Where the wild things are in Bungay

longtailedtit babiesBillwebcropAs the season turns and everythings starts growing and singing and coming out of hibernation (including ourselves!) two great nature projects are springing into action. Rose Titchiner describes Wild about Bungay , the Community Wildlife Project and Blog now in its second year and the new Bungay Wildlife Monitor group

Wild about Bungay


The seeds for the Wild About Bungay community wildlife project came from Jasmine Lingwood and has since been carried forward and evolved by Jasmine’s brothers, Chris and Terry Reeve and members of the project.

The Wild About Bungay project, encourages everyone to celebrate and record the flora and fauna that we see and find all around us in Bungay and in the gardens, meadows, commons, verges, paths and waterways around the town – nothing is too commonplace or mundane to share and celebrate!  Anyone can contribute. Email us your sightings and photos and well will upload them onto Bungay’s

very own community wildlife blog for all to see and enjoy throughout the year.

The project is expanding this year, to encourage Bungay schools to contribute their wildlife sightings to the blog. A Bungay wildlife photographic exhibition will be held at the Fisher Theatre in October 2014 and a book celebrating Bungay wildlife is planned for Autumn 2015. The project is also keen to assist with the long-term, in-depth habitat survey work of the newly formed Bungay WildWatch group.

Check out the Wild About Bungay community wildlife blog for more information on sending in your sightings and photos or becoming involved in the project:  www.wildaboutbungay.com 

common newt Ian A Kirk

Bungay Wildlife Monitor group


Bungay Wildlife Watch Group has been formed as an umbrella group for all those who are interested in, care about or are responsible for wildlife and wildlife habitats in and around Bungay.

Over the next two years the group is planning to conduct in-depth, year round biological surveys of the wildlife habitats and waterways around Bungay. We would also like to keep a record of the current and potential future management plans of wildlife areas around the town.

The group is in the process of setting up a website and online biological recording system to log records for our own data as well as to feed records into the county biological recording systems of Suffolk and Norfolk.

As well as landowners and organisations involved in environmental or habitat management around Bungay, we’re keen to hear from people with a particular interest in local flora and fauna. We’re also considering running courses and workshops to help deepen our knowledge of the extraordinary wildlife and ecology of this area.

We hope to have a public meeting mid-March to early April. Until then we are discussing ideas and would welcome any suggestions, experience or help. We’ll be arranging a Dyke Dipping Day in late April or early May -to learn more about Bungay’s reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.  with John Baker  County Recorder for Reptiles and Amphibians in Suffolk. If you are interested please email Rose Titchiner on: siriusowl@gmail.com

Images: common smooth newt by Ian A. Kirk; longtailed tits at Castle Mills by Bill Davis

Transition Free Press now out and about in Bungay!

TFP_Issue3_Autumn2013_FrontPageHot off the press, the national grassoots newspaper, Transition Free Press, is now hitting the streets in 70+ towns and neighbourhoods across the UK. One of these is Bungay!

Read all the latest news and views, including a report on Sustainable Bungay’s premier community event, Happy Mondays and  featuring our very own Margaret Sheppard on the front cover!

Editor, Charlotte Du Cann writes: “Our Autumn issue runs wild, forages for books and cherry plums, gets smart about community energy and heritage seeds, stands with indigenous peoples, speaks with George Monbiot, rides the lemon bus in Sussex and a canal boat in the Midlands, rides a cargo bike and sits down at a table with fifty people in East Anglia, BUdLAAUCQAErYYqjumps into a lochan in Scotland, honours elders in Liverpool, makes cider in the North country, makes connections everywhere and a hundred other ingenious, friendly moves in the direction of a low carbon future.”

You can find your copy of Transistion Free Press at all our events, alongside our own local newsletter, Sustainable Bungay News. If you are riding the Free Bus on Sunday’s Car Free Day keep a lookout for our newspaper sales crew on board!

On-line version published here

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/

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

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

Transition Network UK Conference

This September, four of us from Sustainable Bungay went to the Battersea Arts Centre in London for the annual Transition Network Conference.

Most of the participants were from the UK, but several other countries were represented too. After a warm welcome on Friday night, everyone took part in two workshop sessions, held on the Saturday. It was difficult to choose! I went to ones on ‘Communicating Transition: Beyond the usual suspects’ and ‘Turning local food initiatives into social enterprises,’ with our very own Josiah Meldrum.

