Spring Clean! – Give and Take Day – Saturday 21st March, 11am-1pm

Give and take2015 (smaller)This year’s Give and Take Day, our 9th, is taking place on 21st March on the Spring Equinox weekend, perfect timing for a good spring clean! So why not bring along your unwanted items of clothing, furniture, garden and household equipment, books, CDs and DVDs to the Community Centre and pick up something you might need. Just make sure that anything you bring is in decent, usable (or at least repairable) condition. This can even include electrical goods as our qualified PAT tester will be there. (Please note: No TVs, VHS players or videotapes accepted).

And remember, no money exchanges hands – it’s Give, it’s Take, and everything is free (although we do welcome donations towards room hire costs).

Give and Take Days have become an integral part of the ‘remit’ of Sustainable Bungay since we began holding them once or twice a year in March 2009. When the group first formed after the Climate Change conference in Emmanuel Church in 2007, we wanted to know how we could engage locally in response to changing climate conditions. What could we do here?

Give and Take Crew

SB’s first Give and Take Crew 21st March 2009

Since joining the Transition network in 2008, the group’s activities are now also informed by factors such as the decreasing availability of cheap fossil fuel energy and widespread economic downturn.

Profligate waste is one of the biggest problems in our present throwaway culture, whether it’s food, clothing or technology. Fossil fuels are embedded in the production of almost everything in our lives, and carbon emissions from waste exert a significant impact on the climate.

So Give and Take Days are not just about getting rid of stuff and picking up more stuff. They also aim to bring attention to our use of resources and make sure less of that stuff ends up in landfill sites, where it will sit for a very long time, emitting! These modest events have so far meant that about 35 tonnes of potential landfill has found a new home.

Give and Take Days are also a great opportunity to meet up with friends and neighbours – and to enjoy refreshments prepared by the Happy Monday Community Kitchen crew. Everyone welcome. Hope to see you there!

Give and Take Day: Saturday 21st March at the Community Centre, Upper Olland Street, 11am-1pm (please note items accepted 9am-12pm)
The Community Centre will also be open to receive items on Friday 20th March, between 5.30 & 7pm
For large pickups on Friday 20th March in the afternoon and further info please contact Eloise: eloisewilkinson@gmail.com or call 07842 897172

Raw Food Demos at Giddens & Thompson

IMG_6286 This Saturday (11th October) SB’s Mark Watson will run three raw food demonstrations at local Bungay greengrocers, Giddens and Thompson, as part of this year’s Waveney Valley Food & Drink Festival. And it won’t just be lettuce salad!

Simon Thompson says, “Mark will be making delicious dishes that are not only very good for you, but taste amazing. You’ll be able to sample all the dishes being made and take away recipe sheets (as well as purchase any ingredients you might need, of course).”

???????????????????????????????Tickets cost £5 and booking is essential as places are filling up fast with a maximum of ten people at each demo.

So if the idea of raw food piques your taste buds, call Simon on 01986 897944 and let him know which demonstration you’d like to attend: 10am, 12noon or 2pm. Each session will last about 30 minutes. Look forward to seeing you there!

Note: All of the raw food dishes I’ll be preparing on Saturday have been previously tried, tested and thoroughly enjoyed at Sustainable Bungay’s monthly Happy Mondays at the Community Kitchen meals.

Images: Raw Food evening with the Low Carbon Cookbook group at The Nectar, Norwich, August 2011; beetroot, carrot, parsley, 2011. By Mark Watson under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license

On Making Space for Nature in Sustainable Bungay

This post was first published on 24th September 2014 under the title Mark Watson on Making Space for Flowers as part of the “Making Space for Nature” theme on the Transition Network website. It appears here unabridged.

IMG_1158“Did you grow all those yourself?”, a young woman asked me last week at Transition Town Tooting’s 7th Foodival.
She was pointing to a wicker basket filled with the aromatic lemon balm, rosemary, anise hyssop, marjoram and a dozen or so more herbs and flowers I was preparing tea from at the event:
“A lot of them I grew at home in Suffolk, some are wild plants and others are from gardens here in Tooting, including the Community Garden up the road.”
She looked suprised, almost shocked. “My only reference for that kind of thing are the supermarket shelves,” she said.

In that moment I realised many things all at once: that events like the Foodival show how we can come together and regain autonomy over what we eat (and drink); that you never know who will walk in the door and get switched on by something they’ve never considered before; that making space for nature goes beyond the world of nature reserves, wildlife documentaries or even pilgrimages into the wilderness. I also realised that an intrinsic engagement with the living world is what I’ve been showing and teaching in the last six years since I became part of the Transition movement; and that Transition has offered me a role where I can use my knowledge and skills to bring plants and people together in a dynamic and inspiring way.

