Happenings….

As we await the easing of lockdown restrictions we thought we would cheer you with some of the things that are happening behind closed doors, and occasionally outdoors too….

We have nest boxes! – 10 of them – currently being installed at various locations in and around Monmouth.  This is part of a new Who Lives With Us project with ACE Green Spaces, and generously funded by the Local Nature Partnership.  The idea is to use cameras to reveal the wildlife that lives in our gardens and green spaces, to engage with the public and schools on this through social media, and create a montage or film to present at the Climate Future Festival– a bit like a mini-Spring Watch!  So yes, we also have three cameras with which to record those who live with us. 

Once we were allowed to exercise outdoors in pairs we have been planting hedges, prepping our No Dig beds, and clearing the winter debris at various locations – plenty more to do so, if you would like to blow away the cobwebs and give a bit of help with our various projects, please let me know – vivienmitchell@yahoo.co.uk.  If you don’t know about the No Dig method of gardening read about Charles Dowding, read his books, watch him on YouTube and look at the Facebook page No Dig Gardening – Undug.  Apart from saving you the back breaking task of digging, it restores soil health and yields really good results – highly recommended!

If you live in the Rockfield/Overmonnow area there is a consultation out on the enhancement of your green spaces for community growing opportunities, children’s play, leisure and, of course, for wildlife – see https://www.monnaturespaces.co.uk/ for further information and a form for you to complete with your views and ideas for your area.  You can also email naturespaces@pegasusgroup.co.uk if you wish to comment or become involved.

Now for something a little different.  The County Council has secured a grant to support the Welsh Government’s aim to move to a circular economy in which waste is avoided and items remain viable for as long as possible – all good stuff to combat / manage climate change.  This fits in well with our Community Fridge and Repair Café, and will now also include a Library of Things from which you will be able to borrow that item that you only need to use once – no point in buying a cheap one that doesn’t really do the job and then clutters up your garage forever – borrow a gazebo for your party or that drill to put up a shelf or that bit of baby kit that gets outgrown in a couple of months.  If there are any particular items you would like the Library to stock, please let us know.  Lockdown restrictions will largely determine when we can be up and operating, but – we will let you know as we will need your help in the day-to-day running of the project.

Plans continue for the Climate Future Festival.  Please join in these meetings at 7.30pm on 17 and 20 March – links below, password ACE – or contact Laura.acemonmouth@outlook.com and she will send you further details.

Catch up 17th March – 945 8452 7590
Holistic Performance March Saturday 20th (Equinox) – 922 8056 9152

We will have a meeting in April – outdoors if restrictions allow, on Zoom if not.  We will let you know, and we will much look forward to seeing you all!

Vivien Mitchell

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

To a better. brighter and safer 2021….

Dear Transitioners

At the end of a year like no other we hope that you are all safe and well, but please remember if you need help of any kind, get in touch – you just need to ask.  This time last year we were planning our Wassail, orchard pruning, Share/Swap Shops and other events.  It’s sad that we are once again in severe lockdown – but in the meantime we have learned how to do things despite the restrictions, and the show goes on.

The most amazing achievement has been by our Food Sense group which continued to collect surplus food from the supermarkets and distribute to where it was well used, but in September they opened the Monmouth Community Fridge at Bridges – yay!  This requires a team of night shifters to collect, sort and store the food, a team of day shifters to open the Fridge to the public each day, and an admin team to organise all this – and their PR is fantastic – they now have over 1,000 followers on Facebook!

Christmas has been particularly challenging.  We had to reduce the number working at any one time to just one (unless they were from the same household) but also the quantities were staggering.  We estimate that over the Christmas period we have shifted, and put to good use, over three tons of food – endless crates of sprouts, potatoes and other veg, fruit, bread but also turkeys, mince pies, ready meals, and everything you can think of.  That’s over three tons of food that would have gone to waste in Monmouth!  How much food is being wasted in the rest of the country, let alone in the rest of the world?  The mind boggles – we go to the trouble to produce the food, harvest it, process it, package it, transport it, and then we throw it away!  Homo sapiens?

We have also been getting on with our Green Grow activities, working with the ACE Green Spaces Group, undertaking site visits with Nigel Leaworthy’s great team at the County Council on further tree planting, wildflower meadows and community gardens.  An on-going project has been with Monmouth Comprehensive School – fraught with difficulties in that we weren’t allowed on site until the contractors were signed off and then we weren’t allowed on site because we were in lockdown!  We now have access on inset days and have made an initial site visit.  But the good news is that the school has agreed, and the Governors have noted with delight, our proposal that “Transition Monmouth works with the school to develop the site in compliance with the Well Being of Future Generations Act for sustainability, resilience, biodiversity and flood prevention using the principles of permaculture and agroforestry”.

