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

Transition Monmouth Chair’s Report – November 2020

First and foremost, all the activities and achievements made in the name of Transition Monmouth (TM) described below are down to the energy and determination of the members and volunteers of the Transition family and wider community. It has been a pleasure to hold the Chair this year, watching members from all sections of society come together and ‘doing Transition’ in the ethos of building resilient and sustainable communities to combat climate change.

The world has changed in ways that were unimaginable at our last AGM. Unprecedented rainfall led to severe flooding back in February, with inhabitants along the Wye and other rivers evacuated and roads impassable for days. To date, some are yet to return home.

Just as the waters receded we began to learn of a new virus, identified in a faraway land but impossible to isolate in a world of international travel. As the waves of restrictions, lock-downs and fire-breaks have taken effect, we have had to modify or cancel our on-going events and projects accordingly. We have become familiar with the importance of social distancing, mask wearing and washing hands to the benefit of all our safeties. The on-going social impacts should not be underestimated: isolation, access to essential services, employment loss and insecurity, even stress of home schooling. Despite all the challenges, there are also positive signs in the TM ethos. An increase of community spirit has formed around checking of friends and neighbours that are vulnerable or isolated. There has been a surge in interest of green spaces, as people have taken advantage of allowed ‘outdoor exercise’ time. Food rationing and scarcity in supermarkets has even caused some to question the industrialised food chains; certainly grow-your-own and foraging is on the up!

It is against this background that the progress on many of these projects and initiatives is all the more astounding. I have great pleasure in summarising the main focus of our efforts this year.

Green Emergency Hustings – ahead of the General Election in December, candidates for the parliamentary seat of Monmouthshire were gathered at Bridges to a packed room. The event was deftly chaired by Haydn Cullen-Jones, keeping responses fair and succinct, with candidates responding to questions submitted previously and from the floor. The atmosphere was always lively and sometimes passionate, this being about the only opportunity to directly question and compare our potential representatives on environmental and other matters.

Wassail – another staple of the TM calendar, this well-attended ceremony took place in the Community Orchard in January and allowed us to come together, appreciate nature and bless the trees for the New Year cycle. A warm welcome was offered by Butlers Karin and Ian Chandler, and local and regional Mari Lwyd were in attendance. Readings, singing, warm apple juice and apple cake were all enjoyed at the social gathering.

Plastic Free Monmouth – the group continue to keep the issue of single-use plastics in our minds and gain interest with their colourful presence at events and insightful leaflet. Mid-year, Dilly Boase stepped down for adventure abroad and I would like to thank her for driving this group so successfully in recent years. We welcome incoming Chair, Beccy MacDonald-Lofts, who has reached out to all TM members to build consensus on what the next focus should be.

Food Sense – an amazing team of dedicated volunteers and coordinators continue to work with local branches of supermarkets and the community to reduce both food waste and food poverty. Throughout the year, just-in-time daily deliveries were made of near use-by or surplus food and plants/flowers. Despite Covid restrictions, the team pushed forward and successfully took on a physical base for this project. The Monmouth Community Fridge opened at the Bridges Centre late September, and since served over 500 people and prevented over two tonnes of food waste. The Fridge is open seven days a week at varying times and is free to all, not only for nutritious food but social connections and a sense of community coming together. This extends online, where there is a lively Facebook following of over 800 people sharing recipes and ideas, all within the TM ethos. Further activities will take on growers’ gluts and raise awareness on important aspects of food ethics and Fair Share.

Behind all of this activity there is much administration and management to ensure smooth operation and I thank all the coordinators and volunteers for their hard work. I also look forward to their further ambitious plans for the Community Fridge in the future.

Green Spaces – this grouping of hands-on projects continues to grow and evolve. Planting schemes have been developed in conjunction with local experts to the benefit of pollinators and nature in general.

St James’ Square has been worked on throughout the year and particularly smartened up ahead of the Remembrance Day service. The degree of ‘wild’ planting hasn’t been universally accepted, leading to articles and letters in the Beacon, allowing conversations to be had around the benefits of this style over more formal/traditional garden layouts.