Bungay is a small rural market town of 5000 people on the river Waveney in north-east Suffolk, surrounded by conventionally farmed agricultural land. The common idea that people in rural areas are automatically more connected with nature can be misleading. Wherever we live now much of the time is spent in artificial spaces: in front of computers, television screens, in our minds and indoors.

When I consider Sustainable Bungay, the Transition group where I’ve been most active since 2008, I see that (re)connection with living systems and considering the planet is implicit in everything we do, from the permaculture inspired Library Community garden, to the Give and Grow plant swap days to a cycle ride down to the pub by the locks of the Waveney at Autumn equinox. The very first Transition event I led was a Spring Tonic Walk introducing people from Bungay and Transition Norwich to dandelions, cleavers and nettles, the medicine plants growing in the neighbourhood.

Voilet-adorned prunes detailOur monthly community kitchen, Happy Mondays is now in its fourth year. A meal for 50 people, most of it locally sourced, is prepared from scratch in under three hours and features everything from nettle pesto and bittercress salad to puddings with foraged sweet violets or blackberries from the common.

Bungay Community Bees was formed in 2009 in response to the global pollinator crisis. There are now more than a dozen beehives in orchards and gardens in and around the town. The group has also created a purpose-built apiary (an observation shed with a hand-crafted glass hive) in association with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and Featherdown Farms. In the summer schoolchildren from the region come to visit the bees and go on nature walks where they learn about flowers and pollinators.

College farm apiary

Even behind the Give and Take days with their ethos of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refashion, Re-just-about-everything, there is the sense that the planet needs a major break from all the stuff the industrial system keeps pumping out. Nature needs a breathing space!

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A natural breathing space is among the many things that Bungay Community Library Garden offers. In 2009 a subgroup from Sustainable Bungay teamed up with the town library, organised an Introduction to Permaculture course with Graham Burnett and worked with local builders, gardeners, tree surgeons and group members to transform the unused brick courtyard with one jasmine and a honeysuckle into a flourishing community garden with raised beds, fruit trees, flowers and herbs.

BCLG 13.7.2014

Each year since its opening in 2010, the garden’s central bed showcases a different theme: plants for bees in 2011, plants as medicine in 2012, an edible bed in 2013 and this year dyes and textiles. This way people can get a feel for just how multi-faceted plants are and just how interwoven they are in our human lives. In many cases the categories change but the plants stay the same. The calendula you made a tea from in 2012, you tossed into a salad in 2013 and dyed a scarf with the following year!

The person curating the garden each year organises events around the theme. In the Plants for Life series I ran in 2012 focusing on health and wellbeing, there were monthly talks, walks and workshops with guest speakers, on everything from biodynamic growing to walking with weeds to the medicinal properties of homemade wine! I also ran ‘plant surgeries’ during the summer where people could come and ask questions about the project and the plants and exchange their knowledge too.

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The garden has become a focal point for many of Sustainable Bungay’s activities from steering group meetings in the summer to seed and produce swaps, Abundance exchanges of foraged fruit, and apple pressings. It is also the starting point for the wellbeing walks begun by the Arts, Culture and Wellbeing group last year.

The idea behind the walks was to explore local places together to encourage wellbeing and a sense of belonging. How that might increase personal, and particularly community, resilience, help combat the desire to be somewhere else and so encourage lower use of fossil fuels. Many people reported that simply by taking part in the collective walks brought an experience of wellbeing in itself.

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There is more. Recently a group called NR35 (‘Natural Resources’ 35) based on the local postcode, began to explore “how to use our skills, knowledge and labour to generate an income by sustainably managing/harvesting the resources which are wildly abundant around our rural market town.” The results include the harvesting of fruit and vegetable gluts, some of which are supplied to local restaurants and grocers and a communal firewood store. Last spring a small group of us learned how to make a dead hedge with local tree surgeon Paul Jackson. It took just a morning but I remember practically everything Paul taught us.

So what I’m saying here is that making space for nature can start right outside our doors, and in the places we find ourselves. That it’s not always the big exotic landscapes abroad where Nature is to be encountered. We need to discover the natural world where we are and engage with it, because it’s the natural world that makes sense of everything in the end.

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In 2015 it will be my turn again to curate the theme at Bungay Community Library garden, and the focus will be on ‘Helpful Herbs’ of all kinds. Lavender and rosemary are settling into bed, with thyme, St. Johns Wort, sweet cicely and others already there. And I’m working with a team on some exciting events. I’m also planning to map the project as part of a group helping to shape a new Transition Diploma, a collaboration between Gaia University and the Transition Network. Oh, and to make it into a Transition livelihood!

