Radical Roots: On Community Food Growing

0 PFT coverThis month a groundbreaking handbook about arts and social change burst onto the bookshelves. Playing for Time – Making Art as if the World Mattered by Lucy Neal was, like Sustainable Bungay, inspired by the world-wide Transition movement. As well as discussing the social and environmental drivers for change and giving detailed ‘Recipes for Action’,  the book charts the practices and projects of 64 contributing artists in 10 chapters, ranging from Land to Rites of Passage. Here to introduce the Food Growing chaper, SB co-founder and local food entrepreneur Josiah Meldrum, discusses the impact community growing (and eating) can have on our collective imaginations, looking at the origins of two SB projects, the  Library Courtyard Garden and Happy Mondays:

Back in the 1990s, when I first began work in community outreach for a small retail co-operative in Nottingham, I quickly learnt the power of food to connect people. I saw how, despite apparently very different backgrounds, people could share a passion and a purpose – whether it was about growing food organically, the social justice issues around fair trade or simply local access to good quality affordable food.

Most people feel powerless to effect the kind of big changes we desperately need to see. But I think that scale of change is within our grasp – it’s just a question of realising it and understanding the many (often very small) steps required to get there. In my experience food is often at the heart of those first steps, not only because it’s fundamental to all our lives but because shared meals, produce and growing spaces bring people together, reintroduce them to each other and, potentially, reconnect them with the way their food is produced and how it gets to their plate – even if it’s just a few radishes in a window box.

MAIN_BEN-TOVIM_PATCH OF GROUND_LONDON_Ruth BTThat feeling of doing something radical the first time you grow, harvest, cook and share something with your friends or family never really goes away. It’s the feeling that you have somehow evaded the corporate supply food chain; that you’re on the path to somewhere else. And from the point of taking control of the radishes in your salad, from securing a supply of food from local producers, you begin to take control of your dinner plate and the social, economic and environmental impact it has. Because taking our food into our own hands is a deeply political and potentially powerful act; it empowers us and makes a positive statement about how we want things to be. From this sense of agency we can exercise a lot more influence within our communities.

In the context of many Transition groups, it gives people a set of very immediate practices and a rationale to underpin what they are doing. In my own initiative of Sustainable Bungay we realised if that if we wanted to see local growers and producers flourish then we needed to demonstrate that by providing a market for their goods: by eating what they were growing. As a first step we set up a monthly community meal, ‘Happy Mondays’, which would highlight seasonal produce that was being grown in and around the town. Happy Mondays serves up 50 meals once a month, we celebrate local producers – from gardeners and allotmenteers to smallholders and farmers. But we also cook together, decorate the room, give talks about food growing and keeping hens, develop ideas, build friendships and strengthen our group.

What we have seen with Happy Mondays is that when people have gained some confidence about working together it also gives them the confidence to ask, ‘What other projects could we tackle?’. One occasional supplier to Happy Mondays is our own community garden. In 2010 the group ran a weekend introduction to permaculture and used as our case-study Bungay Library’s empty brick courtyard. 16 or 17 people came up with a design for a garden and then went about creating it. Now there are fruit trees and beds with flowers, vegetables and herbs, but it’s tiny – it’s not going to feed the town by any measure.

SeedLibrary2311Six months after we’d begun the process of creating the garden Suffolk County Council threatened to close our library if a volunteer group didn’t step up to run it for them. Suddenly there was a passionate group of people who’d organised and achieved something in that space. And they said: No, we’re not going to a) let the council close our library or b) let them assume that just because we’re interested in the library we want to run it. And we began a campaign that linked up with library groups all over the county and ultimately led to Suffolk County Council changing its policy.

Today our library is still open, still staffed by professional librarians and our community garden continues to flourish. All from the desire to grow some radishes. The community garden is a very visible manifestation of what Sustainable Bungay is all about. It’s a statement of intent. It’s saying, ‘We care about this space, we care about what happens in it and around it. And anyone can come in and join in.’

A garden is a physical presence in a community that’s visible to local politicians, community leaders, schoolchildren, everyone from faith groups to non-governmental organisations, many of whom may have no particular interest in food, but are interested in showing people different ways of doing things. It’s a public space where events and workshops can happen, where a child can have a life-changing experience. And there are intangible benefits that come to a place and people with that garden that can’t be measured or monetised, that play out with each growing season, not just over years, but over decades.

Images from Playing for Time: Fruit and veg collectors at Little Patch of Ground, London 2012; photo by Encounters Arts;  Seed Library poster by Transition San Franscisco; Fruit Routes map by Anne-Marie Culhane and Jo Salter, Loughborough University:  The Edible Garden, Tower Hamlets, London, produced by Phakama and Fabio Santos, photo by Caroline Gervay.

Extract published from Playing for Time – Making Art as if the World Mattered (Oberon Books), £16.99. Copyright Lucy Neal.

The making of Playing for Time will be discussed by the book’s editor Charlotte Du Cann at a talk on Monday 27th April, 2pm at Southwold Library.

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!

Soil moving banner

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!”

hoary-willowherb-bury-wall-14-june-2014

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

Grow and Give, Produce Exchange, Sunday October 6th, 10am-1pm, Library Courtyard

grow&giveposter2013-001It’s been a difficult growing season from start to finish* but we’re pressing on with our regular autumn “Grow and Give” to help make sure none of that homegrown harvest goes to waste. Whether or not you have surplus to bring, do come along to the Bungay Library Courtyard* between 10am and 1pm on Sunday 6th October to see what’s available, and share a brew and a chat with fellow gardeners and foodies…

*The coldest spring since 1962 meant it was hard to get seeds germinated and seedlings growing. The driest summer since 1995 meant using valuable time & lots of precious water, or resigning oneself to poor yields. As erratic weather patterns become a seasonal norm, it’s becoming increasingly apparent what real effects climate change is already having. Sharing our produce, reducing waste, and coming together to talk about what and how to grow in these testing conditions is an important way of building resilience – a key aspect of the Transition Movement.