Collaboration with Monmouth Comprehensive School continues as Vivien Mitchell expands planting sympathetic schemes across the new build site. A wild flower meadow is in development beside the bike sheds, though the seed mix was heavy on Red Clover which had to be removed by hand after it dominated the area. Further planting nearer the entrance includes a good mix of fruit and vegetables for the education of pupils and benefit of nature. Further discussions are underway for composting facilities and a sensory garden on site.

In addition, the Pollinator Garden beside the bus stop continues to be maintained and potential sites for tree planting are being sought.

Chippenham Park Fountain – we were delighted to be part of this exciting project that aligns so well with our ethos. A drinking water fountain within the primary sports fields and thoroughfare location is much needed and will go a long way to reducing single use plastics and building a resilient community. The funding application work by Hywel Rees and Roger Finn (Monmouth Fountains Group) has paid off with success in both National Lottery and Rotary grants, with an expected installation in the spring. We look forward to joining with the Rugby and Football clubs, Friends of Chippenham Mead and other community groups to run a programme of engagement events around the fountain and eventually link with the new children’s playground to be located nearby.

Apple Pressings – another popular regular TM event I am pleased to see continue this year. Pressing events were held at both Wyesham St James Hall and Rockfield Community Centre, proving as popular as ever with the scratter and press running non-stop. Again this proved to be a lovely opportunity to see new and familiar faces and spread the TM ethos. Appropriate precautions were taken, particularly hygiene and social distancing, but this did not reduce the fun and excitement of bottling your own juice. The TM-owned equipment continues to be available for loan to community groups alongside training and several have taken it up this season.

Seed/Plant Share – the regular event was cancelled in spring (start of lockdown) but came back in Covid-adapted format this autumn, taking advantage of the covered outdoor public space in front of Monmouth Comprehensive School. Plants and seeds where swapped, preserves were on offer and Tools for Self-Reliance had a marvellous array of refurbished implements for the green-fingered. Plastic Free Monmouth had their attention-grabbing display and library of books for loan. It was also a great excuse to catch up with friends and meet new people after a lengthy period of isolation. This event stands out for its interesting conversations around planting and generous sharing of knowledge, including local experts Diana, Cherry and Helena.

Collaboration – we continue to work on environmental issues in partnership with Government bodies at all levels, schools, charities, business and local groups. Submissions are made to Government consultations and we have strong representation in County-level initiatives like the Climate Emergency Working Group and Climate Change Champions. We have seen a surge of enthusiasm and new activism since Monmouth Town Council declared a Climate Emergency and facilitated change in the community through Action on Climate Emergency (ACE Monmouth). With a shared ethos and much overlap in membership, we have contributed towards the major ACE projects; Bike-Friendly Monmouth, Green Spaces, Repair Cafe and Future Festival (since postponed). Out of the former have come early successes of the Dr Bike event and Monmouth Cycle Club, a family-friendly addition to our community. We have also contributed to Active Travel debates and planning improvements, including the Monnow Street layout changes.

In summary, it has been a year of successes across all fronts despite working through unprecedented times. A big thank you for all your efforts, resulting in a more resilient and sustainable community. I am heartened to see our growing ability to coordinate and manage larger projects as well as take care of the smaller details. We continue to attract new faces and pursue new ideas in the Transition ethos, so I’m confident the future is bright.

Lastly I would like to thank my fellow officers for all their time and contributions to another successful year for Transition Monmouth, despite the circumstances; Simon Durant (Deputy Chair), Vivien Mitchell (Administrator/Newsletter and Outgoing Treasurer) and Claudia Blair (Incoming Treasurer). They very much keep everything on track and are a joy to work alongside.

Bryan Miller
Chair – Transition Monmouth
November 2020

Chair’s report to Transition Monmouth AGM 2019

I have been honoured to chair Transition Monmouth over the past year and to work alongside so many warm, committed and talented people. This annual report is longer than usual as I want to give new members a more comprehensive overview of who we are, the projects we support and what we have achieved over the last year.

Transition Monmouth was begun 12 years ago by Vivien Mitchell and others.  It is part of the international Transition Network movement which aims to combat climate change by building resilient communities and developing local sustainable projects. Over the years many people have been involved and made significant contributions to many different projects. At this time our main projects are Food Sense, Plastic Free Monmouth, Wyesham Community Woodland, RECS flood prevention project, the Pollinator Garden, Nature Isn’t Neat and the Community Orchard.