Meanwhile here is a picture from a plant walk around Bury St Edmunds I led in June this year with Sustainable Bury. The caption would probably go something like this:

“You can’t go anywhere nowadays without people sitting on walls looking at Hoary Willowherb!”

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Mark Watson is co-chair of Sustainable Bungay, a Transition Initiative in Suffolk, UK. Mark teaches groups and individuals to reconnect with nature through plants in the places they live. Details about his talks, walks and workshops can be found on Mark in Flowers.

Images: Talking plants and teas at Tooting Foodival, September 2014 by Chris from NappyValleyNet; Wild sweet violets adorn Happy Monday pudding by Josiah Meldrum; School visit to Bungay Community Bees’ observation hive by Elinor McDowell; Preparing the beds, 2010, Bungay Community Library garden (MW); the garden flourishes, summer 2014; Walking with Weeds, Plants for Life, 2012 (MW); 1st Wellbeing walk by the Waveney, 2013 by Charlotte Du Cann; Throwing our arms up under the cherry trees, April 2014 (CDC); Of walls and hoary willowherb in Bury St Edmunds, 2014 by Karen Cannard

Spring Tonic Wellbeing Walk – Saturday 5th April, 11am

Image3313Are you in need of a spring tonic? Why not come on our first wellbeing walk of the year on Saturday 5th April. We’ll be meeting up in Bungay community library garden at 11am, where Mark Watson will introduce the theme of spring tonic plants with an energising potful of tea. Then we’ll map out a route and set off to discover some of those very plants in the pot, and more. You’ll never look at nettles, dandelions and cleavers in the same way again!

Sustainable Bungay’s wellbeing walks started last April and soon became very popular. Every month from spring to autumn, a group of us would set out to walk the many different streets, paths and green places of Bungay, taking notice of everything we found on our way and swapping our own stories and knowledge of the area with each other.

As with all our meetings and events, anyone and everyone is welcome to join the walks. Hope to see you there.

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Spring Tonic Wellbeing Walk, Saturday 5th April, meet 11am in Bungay Community Library Garden. For more info call Mark on 01502 722419

STIR Magazine Article on Sustainable Bungay – from July 2013

IssueNo2cover-723x1024STIR magazine is a “reader-supported” printed publication which appears quarterly in the UK and beyond. STIR looks at “the inspiring and practical co-operative, commons-based and community-led alternatives to the crises in our food, finance systems and other important aspects of our lives.” In the July issue, Mark Watson wrote an article on Sustainable Bungay for STIR’s regular Transition column. The article includes a brief history with mentions of many of our projects. He republishes the column here in its entirety. The images did not appear in the printed article. The original title was Small is Beautiful in Sustainable Bungay. For subscriptions to STIR magazine see here. The Autumn 2013 issue is out at the beginning of October.

Small is Beautiful in Sustainable Bungay – July 2013

November 2007 A young zoologist called Kate stands up after a climate change conference at the Emmanuel Church in the small market town of Bungay in the Waveney Valley, Suffolk, on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.

Climate scientists from the University of East Anglia, a Met Office spokesman and local MPs have presented a sobering scenario of the effects of climate change over the coming century in our flat, agricultural waterland– from flooding and land salination to food insecurity and the possibility of malaria becoming endemic.

“So that’s the bad news from the experts,” says Kate. “If anyone’s interested in discussing what we might be able to do about it, here in Bungay, let’s meet in the lobby afterwards.”

Four people join Kate and Sustainable Bungay is born.

Sustainable Bungay has grown since then, although we remain a small, diverse group, making mostly small, local, community moves through a range of projects and events open to anyone. This is not to say that Sustainable Bungay has no influence, but we are a grassroots rather than a mainstream organisation, and often invisible.

Behind everything we do, whether it’s a Give and Take Day, themed Green Drinks, or community bike ride, is an awareness of increasing climate and financial instability and the depletion of fossil fuel resources. How do we relocalise in terms of food, energy, the economy?

In 2008 we became a Transition initiative, now a network of over a thousand groups in the UK and worldwide, aiming to decrease dependence on fossil fuels, relocalise economies and build resilience starting at a community level.

Image1707At Happy Mondays at the Community Kitchen each month, 50 people sit down to eat a meal together at one table in the Community Centre. The meals are cooked from scratch in three hours using seasonal and mostly local ingredients, including foraged food and produce from peoples’ gardens and allotments. The table is always decorated with fresh flowers and each meal has a theme with a short talk on subjects ranging from backyard hens to Mexican conviviality to food security. The crew contains experienced cooks, growers and gardeners all pooling their knowledge and experience. We’re all getting used to working and eating together again, using less energy and fostering independence from the industrialised food system.

