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!”

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

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

The Plants for Life Year and Belles Tisanes de France

It was a lovely way to end this year’s Plants for Life series. At 3pm in Bungay library last Sunday, we did a round up of the events and spoke about  what we’d enjoyed and learned from them. Then we took a visit to the Drôme region of south-eastern France with Eloise Wilkinson. This was via a brew of the tisanes (herb teas) and a taste of the honeys from the place where she spent the early part of her life.

Plants for Life – a quick review

Each month between eight and forty people came for a talk, walk or workshop on the theme of plants as medicine. We met mostly in the library where the central bed of the courtyard garden also showcased the theme. I curated this throughout the year, with the help of others in Sustainable Bungay, most notably Richard Vinton.

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 (never water basil in the evening, morning is always best for the roots; keep coriander moist it hates beings dried out), 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 and medicinal wines in October.

I asked everybody on Sunday to think about two things to share with the group about these events. First, a general feeling about why it had been worth coming to them, and then something specific thing they’d learned during the plant medicine year.

People expressed an increase in their general awareness of the plants around them, and were inspired by the open sharing of knowledge in the sessions. After the plantain oil-making workshop in June with Rose, Eloise said her four year-old daughter became obsessed with plantain and had spent the summer telling all her friends about it! Coming to think of it, I spent all summer doing the same thing!

Having the rhythm and continuity of a regular monthly event was felt to be key, as was looking at plants in so many different ways. “I try not to say ‘weed’ anymore,” said Lesley. “It’s fascinating to find out about how everything’s connected in an eco-system. And I’ve now embraced nettles!”

“It’s really good for the imagination,” said Charlotte. “Everything from foraging to growing to connecting with the different times of the year. And I loved the practical stuff. I knew nothing about winemaking until the session with Nick. The fight between the yeast and the sugar really grabbed me.”

Richard has loved wildflowers since he was a child, and enjoyed the tea-making at the meetings. “When you find out all the things a common plant like Yarrow can do, for example,” he said, “you wonder why you bother going to the chemist so much.”

“It’s been really productive,” said Nick. “And I’ve enjoyed all the variety. Talking of yarrow, when we went Walking with Weeds, I was stunned when you asked everybody if they recognised the leaf, and a six-year old boy answered immediately, ‘That’s Yarrow!’ ”

Newcomers Linda and Tony had both been inspired by the last few events to find out more about the qualities of plants. “Raspberries,” said Tony. “I had no idea about all the benefits of raspberries.”

For more about the specific Plants for Life sessions, do visit the archive on Sustainable Bungay’s website, where you’ll find previews and write-ups of the events.

Ô les belles tisanes de la France – A Visit to the Drôme with Eloise Wilkinson

La Drôme is an extraordinary area in south-eastern France, where three different landscapes/eco-systems meet. There are the plains of the Rhône river, the low-lying hills in the Valley of the Drôme and the bigger Massif Alpin mountains. To the south are the mountains of the Mediterranean. The three climates are continental, alpine and meditaerranean. In this place of convergence, half of the total number of plant species in France are to be found.

After speaking about the nature of the land, Eloise turned her focused to tilleul, as limeflowers are such a part of the French cultural fabric. Lime trees in France are somewhat like our English oaks in that they are the traditional tree of justice under which meetings, councils and even courts were held. But tilleul is probably best known as a relaxing and digestive herbal tea.

“When I was a young child, every evening the adults would make a large pot of limeflower blossom tea, tilleul. I’d get the really strong feeling that the evening I was allowed to join in with this tea ritual would mark my own transition to becoming a grown-up.”

There used to be an annual Foire au Tilleul (Limeflower Fair) in the area, which lasted a whole week and where the price of tilleul was fixed for the coming year. The last one was held in 2003, although there is still a (much smaller) fête.

“I think often about this area which is so unique in terms of the meeting of such different landscapes and what effects climate change and instability could have on it,” said Eloise.

