Bees Alive!

I have been on tenterhooks – worried sick that all our bees would have died either from cold weather, lack of stores, disease or some other mystery. Weeks have gone by as I have waited for the weather to be warm enough to check them, treat with oxalic acid (for varroa) and offer some fondant (to supplement stores). Finally, with a little sunshine and no frost today I checked the car temperature display and it read 6’C – all systems go!

Starting at Flixton I opened the nuc box first, there was a small cluster of bees in it, very quiet – I treated with oxalic acid and gave them some fondant as quickly as possible. Fingers crossed for their survival into spring, definitely not a strong colony. The other two hives both had large piles of dead bees outside, but I comforted myself with advice from Bob Spruce; those with the largest numbers of dead bees are often the strongest colonies (more bees available to be lost). Thankfully this bore out and they both look to be thriving.

Feeling much lighter of heart I opened the first of the Barsham hives, only to have it sink in my boots as I was confronted with a dead cluster of bees. They were all together and there were plenty of stores but there weren’t very many bees so I wonder if they died of cold. I will find out if there is anything else I need to look for in particular. The last two hives housed much stronger colonies – who were also a little cross at my intrusion. I am currently sporting my first sting of 2011 (I am sitting on it as I type), which can only arise from having living bees – hurragh!

Read-In at Bungay Library | 5th Feb, 10am

Next Saturday is Save Our Libraries Day.

Obviously this national day of action now has particular resonance in Bungay and many other Suffolk communities. After discussions with a few of the groups that use the library and with the librarians themselves it has been decided that we too should organise a ‘read-in’ to demonstrate support for our library and the fantastic job our professional librarians do.

All you need to do is turn up and read!

There are a few other things you can do too:

Got less than 2 minutes?
Tell your neighbours – or you could just pop the poster for the 5th up in your window (download here). Fill in the form (below) and tell us why Bungay Library is important to you. Tweet this page (using the button at the bottom of the page) using the hashtag #savelibraries or share this page on your Facebook profile.

Got 2 minutes?
Visit the Suffolk libraries website and use the online reference resources.

5– 10 minutes?
Contact all your friends and family, ask them to join the library and use library services on the 5th.

10 – 15 minutes?
Email or write to Peter Aldous our local MP the local press or the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the unique contribution public libraries make to society.

15 – 30 minutes?
Pop down to Bungay library on the 5th. Borrow as many books as you can. While you are there have a look at the community garden, read a newspaper, go online and find out what’s happening in your local community.

If you’d like to be kept up to date with our campaign please sign-up here:

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I'd like to be added to the Save Bungay library mailing list 

What does Bungay library mean to you? (we'll send your answers - but NOT any of your contact details - to Suffolk County Council)

We will only use your details to keep you up to date with the Save Bungay library campaign and we certainly won’t share them with anyone else.

Press Release: Business as usual for Bungay Library volunteers

Despite Suffolk County Councils threat to close Bungay Library, Sustainable Bungay are working to complete the community garden.

Over the last year a group from Sustainable Bungay have been working to transform the courtyard at Bungay Library into a community garden. During that time volunteers have committed hundreds of hours of unpaid time, library users have donated money to buy plants and pay for building work and skilled craftsmen and women have given their time and advice for free. A working group met last weekend to install the final bit of hard landscaping, a beautiful hazel screen made by Katherine Thistlethwayte. However, the day was overshadowed by talk of SCCs consultation on the future of the library.

On Tuesday night Sustainable Bungay’s steering group met to discuss the SCC library consultation. The group voted unanimously to give no ground to SCC; to reject outright the presumption that the library has to be run by a community group or face closure, to contest the 30% cut as arbitrary and ideological and to offer no opportunity for the County Council to interpret their concern for the future of the library as a willingness to run it.

Group member Mark Watson said;

‘Our library is visited by everyone, the poor, the rich, the lonely, families, the old, the young, the unemployed using the computers to seek work. Our libraries are for everyone. They are part of the public good, and they work because they are run by professional and experienced librarians.’

Sustainable Bungay is concerned that a ‘divested’ library in the hands of volunteers would be a poorer and more vulnerable service than that currently run and funded by SCC.