Bungay Community Bees is a response to the worldwide decline in honeybees and the first ‘community-supported apiculture’ project in the country. The group has five hives in orchards and gardens around the town, beekeeping ‘in a bee-centred rather than beekeeper-centred way’. BCB has planted wildflower meadows, held two Bungay Beehive celebrations and has now teamed up with the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society and a nearby farm to arrange school visits to a purpose-built apiary. Every primary school in the area has signed up to visit the bees.

Hot Beds and Leafy GreensWe also work with other groups. In 2011, when the library was threatened with closure due to the government cuts, Sustainable Bungay got behind the Save Bungay Library campaign and helped organise poetry events, readings and awareness-raising days. Josiah gathered hundreds of email addresses from people supporting the campaign and we got communicating. The library was saved.

This was great, not least for Sustainable Bungay. Not only are many of our meetings held at the library, we had also built a community garden in the courtyard in 2010, a place anyone can go to read, relax or learn about plants. The central bed has a different theme each year with talks and workshops. In 2011 this was bees, last year plant medicine. This year the bed is edible!

Apart from the bee group, Sustainable Bungay has no external funding. All income is derived from Happy Mondays and donations at events. So after five years as an unincorporated voluntary organisation with a bank account, a constitution, a chairman, secretary and treasurer, we are now looking to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Why does a group of fifteen to twenty people invest such time and energy organising projects and events like Happy Mondays, plant swaps, Green Drinks and wellbeing walks, as well as maintaining a website and producing a quarterly newsletter and diary? Why does the core group have an open planning meeting every month anyone can attend? Why do we do these things?

Image3313For over fifty years in the West most of us have had the means to live an individualisticall-about-me lifestyle due to abundant cheap oil and ready credit. If we didn’t feel like having much to do with other people, we could literally afford not to. This is changing.

Sustainable Bungay and hundreds of other similar initiatives worldwide, through consistent actions within our communities, are relearning the art of working together with other people, sharing skills and helping to create a new culture, a culture that’s more about ‘us’. This ‘us’ includes people, bees, plants and the rest of the living world. We start local, paying attention in small ways to where we are, together. We do it for a different kind of future.

May 2013 SB’s new subgroup and “social enterprise”, NR35, has just laid a dead hedge in Richard’s wildlife garden.

Founder Nick Watts, said, “We are starting to think about how to use our skills, knowledge and labour to generate an income by sustainably managing and harvesting the [abundant] resources around our rural market town. NR35 is the local postcode and also stands for Natural Resources.”

Nobody had prior experience of dead-hedging except Paul, who is a tree surgeon. He taught us how to drive the stakes into the ground, build the hedge up with recently pruned and dead branches, and finally make it secure by jumping on it. These dead hedges become havens for wildlife including birds and insects who make their homes in them.

It took five of us under two hours to complete. Richard  was delighted, as was his next door neighbour. Wildlife-friendly, people-friendly, climate-friendly, the hedge seems the perfect embodiment of Sustainable Bungay. A small, beautiful, sometimes invisible thing that benefits life within and beyond its boundaries.

Images: STIR Magazine Cover Summer 2013; Happy Mondays Kitchen Crew Mexican Fiesta September 2012; Hot Beds and Leafy Greens Library Garden Workshop Poster, March 2013; Arts, Culture and Wellbeing walk, April 2013

Mark Watson is the current chairman of Sustainable Bungay, a transition initiative in northeast Suffolk: http://www.sustainablebungay.com/. He is also the distribution manager for the quarterly Transition Free Press national newspaper http://transitionfreepress.org/  He blogs and tweets as markinflowers, http://markinflowers.wordpress.com/

Give and Grow, Walk and Be Well

Image4061 - Copy (lowres)Our 4th annual Give and Grow at the Community Library garden on 20th May held particular significance this year in the light of the recently passed EU “Plant Reproductive Material Law” aiming to regulate and restrict the sale, exchange or growth of all plants unless officially registered.

This would have impacted severely upon our freedom to (legally) “Give and Grow” in the manner of even our humble SB events, had the law not been mitigated in the final hour due to pressure from growers, gardeners and lovers of plants and freedom from all over Europe. See The Real Seed Catalogue’s page for more information and why we need to keep an eye on this law (and take a look at their great vegetable seed list, too).

Thanks especially to Nick and Lesley for organising it, and to everyone who helped out and brought (and took) plants and seeds.

Don’t forget to pop in to the library and check out the permanent plant swap table, and feel free to take the plants and/or give some. Don’t be shy on either count. If you could label the plants you bring that would be great!