It was time to drink some tilleul from the Drôme ourselves. The flowers smelt delicate with a honey sweetness to them. And shortly after we drank the infusion, several of us remarked on just how relaxing it was. No one wanted to get up from their seat.

“We might be staying the night,” I laughed.

I dragged myself downstairs to make a second pot, this time of ‘Couleurs d’automne’ (Autumn colours), which was made up of a mixture of hawthorn, mallow, spearmint and again limeflowers. Delicious, but just as relaxing. We didn’t get round to trying the sweet and resinous thyme tea, thym serpolet (Thymus serpyllum) another Drôme native, and like other thymes, a boost for the immune system.

Eloise passed around various honeys from the Drôme for everyone to taste: rosemary, lavender, limeblossom and pine. And sweet chestnut. They were all extraordinary. The tree honeys were dense and intense, particularly the sweet chestnut, with its definite medicinal smell.

Then we sat in silence for a while, infused by the teas and the honey. Infused by plants for life.

 

Community Well-being and the future

Throughout the summer I paid a weekly visit to the library garden to hold a ‘plant medicine surgery’, where anyone could come and share any aspect of their plant knowledge or ask questions. We watched as the giant burdock (blood purifier and organ restorer) became more giant and the native vervain (restorative of the nervous system) put out its tiny star-like flowers like points of light. And a common theme or question emerged from these meetings: what does well-being entail, not just on the individual but also on the community and the planetary or ecological level? Can individual well-being really exist in isolation from the whole or on a too-stressed planet?

Next year Sustainable Bungay will form a new Arts, Culture and Well-being subgroup with these questions in mind. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in and it will be the topic for the first Green Drinks of the year on 8th January at 7.30pm. The brief is open and there will be a monthly conversation, practical activity or workshop, exploring the different elements that constitute community well-being and culture: topics so far include growing food together, permaculture, meditation and creative non-fiction writing and journalism along with social and other media.

Meanwhile I would like to thank all the plant people who contributed so generously to the Plants for Life project this year, those who came to speak, to listen, to join in… and to those growing all around us. Mark Watson

Connecting with our Roots, Jan poster; Adopt a herb with Dan in March; Eloise showing the map of the Drôme, Tisanes and honeys, November; Plants for Life on the ‘A’ board and drinking tisanes in the library, November; talking well-being with Christian and Fairy by the plant medicine bed in Bungay community library garden, July; Walking with Weeds, April All images and artwork by Mark Watson

Tisanes – French Herbal Teas, Plants for Life #11, Sunday 25th November

Everyone is welcome to the final in the series of this year’s Plants for Life talks, walks and workshops at Bungay Library, 3pm on Sunday 25th November.

Flower and herb teas are strongly rooted in the French way of life. Eloise Wilkinson, who was brought up in France, will be bringing along some of those teas for us to taste and she and Mark Watson will talk about their uses and medicinal properties.

Mark will also do a brief review of the Plants for Life series this year.

So do come along and share some of the Magic of French Tisanes. We look forward to seeing you there.

Sunday 25th November, 3pm
Bungay Library, Wharton Street, NR35 1EL

 

Plants for Life 2012 – a Sustainable Bungay project

All enquiries: Mark Watson 01502 722419 or email markintransition@hotmail.co.uk

 

 

Plants for Life #10 – 'For Medicinal Purposes' Winemaking Session – Review

For our 10th Plants for Life event last Sunday, Winemaking – For Medicinal Purposes, Nick Watts invited a dozen of us to his house for a practical demonstration of how to make fruit wine, in this case (sic) from raspberries.

Nick’s front room was filled with people,  funnels, demi-john’s with deep red liquid and when you opened the door of any one of the cupboards you would discover a large container filled with a fermenting fluid. One demi-john contains enough for 6 bottles of wine at 750cl per bottle. Nick calculated he had about 80 bottles of wine fermenting at the moment.

