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 www.transitionnetwork.org 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.

Evolution

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:

January

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.

Wassail

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.

February

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

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

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.

July

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.

September

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.

October

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.

November

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

Chair’s Report to the AGM – November 2017

RECS – Renewable Energy Community Schemes with Flood Prevention + Other Benefits

This time last year we had just heard that we had obtained funding from the Vale of Usk RDP but we were in the thick of planting what ended up as over 1,000 trees (courtesy of the Woodland Trust) at Vauxhall, Monmouth Cemetery, Lancaster Way (Osbaston) + Wonastow Road.  This involved children from Osbaston Primary School, students from Coleg Gwent, Friends of Vauxhall Fields + many of our members.  We have continued to maintain these plantings with help from the Community Champions + our members, + have recently planted a further 20 trees at Kymin View Primary School.

In February we got stuck into developing a brief for a feasibility study with our principle partners – MCC, NRW, AONB, GWT + Monmouth Partnership Forum.  In July we appointed Atkins as our consultants, mainly because of the positive attitude + bright ideas of the two project leaders, let alone their undoubted expertise + experience.  We continue to work with them + look forward to an excellent + useful report early in 2018.

Food Poverty/Food Waste

This was our second big project of the year. We looked at the problem of Food Waste in the country, + the parallel problem of Food Poverty, particularly in its effect on children + the elderly, + decided to bring together everyone in Monmouth with any kind of involvement in, or effect on, either of the two problems. Our second meeting with many stakeholders is booked for 29 November, when we expect to start making major progress.

New website

After our much loved + admired website produced by Simon Brown many years ago fell apart, we were fortunate that Chris Were offered to develop a new one for us.  We have made a start + have many ideas + aspirations, but progress has been very slow.  It is perhaps a job for the new officers to take a realistic appraisal of what can be achieved. Meanwhile, the Transition Monmouth Facebook page is updated regularly, + visited/”liked”.

Ty Price

We are building contacts with the new community resource in Overmonnow, the former St Thomas’ Church Hall, which has an extensive + impressive programme for community outreach. We have held a coffee morning there, + are expecting to work with them on the Food Poverty + Waste project.

Swap Shop + Coffee Mornings

The Priory coffee mornings have continued through the year + are a reliable earner for us. In addition, the Swap Shop table carries leaflets + other information, to spread the word about Transition. Our first coffee morning at Ty Price was less well attended, but we hope that this will build into another useful income provider.

Beans Stall

We held six Beans Stalls monthly through the summer in the Saturday Blestium Street market, thanks to the generosity + hard work of those who cooked + brought the taster beans dishes, + manned the stall. Most customers were already vegetarian, though we did make a few converts who could be induced to try a free taster. Everyone appreciated the free recipe leaflets; we gave away between 60 + 80 copies each month – they opened with a puff for Transition Monmouth. A small profit was made from donations, which will go towards financing the weekly fruit + veg box for the Food Bank. We are very grateful to Dilly Boase for her colourful flyer. At the last stall one customer said “Ah, so this is the famous beans stall!”, a comment much appreciated. No decision has yet been made about a continuation of the stall next year.

Wyesham Community Woodland Project at Claypatch Wood

The Woodland Project is gathering speed, after the Garners spent two years moving it forward almost single-handed. More members of the community are seeing the benefits, + work continues on clearing small areas of the woodland, surfacing the paths, etc.

Chippenham Playground

The future of the playground continues in doubt, whether to refurbish or move to a new site. There are strong feelings + arguments on each side. The financial provision continues to be up in the air, with decisions being continually postponed.

Bus Timetables

We are still trying to get up-to-date timetables provided at bus stops throughout Monmouth + the county, in the teeth of inertia + claims of poverty on the part of both the County Council + the bus operators. We have not given up!

Leisure Centre / Swimming Pool

We are still hoping that the County Council will see sense + allow solar electric + hot-water cells on the roof of the new Leisure Centre, to power + heat the swimming pool + the new school building; this would be in accordance with the requirements of the Well-Being of Future Generations Act.

Interserve

Interserve, the contractors for the rebuilding of Monmouth Comprehensive School, allocated a sum of at least £15,000 for community projects.  We have worked closely with them during their consultations around the town.  Recipients of their generosity include Ty Price + Monmouth Festival; it is expected that seven further projects will be undertaken by September 2018.

Severndale

Transition Monmouth has supported the planning application for a community wind turbine in the Forest of Dean which was turned down on a complaint from a small group of local people that community benefit had no place in planning decisions. A judicial review decision is expected very shortly.

Energy days

Our particular input to MCC’s Sustainability month consisted of the usual Beans Stall, + teas served at the open garden at Coed Cefn.

Progress on EV charging points

The Autumn budget is encouraging in that £400 million is being pledged for a national charging infrastructure in England and Wales, but reading the small print it is £200 million matched funding. A further £100 million is added to the EV purchase grant fund + there is continued support for the 75% grant towards the cost of a 7kW home charger. It is also possible to obtain grants towards work related charging units, see http://gwentenergycic.org/.  But it is disappointing to hear that MCC have no plans for an EV charger at their Headquarters in Usk (personal communication).

The situation for Rapid chargers is still dire in Monmouthshire; there are none along the M50 /A40 corridor until you reach the only one at the M4 Services at Magor. Having a Rapid charger or a local Tesla charging station is vital for tourism + to encourage motorists to stop + spend time + money in Monmouthshire. They typically recharge in 30 minutes. The only Rapid chargers south of Birmingham + on the motorway system are at the Gloucester Services, with an EU funded charger on the A48 at Tidenham.

Unlike Scotland, the Welsh Government has left the infrastructure to the private sector; perhaps we can now persuade them with the funds from the Budget to be more proactive.

There is now a fast charger at Bridges in Monmouth + another in Chepstow, but these will not tempt seasoned EV travellers off the motorways, as they are too slow + confuse owners by having different charging rates that vary with the make of car. An attempt to place a Rapid charger in Redbrook has great support from the Parish Council + residents, but no prospect of attracting financial support now that the many LEADER initiatives are being cut, as they were often mainly funded from EU funds.

Ann Eggleton