Our 2nd Well-Being walk took place after the Give and Grow with a group of six adults and three children setting off through town and the annual Bungay Garden Street Market, where we were joined by Sofia, recently moved to Norwich where she is studying midwifery. So here is a story in mostly pictures and some words of both the Give and Grow and the Well-being walk:

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 01 Lesley

Lesley Hartley, who is curating this year’s Edible Bed in the centre of the library garden. Note the crimson flowered broad bean to Lesley’s left. After a slow post-cold-winter start, the garden is beginning to respond to Lesley’s hard work.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 02 Lesley and Mark

Plant Medicine 2012 meets Edible Bed 2013. Mark and Lesley trying not to hide behind flowering brussels. What was that about Brussels and plants… keep giving and growing?!?

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 03 Brussels, Sign, Van

Brussels, A-Board and the big old red Post Office van, which Eloise has picked up all the large Give and Take day furniture and garden donations in over the last three years and used to deliver items to people after the events. As well as couriering display boards for Bee group events and other talks and workshops.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 03A Nick, Mark & Lesley

Nick shows Mark how to construct a make-shift seed envelope. This turned out to be a double (flowered?) version.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 04 Richard planting Primroses

Richard demonstrates how to divide primrose roots and replant them. Primroses respond well to root division and the best time to start is just as the flowers are going over. Here Richard explains that even a small section of root like the one in his hands will resprout, though a misting table is best for roots this size.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 08 Richard planting Primroses 2

A new tray of primroses.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 05 Double-flowered feverfew

Double-flowered feverfew growing out of the cracks and just about to come into flower. Feverfew leaves are a well-known herbal remedy for migraine. I’d never heard of anyone who’d actually used it till last year. A lady from Beccles came to a Plants for Life session and told us she swore by feverfew and used it any time she felt the beginnings of a migraine lurking. “Do you put it in bread,” I asked. I’d read countless times that bread helped it to be easier on the stomach. “Oh no, I just eat a couple of leaves raw. Always works!”

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 07 Tony Reading TFP

You can’t go to a Give and Grow event anywhere these days without coming across someone reading the Transition Free Press! Tony in  deep concentration.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 09 Charlotte and Tony

And isn’t that the TFP’s editor sitting there with Tony? What a coincidence!

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 10 Paul and Rob and TFP in Pocket

Goodness me! Is that ANOTHER copy of Transition Free Press sticking out of Paul’s pocket?

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 11 Straw Bale Culture by Lesley

Straw bale culture. Cucumber. nasturtiums and giant pumpkin planted by Lesley for EastFeast at the Street Garden Market.

We’ve now left the library and the Give and Grow and started our well-being walk. No one was in any rush to leave the courtyard garden though, it was so relaxing.

We mapped out the route between us deciding to go via the market to the bridge at the bottom of Earsham Street and then down Castle Lane which skirts round the castle ruins. A favourite walk for several people, some found the castle ruins romantic, some liked visiting the wildflowers and others found it an  enjoyable route for walking the children to school.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 12 EastFeast at the Market

A brief stop at the East Feast stall (love that hat, Dano!), to play a board game with the children, and then on to  Orchard End Herbs: “I know you,” I said to a young woman there. “You came to my Trade School class on rosemary and circulation at the Common Room in Norwich a few months back. Would you like to join us on our well-being walk?” “That’d be great,” said Sofia. “And I’d like to bring some friends to Happy Mondays tomorrow. How do I book?” “You need to talk to Josiah,” I said. “And he’s coming on the walk, too.”

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 13 Looking Over the Bridge

Leaving the market (and the Punch and Judy show) and heading down to Earsham Street bridge and the River Waveney. This is one of Sally’s favourite places to visit.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 14 Bridge Over the River

Waterweeds in the Waveney.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 15 Occupying the Street

Reuben leads us purposefully to Castle Lane.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 16 Down to the River

Take Me To The River, but don’t drop me in the water… at least not until August when we combine our annual picnic with a swim.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 18 Edge of Flowers

Back lanes full of wildflowers and garden escapes, from cow parsley and Babington’s poppy to shining cranesbill and grape hyacinth. One of Bungay’s delights.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 17 Sitting on the Bench

Sitting (and climbing) on the bench, before heading back to Sally’s for a cup of tea. The whole walk was very relaxed and took about an hour and a quarter. To find out when our next Wellbeing walk is, check out the Sustainable Bungay Calendar – all welcome!

