-use facilities and Repair Cafés for surplus/broken toys, food, tools, electrical items, furniture etc
  • Home composting
  • Support community activities

These measures have all been brought to the fore by Covid-19 which is described by Alan Rusbridger as “a dress rehearsal for Climate Change”.  We now need to work to get these measures implemented – so, all hands to the deck with your ideas, reports of what you have put in place or how you have changed the way you do things, and any offers of help please to vivienmitchell@yahoo.co.uk.  I will pass them on to Bryan Miller, Claudia Blair and Charles Emes, our representatives with MCC for this vital work.

And, on 3 June, there will be a virtual discussion session of the MCC Climate Change Champions group addressing some of these issues.  Please let me know if you would like to participate and nearer the time I will send you the link.

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste” and other articles are listed below for your leisure reading.  Keep well, keep safe, keep optimistic, keep doing things.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Vivien Mitchell

Stuff for reading:-

Why don’t we treat the climate crisis with the same urgency as coronavirus? – Owen Jones writing in the Guardian over two months ago – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/05/governments-coronavirus-urgent-climate-crisis

Is coronavirus the end of everything or the start of something new? – Richard Deverell, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/22/earth-day-2020-could-mark-the-year-we-stop-taking-the-planet-for-granted-aoe?fbclid=IwAR2XC8bs0nMx9bKwAEOAJUVBXpRytG4eh8erSun6UdggxwoB5we-Bpqc3-8

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste – https://going-postal.com/2020/03/a-crisis-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste-part-i/

Inconvenient truths:  The psychology of coronavirus and the climate crisis – will the politicians act? – https://www.thecanary.co/opinion/2020/04/16/inconvenient-truths-the-psychology-of-coronavirus-and-the-climate-crisis/?fbclid=IwAR0b0J9Z2TJuvjrAZJQjgKz6xVeB-Y-DDAf7AFwYZW0mZMuW-68L_HQOtTE

The public want a radical response to climate change with the same urgency as coronavirus – Opinium poll 16 April – 48% of the public want this – https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/coronavirus-climate-crisis-uk-government-poll-environment-a9467371.html?fbclid=IwAR0oRe85wcQ3zefO-L3R69YDI8_AvDF1pDk1dDHWPtSNI2Bs8sKOB1Lj8ek

This poll (17 April 2020) shows that the British people are increasingly aware that the health of people and planet are inseparable and it’s time for radical environmental, social, political and economic change –  https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-only-9-of-britons-want-life-to-return-to-normal-once-lockdown-is-over-11974459?fbclid=IwAR3eflsH_S65SkyqriOt2Fx0U94LaLE9yu8F5HjUzH-sV-3Ns5wP39RxdQA

Let us not forget how we got into this mess:  38 Days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster – https://archive.is/hBnH4

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/coronavirus-38-days-when-britain-sleepwalked-into-disaster-hq3b9tlgh

Coronavirus recovery plan ‘must tackle climate change’ – Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52418624?fbclid=IwAR0EY7sS_941K2idYHxhexnoZScLxMAI7Sbo9eZixYLj3ibjaw_uY0mE-Tk

Covid-19 is an unmissable chance to put people and the planet first – https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/covid19-coronavirus-climate-jennifer-morgan-greenpeace?fbclid=IwAR1q9WrsqRVSTtOD62TpuZruxFS3NK2dlFlbEyRKEBfB_raIRXRZw765cBU

Restoring the Economy is the Last Thing We Should Want:  The sooner we open up the economy, the faster we simply recreate what got us into this mess.  It’s time for a radical shift – https://gen.medium.com/restoring-the-economy-is-the-last-thing-we-should-want-308045d58e0a

The following bibliography was supplied by Hazel Clatworthy.  It includes some of the articles used by the County Council in formulating their response plan:-

Governance and decision making:-

https://medium.com/loti/beyond-the-crisis-how-local-government-can-build-a-positive-legacy-after-covid-3ac6e3d32a24

https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/insight/impact-coronavirus-planning-system

Transport, Walking and Cycling:-

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/21/the-guardian-view-on-covid-19-and-transport-walk-to-the-future

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/21/milan-seeks-to-prevent-post-crisis-return-of-traffic-pollution?CMP=share_btn_tw

https://www.sustrans.org.uk/for-professionals/urban-design-and-planning/re-allocating-road-space-to-make-walking-and-cycling-safer-during-covid-19-and-beyond/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/28/calls-for-more-space-walking-cycling-uk-during-lockdown-coronavirus

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52483684

https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/light-lockdown-traffic-leicester-allows-4083625

Air Quality:-

https://airqualitynews.com/2020/04/09/why-air-pollution-is-linked-to-a-faster-spread-of-coronavirus/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/23/toxic-air-over-london-falls-by-50-at-busiest-traffic-spots?CMP=twt_a-environment_b-gdneco

A different world…

Dear Transitioners

A different world 

We hope you are all safe and well.  That’s how our last newsletter started in the wake of the floods.  The message today is the same, but this time it affects each and every one of us.