Josiah Meldrum said;

‘The word ‘voluntary’ implies you can turn up to ‘work’ or not as you see fit. It’s not your livelihood, so unless you’re utterly committed and treat it as a real job, you’ll be doing it for other reasons, which may be noble but won’t be professional. It is not the same focus. And it won’t be the same library.’

At least a dozen other groups regularly use the library – for everything from sewing and calligraphy classes to reading groups for all ages. Sustainable Bungay is asking them and individual library users to get in touch so those interested in saving the library can unite to campaign. Sustainable Bungay can be contacted at or through the library and there is more information on their website:

Notes for Editors:

For more information about Sustainable Bungay please contact Charlotte Du Cann Email:

Founded in 2008 Sustainable Bungay is a community-led response to the triple crunch of climate change, peak resources and the economic crisis. We’re part of the Transition Network [] and believe that the best way to effect positive change for sustainability is through community activities – from bee-keeping to bottling.

For more about Sustainable Bungay, including more photos of the garden, visit


Header, working party with new hazel screen. Below, Bench with log insect habitat and markers / emerging spring bulbs planted by pupils from Bungay Primary School with Sustainable Bungay.

In Deep Shift

On Tuesday night Sustainable Bungay hosted our third themed Green Drinks at the Green Dragon. Since we introduced the themes (the previous two were Economics and Livelihoods and Energy), these events have gone from being rather quiet affairs with between one (!) and six people ‘catching up’ at a table, to vibrant evenings where an invited ‘expert conversationalist’ sparks off lively discussions in a packed bar.

This week the topic was “Shifting Cultural Values”, and Dr. Rupert Read, Norwich Green Party councillor and reader in Philosophy at UEA, our expert conversationalist.

This was the first time Sustainable Bungay had broached a ‘philosophical’ rather than ‘practical’ subject, at least in public. We felt some nervousness before the event. Was it too intellectual? Airy-fairy? Wouldn’t it be safer to stick to practical subjects – wind turbines, low-carbon entertainment? Was the pub the right place for it? Wouldn’t everybody just get distracted and talk about football results? But worst of all, WHAT IF NO ONE TURNS UP?

At twenty five past seven there were six of us. Oh dear, Rupert’s coming all the way from Norwich, disaster turnout, wrong subject choice, all fears confirmed… You stop that, Mark Watson, I told myself. There’s nothing wrong with small meetings. It’ll be intimate. The right people are here… and other things of a self-calming nature!

When Rupert began at a quarter to eight, there were thirty people in the bar, including eight new faces. All the emails and tweets, the press release, the poster and the printed newsletter, the word of mouth, had worked. People did want to talk about these things called cultural values, however vague that might sound. This was the best turnout yet.

Josiah welcomed Rupert and introduced the theme. He said that since the credit crunch, there has been an increasing awareness of a real need to rethink the way we relate to each other as human beings and in society. This evening is part of that process.

Rupert introduced himself as a philosopher of language and politician and said he was coming at the subject from these angles. He first asked us to consider how words shape the way we look at things and how they can be rendered ‘congenitally vague’, meaningless or misleading depending on how they are used, particularly in politics and the media.

‘Sustainable’ was a good example of a word that had become jargonised. Rather than denoting a way of life friendly to people and planet and one which we would have to work at from where we are now, the word itself carries implications of being able to maintain roughly our current (quite unsustainable in the proper sense) lifestyle indefinitely, with little or no effort required!

Rupert then introduced the subject of frames or cultural narratives, which he argued were more useful than isolated words for exploring and addressing our cultural values. Some frames are superficial whilst others are deep. You can read more about frames in the report by Tom Crompton “Common Cause” (download here 1.17MB)

The main cultural shift discussed was going from individualism, thinking of everything in terms of me’ to a kind of collectivism, where we engage more as ‘team’ or community. Other shifts introduced were:

– Doing the Right Thing rather than the Profitable Thing (I thought this was particularly apposite given the present climate of massive public service cuts which are all based on Profit for the few and to hell with everyone else and our lives)

– Taking an active rather than passive stance and doing things oneself rather than waiting for others – even becoming your own MP!