Images (all by Mark Watson) Beans, peas and seeds; Lesley and the Edible Bed; Mark and Lesley behind the flowering broccoli – medicine plant bed 2012 meets edible plant bed 2013; brussels, board and red van; making seed envelopes; Richard demonstrates primrose division 1 & 2; double-flowered feverfew growing through the concrete; Tony gets the lowdown with Transition Free Press; And again with TFP’s editor Charlotte; Give and Grow and sit down for a chat; straw bale culture; garden street market with Dano; Earsham Street Bridge; waterweeds; follow the leader;  down by the Waveney; plants along the wayside; on the bench

NR35 Dead-Hedgers Society – the Over 50s Contingent

Image3822 low resIt just so happened that the five of us who turned up at Richard’s on Wednesday morning to learn how to do dead-hedging with Paul were all over 50,  and so the title of this post was the ad hoc name we came up with for that morning’s grouping. However, anyone of any age was welcome to join the new Transition social enterprise NR35 (NR = Natural Resources and NR35 is the local postcode) practical dead-hedge laying session.

Image3823 low resThis involved laying out and hammering in stakes staggered along a boundary of about twenty-five feet, and then placing and roughly weaving in branches and twigs from recently coppiced trees between the stakes. Making a hedge in this way would not only provide Richard with a decent boundary, but create a refuge for wildlife. Birds like wrens will often build their nests in dead hedges. Tony found an old nest rather larger than a wren’s, which we placed in the hedge once we’d finished.

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This was the first time dead-hedging for all of us except Paul, who is a professional tree surgeon, and who taught us with consummate calm and patience. I asked everyone how it had been for them.

Cathy: Well, it uses up an amazing amount of material you might think would be difficult to dispose of. And it’s delightful doing it with others.

Nick: It’s hard work and it makes you sweat, but I’m surprised how easily we managed to get a good end-product (the hedge), in  the space of 2 hours. And it’s brilliant we can go away and do it ourselves now.

Tony: Working as a team is really good fun. And it’s satisfying to start off with all this dead material and end up with a hedge.

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I asked Paul how he found us as a group to teach: “It’s been really satisfying. Everyone’s been very receptive and quick to learn the skills and techniques. The results speak for themselves: we have a very reasonable dead-hedge. I’ve seen a lot worse.”

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Me: I found the whole morning instructive and really good fun. I noticed that being physically engaged in building the dead hedge you got into a kind of rhythm with everyone- I would find my hands often knew just what to do. It would have taken forever to do it from a book.

Part of dead-hedging is jumping up and down on top of the laid branches when they’re at a certain height. Cathy and I held hands and pogo-ed up and down together. Later, I realised that over the years I’ve frequently bounced up and down at our events!

Just because you’re over 50 doesn’t mean you’ve got no bounce! Or that you can’t learn a new practical skill in the course of a morning in a congenial atmosphere with fellow reskilling dead-hedgers.

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For more information on Sustainable Bungay’s NR35 Natural Resources group, see here.

All images by Mark Watson: Hammering in the staggered stakes; building the hedge from the bottom up; bird’s nest; receptive and quick to learn; the finished dead-hedge; bouncing up and down on the hedge

Considering Transition community events as cultural and creative acts

by Charlotte Du Cann
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Last month as part of the Playing for Time project, a convergence of artists, theatre makers, writers and tutors met at Lumb Bank, the Arvon Foundation’s centre in South Yorkshire. We were collecting material that will form the core of the book – the practices and projects of community-led creative action. To help shape the week and to introduce Transition, I mapped out the following events in the light of the work.

The invitation

Dear contributors to Playing for Time,

I am writing a few notes on three Transition events, so you might consider your own projects and practices in the light of one very ordinary Transition initiative.

If you don’t know much about the Transition movement, this is one way of looking at it in action. Every initiative differs according to its town or bio-region, but all of us work from the same premise: to help create resilient communities that can adapt to the shocks of climate change, peak oil and economic downturn. In many ways we are working in preparation for hard times ahead – creating a low-energy future that people might want to live in, rather than fear. And one, for sure, where none of us feels on our own.

I have included links to blog posts about these three events if you would like to check them out later (no pressure!)

Looking forward to working with you all this week.

Best wishes,

Charlotte
Editor

Who we are
IMG_8261Sustainable Bungay is based in a small market town in Suffolk, in the Waveney Valley. We are unfunded and without any formal links to any organisation, or public arts body. None of the people taking part in this initiative would consider themselves artists, or these events we put on as art forms; yet thinking about creative collaboration within the context of Playing for Time, everything we do has strong creative base. We are deliberately forging a new culture for a new time, a culture not made up of operas or fine wine or complex poetry.

Our work comes from necessity, rather than theory: it’s grassroots, vernacular, based on gatherings, rooted in time and place. It doesn’t have a hero writer or diva centre stage, with an audience gazing passively upward, but takes place in a room full of participants, with an organising, often invisible, core. Everyone belongs in this space and time. Everyone has a voice.