First we took a look at some of the medicinal qualities of  raspberries. I’d been aware of the raspberry leaf  as a uterine tonic during pregnancy and childbirth and have used it along with yarrow to make a salve for piles. But for me raspberry fruits were always a delicious sign of high to late summer, picked fresh or bought from a roadside stall, and eaten long before they made it home to be turned into anything else culinary, let alone medicinal.

Raspberries, in fact, are incredibly rich in anti-oxidants and vitamin C. Eating them can help boost a poor appetite and they are useful in arthritis. See Hedgerow Medicine, by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal,  for an excellent chapter on the many virtues and uses of  the raspberry, both leaf and fruit, with some great herbal recipes.

Penelope Ody in her book 100 great natural remedies has a simple recipe for raspberry vinegar: Soak 500g fresh raspberries in wine vinegar for 2 weeks, strain thick red liquid into a bottle and use in cough syrups, as a throat gargle or add to salad dressings.

Nick took us through the winemaking process in three stages, starting off a new wine and then using ones “I’d prepared a bit earlier.” He was keen to point out he was not an expert, having started about three years ago, but had really got into it and was happy to share what he knows with people.

This was the essence of not only this session but also a main impulse behind the whole Plants for Life project, and indeed Sustainable Bungay as a group and the wider Transition ‘movement’: If Nick could make so much and such decent wine (not to mention his delicious dandelion and burdock beer) from home and allotment-grown and foraged fruit by just doing it and immersing himself in it, then anyone with sufficient interest and initiative could. Watching Nick describe the process and go through it physically with a friendly group of people was absorbing and instructive, as well as good fun. It was a true skill-share.

What follows below is not necessarily the whole story, but what I learnt from Sunday’s session.

STEP ONE
In a big bucket with 3lb raspberries (you can choose your own fruit, almost any will do), Nick poured on 5pts of water and added a teaspoonful of pectin enzyme to prevent ‘pectin haze’. He then mashed the raspberries with a wooden spoon and covered the liquid with a tea towel (very important esp. in summer to keep insects out).

This is left for two days.

STEP TWO 2 DAYS LATER
Add to the bucket between 1kg and 11/4 kg of sugar (preferably fair trade/organic, white) dissolved in 2 pts water off the boil. Add 1 tsp dried yeast with a little sugar all dissolved in some of the fruit liquid in the bucket.

It’s the yeast that turns the sugar into alcohol and the more sugar the sweeter the wine. Nick uses less (1kg) as he likes a drier wine.

This liquid is then stirred 2-3 times a day over the next four days, and the process is called ‘fermenting on the must’.

STEP THREE 4 DAYS LATER
This is the messy bit, where you strain all the liquid through a muslin sieve, before funnelling it into the demi-johns and putting an airlock on it. This is then left to ferment for between 3 and 18 months until there are no longer any bubbles to be seen in the airlock. During the fermenting process a stable temperature is important. Nick doesn’t worry too much about whether it’s warm or cool, just that there is as little fluctuation as possible.

STEP FOUR 3-18 MONTHS later
Decant into bottles and leave for 1-2 years depending on the fruit. Raspberries need less time than elderberries, for example.

After the demonstration, Nick invited everyone to taste some of the wines he’s made. My favourite was the dry and fragrant Elderflower and Rosehip. I took half a bottle home and tried a glass with a dash of elderflower cordial – for medicinal purposes only, of course. And it was the perfect antidote to the recent gloomy days of continual rain and lessening light.

Photos: Raspberry wine fermenting in demi-johns; Nick instructing; Mashing the raspberries; Straining the liquid; Cheers on a rainy day (Mark Watson)

Plants for Life #10 – 'Medicinal' Winemaking Demo – 21st October – Book Now!

Please Note: This winemaking demo is now fully booked, but if you’d like to come contact Mark (details below) and if there are cancellations we’ll let you know.