– National well-being becoming more important than possessions

Rupert’s dynamic presentation got the whole room going and was followed by an equally dynamic Q&A. We spoke about the importance of allowing space for people to express our feelings about what’s actually going on (e.g. the cuts to the NHS) rather than talking in purely rational, formal or abstract terms; of giving ourselves and each other time to consider our relationships with one another, with the natural world, to think about our sense of place and belonging. To give these things and each other value.

One thing that struck me particularly was when Rupert said ‘if you want to support a deep, positive frame, support the NHS.’ This is because the founding principles of the NHS are to do with equity and ‘healthcare for all’, regardless of financial or any other status. So if we support the NHS, we are casting our vote for those principles. We are saying that they really matter.

It was a great evening – some people were shifting cultural values right up until closing time!

Banner: (l to r) WHAT IF NO ONE TURNS UP!; Rupert Read talks Shifting Cultural Values in Bungay’s Green Dragon; Rupert and Nick in deep flow conversation

Nasty, Noxious, Neurotoxic Neo-nicotinoids

Use of neo-nicotinoid pesticides is a huge issue which is finally getting some more mainstream coverage. Decline of pollinators including honey bees has been linked with their use and some European countries have actually banned them, not so the UK. For a great summary of this issue read Nick Mole’s speech delivered at the London Bee Summit. For a slightly more in-depth article read Michael McCarthy’s article in the Independent, both of which can also be found on the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) website

There is also an open letter to the British Beekeepers Association being circulated regarding the payments they have received from pesticide manufacturers in return for endorsements.

If you want to take action (apart from becoming more aware and spreading the word of course) Buglife have provided a draft letter you can sign and send to your local MP asking for research into and action on the use of neo-nicotinoids. Both the co-operative’s Plan Bee campaign and Avaaz have petitions you can sign.

Green Drinks: Shifting Cultural Values

Green Drinks: Shifting Cultural Values

With Dr. Rupert Read, reader in philosophy at the University of East Anglia, co-founder of values-change blog Green Words Workshop and Norwich Green Party Councillor.

The Green Dragon, 18th January, 7:30pm

To date our Green Drinks themes have had quite a practical focus, but this month we’re tackling something that at first glance seems a little more esoteric – shifting cultural values. In fact it’s pretty much central to all Sustainable Bungay’s projects and is at the heart of Transition; but we generally only acknowledge it in so much as we recognise that, if we’re to tackle climate change, come to terms with finite resources and cope with a radical economic readjustment we’ll have to change the way we think about each other and the world. At Green Drinks this month and with the help of Dr. Rupert Read we’ll delve a little deeper.

Ready to be nudged?

The Government is keen to ‘nudge’ us into making ‘better’ choices and believes that this approach could replace regulation to help it achieve its commitments to public health, the environment and well-being. But many argue that without big shifts in our values approaches that attempt to shape behaviour are likely to have little impact in a culture where the consumer is still king and economic growth is the most important measure of national success.

A Common Cause

At our first Green Drinks evening we talked briefly about a report called Common Cause: The Case for Working with our Cultural Values published by a consortium of organsiations including WWF, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The report makes a clear case for a wide range of civil society organisations to work together in order to strengthen those cultural values that have been shown to underpin people’s concern about a whole range of problems – from climate change to global poverty. It goes on to argue that the public will only place enough pressure on politicians if they place greater emphasis on those ‘intrinsic’ values (which include the value we place on things like relationships with other people, the natural world, a sense of place/belonging).

We’ve invited Dr. Rupert Read, reader in philosophy at the UEA, co-founder of values-change blog Green Words Workshop and Norwich Green Party Councillor to help us think about some of these issues. As usual we’ll ask Rupert to speak for 5 or 10 minutes then open the floor for questions and a general discussion before breaking up into smaller informal conversations. It’s never possible to say exactly what might come up at Green Drinks but we might talk about;

  • What kinds of values do we need to shift to and what are we moving away from – is it as simple as a move from ‘Me’ to ‘We’?
  • How can we strengthen the kinds of intrinsic values outlined in the Common Cause report and bring them to the fore locally?
  • Should we begin talking to other local groups about emphasizing these values? How?

And much more besides… there is bound to be a lively discussion!