Late 2018 and early 2019 saw some changes to our committee. We bade farewell to Ann Eggleton as Chair and to John Payne as Notes Secretary. We welcomed in myself, Karin Chandler, as new Chair. Bryan Miller was voted in again as Deputy Chair with Vivien Mitchell remaining Treasurer, Admin and Newsletter Editor. In the early part of 2019 we welcomed Jill Cantor on board as Notes Secretary. We began the new year by reviewing and celebrating all the achievements of the previous year with the aid of post-it notes and flipchart paper, before moving on to explorations and plans for the future.

We agreed to re-shape the way we ran our meetings in 2019. Each Transition project was allocated a ‘showcase slot’ at one meeting a year. The rationale behind this was to keep our monthly meetings shorter and snappier and to allow a good amount of time to both celebrate and discuss each project in turn. This new approach was voted in unanimously by all and has been successful.

We also began a new style of working by ‘checking in’ at the start of each meeting, as recommended by the Transition Handbook. This has given us a chance to make new members more welcome and strengthen and deepen our relationships with one another by allowing an opportunity to share more of our lives.

Summary of the Year

What a year we’ve had! 2019 has seen more action on preventing and adapting to climate change than perhaps ever before. Public awareness is now very high with the focus of public discussion shifting away from “is climate change real?” towards “what should we be doing about climate change?”

Along with others, including the Climate Change Champions, Monmouth Youth Strike 4 Climate and Abergavenny & North Monmouthshire XR, we lobbied Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) to declare a climate emergency. Monmouth Town Council declared a climate emergency first in May 2019, shortly followed by MCC. From MTC’s declaration ACE Monmouth (Action on Climate Emergency) was born and began engaging with the wider community in Monmouth to identify actions that the council and the community can be taking. Since MCC’s declaration, they have been developing climate emergency plans and consulting with the Climate Change Champions group. Transition Monmouth has been pushing for things to happen on this scale for years and we are delighted to have reached this point.

We have also been really busy with our own projects. Plastic Free Monmouth made an excellent start to the new year by celebrating Monmouth achieving Plastic Free Town status. Wyesham Community Woodland, Food Sense and our Pollinator Garden go from strength to strength. Our RECS flood prevention project sadly ended abruptly due to its funding being pulled, but all the mapping and feasibility work that was done can still hopefully be picked up again in the future if more funding is secured. After a slow start Nature isn’t Neat is slowly starting to bear fruit. Interest in the Community Orchard project has grown this year, with a successful Wassail and pruning/tidy up event.

We have also enjoyed several vibrant community events this year – two Big Swaps, where we expanded the idea of just swapping plants and seeds to swapping other items too, encouraging people to reduce and reuse. We even pushed the boat out at the last Swap and served home-made autumn soup along with free bread from Food Sense. This was one of our most successful fundraisers ever.

We also purchased apple pressing equipment (Monmouth Town Council generously supporting us with a grant to cover half the cost) and held three apple pressing events in different parts of Monmouth and its surrounds. We relaunched our Discussion Forums, watching a TED talk together as a starting point. Responding to feedback, we did this at a weekend, so that Transitioners with children could come along too. We haven’t managed any more than one Forum this year, but can perhaps be excused, as it’s been an exceptionally busy year for us all!

We’ve attracted new people to Transition and our Facebook group membership keeps growing slowly.  Vivien Mitchell’s monthly email newsletters continue to be a triumph, as they are the glue that keeps us all connected and informed.  Let’s have a closer look at the year in more detail now:


We had a great start to the new year with plenty going on, with planning for February and March events.  We also held our first ever Wassail in the community orchard.


We had so much fun, despite the shivery weather! Approximately 70 people gathered in the Orchard, warmed by hot apple juice and apple cake baked by our team of bakers. We wassailed the apple trees, making lots of noise to scare away the bad spirits and serenading the trees with traditional wassail songs. The icing on the cake was a Mari Lwyd (a hobby horse skull mounted on a pole and carried by a person hidden under a sackcloth – a traditional South Wales folk custom) from Brecon turning up as a surprise to join us. We made a good sum of money from donations towards the apple pressing equipment we were hoping to buy later on in the year. Our thanks go to Charles Boase for donating the apple juice.