As we head into autumn, our 10th Plants for Life session will be a practical demonstration on making fruit wines at home (‘for medicinal purposes’, of course). Nick Watts will show us the ropes (and the demi-johns), whilst Mark Watson will talk about the medicine of some of the plants the wines are made from.

Date: Sunday 21st October
Time: 2pm (please note  we are starting an hour earlier than usual)
Place: Nick’s House, Bungay

There is space for a maximum of 12 people at the event, so booking is essential. To guarantee a place and get directions, call Mark on 01502 722419 or email markintransition@hotmail.co.uk

The demonstration is free of charge but we welcome donations to help cover costs and materials.

Look forward to hearing from you and seeing you there!

Photo: Nick preparing elderberry wine, October 2012, by Mark Watson

Plants for Life #9 – Autumn Berry Tonics and Tinctures – 23rd September, 3pm


Do join Plants for Life in Bungay Library on September 23rd at 3pm, as we take a look at (at least) three of the native, local trees and bushes which provide berries as medicine and food.

We’ll be talking about hawthorn, elder and sea buckthorn specifically and demonstrating how to make berry tinctures, but if you have any herbal tips or knowledge you’d like to share with people about berries and fruits, come along and join in.

This is the 9th in this year’s series of talks, walks and workshops on plants as medicine – the sessions are open to anyone and everyone, whether you know anything about the subject or not. Look forward to seeing you there. Mark Watson

Plants for Life 2012 – a Sustainable Bungay project

All enquiries: Mark Watson 01502 722419 or email markintransition@hotmail.co.uk

52 Flowers That Shook My World with Charlotte Du Cann, Sunday 5th August, 3pm, Bungay Library

For our eighth Plants for Life event this year, don’t miss Sustainable Bungay author Charlotte Du Cann as she takes a radical look at medicine plants with a reading from her just-published book 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth (Two Ravens Press, 2012).

52 Flowers is the result of a ten year exploration of the living territories of the earth and the plants, places and people connected with them, as the author moves away from a high-energy, high-octane lifestyle towards a more earth-based life; an ‘energy descent’ experienced firsthand.

You can read more about it by clicking the above link, and also here.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Bungay Library is in Wharton St., Bungay, NR35 1EL

Plants for Life Review and What's Coming Up this Summer

The Plants for Life series of walks, talks and workshops on plant medicine continues to gather pace. In April we Walked with Weeds around Bungay and explored their medicinal qualities. In May, Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, authors of Hedgerow Medicine, brought herbal tinctures, plant syrups and huge knowledge to a packed library as well as an elderflower water with the most incredible aroma. And in June we learned how to make wild plant oils and ointments of plantain and St. Johns wort with Rose Titchiner, visited Outney Common for wildflowers and discussed plant families at Green Drinks. So far there have been between a dozen and forty people at the Sunday sessions.

These events are a great way to meet up with other people interested in finding out more about plants and the medicine they bring. They also provide a space for anyone to share their own knowledge of and direct experience with the plants. It’s all about paying attention to the earth’s living systems, and fostering well-being on an individual, collective and planetary level by connecting with those systems.

In the Wild Plant Oils session a woman described how eating feverfew leaves at the onset of a migraine worked for her every time without fail. You can read this fact in a hundred herbals but when you hear it from someone with firsthand experience it brings the whole thing alive.

Back at the library after Walking With the Weeds, we drank a fresh Wild Green tea Charlotte had prepared whilst we were out, and which someone afterwards told me was a total revelation! And a Japanese friend wrote saying how much she enjoyed the afternoon and wished us “Good luck, Weeds Professors!”

You can also read a short article I wrote about Plants for Life in the well-being section of the preview issue of the new Transition Free Press (p.13). Printed copies are available from Bungay Library (along with the latest Sustainable Bungay newsletter), and updates on many of the articles can be found on the TFP website.