*Bungay Library, Wharton Street, NR35 1EL

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

Give and Grow, Sunday May 19th, 11am-1pm

Almost ready for our regular Spring exchange of plants, seeds, seedlings & garden equipment in Bungay Library Courtyard. An opportunity to come and meet some fellow gardeners for a chat, a brew and some swapping – all for free!

Donations – clearly labelled please – can be dropped off at the library over the preceding days or from 10am on the morning of the event.

Edible Plants for 2013

Hot_Beds_and_Leafy_Greens

Hasten the Spring along this Sunday March 17th and join in with a Garden Workshop, “Hot Beds and Leafy Greens”, at Bungay Library at 3pm.

A chance to prepare container grown salad leaves to take home and to learn how to make a Hot Bed. There will be a taster session too and gardening chat.  Bring along some salad/veg seeds to mix and share.

2013 is the year for Edible Plants in the central bed at Bungay Library Courtyard Garden. All ages welcome, children must be accompanied by an adult.  This is a free garden workshop with donations kindly requested.

Produce Exchange, September 16th

As part of our ongoing “Abundance” work we are holding another autumn produce exchange at the Library Courtyard on Sunday 16th September, 11am to 1pm. More details below.

There is an annual sister event in the Spring: Give and Grow. Both occasions encourage use of the permanent swap area in the courtyard for free exchange of anything garden-related. There’s also an Abundance table at most SB events.

There are obvious benefits to satisfying one person’s “famine” with another’s “feast” and avoiding waste. And these events also provide a social occasion to meet friends and neighbours. But we are generally trying to encourage the gift economy within our community, to strengthen bonds and provide a support network ready for when the conventional money-system falls apart (as is normal towards the end of a debt-deflationary cycle like the present).

Plant Swap in the Library Courtyard

This almost incessantly cold spring has hampered efforts to germinate seeds for my own allotment and garden, and scuppered attempts to raise seedlings for this event – trays of seeded compost remained stubbornly barren on my garage windowsill. Would this effect be widespread and create a shortage of plants to swap? Would the forecast cloud & chill spoil what is usually such a joyous, shared celebration of the season?

So, relieved to report I think it was the best one yet: lots of SB helpers of course, a steady flow of old & new faces, plenty of plants, seeds & stories exchanged with the customary relaxed atmosphere. The rain held off and there was even some sunshine. And the courtyard does look wonderful…

 

Thanks to Lesley and Richard who worked tirelessly all day, Mark for organising a key to arrive on the morning of the event and get me out of an embarrassing hole, Gemma for cakes and Elinor for images.

 

 

Preparing the Garden for Winter and the Plant Medicine Bed

On Sunday October 30th a small, resilient band of us turned up brandishing our forks and rakes to prepare the library garden beds for their winter rest. The weather was greyer and far less balmy than at our produce swap at the beginning of the month, but Richard, Daphne, Rose and I soon got down to dividing roots, pruning bushes and potting up vibrant perennials for the Give and Grow* table. Charlotte, taking an occasional break from an eternal deadline, would come out to lend a hand and some advice on the plants.

I collected seeds from vervain, anise hyssop and calendula and handed them to people to take home. For Caroline, who was manning the library that morning and had just been in Palestine, I picked some vervain leaves to make a tea (good for exhaustion and nerves). Most of my attention though was focused on the central bed which in 2011 has been the Bee bed and which is going to be the Plant Medicine Bed for 2012.

The plan is to build from the bottom up, working with the plants that are already there and adding as we go. “Don’t move that Greater Celandine,” I called out. “It’s a major detoxifier and medicine for warts.” Also in the bed already are herb Robert, vervain, plantain, marigold, feverfew and foxgloves.

Lesley brought me a Coneflower (Echinacea) to the Transition Norwich party on Tuesday. “It’s not dead, Mark,” she laughed as we looked at this year’s wilted leaves. “It’s alive underneath.”

My intent for the Plant Medicine Bed is to rekindle (or keep kindled!) an interest in and connection to the plants we share the planet with. Quite apart from the physical qualities and use of the plants to maintain our wellbeing, having a relationship with plants in their own right is medicine in itself. With this in mind, I’m organising some vibrant talks, conversations and events to take place throughout the year (in the library and elsewhere) which will be open to everyone. Watch this space! Mark Watson

If anyone has any spare purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea, see right) at least two years old, please contact me (Mark) on markintransition@hotmail.co.uk or 01502 722419. Thanks.

* Please visit the library garden and help yourselves to the plants, which include amongst others: Oxeye Daisy, Lungwort (Pulmonaria), Alpine Strawberries, Foxglove, Feverfew, Anise Hyssop, Heuchera, Forget Me Not, Primrose, Mountain Knapweed (Centaurea montana), Hellebore and Holly. They are free, but if you’d like to make a donation to Sustainable Bungay it will not be refused!

Pics: Towards a Medicine Plant Bed 2012; Richard and I talk plants after the morning’s dig – let it be known that Richard is the main caretaker of the library community garden, without whom things would not be what they are; Purple coneflowers or Echinacea purpurea in bloom in Bungay July 2011

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