In Bungay we all bring something to share and we all take turns. Our events are organised by one to five people and everything else self-organises. We don’t do visionings or have strategies. Most of us learn on the job. None of us are rich or influential.

We have a core group of 15-20 people with several sub-groups, who have been working together for five years, producing a regular monthly programme of talks, walks, workshops, film showings etc. that are open to all the community to attend. These include a twice-yearly Give and Take Day, monthly Green Drinks, and seasonal celebrations, such as summer picnics and seed, plant and produce swaps. Our activities are based around the local library where we built and maintain a community permaculture garden, and hold many of our meetings.

All these events were photographed and written up afterwards in a series of blogposts. Keeping a record is part of our communications work.

The events

Image1697HAPPY MONDAYS at the COMMUNITY KITCHEN: Mexican Fiesta, September 2012

Monthly meal for 50 people, cooked from scratch using local, seasonal and mostly organic produce. £5

Crew: 16 (5 cooks, 2 front of house, 3 servers, 3 set-up/flowers, 3 washers up)

Venue: local community centre

All of our meals have a theme and sometimes this is a country. Last September I directed a meal, based on Mexico (where I once lived) that took place just after Mexican Independence Day. Most of the food was locally sourced, including several kinds of chilli. Our maize, onions and runner beans were from a local allotment, blackberries from the common, Mexican sunflowers and cosmos from local gardens.

Our Abundance table was truly abundant, filled with Indian summer sweet corn and chilli plants, tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, apples, garlic etc. Mexico is a great place for convivial gatherings, and this was the theme of my short talk between courses, as well as Beans and their place in a low-carbon diet. We also had a Spanish-singing Transition a capella crew, singing the mariachi standard, Cielito Lindo.

All simple stuff. Yet it’s this attention to detail and celebration of ordinary and beautiful things at your feet and working alongside your fellows that makes such events joyful and satisfying in a way a Hollywood movie never can be.

BUNGAY BEEHIVE DAY July 2012

A daylong “celebration of the honeybee and the flowers they love”, as part of the town’s annual festival, held at Castle Meadow (one of the town commons). Free.

Crew: 16 (one event manager, one stalls manager, 3 cafe organisers, 10 set up and breakdown/stall keepers, one grower of bee-friendly plants)

Activities: stalls, workshops, plant walk, film, talks, cafe, children’s corner

Venue: festival marquee, under the trees and around town

The Bungay Beehive Day is organised by members of Bungay Community Bees – the first community-supported apiculture in the UK. The group keep community hives in different gardens and orchards around the town, teach children about bees, give talks about pollinators to local groups, work with a local nursery to promote bee-friendly plants, build their own top-bar hives, train beekeepers and have bee-related events.

Beehive Day invites several speakers, ranging from the professional (Heidi from the Natural Beekeeping Trust) and amateur (Philip, ex-surgeon and local bumblebee “expert”) to local beekeeping groups and the day includes discussions, a film and readings. The stalls sell honey and organic plants, have demonstration hives, info about pesticides etc. and there is a honey cake competition and a bee-flower walk around the town.

Beehive Day is visited by between 600-800 people, and like other SB events, is self-funded.

BCB also grow their own stock of bee-loving plants and have planted a wild flower meadow, with a local landowner, as part of a “River of Flowers” project around the town.

PLANTS FOR LIFE 2012

A series of knowledge. skill-share and reconnection with nature events, based around a Herbs for Resilience plant medicine bed at the local library. Donations.

Crew: 2 (organiser and event manager)

Venue: community library and courtyard garden

Each year the Library community garden central bed has a different theme and is curated by a different member of the group. In 2010 this was Plants for Bees and Butterflies, this year The Edible Garden. In 2012 the bed was abundant with wild and garden medicine plants, from a huge burdock to stands of tiny thyme flowers.

Each month between eight and forty people came for a talk, walk or workshop on the theme of plants as medicine. Each Plants for Life session featured a guest ‘plant person’ speaker and included medical and lay herbalists, authors, organic and biodynamic growers, and home winemakers.

“We looked at the medicine under the ground as we connected with our roots in January, learned growing tips in February, adopted a herb to focus on for the year in March, walked with weeds in April, heard about hedgerow medicine in May, made midsummer wildflower oils in June, went on a bee and flower walk in July, had our world shaken by 52 flowers in August, made autumn tonic tinctures in September, medicinal wines in October and French tisanes in November.” (Mark Watson)

We tasted, talked, foraged, shared tips and teas and exchanged seeds. Transition medicine is as much about plant knowledge and maintaining well-being, as it is about getting in synch with the living systems – not as a solitary practice but as a communal one.