Plants for Life this Summer

Here is what we have planned for the summer. This coming Sunday 15th July Plants for Life meets Bungay Community Bees at the second Bungay Bee Hive Day, when I will lead a Bee & Flower Walk around town at 12.15pm, starting at the marquee on Castle Meadow and including a visit to the Plant Medicine bed at Bungay Library.

Last year twenty five of us explored a meadow, alleyways, wastegrounds, Margaret’s garden, a car park and the community garden – all in the centre of town and within the space of an hour. For the full (and full-on) programme of this year’s Bee Hive day click HERE.

 

Shake, Rattle and Roll with 52 Flowers

On Sunday 5th August don’t miss Sustainable Bungay author Charlotte Du Cann as she takes a radical look at medicine plants with a reading from her just-published book 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth (Two Ravens Press, 2012). Charlotte will also be doing a bee-focused reading from 52 Flowers at Bungay Bee Hive Day, 15th July at 2pm.

And on September 23rd at the Equinox and as the season turns we’ll be learning about (and sampling) some Autumn Berry Tonics.

Both the August and September sessions are at the library at 3pm

The Plant Medicine Bed

And the Plant Medicine Bed in the Library Community Garden? On my latest visit, Friday 6th July the elecampane and burdock were giant, the vervain growing tall, the thyme tumbling over the wall of the bed. The self-heal was coming into flower and the buddleia preparing for its 2012 blooming. We’ll be looking at and talking about Burdock, amongst other plants on the Bee and Flower walk next Sunday.

Everyone is welcome at all Plants for Life events. If you want to know more about plants as medicine or share what you know, come along. There is no charge but donations are happily received.

NB: I will be at the library garden most Fridays during the summer between 1 and 3pm for a ‘plant surgery’ and to talk about the Plants for Life project and events. Come and say hello.

So far I’ve been joined by Carol Stone, permaculturist, wild bee lover and co-ordinator of no less than forty six community food projects in Devon, on a visit to Norfolk with her partner Nigel. And Christian and Fairy, recently back from a year in South America and finding their feet again in Suffolk. Fairy gave me a hand tidying some of the ox-eye daisies which had been bashed around a bit by the recent winds and rain, and we spoke about everything from Ecuador to Elecampane to confronting  mass negative assumptions about getting older.

I also removed armies of slugs and snails and transported them to a nearby wasteground and spoke with Richard about slug pubs, though we haven’t got round to making them yet!


For all info on Plants for Life events and the Plant Medicine Bed 2012 at Bungay Library, contact Mark Watson: 01502 722419, markintransition@hotmail.co.uk, or check this website for regular updates.

Images: Outney Common wildflower walk, June 2012; Josiah gets into legumes with Great British Beans at midsummer’s Green Drinks; at the Wild Plant Oils workshop with Rose, June 2012; Bee and Flower Walk Bungay Bee Hive Day July 2011*; 52 Flowers That Shook My World by Charlotte Du Cann – cover; Six of the Plant Medicines in the community garden, July 2012; discussing Burdock with Richard, July 2012. All images from Mark Watson except * from Muhammad Amin

Plant Families at Green Drinks

At our midsummer Green Drinks at the Green Dragon (29 Broad Street, Bungay), Tuesday 19th June at 7.30pm, Mark Watson and Charlotte Du Cann will introduce the theme of Plant Families and talk briefly about the many roles plants play in our lives and life on earth. This will be followed by an exploratory and interactive discussion around the theme. Everyone welcome, do join us.

Mark is the organiser of the Plants for Life 2012 series of talks, walks and workshops and curator of the Plant Medicine bed this year at Bungay Library Community Garden. He has worked with plants for many years and also designed this poster. Charlotte is an author, editor and community activist. Her new book, 52 Flowers That Shook My World (Two Ravens Press), is the result of a ten year exploration of plants.

For all enquiries and information on this event or the Plants for Life series as a whole, contact: Mark Watson 01502 722419, email: markintransition@hotmail.co.uk or check this website www.sustainablebungay.com

Plants for Life 2012 with Sustainable Bungay

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