Trip to Avonmouth Suez Recycling Plant

Some of our members enjoyed a trip to Suez organised by Sue Parkinson from MCC. It was a challenge finding safety boots in the right sizes for everyone, but it was well worth the effort. The trip was both fascinating and disturbing in equal measure, with the sheer scale and stench of the recycling remaining imprinted on the brain and nose. We enjoyed a buffet lunch after the tour and had lots of opportunity to ask questions and network with Transitioners from Abergavenny and Chepstow.

RECS, our flood prevention project – showcase report

At our January meeting, Vivien Mitchell reported back on RECS (Renewable Energy Community Schemes) flood prevention project. The project was initiated by us in January 2016.  It was funded by the Rural Development Programme and  had widespread support from agencies including Natural Resources Wales, Monmouthshire County Council, Renew Wales, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Monmouth Partnership Forum, Woodland Trust, Long Forest and local schools.  We employed Atkins Consultants to do a widespread mapping and feasibility study of the local area.

The project was not only aimed at preventing local flooding by natural means, but also had other benefits including managing woodlands in order to produce more wood products (renewable energy) while at the same time reducing forestry and other costs.  Not just that, but the measures were also planned to help improve biodiversity and maintain rights of way.

Six sites were considered for the next stage of the project and it was decided to use Kingswood as a pilot.  Unfortunately, our request for renewed funding was refused on what we believe were spurious grounds. Given the recent flooding in the area, this seems extremely short-sighted.


All the focus this month was on pulling off a high-profile awards ceremony to celebrate Monmouth becoming a Plastic Free Town.

Plastic Free Monmouth Awards Ceremony

This was an exciting moment for Plastic Free Monmouth which we had been working towards for a year. Our town was deemed to be a Plastic Free Town by a Surfers Against Sewage accreditation scheme in late 2018.  This meant that a designated proportion of businesses, community groups and spaces and schools had made a commitment to swapping previous disposable plastic items for more sustainable choices.

The Plastic Free Business Champions awarded at the ceremony were MonTeas, Monmouthshire Beacon, Milking Solutions, Green and Jenks, Chillipepper Signs, Marches Deli, Square Farm Shop, Wyedean Healthfoods, Savoy Theatre and ATC Floors and Doors. The schools we celebrated were Overmonnow Primary School, Osbaston Church School, Kymin View Primary School and all the Schools in the Haberdasher’s Group. Community spaces were Ty Price Community Hall, The Monmouth Priory, The Bridges and Rockfield Park Community Centre. Local community groups include Wyesham Women’s Institute, Agincourt Women’s Institute, Litter Response Team, Transition Monmouth & Rotary Community Champions.

We enjoyed a wonderful plastic-free, vegan buffet prepared by Dilly Boase at the ceremony and the opportunity to celebrate this fantastic achievement of our town.


March marked the start of an extremely busy period for Transition. We facilitated two workshops at Shire Hall, run by external consultants to explore what a future Monmouth affected by climate change might look like and how we could put plans in place to tackle it. We also gathered together on a cold but bright day in the orchard for a picnic and tidy up of the fruit trees. We also had a stall at the Community Engagement Stall at Monmouth Comprehensive School

Pollinator Garden – showcase report

At our March meeting, Diane Booker gave us a really interesting showcase report about the pollinator garden (formally known as the herb garden) by the bus station in central Monmouth. The garden is approximately 58 square meters, originally set up by pupils from the Attik Youth Club as the ‘Henry V Garden’. Guerrilla gardening by Transitioners commenced in 2015, when weeds – mostly thistles and bindweed were cleared. Since then, we have continued weeding, putting in additional plants, rearranging the rocks to the front of the plot and putting in a woodchip pathway through the garden. There are brick walls on two sides and the bus shelter provides shelter on another side, leaving the area open at the front.