The idea behind this event is to share ideas, meet fellow people in Transition, to combat the feeling of isolation that comes with doing something radically different from the norm. And importantly, to have fun. On Saturday evening we had a cabaret and Sunday afternoon we built our own future High Street out of cardboard and string!

One of the best quotes from the conference was: “Transition connects people with their ethics and this allows us to change things.” It’s the essence of what we’re doing.  This was my first Transition conference, I doubt it will be my last.

Jonathan Hill

A Transition Camp Journey

Mike Grenville does the morning shout-outI am a reluctant traveller these days, rarely venturing beyond Bungay or Norwich, let alone East Anglia. And it’s strange. Having lived in the Americas in the 80s and 90s and experienced incredible landscapes, people and ways of life, now, after ten travel (and money)-lean years, I’ve learnt to totally appreciate the odd train trip, whether it’s going to London for the Transition Conference in September or travelling up to Norwich in the carbon conversation days through the Norfolk broads as the sun goes down.

Last weekend I went by foot, bus and train to the 5th Transition Camp in the Sussex Downs at the Wo-Wo campsite. And I loved it. From the moment I walked in when Mike greeted me and Alice handed me the key to the Little Owl yurt where I’d be sleeping, I felt welcomed and relaxed. It was a weekend where you could kick back, lead or participate in workshops and talks, sing around the fire at night and have transition conversations that the normal rush of life just doesn’t leave time for.

“These seeds,” said Rebecca from Transition Crouch End, who opened the camp in a circle around the fire on Friday afternoon, “represent what we would like to plant here this weekend, so take one as they go round and consider for a few moments what you’d like to give and receive from the Camp. We’ll put them all in a saucepan and on Sunday, they’ll be cooked up and we’ll share in the stew.”

“They are called Victor beans,” she said, holding up a postcard that was now very familiar to me. I withheld my desire to whoop out loud. But I got my opportunity to speak when we went round the circle saying what we’d like to experience.

Great British Beans“Well, I’ve already experienced something amazing,” I said. “Those are native East Anglian beans, grown very near where I live and Josiah, who runs the Great British Beans business that promotes them is a friend and fellow transtioner in Sustainable Bungay. They make great hummus and falafels too by the way and feature regularly in our monthly Happy Monday meals. Talk about making connections. If the rest of the weekend is as enjoyable as that then I’ll be a very happy camper!”

It was. From working up some great harmonies round the fire on Friday as we sang into the night, to being lent a soup bowl by Claire and dry wellies by Nigel (mine were leaking and that first night was very wet); from learning the Basque word sapori (which means ‘taste’) from Urtzi, who also taught us how to start campfires, to learning the basic steps of the Charleston with Jo in a very dark tent as we sang along to the Muppets theme song. When I just couldn’t keep step, Christy took me gently by the elbow and guided me through. The Camp was like that; friendly, fun and people giving each other a hand when they needed it.

Most people at the camp lived in East Sussex, and were involved in local transition initiatives or wanting to start them up. But there were also transitioners from London, Buckingham, even Aberdeen. Peter, who was visiting from near Aylesbury gave such a great rendition of Singing In The Rain that we all asked for an encore the next night, even though it was dry by then and the stars were out.

Everybody was asked to do a stint in the kitchen, chopping veg or keeping the water fresh in the washing up bowls. Every morning there was hot porridge, fresh fruit and bread, yoghurt and raw milk from the biodynamic Plaw Hatch Farm nearby. Lunch and dinner were equally abundant (and very tasty) and made from scratch by the good-humoured kitchen volunteers.

Yurts and Workshop Blackboards

Martin from Brighton led an introductory session the first night where we said our name out loud each time we spoke. Although the repetition felt awkward at first, I soon got used to it and remembered people’s names for the whole weekend. Not that I would forget Martin’s name. We shared the Little Owl yurt, talking and laughing late into the night and taking it in turns to keep the fire alight. Even though we’d only met briefly once before I felt like I was staying overnight with a friend from school again. It was great fun and really liberating. I reckon we could run a pretty good ‘inner adolescent’ workshop for jaded over thirty-fives! I even managed to turn three X-Ray Spex songs into lullabies and impose them on Martin before he went to sleep! (He did actually fall asleep in the middle of Oh Bondage Up Yours!).