Images: creatures made from clay behind our backs – workshop led by Julia Roundtree (Clayground) at Lumb Bank*; Sustainable Bungay crew with van, Give and Take Day, 2012*;  Abundance table at Mexican Fiesta, Happy Mondays, Sept 2012**; bees in one of Bungay Community Bees top bar hives***; poster for Plants for Life, Oct 2012** by *Charlptte Du Cann, **Mark Watson, ***Elinor McDowall

Happy Mondays through the Window

Happy Mondays through the window April 2013 low resNineteen degrees! That was the temperature on Monday (15th April) late afternoon in Bungay as I dropped Charlotte off at the Community Centre where she was co-cooking the April meal as part of Sustainable Bungay’s Happy Monday crew. The highest in a very low temperature year so far. T-shirts? Outside? For months I’ve only known T-shirts as the bottom layer of several (and that’s been in bed!).

was down for meeting and greeting people as they came in for the meal and had a couple of hours to spare, so I wandered round the back of the building and found the remnants of a garden there. Packed with tansy (I must make that old recipe, tansy pudding, one spring) and the odd fennel and lamb’s ear, and loads of red deadnettle,  it was the kind of place I love, a bit of a wasteground, a bit of a garden.

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I moved some of the rubbish and cleaned up a few discarded plastic jugs and containers. They might come in handy sometime.

Then I looked up, and through a window I saw the kitchen crew in the midst of preparation (it’s quite an intense experience in that Happy Monday’s kitchen, making a 2-course, multi-dish meal for 50 people from scratch in two and three quarter hours).

The menu this month was: barley and beetroot risotto, black badger peas with sundried tomato and preserved lemons, grated carrot and mustard salad and stuffed portobello mushrooms with a nettle pesto. The dessert was a chocolate crunch base topped with soaked prunes, Greek yoghurt and garnished with a sweet violet. It was delicious! And all for a fiver!

Violet-adorned prunes

Through the window in the picture at the top you can see Margaret. Though she didn’t see me at first! Each month for Happy Monday, Margaret makes sure the tables are decked with flowers and greenery and always puts on a lovely show along with the help of one or two other people.

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Yesterday she’d brought ivy, sweet violets (which also adorned the dessert), forsythia and daffodils to set the scene and we talked about everything being so late this year.

I told Margaret I’d planted some seeds from a cut flower I picked up from a roadside stall last September and they were the first to sprout of the ones I’d sown so far. The plant is a China aster called ‘Hulk’ (Callistephus chinensis ‘Hulk’) – I found that out by poring over the Chiltern Seeds 2012 catalogue from the beginning, looking at everything under Asteraceae). Luckily I only needed to go as far as ‘C’.

Margaret said she’d like to find some spare land, maybe part of an allotment that’s not being used, to grow flowers specially for Happy Mondays. Do contact us if you know of any. Meanwhile I’ve promised her to plant some of those ‘Hulks’.

“Do bees like them?” Margaret asked. “I’m trying to only sow bee-friendly plants.”

“Funny you should say that,” I replied. “I just found this picture of the Hulk on Flickr by someone called Viveka in Sweden. There’s both a bee and a hoverfly on the flowers. The picture below is of the original roadside stall bunch from last September, with the Hulk on the bottom right accompanied by dahlias, chrysanths and perennial sunflowers. The green ‘ray florets’ are actually leaves.

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Images and text by Mark Watson and Josiah Meldrum: Happy Mondays through the Window, April 2013 (MW); Washing discarded plastic jugs for reuse (MW); Chocolate crunch with prunes, yoghurt and violets (JM); Violets, Forsythia and Ivy – Margaret’s flower display for April’s Happy Monday (MW); Roadside stall flowers from Suffolk, September 2012 (MW)

NB: All text and pics subject to Creative Commons with Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives license

This (amended and expanded) post first appeared on Mark in Flowers on 16th April 2013

Well-Being and the Community, Green Drinks, 8th January, 7.30pm

What are the elements that make up the well-being of a community? And what does it mean in the context of the present and ongoing financial and resource constraints and an uncertain climate?

Throughout 2013, Sustainable Bungay’s new Arts, Culture and Well-being sub-group will explore these themes through dynamic and creative conversations and practical skills and knowledge sharing events. Come and help spark off the discussion at Sustainable Bungay’s first Green Drinks of the year, Well-Being and the Community, at the Green Dragon, on Tuesday 8th January at 7.30pm.

Everyone welcome. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Image: Echinacea in Bungay, 2011 by Mark Watson

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