There are a number of small trees/shrubs-rowan, damson, bay, fig, hawthorn, rosemary and herbs (mint, chives, fennel, marjoram, lavender, evening primrose, golden feverfew, sage).  Diane asked for some help from other Transitioners with pruning, taking cuttings away to be composted and with collecting woodchip from the allotments, as well as with acquiring some new plants. Members of Transition were pleased to help with these things. Since this report, we have acquired a new lectern style notice board for the garden.

Climate Ready Gwent Workshops

The first event was aimed at the general public and the second at policy makers, including Monmouthshire County Council, Natural Resources Wales, the Fire Service, Gwent Police, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Gwent Wildlife Trust and others who will be instrumental in managing the consequences of climate impacts on the town.

The aim was visioning the effects of climate change on Monmouth, influencing the policy makers and developing action plans for adaptation. Both workshops were well-attended and enjoyable. They captured useful testomonies as well as helping to expand awareness of the issues.

Orchard pruning day and picnic

We had a good number of people turning up to help prune and tidy up the apple trees in the Community Orchard by the Monmouth allotments.  We removed defunct tree guards and wiring and gave the trees a good old prune under the guidance of a local ecologist. The children enjoyed the Food Sense pastries and joined in with the pruning.

Community Engagement Event

This Monmouth networking event had previously been postponed due to snow.  We gave our display board a make-over in honour of the event and redistributed lots of bread from the Food Sense project. Plastic Free Monmouth and Wyesham Community Woodland project also had stalls, so Transition projects were well-represented. It was a fun, lively event and provided a good opportunity for us all to see the new rebuilt Monmouth Comprehensive School.


April was busy too. It was great to to see everyone at the Big Swap event and to be introduced to the Rockfield Community Garden.

Food Sense – showcase report

At our April meeting, Kate Rees reported back to us on Food Sense – a Transition Monmouth food surplus distribution scheme which has been running since 2018. Waste food which is about to go out of date in local supermarkets is redistributed in the community by a team of volunteers.

The project was incubated in 2017 when Transition questioned whether anything could be done locally, to reduce food waste and help cut carbon emissions caused by food waste. The excess food is used to address the ever-increasing problems of food poverty and social isolation.

The food comes from Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op. It goes to Bridges Social Circles; the Family Learning Unit in Overmonnow; Busy Bees Nursery at Kymin View; Kymin View School; Early Years Nursery in Llandogo; Monmouth library and to various people in need in Monmouth. The project is currently running really well. Since Kate gave us this update we have found out Food Sense has received the Highly Commended GAVO (Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations) Award in the Groups category, for the second year running, so congratulations all round!

The Big Swap

We held this event at Rockfield Community Centre.  We chose this venue as we wanted to spread our events across Monmouth in different venues to help extend Transition’s reach. Clothes, books, toys and bric-a-brac were all swapped as well as plants. We all enjoyed tours of Rockfield Community Garden, a new shared garden space for local residents. The event was successful – we all swapped merrily away, ate cake and chatted lots.

Youth Strike 4 Climate – first Monmouth strike

This wasn’t technically a Transition event, but many of us supported it by stewarding, creating publicity and mentoring the children.  My children set it up with their peers, inspired by Greta and the strike we attended in Cardiff in January. Hundreds of students from Monmouth Comprehensive School joined the strike. They marched down Monnow Street, stopping traffic and occupied the Overmonnow petrol station before marching to Osbaston. The youth organisers went on to organise and lead several other strikes in Monmouth in 2019, which really raised awareness and discussion in the town. I am so proud of our young people for stepping up.


Wyesham Community Woodland Project – showcase report

For our July meeting, we headed to Claypatch Woods in Wyesham to enjoy a relaxed and informal meeting showcasing the Wyesham Woodland project in situ.

Richard Garner gave us a very informative talk. He with his wife Kirsty, was the main driving force behind turning this area from an uncared for, semi rubbish dump, into a useable woodland, complete with fire pit, places for adventure and den building, an open area, paths and proper drainage.  This venture has involved the local community and others from further afield and has taken impressive amounts of organising.  It is of huge benefit for the community, both in terms of providing a semi wild space for people to meet and play, but also by bringing people together to care for their local woodland. Richard took us on a tour of the woodland and explained the long-term plans for the area, including managed tree felling and building a pond. Monmouth Community Choir also sang to friends and family under the parachute by the fire pit and this turned out to be a beautiful start to their relationship with Transition Monmouth.