Let me start by saying there is an amazing community effort of support, especially for the vulnerable and at risk from Covid-19.  If you need any help, or know of someone that does, please get in touch, or look at Facebook pages such as Monmouth Covid-19 Community Volunteers, Osbaston Noticeboard, Monmouth Mutual Aid and Assistance, MNB Monmouth New Businesses.  There are others, and they work.  There has been a speedy response to every request for help – and remember, especially if you are vulnerable or at risk, you will be a lot more bother if you don’t stay at home/isolated.  Don’t be proud – ask for help!  There’s plenty of help out there, and if you want to volunteer in some capacity but don’t know how, please get in touch too.

While social distancing, but before lockdown, we squeezed in a couple of community activities.  Last Sunday about 40 trees were planted at Claypatch Woods – oak, beech, white beam, wild cherry, hazel and some wild honeysuckle along the hedge near the bus stop.  At the same time St James’ Square got planted with pollinator friendly woodland perennials.  We hope that, as the young plants grow, they will provide cheer throughout the year, not only to passers-by but also to wildlife.

All further events have been cancelled/postponed, but our wonderful Food Sense volunteers continue to collect surplus food from the supermarkets and distribute it as best they can to Overmonnow School and local individuals and families.  We were on the verge of shutting down but were asked, if possible, to continue as we are regarded by Monmouthshire County Council as an ‘essential service’.  And just as soon as we can, Food Sense will set up a Community Pantry with storage and fridge/freezer capacity – scheduled for the end of March, but of course delayed.

We can but hope that something good will come out of this pandemic, and we will surely redouble our efforts to make this a safe, fair, and sustainable world fit for future generations.  There have been some memorable headlines:-

And the world came together as the people stayed apart

We can’t return to normal, because the normal that we had was precisely the problem

Did the Earth just send us all to our room to think about what we have done??

In the rush to return to normal, we can use the time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to

Corona is the cure – humans are the disease

And some thoughtful and sobering articles such as:

Nature is sending us a message with the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis:  Inger Andersen, UN’s environment chief – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-nature-is-sending-us-a-message-says-un-environment-chief?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR0EBSDwM96q1ISpLkobhRxLgatk3B2EALstqoE

Covid-19 is nature’s wake-up call to a complacent civilisation:  George Monbiot –https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/25/covid-19-is-natures-wake-up-call-to-complacent-civilisation?fbclid=IwAR35V-55PWCIqexjKrVEHrcAxOYfV6BnsRPoMKc5lcuQgPpoHGMYpLKYDMI

Will it take a global pandemic for us to realize there’s another way of doing things? Enrique Dans – https://medium.com/enrique-dans/will-it-take-a-global-pandemic-for-us-to-realize-theres-another-way-of-doing-things-aecebe10132b

A few things carry on.  If you have time, the Welsh Government wants to know what you think of their strategy on the Circular Economy https://gov.wales/circular-economy-strategy.  Email your response by 24 April.

Stay safe, stay well.  Keep in touch and we will keep in touch with you.

Vivien Mitchell

Transitioning on…

Dear Transitioners

We hope you are all safe and well, and have successfully weathered the recent floods.  Our profound sympathies to those affected.  It is devastating to have your home, your safe refuge, flooded, let alone twice in four months as has happened to some of our stalwart members.

While as individuals, we have all tried to help in whatever way we can, Transition Monmouth has been working to stop such events happening by implementing natural flood management (NFM) measures.  We started just over four years ago, with a huge amount of support from Monmouthshire County Council, Natural Resources Wales, Gwent Wildlife Trust, the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the Woodland Trust and others.  We were fortunate in our choice of consultants, Atkins, who produced an excellent report, RECS – see our website for full details.  As a result we submitted six areas for protection/action via the Local Development Plan, and decided to make Kingswood our pilot project.  Reducing the amount of water running off those hills would reduce the amount of floodwater on the Rockfield estate, Rockfield Road, Watery Lane, Wonastow Road and the new Kingswood Gate Estate, all of which have been badly affected this winter.

