Sustainable Nick – A souvenir issue

SB newsletter NICK PRINTThis week saw the departure of one of Sustainable Bungay’s key movers and shakers, Nick Watts. To celebrate his very active presence amongst the group and to wish him well the comms wing of SB wrote and produced a special newsletter as a farewell card. Here it is!

Welcome to our souvenir issue of Sustainable Nick! A newsletter all about our fellow community activist, the grassroots economist, winemaker and grower and sharpest notetaker on the block, Nick Watts.

After 20 years living in this fine old town, and six in the challenging new era of Transition culture, Nick is moving with his family to South Wales. In celebration here is our autumn edition that charts his unforgettable contribution to the group.

Nick burst into Sustainable Bungay our annual Christmas party in 2008, and almost immediately took up his notepad and become the Secretary for all our core group meetings. His organising skills and dynamic energies have been key to all our activities from Give and Take Days to Green Drinks to running the Greenpeace Tea Tent in 2011. He also seeded and led several innovative new projects (see below) and inspired many folk to get involved.

Communicating the hidden worlds of finance however was what perhaps fired him the most. ‘Skintnick’ felt people really needed to know the facts around the fragile and illusory nature of our monetary system. His talk, A Tale of Two Curves – On the conspiracy of silence on natural limits and economic growth in June 2010 was a witty, full-on whistle-stop tour of economic history, and explored ways in which we might become resilient within the Transition framework and the local economy.

IMG_6654During 2011-12 when the Occupy movement had the world thinking about money in a new light, Nick was often to be found at the Occupy Norwich camp speaking about the radical changes needed in the global banking system. He also organised a thrilling nighttime march up to Norwich Castle to commemorate Robert Kett and the Norfolk uprising against the “hard-hearted elite” in 1549.

In an interview with co-chair Mark Watson, Nick explained how being involved with the Transition movement changed his life. “You become friends with people you’re working with on a common understanding, for a common good. Transition casts a different light on everything you do. You’re thinking in a bigger way about the systems that underpin our lives, but acting from where you are.

Image2084“You’re simplifying your life so you are less dependent on a high income, high energy use and the industrial food system. Peak Oil presents the very real possibility of these fossil-fuelled ways of life being taken away. I see it as a responsibility, especially if you have children, to take it seriously.

“None of knows exactly what is on the cards for the future – but our bet (6-4 favourite) is that Sustainable Nick will make the valley he is headed for a greener, more switched on and joyful place.

One thing is for sure: we will all miss him here in low-carbon Bungay. Thanks for everything Nick and happy moving!

Images: On the move: Nick with the all-important chair, Give and Take Day, 2011; making medicinal raspberry wine, Plants for Life workshop, 2012.

Happy Mondays

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Food is never far from Sustainable Bungay’s collective heart and from the off our events have been accompanied by homemade cakes, seasonal soups and even our local take on tapas. But it was Nick who suggested we should turn eating into the main event.

Like a lot of good ideas Happy Monday was dreamt up in the pub – it was to be a regular meal demonstrating much of what SB is all about; supporting the local economy, working co-operatively, and celebrating farmers and gardeners in and around Bungay.

Unlike a lot of ideas discussed over a pint this one has grown into a very real and successful venture – thanks in no small part to Nick, who having come up with the idea, organised the first meal (a pie and mash night) in May 2011.

33 Happy Mondays later and almost 2000 meals have left the kitchen since that pub chat. Nick has been involved with every one of them; cooking, supplying home-grown vegetables, buying local produce and demonstrating his formidable washing-up skills. We are now left with a wonderful legacy for the Community Kitchen the future. Cheers Nick!