We have ideas which we hope to discuss with the school on 4 January but fear this will be postponed until the next inset day – 2 July!  But all is not lost.  We can now seriously get on with the open access area that consists of a community fruit / veg garden, an area of woodland planting where we already have snowdrops, primroses, foxgloves, a carpet of wild strawberries, bluebells, hellebores, ferns and plenty else, and a wildflower meadow in-the-making that goes all the way down to the bike sheds by the Leisure Centre.  Well, that’s better than the ‘lawn’ they were going to sow and then mow 14 times a year, isn’t it?  We have also arranged for all the green waste produced to be composted on site rather than have MCC transport it to Abergavenny for composting, for us to then buy it back for our use.

And then there’s the ACE Climate Future Festival which, we hope, will take place this year with a great range of events – something for absolutely everyone in Monmouth.  Planning is well on the way but we need a larger group to make it happen.  Please join the Zoom meeting (also the AGM) at 7.30pm on 10 January.  The link is on the ACE Monmouth Facebook page, or email Laura.acemonmouth@outlook.com and she will send it to you.

That’s it for now – apart from a couple of things below.  We will have another Members’ Meeting soon, but not in January.  The hellebores are in bud, the snowdrops are on their way, the days are getting longer, the light is getting brighter, vaccines may not solve the problem but they will surely make the world a safer place.  Here’s to all things better in 2021!

Vivien Mitchell

And to start you off with a little bit of light reading you could try:-

https://manifesto.wwf.org.uk/wales – Our challenge to the next Welsh Government is to respond to the opportunities that lay ahead by pledging to do the following:

  • Deliver a green and just economy by putting nature at the heart of every decision and creating a national jobs programme which is fit for the future
  • Reform the food system so it delivers for nature and people by embedding nature and climate friendly farming practices and protecting nature abroad by making us the first deforestation free nation
  • Put nature on the path to recovery by protecting our rivers, seas and land for current and future generations by dedicating 1% of all departmental budgets to restoring nature and combating climate change

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/31/amid-2020s-gloom-reasons-hopeful-climate-2021

And one last thing:  Do you regularly take The Guardian, and would you be willing to pass on old copies from time to time?  Please contact angelajwest@googlemail.com or phone her on 01600 716934

And, hopefully, into a bit of action ….

Dear Transitioners

We had a great meeting last week, outdoors, bats flying overhead, Alfie Dog and Doris Cat in attendance, all well distanced, and just so good to be together in the same space.  Much of the time was spent discussing events and so, at last, we have some dates for your diaries and hope that further lockdown measures will not stop them from going ahead:-

Apple Pressing:  Saturday 26 September, 10 till 2, at St James Hall, Wyesham:  Bring your own washed apples or pears, and clean bottles for your juice.  Please book to avoid disappointment or a long wait, by calling 07905 415871 or emailing diwrnod@googlemail.com

Dr Bike:  A free check-up and basic repair service for your bicycle:  Sunday 27 September, 10 till 2, at the Monnow Bridge Market Car Park.  Cycle Training Wales will be there together with our two new bike shops – Launch and Honeysuckle Wood, Monmouth Cycling Club, and you will be able to buy refreshments from Miniyaki’s Japanese Soul Food and the Handlebar Barista

Monmouth Community Fridge:  Opens on Monday 28 September redistributing nutritious food and preventing food waste in Monmouth.  The Fridge is based at Bridges Community Centre, in Stable 4 – look for the orange door!  We get surplus food from local businesses and make it available to everyone, for free.  You are welcome to make a donation to running costs but it’s not obligatory.  For up to date information see Monmouth Community Fridge Facebook page – and a call for volunteers:  We need help in the evenings to collect food, take it to the Community Fridge, label, and put it into appropriate storage.  Please contact mail@transitionmonmouth.org if you are able to help

Apple Pressing:  Sunday 4 October, 10 till 2 at the Rockfield Park Community Centre, Cornwallis Way, Monmouth NP25 5DN:  As for the Wyesham event – bring your own washed apples or pears, and clean bottles for your juice.  Please book to avoid disappointment or a long wait, by calling 07905 415871 or emailing diwrnod@googlemail.com

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting:  Tuesday 6 October, 7pm outside the front entrance of Monmouth Comprehensive School

Seed + Plant Share:  Saturday 10 October, 10 till 12 outside the front entrance of Monmouth Comprehensive School, The Burgage, NP25 3DP.  It’s been a year since we held our event so hopefully you have many seeds and plants – maybe produce too – to bring along and swap for something enticing – but come even if you have nothing to share – we are always happy to accept fiscal donations

We hope to see you at one or more of these events, and you will enjoy meeting again with your like-minded colleagues …..