Grow Your Own with the Greengrow co-op

The GreenGrow co-op have spent the last few years developing an orchard and market garden on land rented from the Common Ground co-op at Ilketshall St. Andrew. It has become something of a tradition for members of Sustainable Bungay to spend Valentines day helping members of the co-op plant the orchard – this year will be no different.

In 2010 GreenGrow secured some money from the Local Food Fund to develop a project called Grow Your Own – increasing vegetable production on the site and offering opportunities for volunteers to lean more about growing. Becky Taylor, a member of Greengrow, has sent over an update (below), if you’d like to get involved have a look at their Facebook page: Grow your Own Or just turn up on one of the volunteer days.

Dear all,

Just a quick update to let you know how things are going with us up in Ilketshall St Andrew. We’ve had a successful first year running the community vegetable growing project, with 48 different volunteers at different points over the year, which is fantastic. Everyone’s hard work meant that not only did we have lots of produce to share among those taking part in the project, but also we were able to start selling veg
boxes as well as to some outlets in Bungay. We also had two small community supported agriculture stock projects – four pigs and ten geese – and aim to continue doing this in the coming year.

So those of you wanting to get involved, currently we are open to the public every Friday, 10am-3pm. Anyone can come up and get involved in growing, in exchange for in-season veg. Don’t worry if you don’t have much experience, we have a worker on site guiding people in the day’s activities. We also have a training budget for volunteers wanting to improve their horticultural skills, so we can pay for people to go on courses. If you would like to come and volunteer but can’t make Fridays, get in touch, and we should be able to arrange something, as people are generally out on the land most days in the growing season.

Once again this year we will have a mass orchard planting, which we have moved to the first two weekends in February, in the hope of avoiding the snow we’ve had for the last two years. In the past we’ve had lots of local people (including a fantastic presence from Sustainable Bungay and Beccles) as well as from further afield, which has enabled us to plant over 300 apple trees. This year we have around 150 to put in (this will be the last year of mass apple planting – next year it will be pears), all trees we grafted ourselves last spring. In total we have thirty varieties of apple, a mix of local heritage varieties and ones chosen for organic growing. We provide the tools, hot food and cake, and shelter (for those who have been in the past you will be pleased to know that we have a tea making shed for shelter and an area in the big polytunnel for small children to play in and keep warm). Despite working hard we generally have a great time, meet new people, catch up with friends and it would be lovely if you were able to make it.

We’re hoping this year to start selling veg boxes in the Bungay area (rather than just in the village), so do get in touch if you would like one, or know someone who would. We aim to sell from late May through to December, will sell different size boxes, allow you to opt-out of your dislikes and will offer discounts for people willing to act as a collection point for three or more boxes.

We are also hosting an increasing number of visits by school and nursery groups and gardening clubs – some come just for a tour, others get involved in activities. If you know of a group which would like a visit, then get in touch.

That’s it for now – if you happen to be passing (we’re on Clarke’s Lane, off Blacksmith’s Common) do drop in for a chat and a look round, good luck and happy growing for the coming year.

All the best, Greengrow Co-operative


Marvellous Microscopy

I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of the Iceni Microscopy Group today. Originally formed by beekeepers as a way of monitoring bee health, the current members also have a range of other interests – including algae and tortoises! Although during my university years I used microscopy to look at objects such as nematode eggs, bacteria and muscle fibres it is some time ago and I needed a refresher on basic technique (i.e don’t slam the lens down into the slide…).

However, I was made very welcome and had a great time looking at some specimen slides, including those of pollen, varroa mites, nosema (a microsporidium that can only be identified via microscopy), drone sperm (had some difficulty recognising the head) and some bee body parts. Although as a beekeeper looking at diseases and parasites are what has drawn me towards using a microscope, I have to admit to an existing interest in anatomy, so looking at antennae, mouth parts and legs was absolutely fascinating.

I hope to continue with the microscopy group and eventually become reasonably proficient. So far the Iceni Microscopy Group have had 100% pass rate of entrants for the BBKA exam so there must be hope for me yet. I have taken the above images from their website all of which are slides that I saw earlier. Many thanks to Peter, Keith, Bob and Lewis for your help and inspiration today.