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

A bit of an ACE update

Dear ACE Monmouth Supporters

We hope you are all safe and well, and in recent weeks have been able to extend your social experiences a little, or even managed to get away for a holiday!

For the foreseeable future we do not envisage holding meetings of all of the ACE Monmouth membership – enjoyable and informative as they are, but instead leave the various projects to continue, as best they can, with their activities and reporting in via the various Facebook pages – ACE Monmouth, Repair Café Monmouth, Bike-Friendly Monmouth and Our Green Spaces Monmouth.  We will continue to write occasional newsletters to summarise what the various groups have been up to ….

Bike-Friendly Monmouth:  Jen Bara and Rachel Jupp write:  We are excited to confirm Monmouth’s first Dr Bike Clinic!  Doctor Bike is a mobile mechanic service operated by Cycle Training Wales – www.cycletrainingwales.org.uk/services/doctor-bike/.  Bring your bike for a thorough health check by qualified mechanics who will carry out necessary repairs.  The event will be held on Sunday 27 September in the smaller Cattle Market car park by Monnow Bridge.  We will be warmly encouraging everyone to come along and get their bikes checked for roadworthiness.  We will be inviting affiliated local businesses to set up stalls and the police to register bikes (to make them identifiable if pinched).  We have warmly welcomed the owners of our two new cycle shops – Honeysuckle Wood Bicycles + Retro Homeware and Launch Bikes.  We would encourage everyone to support them as their businesses get going.

Bike-Friendly Monmouth has been working closely with Monmouthshire County Council and Sustrans regarding forthcoming Town Alterations.  We have emphasised the need for bike-friendly infrastructure to promote active travel for both leisure and commuting purposes.  Monmouth Cycling Club was constituted shortly before social distancing measures were brought in.  The club has over 70 members and we are currently recruiting committee positions – please contact us on the Facebook page if you are interested!  We are awaiting updated guidelines from Welsh cycling and hope to re-commence group rides and skills sessions soon.

Climate Futures Festival:  This has been particularly badly hit by Covid-19 – how can you plan participatory events in such an uncertain future?  Only a couple of months ago the River Festival was going ahead in September, and we had our participation planned – but there will now only be a virtual River Festival and our plans have led to nothing.  Nevertheless, the group continues to meet regularly via ZoomWork continues on the green directory of local eco based businesses including information on water filling points, charging points and where to recycle what.  And yes, a Festival is planned for the week of 17 to 23 May, with a Fashion Fest day on Saturday 22 May.  If you would like to be involved or if you have input or ideas for content please contact Laura McCartney – lauramarymac@hotmail.co.uk

Green Spaces:  Clare Catto and Charles Emes write:  We had a very productive Zoom meeting on 29 July and identified areas for action over the next few months.  It would be great to hear from anyone who would like to get involved in any of these projects – the idea is to form up a few GS sub-teams to take the various ideas forward, depending on who is interested and what they are interested in doing.  Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know very much about how to do this – we are all learning and if we don’t know we have lots of people we can ask!

Project ideas (we can let you have the meeting write-up for more detail):-

Biodiversity surveys in areas around town which have been left for wild flowers this year, in support of Nature Isn’t Neat (easy and quick 10 minute surveys).  Let us know if you would like to be involved and we will send you the training info.  It is really important to provide MCC with data which helps them to prove the benefits for wildlife of changing mowing regimes on Council land.

Planting locations – we have identified 12 areas around town which we could enhance for wildlife by planting trees / native hedgerows / allowing wildflower meadows to develop.  We discussed some during the meetings and some were raised by Emily and Vivien after – It would be great to have help working out what might be possible / engaging with MCC / going on site visits / creating planting plans etc etc!

Litter Picking – let us know if you would be interested in joining a GS litter picking group which would co-ordinate activities with existing litter picking groups.

Campaigning for reduction in herbicide use (glyphosate) – it seems like a good time to pursue this as MCC are currently reviewing their use of glyphosate and looking at alternatives.  We would take advice from other areas and Pesticide Action Network to come up with a plan of action and advocate for a reduction in these harmful chemicals.

Mapping out our Wildlife Corridors – Bug Life have created a map of B-Lines across the country – we want to take this local by extending the lines across town, linking up green spaces and using this strong visual image to encourage gardeners to get involved by developing their own gardens for wildlife.  Ideal project for anyone who loves maps and wildlife!

Repair Café Monmouth:   We are planning to hold a Repair Café event at Rockfield Community Hall in September.  There is much to arrange and agree on before then;  for example we might be open to receive items but the repairs might be done off site for collection or delivery at a later date.  We are hopeful!  In the meantime, on an unofficial basis, Gerry Ashton has been taking in repairs and rescued a few vacuum cleaners, lights and other items from the tip.