Vivien Mitchell

Back in harness….

Dear Transitioners

We will be holding our next meeting out in the open air so please bring something to sit on, something to drink, and wrap up in your winter woollies!  To ensure distancing, please confirm if you plan to attend by emailing mail@transitionmonmouth.org.

We look forward to seeing you next week!

Bryan Miller, Chair

Agenda

Transition Monmouth Members’ Meeting at the front entrance of Monmouth Comprehensive School, The Burgage

Tuesday 15 September, 7pm to 8.30pm – followed by discussion/chat

Note taker

Introductions, welcome and catch up

Apologies for absence

1.    Notes of the last meeting and matters arising other than those on the agenda

2.    Events:-

  • Apple pressings:  Proposed dates:- 

Saturday 26 September at Wyesham Community Hall

Sunday 4 October at Rockfield Community Centre

  • Swap Shop:  Proposed date:  Saturday 24 October

3.    Food Sense and Community Pantry

4.    Water Fountain on Chippenham Mead

5.    Plastic Free Monmouth

6.    Green Spaces Developments

7.    Monmouth Rotary

8.    Any Other Business

9.    Date of Next Meeting

8.30pm – close of formal meeting – now it’s time to chat ……..

Long ago we had a meeting.  Here is a reminder of our hopes, plans and dreams six months ago …..

Notes of Transition Monmouth Meeting

Tuesday 10 March 2020, 7.30 pm at Ty Price (Robin Hood closed)

Present:  Bryan Miller (Chair), Simon Durrant (Note taker), Charles Boase, Mary Boase, Laura McCartney, Vivien Mitchell, Kelly Jackson-Graham, Charles Emes, Jon Prince, Dilly Boase, Emma Bryn, Claudia Blair, Paul Glinn

Apologies:  Clare Catto, Kate Rees

Post meeting notes are in red

Notes of last meeting and matters arising: 

Apple Pressing:  Bryan has written a risk assessment for the use of our apple pressing equipment to outside groups.  Emma has offered to review it

Orchard Management Plan:  Bryan has delivered plans of the orchard area to Helena Ronicle.  Helena’s vision is to split the area into three zones and rotate grass cutting so that only one zone is cut each year.  This gives safe zones for wildlife to escape to during cutting, and it can re-emerge later.  This would need to be clearly communicated to the MCC Grounds Maintenance team, accompanied by signage to educate the public on ‘why is the area left untidy?’

Website:  Bryan has contacted Chris Were but had no response to date.  Bryan now has the website details and has undertaken minor edits including update of the list of officers

Monmouth Community Choir:  To sing at the Big Spring Swap.  Event cancelled

Discussion Events:  Bryan to arrange a suitable weekday evening date with Bob Handley for a talk on electric cars – to be followed by Averil MacDonald talking about hydrogen vehicles.  Both events on hold

Tree planting in Monmouth:  Charles Emes has had no success in finding spaces to plant trees and will now concentrate on a campaign to get people to plant trees in their gardens

The recent flooding and our response:  Vivien took the opportunity to address the Town Council’s Environment Committee to say that the Transition approach is to stop flooding rather than continuously deal with the consequences.  RECS (our flood prevention by natural flood management) project provides base data from which to proceed and is, at last, being taken seriously.  Moreover, funding has suddenly become available to take it forward.  An application for about £0.5 million to cover Gwent and Herefordshire is being put together by Gwent Wildlife Trust, and an even larger project extending to mid-Wales (the source of the river flood water in Monmouth) is also in preparation.  Members thought that a presentation on RECS should be made to Full Council. 