If you ever need anyone to break the ice for a meeting so people can get to know each other, Martin’s your man. On Saturday morning he did another introductory session where each person told two truths and one lie about themselves. Where else would you find out that Lynne sang in a punk group called the Decaying Bogeys in the 70s (or was that the lie?), that Rebecca crossed the Sahara Desert, that I will be 52 next year, that Mike lived in a hippie commune on Ibiza or that Martin was a famous child star? True or False? Answers on a postcard.

Me reading from 52 Flowers That Shook My WorldOn Saturday I held a Plants for Life workshop and spoke about my work in Sustainable Bungay this year organising the Plant Medicine bed and monthly events. St. John’s Wort was the plant of the workshop, and I passed round Rose’s bright red oil for people to smell and rub on and guess what it was. Then I read out the St. John’s Wort chapter from Charlotte’s book 52 Flowers That Shook My World, which was published this year. I passed around the hawthorn leather I made for people to share at the camp and we took a look at ragwort, a plant that brings up strong reactions on any wild plant walk. See here for a balanced, sober look at this plant. The hour and a half sped by and I finished by showing people how to roll plantain balls for bites, stings and incipient cold sores.

Don arrived on Saturday afternoon with the sauna – a bright pink converted caravan with a wood burning stove. Over the next 24 hours, the brave and hardy would cool down by jumping into the nearby river. Some just sprayed water on themselves from a container outside the caravan. I, of course, jumped into the river at every opportunity! Truth or lie?

There was a fascinating workshop making Sterling engines run by Louise from Buckingham in Transition with her partner.
“Buckingham. That sounds familiar. Did you start up the herb garden there?” I asked her. ”I saw a post about it some months ago and I’ve been meaning to get in touch.”
“Yes, that’s me,” she said.

It also turned out that the rocket stove Charlotte made at last year’s camp and that now sits in our conservatory, was the product of one of Louise’s workshops. There are a hundred and one instances of connections like these, but it’ll make this post far too dense to give all the details.

The weekend was filled with workshops on rhythm and resilience, permaculture and fairy tales for children. A foraging walk on Sunday led by Tanya Lodge, focused on the medicine chest in a stretch of hedge no more than thirty feet long at the edge of the campsite field. Dock, nettles, elder, rosehips and cleavers were all discussed along with how to make tinctures and dry herbs. And the redoubtable plantain made a robust appearance at the end. Did you know that plantain helps draw out toxins and heal wounds. Chewed and kept in  the mouth it can also helps with teeth abscesses. The plantain book grows by the moment!

At a talk on fracking and extreme energy, Olly introduced the latest data on Peak Oil, spoke about the work of Frack Off and showed us a short Australian film about a rural community who have united to keep coal seam gas (CSG) out of their area.

Mark Boyle burning a £5 noteSuddenly it was 3 o’ clock on Sunday afternoon. Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man, gave a sober and unapologetic talk about our relationship with money and how it affects our relationship with the world. Speaking about money exchange as a way of saying “I want no more to do with you”, and examining the hidden pain and exploitation behind the consumer products we take for granted in our society, Mark exhorted all of us present to open and FEEL the damage that maintaining a consumer lifestyle is wreaking on our fellows both human and not, and the planet that gives us life. And to keep open and keep feeling…

Photos: Mike Grenville doing the morning shout-out of all the day’s activities*; Great British Beans in the community pot; Woodland and Kitchen yurt with Saturday’s talks and workshops*; Reading aloud from 52Flowers That Shook My world**; the pink sauna caravan; Mark Boyle burns money By Mark Watson, *Mike Grenville and **Matt O’dell

REPORT: What if… the sea keeps rising?

In the C14th barn at the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, the effects of climate change on our shorelines were discussed as part of the Festival of Transition. Andrew Simms from the New Economics Foundation gave an overview, highlighting that at the original Rio Earth Summit greenhouse gases needed to be reduced by 3% a year. Twenty years later it is now 7%, the earth’s temperature has risen, the polar ice cap is melting – and Shell has issued injunctions against every Greenpeace office in the world protesting against Arctic drilling.