Our Food Monmouth:  The County Council has hosted on-line meetings with a view to setting up a county wide scheme.  However, there has been little progress and Cherry Taylor recommends that we establish this project just for Monmouth.  She is looking to bring together a small team of volunteers with a passion for local food / sustainable food production to drive this forward.  Please let us know if you can spare some time to help build up a list of local food producers. 

Based on the experience elsewhere, we are looking at using the Our Food Crickhowell website as it would provide an easy and cost effective way forward.  We are looking for funding, and once the holiday and growing season are over we hope to get this project off the ground.

So yes – it’s difficult, but not impossible, and we are finding ways to proceed.  If you would like further information on any of the projects or would like to participate in any, or have an idea for a new project, please let us know!

Thank you all for your support and hard work, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Claudia Blair

Despite the pandemic….

Dear Transitioners

As we cautiously start to come out of lockdown, we are delighted to hear about all the plans and actions that you have been getting on with despite the severe constraints.

The most obvious change has been to our town centre – remodelled to allow for distancing and based on the submissions you made to the County Council on active travel to encourage walking and cycling.  Unfortunately this has coincided with the planets aligning after 13 years of planning and consultation to redesign our town centre so that the car is not king.  Hopefully the disruption, aided and abetted by Welsh Water, won’t last long and in the meantime will encourage more people to walk and cycle.  To this end we have two new bike shops – Launch Bikes in Beaufort Arms Court and Honeysuckle Wood Bicycles at The Griffin in Whitecross Street.  There is also Kenny’s Bike Shack in Wyesham – so all of a sudden we have the facilities in Monmouth for bike sales (including the Cycle to Work Scheme), repairs, maintenance, bike hire, family friendly biking and kids’ clubs – yay!  To help you on your way, Bike Friendly Monmouth will be holding a Dr Bike workshop just as soon as they are able.

More good active travel news:  We heard last week that the proposed new bridge over the River Wye for pedestrians and cyclists has passed NRW requirements – and that’s after the unprecedented floods we had in February.  The Town Council awaits official confirmation before moving on to the next stage.

Throughout the pandemic our amazing Food Sense volunteers have collected surplus food from the supermarkets every morning and evening and distributed to over 100 households each week.  We are also grateful to Old Lands for supplying their surplus vegetables and would welcome any glut of fruit or veg that you may have from your garden or allotment.  And, hopefully, the Community Pantry is on its way!  There is still compliance stuff to be sorted but we have the keys, the premises at Bridges are being refurbished, equipment is on order.  With storage and fridge/freezer capacity we will be able to handle perishable items, reduce food waste even more, and provide more food in this time of need.

And as play areas start to reopen next week, there is the news that Planning Consent has been granted by the Welsh Government for relocation of the children’s play area on Chippenham Mead – yes – all those letters of support worked!  Now for some lovely plans for the new play area, complete with a water fountain – play is thirsty work!

Also your ideas please for the Circular Economy Fund!  To aid the post-Covid response and green recovery in Wales, the Welsh Government will support actions to make the circular economy a reality in Wales by keeping materials in circulation for as long as possible and avoiding waste.  A circular economy is an important part of a green recovery, tackling the climate emergency and improving resilience.  This not only benefits the environment but will enable Wales to take advantage of economic opportunities by shortening supply chains and making the most of recycled materials.  How about a town centre venue with a Repair Café, Men’s Shed, Library of Things, Art Venue, what else? – great for the community, and great for the high street too.  The fund is also open to businesses.  Read all about it at https://gov.wales/65m-circular-economy-funding-support-green-recovery.  The application form is at https://gov.wales/circular-economy-capital-fund-application-form – but hurry – the closing date is 27 July.

We have no dates for your diaries yet but from 20 to 23 July you can participate in a virtual festival of Farming, Food and Nature – ideas and discussions on farming and land management, sustainable food systems, restoring wildlife and working together for a greener future for Wales – https://greenrecovery.wales/.  We are doing our bit – currently much absorbed in developing a wildflower meadow by the Leisure Centre, and have much in the pipeline on developing land for sustainability, resilience, biodiversity and flood prevention utilising the principles of permaculture and agroforestry – all much in the spirit and letter of our wonderful Well Being of Future Generations Act.  Oh, and – we hope you like the new sustainable, pollinator friendly planting round the catalpa tree in St James’ Square? – comments, please!

While the pandemic has seen a disastrous increase in single use plastic, we have some good news too.  Wye Weight are opening their plastic free shop later this month but you can already shop on line at https://www.wyeweight.co.uk/.

And one last thing – work by a Parliamentary Group has started on the Green New Deal.  Your input is valuable – participate at https://reset-uk.org/.

We hope the summer brings you some of the things you have missed these past few months – family, friends and some of your favourite activities.  As a reminder of what we need to aim for you might like to read A manifesto for the Coronacene by Herbert Girardet, our local sustainability hero https://theecologist.org/2020/may/21/manifesto-coronacene

Vivien Mitchell