But the funding ran out – no one was prepared to fund NFM.  However, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.  In the past week two sources of funding have become available – yay! – one of them huge, and work has already started on a county-wide bid with all of our original partners.  Apart from Monmouth, we will be pushing for action to protect Skenfrith and Dingestow.  Then all that’s needed is for similar programmes in adjacent counties to hold back the flow in our local rivers to protect Riverside Park, Forge Road, the Leisure Centre, all of which suffered hugely.  We are hopeful this will happen, especially with the news that the Environment Minister has announced funding for NFM measures for farmers and other landowners – ie paying them to let their land flood to protect urban areas – ‘more than £4bn will be spent over the next five years (on flood prevention) and a big part of the focus will be on nature-based solutions upstream’.

The other big issue is the Circular Economy.  We have Plastic Free Monmouth and Food Sense (from small beginnings we currently collect over half a ton of food each month from the supermarkets and put it to good use rather than have it go to waste;  expect this amount to double in the coming year as we acquire more volunteers and also storage facilities – please let us know if you would like to participate) and we will hold our first ACE Monmouth Repair Café on Sunday 15 March – details below;  the original start up event had to be cancelled because of flooding with the venue completely cut off by floodwater!

But there is much more to be done and the Welsh Government is keen to have our views on strategy to make a low carbon, zero waste Wales – see https://gov.wales/circular-economy-strategy for further details and book your space at two events in Chepstow on 9 March, an Engagement Event from 12.30 to 16.30 at the Beaufort Hotel, and a Community Event from 18.00 to 19.30 at the Drill Hall.  Come and share your thoughts on how Wales can progress to zero waste and what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint.  The Welsh Government has some ideas but need our input.  See you there!  If you would like to car share contact mail@transitionmonmouth.org

Just one more thing – Trydani aims to provide a Wales wide EV charger network.  If you would like to invest in this venture please contact hello@gwentenergycic.org.

Now for some dates:-

Grosmont Spring Market:  Saturday 7 March, 10 till 2 in Grosmont Church – food, crafts, activities

International Women’s Day:  Sunday 8 March, 10 to 4, at the Melville Theatre, Abergavenny:  Celebrating women’s strength, resilience and survival with speakers from Palestine, Zimbabwe, XR Rebellion, Youth Parliament, Syria, Modern Slavery Unit + storytelling, the film ‘He Named Me Malala’, stalls and displays.  Snacks and hot drinks available at this free event (donations welcome) but bring your lunch

Beyond Recycling Consultation:  Monday 9 March:  Engagement Event 12.30 to 16.30 at the Beaufort Hotel, Chepstow and Community Event 18.00 to 19.30 in the Drill Hall, Chepstow – no charge but booking essential at https://gov.wales/circular-economy-strategy

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 10 March at the Robin Hood for a prompt 7.30pm start – see agenda below

Repair Café Monmouth:  1pm till 4pm, Sunday 15 March at Rockfield Park Community Centre, Cornwallis Way NP25 5DN to repair items such as toasters, kettles, vacuum cleaners, jeans, bags, shirts, toys, ornaments and bikes – no promises, but we will do our best!

Big Spring Swap:  Saturday 28 March, 10 till 2 at Monmouth Priory.  Yes, another Big Swap event for clothes, books, toys etc as well as the usual seeds/plants/produce.  Tools for Self Reliance Cymru will be there too.  Please bring stuff to swap, but come anyway and make a donation for anything you take.  Monmouth Community Choir will perform, and there will be activities for children.  We will serve coffee, tea and cakes as usual but also soup and bread so you can relax over a light lunch.  If you would like to help with soup making, cake baking, children’s activities or the stalls please contact karin@chandler.wales

More Veg Please! – Should we grow more Fruit and Veg:  Saturday 28 March, 9.30 to 4pm at the Abergavenny Community Centre – Keynote speakers:  Amber Wheeler and Pamela Mason – Can Wales grow more veg?, Holly Tomlinson from the Land Workers Alliance – Focus on Climate Change, and a panel of local growers and food activists.  Vegetarian/vegan lunch with locally sourced ingredients:  £8.  See https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/more-veg-please-tickets-94876390839 for more information and to book your ticket

The Work that Reconnects:  Sunday 29 March, 2pm at the Abergavenny Community Centre, courtesy of Extinction Rebellion and Plastic Free Abergavenny – the start of a series of films to explore how we can better cope with climate change

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 7 April at the Robin Hood for a prompt 7.30pm start

Monmouth Family Cycling Club:  2nd and 4th Sundays – 10 till 12, and the
Local Produce Markets:-
Usk – 1st + 3rd Saturdays – 10 till 1
Abergavenny – 4th Thursday – 9.30 to 2.30

Vivien Mitchell

And on we go….