He reminded us that if all the ice melts it is calculated that the seas would rise 80m (at 10m 25% of US Americans would be under water). Jenny Scofield from the Environment Agency then outlined 3 options for Shoreline Management over 100 years: 1. Hold the line. 2. Active intervention. 3. Managed realignment. She was concerned that to hold the line means we need to armour our coast too much. Tony Butler, the museum’s curator described how people have dealt with flooding in the past, from the inundation of  Zuiderzee in 1287 when 50,000 drowned, to the draining of the fens in 17th century. There are now 60 miles of coastal dykes and 90 miles of high river banks and the waterlands we live in have changed dramatically. In the 1950’s half the population was employed in agriculture, now it is 0.5%. He then invited us to re-imagine our future place in the landscape.

Text by Roger Wilfert

Image: Laurence Edward’s The Creek Men www.laurenceedwardssculpture.com

Hulver Farm benefits from the power of the Wind

In May, just before our screening of In Transition 2.0, Paul Watkin invited people to Hulver Farm, St Michael South Elmham to see his 5kw wind turbine, which has been up and running since February. Clutching a sheaf of graphs and  tables he explained enthusiastically how wind power has cut his fuel bill substantially over the last three months. And apart from building a shed to house new circuitry (mostly out of salvaged materials) he hasn’t had to pay a penny!

How is that possible? Well, the government-guaranteed feed-in-tariff (FIT) allows the Norfolk installer, Windcrop Ltd, to finance projects in a similar way to the better-known solar-PV technology. Farmers benefit from all the free electricity they can use from the turbine, and excess is fed into the grid at the premium (FIT) rate.

Planning and feasibility requirements would prevent most people from doing this – wide open space with good wind potential is needed. But thanks to the parish council chair’s casting vote at the planning meeting, Paul should be joined by other nearby farmers in benefitting financially from this inspiring shift to renewable energy in Bungay’s hinterland. And of course we all benefit from the increased  resilience of local energy supply and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Walking with Weeds in pictures and words – Plants for Life #4

It was the perfect sunny day for it. Until five minutes before we set out when it started raining. Thank goodness for bumping into Paul whilst I was doing a last minute reccy of the places and the plants we would be stopping at. Clouds were appearing. He would bring me an umbrella.

The weather didn’t seem to bother anyone though and at 2.30 over twenty of us put up brollies and pulled over hoods and set off around Bungay to see the wild plants pushing through everywhere from cracks in the pavement to churchyards to hidden alleyways behind the town centre.

And it wasn’t just the adults who wanted to come along. The children were fascinated by the plants and often knew them by name.

The intent behind the walk was to consider these uncultivated plants beyond their usual description as ‘weeds’ and look at their medicinal qualities and uses. And in line with the Spring season, we focused on the energy-moving, tonic, galvanising properties of the plants as well as how they clear and cleanse the system after the sluggishness of winter.

And there they all were in abundant supply: nourishing energisers and diuretics, dandelions and nettles. Lymphatic booster, cleanser and energiser, cleavers. Even mega Chinese herbal tonic and superfood Gojiberry, also known as Wolfberry and Duke of Argyll’s tea tree), was growing in abundance on Castle Meadow.

After the walk we returned to the library where Charlotte prepared everyone a Wild Green and great tasting spring tonic tea made from the leaves we’d collected. It included dandelion, nettles and cleavers with a sprig of peppermint and thyme from the library garden. Bungay Community Bees’ honey was an optional extra.

Next month we welcome Norfolk-based medical herbalist Julie Bruton-Seal and her husband Matthew Seal, co-authors of the best DIY handbook on making home remedies from wild plants I know, Hedgerow Medecine. Come along to Bungay Library at 3pm on Sunday 13th May, where Julie and Matthew will talk both about the book and the practice of Hedgerow Medicine. Don’t forget to visit the Garden Street Market beforehand and make it a day with plants.

Photos: pre-walk reccy checking out the dandelions and daisies (Charlotte Du Cann); Sustainable Bungay’s great new A board made by Roger proudly presents Walking with Weeds (Mark Watson); Walking up the road (me) and along the wall (Tristram); Grasping the nettle in Trinity churchyard; Wolfberry aka Goji (l) and Jack-by-the-Hedge aka Garlic Mustard (MW & Elinor McDowell); Preparing a Very Green and Delicious Tea (MW); Pouring and Drinking and Getting Galvanised for the spring season (EM)

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