Rewilding Discussion Forum

We held this event at Rockfield Community Centre. This venue was chosen due to its proximity to the park, so that families with children could attend (and keep their children happy at the same time). We tried a different format and watched a TED talk about Rewilding by George Monbiot. We then followed this with an informal group discussion. It was an issue that few of us know much about, so proved very enlightening.


After a summer break we hit the ground running, with three apple pressing events and a packed agenda at this month’s meeting.

Happy Birthday to us!

We turned 12 years old in September – what a milestone.

Apple Pressing events

We held three apple pressing events this month using our very own newly purchased apple press and scratter for the first time. Last year we borrowed the equipment from Transition Chepstow and enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to fundraise for our own. We did these events earlier than planned as the apple harvest was early. We held events at Skenfrith, Wyesham and Rockfield Community Halls. People brought lots of local apples and left with bottles of yummy fresh juice. It gave us all an opportunity to get together after the summer too and enjoy some time together with new friends and old.

Nature isn’t Neat Project – showcase report

Cheryl Cummings updated us on the project at this month’s meeting. Nature Isn’t Neat (NIN) is a multi-agency Monmouthshire project which aims to increase and connect pollinator habitats as well as increase the population and biodiversity of pollinator species.

After a slow start, some good progress has been made with the project. Permanent perennial pollinator friendly planting plans have been drawn up instead of the current outdated and unsustainable carpet bedding for St Thomas’ and St James’ Squares in Monmouth.  Several community talks and workshops have also been delivered with more planned for the future. A booklet outlining MCC’s alternative management of open spaces regime under the banner of NIN has also been written and distributed. Public planters within Monmouth with the NIN logo have been filled with a range of permanent pollinator friendly perennials and shrubs.

NIN has both Twitter and Facebook pages and is having positive interactions with members of the public. Discussions are also taking place about the possibility of Monmouth becoming the first Bee Town.


Plastic Free Monmouth (PFM) – showcase report

At our October meeting, Dilly Boase reported back to us on PFM. As already described in this report we held a very special awards ceremony in February. Since then Monmouth businesses continue to commit to becoming Plastic Free Champions all the time, so our reach is constantly growing.

PFM emails reach over 100 people and our Facebook page has 450 members. This year we have run information stalls at the Monmouthshire and Usk shows, as well as supporting the Monmouth Community Champions’ Drinking Fountains Project and competing in the Raft Race on a plastic-bottle raft to raise awareness. We also held a mending workshop at Rockfield Community Centre.

PFM’s leaflets and flyers are available around the town and its profile has been raised by pieces in the Beacon and Monnow Voice. We are delighted to say that the pester-power of plastic-free shoppers has persuaded Munday and Jones Greengrocers to switch to cardboard soft fruit punnets and Bridge Fish Bar to replace highly polluting EPS with paper trays, whilst Waitrose has brought in home-compostable veg bags. Thank you to all who have consciously changed habits, requested alternatives and raised awareness of the blight of unnecessary plastics. Their next meeting is January 21st 2020, 7.30-9pm, Robin Hood Pub. All welcome.

Community Orchard – showcase report

There is no project lead on the orchard at the moment. Transition planted the orchard about ten years ago but having set up a management plan, with MCC mowing the area, we handed the project back to the Two River Meadow Group. Ecologist and Transition Monmouth member Helena Ronicle has drawn up a site management plan for the whole Two River Meadow area (which includes the orchard) and hopefully discussions can take place in the future so we can improve the biodiversity of the area in collaboration with MCC and the Two River Meadow Group.

Big Autumn Swap

This was a huge success, with people swapping all kinds of items including plants, seeds, toys, books and clothes, saving items from landfill. Monmouth Community Choir had their first ever performance and completely smashed it with a gorgeous rendition of ‘Perfect Day’ We all feasted on delicious vegan soup made from local seasonal veg, accompanied by bread from Food Sense as well as home-made cakes and goodies. Our younger members ran a table for even younger children to do some autumn leaf printing.  We made over £300, which will go a long way towards funding our new apple press equipment.