Dear Transitioners

Time for a brief update before January ends – where has the month gone?  We have our next Members’ Meeting on Tuesday, 4 February, but before that we hope the weather will be fine so we can hold our Wassail next Sunday – apologies to any intrepid members who did not receive a notice that we had to postpone last Sunday.  So, here are diary dates:-

Wassail:  3pm on Sunday 2 February at Two River Meadow – come and chase away the bad spirits and waken the fruit trees.  Bring a saucepan and wooden spoon with which to make much noise, and a mug for some hot apple juice – but this is weather dependent so please check Facebook for any last minute announcement

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 4 February at the Robin Hood for a prompt 7.30pm start – see agenda below

ACE Monmouth Repair Café:  7.30pm on Thursday 6 February at the Robin Hood to finalise arrangement for our first Repair Café.  Offers of help from repairers, and anyone willing to help with admin, advertising or refreshment would be very welcome – contact repairmonmouth@gmail.com

Wildflower Meadow Prepping:  11am on Friday 7 February – meet in The Burgage outside Monmouth Comprehensive School – please bring gardening gloves, and a lawn rake if you have one

Monmouth Family Cycling Club:  10am on Sunday 9 February at Chippenham Fields – bring your bikes, children, warm drinks and ideas for future events!  There will be laps of the playing fields, organised games, coffee breaks and plenty of chat – every second and fourth Sunday from now on

MCC Climate Change Champions:  6.30pm on Wednesday 12 February at Abergavenny Community Centre, Park Street NP7 5YB.  Since the County Council declared a Climate Emergency, an action plan has been drawn up and a Working Group established. All welcome to come and hear the latest developments, and provide your own input. For a car share please contact vivienmitchell@yahoo.co.uk

Repair Café Monmouth:  1pm till 4pm, Sunday 16 February at Rockfield Park Community Centre, Cornwallis Way NP25 5DN to repair items such as toasters, kettles, vacuum cleaners, jeans, bags, shirts, toys, ornaments and bikes – no promises, but we will do our best!

Bike Friendly Monmouth:  Thursday 20 February, probably early evening at the Robin Hood – check rachel.jupp@yahoo.com for further details

Monmouth Family Cycling Club:  10am on Sunday 23 February at Chippenham Fields – details as above

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 10 March at the Robin Hood for a prompt 7.30pm start

And the Local Produce Markets:-
Usk – 1st + 3rd Saturdays – 10 till 1
Abergavenny – 4th Thursday – 9.30 to 2.30

We hope to see you soon!
Vivien Mitchell

And into the ’20s we go!

Dear Transitioners 

Welcome to the 2020s!  It has been an amazing decade – the world, let alone Monmouth, is a better place for all your efforts.  And judging by the vigour, imagination, energy and commitment that I see in all the Transition Monmouth and ACE Monmouth activities, projects and plans, your ardour is stronger than ever, and we have ever more people coming on board.

So yes – into action ……  How about starting with clearing a patch of land beside Monmouth Comprehensive School that is scheduled to be a wildflower meadow.  The ‘weeds’ weren’t cut and removed in the autumn but it’s not too late.  Bring a pair of gardening gloves, a green bag or three, and all the man/woman/child power you can muster to remove the dead/dying vegetation so that it doesn’t provide nutrition to the soil.  It pulls easily, and if you can take the full bags away with you that would be a great help – 11am at the main entrance to the school in The Burgage on Friday 3 January and Sunday 5 January.

The business starts with the Members’ Meeting next Tuesday, 7 January at the Robin Hood, 7.15pm for a prompt start at 7.30pm to take forward our plans, activities and projects into 2020.  I have copied the agenda below and look forward to seeing many of you then.

Here are some diary dates – more to follow in a couple of weeks when we all surface from a well deserved Christmas break:-

Wildflower Meadow at Monmouth Comprehensive School:  11am on Friday 3 January and Sunday 5 January – meet at the front main entrance to the school with your gardening gloves and green bags

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 7 January at the Robin Hood for a prompt 7.30pm start – see agenda below

Nature Isn’t Neat:  A discussion with Nigel Leaworthy and Mark Cleaver, our MCC Officers who work with us to making our green spaces greener and more biodiverse while reducing pollution and the risk of flooding:  Tuesday 7 January, 7pm at the Shire Hall

ACE Monmouth Repair Café:  7pm on Thursday 9 January at the Robin Hood to plan the first Repair Café, scheduled for February

Monmouth Cycling Club:  10am on Sunday 12 January at Chippenham Fields – bring your bikes, children, warm drinks and ideas for future events!  There will be laps of the playing fields, organised games, coffee breaks and plenty of chat

Wassail:  3pm on Sunday 26 January at Two River Meadow – come and chase away the bad spirits and waken the fruit trees

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 4 February at the Robin Hood for a prompt 7.30pm start

And the Local Produce Markets:-
Usk – 1st + 3rd Saturdays – 10 till 1
Abergavenny – 4th Thursday – 9.30 to 2.30

More dates soon!
Vivien Mitchell