About 100 trees have been planted on the Tudor Road playing fields;  this has of course caused controversy but on the whole, when it is explained that a resident did this for flood prevention purposes, the reaction has become favourable.  Charles Emes is setting up a working party to resuscitate a hedge on the Kingswood Gate Estate

Local Development Plan Submissions:  The closing date is 22 April.  Charles Emes plans to submit a footpath leading from Kingswood Gate and some adjacent fields destined for housing development;  these will be accompanied with pictures of the fields flooded last month.  Vivien plans to submit the open access area in front of and beside Monmouth Comprehensive School as a designated public open space, and for the entire school site to be developed for biodiversity, resilience and flood prevention.  We also want to submit an over-arching requirement for all development to be sustainable and compliant with the WBFG Act.  In the nick of time we did all this, and also Haydn Cullen-Jones submitted an application for the Dixton Roundabout site to be developed for biodiversity (and no construction)

Climate Futures Festival:  Dilly explained the Lost Words Exhibition that was planned to be held in Monmouth Museum from August to year end.  It was agreed that we donate the proceeds (minimum £250) of our Big Spring Swap towards this event.  We would, of course, wish to participate as fully as possible in the CFF at the end of September, and have offered to organise open garden events.  The ACE Green Spaces group plan a pop up pollinator garden and to give away small trees.  Postponed, probably to May 2021

Events in the Diary:-

Repair Café on Sunday 15 March:  Claudia reported that preparations were well in hand.  Social distancing was practiced and the event went smoothly with many items satisfactorily repaired

Monmouth Priory, 10 to 2 on Saturday 28 March:  The Big Spring Swap:  Following the success of the Big Swap event in October it was decided to follow the same format.  Coffee, tea and cakes to be available from 10 o’clock, followed by Monmouth Community Choir at 12, and soup from 12.30.  Diane Booker has agreed to provide the Swap Shop for seeds/plants and Tools for Self Reliance have been booked to attend.  We have flyers (thank you, Emma) and have started advertising on Face Book.  Other actions:-

  • Karin Chandler to produce a hygiene guide
  • Charles Emes and Paul will provide Vivien with cash for the float;  prices to be rounded so as to minimise the requirement for small change
  • We need pots for donations on each table

Event cancelled

Bee Festival, 10 to 3 on Sunday 3 May:  It was agreed that we request adjacent tables for Transition Monmouth and the ACE Climate Futures Festival.  Event cancelled

River Festival:  In Monmouth on Saturday/Sunday 9/10 May:  Soap box speakers have been requested;  Charles Emes has volunteered.  It was agreed we should have a display table under the arches.  Event postponed to end-September

ACE Climate Futures Festival (CFF):  20 to 29 September:  Event postponed, probably to May 2021.  If the River Festival proceeds at the end of September there will be some Transition Monmouth and ACE Monmouth involvement

Monmouth Priory:  10 to 2 on Saturday 24 October

What is a sustainable diet?:  This was proposed as a debate hosted by us at Monmouth Comprehensive.  On hold

Orchard pruning:  To be arranged with Helena Ronicle.  Postponed, probably to February 2021

Any Other Business:

The Circular Economy:  On 9 March, Dilly and Vivien attended the Welsh Government consultation on the Circular Economy.  The presentations and debates were much as one would expect but an interesting idea was the taxation of food miles.  Towards the end we were asked ‘What can the WG to help community groups’ – to which one has to ask ‘What does WG do now?’  Vivien to draft a response.  This was sent to David Blair

Food Sense – Community Pantry:  The group is working with Ian Bakewell (MCC) to obtain a food poverty grant of £7,000 to set up a Community Pantry complete with fridge/freezer storage so that chilled surplus from the supermarkets can be collected each day along with bread, fruit, veg and non-perishables.  Rental of a unit at Bridges has been agreed as from 23 March.  We obtained the grant but have had to postpone starting the Pantry – very unfortunate as the need for food has increased during lock down, but we weren’t able to undertake the necessary work to set up the unit or comply with the additional legislation by way of H+S.  It has been difficult enough continuing with the usual distribution as most of our distribution hubs – the library, churches, community halls, community groups have been closed and the stalwart volunteers have to deliver to individual families – 93 in mid-May and the number increases each week

Food Sense – Food Poverty Coordinator:  The group is working with Deserie Mansfield (RDP) to apply for funding of £20,000+ a year to include mileage for volunteers.  This project is being re-thought in the light of the repercussions and lessons learned from Covid-19

Date of next meeting:  Tuesday 14 April, 7.15 for a prompt 7.30 start, at the Robin Hood.  Meeting cancelled.  Bryan is investigating the potential for a virtual meeting during lock down using technology such as Microsoft Teams