A quiet month for Transition, thank goodness, with everyone looking forward to our AGM and celebratory party on November 12th, although we are also organising a Climate Emergency Hustings on the 29th November at the Bridges Centre, so that members of Monmouth’s public get a chance to hear what the General Election candidates can offer to help us deal with this state of climate emergency.

Thank you to you all – together we are building a strong, resilient community and fighting climate change on a local level in Monmouth. Everyone’s contribution is important. The power of a team of people determined to tackle climate change on every level in a community cannot be underestimated. What will 2020 bring for us?

Karin Chandler
Chair – Transition Monmouth
November 2019


Chair’s Report to the AGM – November 2018

RECS – Renewable Energy Community Schemes with Flood Prevention + Other Benefits: Our Atkins consultants, Andy Gill + Marcus Huband, continued working with us + MCC, NRW, AONB, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Long Forest, the Woodland Trust + others, culminating in the presentation of the final report at a very well attended meeting in June. All the right people were there, + there was great commitment to taking the project forward. NRW + MCC Flood Prevention + Gwent Wildlife Trust decided to proceed with a pilot project at Kingswood, an area that had exercised the mind of Roger Hoggins who has for some time been concerned about the problems that will inevitably result from the construction of a new housing development.

So, in October 2018 there was an initial walk-about at Kingswood.  Those attending included MCC (Flood Prevention, Rights of Way, and Countryside), NRW (Water Courses, and Forestry), AONB (NFM), GWT + others, all guided by Marcus Huband (Atkins).  It was inspiring + exciting.  Never before had so many different interests been brought together.  Never before had there been such an opportunity to understand how one activity impinges on another.  As an example, we discovered that an expensive problem for Forestry was the disposal of wood with no commercial value; however, securing this wood into large ‘woody bundles’ + placing the bundles in appropriate places provided a very cheap solution to ‘slowing the flow’ + aiding flood prevention. It needed the input of others + the experience of our Atkins consultant to come up with all this.  There is great eagerness to have more such sessions as each site is unique with its own particular set of problems + solutions, + more experience is needed in order to successfully establish this new collaborative way of working which, even in our first session, came up with innovative + economically attractive solutions to problems that RECS seeks to address.  It’s worth going on at length about this – because, though the process is now developing a momentum of its own, it was started entirely as a Transition Monmouth idea.

We are also working to produce a request for funding to the Welsh Government for work around Monmouth. In the suburbs, the recommendations generally fall into the category of SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems) – stuff like tree planting, wildflower meadows, rain gardens, permeable surfaces. Our approach to this is community based, working with the schools + community groups. For this we are commissioning a range of leaflets for three groups: primary schools, GCSE pupils, + households. It would have been so good to have leaflets to give out when we had working parties so the volunteers could take them away + understand why they were doing our stuff. For children, these leaflets should of course also be suitable as teaching aids. We are in the process of working out quite how much time we still need from Atkins to implement some of their proposals, + also to pinpoint specific sites for inclusion in the LDP.

Food Sense: Our project which aims to link food poverty/social isolation on the one hand with waste/excess food on the other has attracted a wide range of members + other community groups. Much of our energy was devoted to producing 1,092 free packed lunches (in plastic-free packaging of course) for children attending the Summer Play scheme at Overmonnow School; this was an amazing coming together of the community in our effort to help alleviate food poverty in the holidays. We have worked throughout with Mike Moran (MCC) + are confident that he will apply for the WG SHEP (School Holidays Enrichment Programme) next year for Monmouth. We were aware + had been alerted by the Food Bank, HomeStart + others of school holiday hunger, + feared that with the roll out of Universal Credit starting in June, the problem would be worse than usual. In the meantime, having tried unsuccessfully for many months to connect with the supermarkets about the food they send for recycling, all of a sudden they have all started producing crates of bread on almost a daily basis. We are scrabbling round to set up a distribution network! Community lunches (donate what you like) are now happening on a weekly basis, we are looking for a suitable location for a community cupboard, + are generally getting out to the community with projects such as these – most heartening! A new one for us was apple juicing (with equipment kindly lent to us by Ned Heywood of Transition Chepstow) on 13 October, + the possibility of a community pub + soup kitchen (full roast dinner) on Christmas Day.

Local food: Sad that the whole Food Assembly movement has folded, but the farm shop at Square Farm continues to expand. Apart from veg fresh off the fields + meat, dairy, local jams, chutneys + the like, it also now operates a refill scheme for detergents, + dry goods such as rice, lentils etc. Although the Old Lands CSA folded, the little shop at Dingestow Court is well stocked each week (+ is open every day) with produce from the walled garden + all the basics, some from a refill scheme. A new Chamber of Commerce ‘Buy Local’ initiative is welcomed.

Woodland Project at Claypatch Woods: Monthly working parties, as well as other parties, continue with the aim of creating a pond, firepit, etc. There is also a new Bee Friendly Wyesham group to create wildflower areas + plant trees/shrubs – considerable overlap in the membership of the two groups, + great for implementing SuDS.

Plastic Free Monmouth: Started in January, we now have a vibrant group run by an efficient Gang of Five + around 80 others on our email list + 292 followers on a very lively Facebook page. We have been working with the schools (including all five private ones), businesses, community groups etc, + following a film showing on 4 November of Albatross, we expect to have qualified as achieving Plastic Free status. Well, that will be great, but the work needs to continue to just get rid of all that awful + unnecessary single use plastic. We did it with carrier bags – an 87% drop in usage + permanently changed behaviour – + it only took five years – so now for all the other stuff. And it’s so good that we are not alone. We have much enjoyed working with similar groups in other towns, + much appreciate the support from MCC. We await with trepidation to see permanently altered behaviour on MCC property + by MCC Officers.

Children’s Playground on Chippenham Mead: The long + painful + frustrating struggle finally paid off – we are having a playground on a lovely site away from air + noise pollution, with mature trees + a bund which is ideal for the start of a zip wire. Common-sense prevailed – why was it so difficult? Now for the implementation!

Herb Garden by the bus station: This has looked good this year, largely due to the work put in by Diane. It is an ideal site for a noticeboard to promote TM. It is in any case needed to explain what has been done + why – particularly why it is untidy during the summer as we wait for the seeds to ripen. We will look out for opportunities to take this forward through Community Champions, Nature Isn’t Neat etc.

Shared space: We had for some time, through Monmouth Partnership Forum, been looking at ways of making the town centre more pedestrian friendly – but decided in the end that it was a job for a professional. It was 1 May 2007 when we first got Ben Hamilton-Baillie along to tell us about shared space – a great turnout including Roger Hoggins + Dave Harris. Ben produced a fine plan but, we’re not sure why – did MCC concentrate on Chepstow + Abergavenny? – nothing to date until at last – next January our pinch point in Monnow Street is to be implemented, followed by Agincourt Square within a couple of years. The ducks, at last, are in a row + Roger just has to get final approval from his masters.

iNeed Festival: iNeed supports refugees + we were fortunate they chose Monmouth for their festival this year – 500 refugees from South Wales + 500 local residents. It operated on the basis that everything was free of charge – entry, food, music, activities; well, refugees don’t necessarily have the money to pay for their children to have their faces painted. We supported it as best we could + much enjoyed doing so. There was no support from Monmouth Town Council on the basis that they didn’t see what was in it for the town! We have some good Councillors who didn’t see it that way, knuckled down + did what they could.

Nature Isn’t Neat: We are working (we were brought in at a late stage as partners) with Monmouth Town Council + Bees for Development on this RDP funded project which provides two days a week of Alison Howard’s time starting August 2018. Little progress to date, + we are concerned at the lack of willingness to involve the community, let alone comply with the FGA. Strong input from the Transition members of the group is beginning to have a productive influence; it may turn out well. We will continue to try to influence.

Other stuff: The coffee mornings, Swap Shops, Food Bank support (we pay for a fresh fruit + veg delivery each week) continue. It’s clear we have an ever-increasing ability to work with an ever-increasing number of community groups.

The Wider Context: While our members on the whole are interested in rolling up their sleeves + doing things, there is also the need to consider the wider context – so we continued with our discussion evenings. Topics to date include electric vehicles, the Internet of Things + how to use data to make better environmental decisions, carbon consciousness + carbon saving (a project at Aberystwyth University) – plenty more on the menu as well as film shows.

Ann Eggleton