IMG_4445On the shelf

As a one-time booksearcher and keen to keep folk abreast of the thinking around peak oil, climate change and economic downturn, Nick devised a special lending shelf at Bungay Library. Over 50 book, as well as printed documents on everything from dig gardening to the debt crisis, were available to anyone who was interested. The Library has since disbanded the section and the books are now available for sale. An invaluable resource for people looking at the bigger picture. Green and Transition titles will be available at Happy Mondays on 19th October(see Simon Bloom)

In brief 

IMG_2179-300x225In 2010 Nick took the lead in creating the Bungay Library Community Garden. In January Sustainble Bungay held a permaculture course taught by Graham Burnet off Spiral Seed. Their mission: transforming the bare brick courtyard into a flourishing showcase garden. Working to the collaborative design Nick co-ordinated a team of volunteers, who built raised beds and filled them with donated soil and compost, plants and trees, as well as installed rainwater butts and a composting bin. The Gardem opened the following year with a great celebration has since hosted dozens of events, including the bi-annual Give and Grow plant and produce swaps, also organised by Nick. It’s now a hub for many of SB’s activities and a peaceful and sustainble green space for all the community to enjoy.

for-dad-204NR35 was another plant-based enterprise devised by SB’s green-fingered entrepreneur. Based on Bungay’s postcode the NR35 (‘Natural Resources’ 35) group 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 and distributing of fruit and vegetable gluts, some of which are supplied to local restaurants and grocers, play area regeneration, dead hedge making and building a communal firewood store.

Tea with Everything; Nick, Margaret and Charlotte at the SB Tea Tent, Greenpeace Fair, 2011The knowledge: Nick (and cat) at Bungay Community Library party, January 2013; Quartermaster’s stores: Nick and fellow members of NR35 with firewood stash, October 2012

Raw Food Demos at Giddens & Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Making Space for Nature in Sustainable Bungay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College farm apiary

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

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.

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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

The Hemp Field – talk at Bungay Community Library, Sunday 28th September, 11am

chapter 2Our final event of The Dye Garden season, The Hemp Field promises to be a fascinating exploration into the hidden history of local hemp production -one of the world’s most useful and sustainable crops.

Three hundred years ago, the Waveney valley was at the heart of the East Anglian hemp weaving industry. Today, no active traces of the industry remain, but has left legacy of place names and a precious heritage of textiles in local museums.

Tim Holt-Wilson (former Curator of Diss Museum) will give a talk explaining the Waveney hempenspun and allied linen industries and their legacy in landscape and culture today.

The Dye Garden
is part of the Library Community Garden, created by Sustainable Bungay in 2009. The showcase central bed changes each year and during the growing year the Garden hosts plant and produce exchanges, events and workshops around its chosen theme from bee-friendly flowers to medicine plants.Our 2014 events have looked at key dye and fabric plants from the perspective of artists, makers, curators and growers and have provided a practical and imaginative insight into our relationships with cloth and colour through time.

We’ve found out about the great blue plants – woad and indigo, dipped cloth into blackcurrants and marigolds, been on the art trial with Black Dog Arts, swapped fennel seeds and pressed apples, learned how to prune pear and cherry trees, and marvelled at the giant artichoke in the central bed, along with St John’s wort, cosmos, dahlias, feverfew, madder, green alkanet and a host of colourful and useful flowers.

Hope to see you at our final event on Sunday! In October we will be preparing the garden for winter and the swapover to our 2015 theme, Helpful Herbs.  All welcome.

The Hemp Field will be on Sunday 28th September, 2014 at 11am at Bungay Community Library, Wharton Street, Bungay. Free. Donations welcome. Further information: www.sustainablebungay.com. or contact Charlotte Du Cann theseakaleproject@hotmail.co.uk (01502  722419)

 

Happy Mondays at the festival marquee (recipe here)

Sustainable Bungay’s “Community Kitchen” crew got busy on Castle Meadow preparing a 2-course meal for 115 diners.

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Margaret leads the setup crew, organising tables and the exquisite Turkish-themed decorations to the venue.

Angie and Terry spud-bashing before turning their hands to the finer aspects of preparing the feast. All of our fresh ingredients came from local smallholders and retailers.

Josiah sourced (and cooked) quinoa from a farm he works with in Essex (contact <josiah@hodmedods.co.uk> if you want to buy some.) The recipe for our adaptation of Kiser is given below.

Lewis got the job of prepping all the salads!

Gemma and Christine with the lemony courgettes get ready for service.

Lots of other volunteers make it possible for us to make a modest profit despite using top-quality ingredients and charging only £5 a head. Thanks to everyone who helped make this event such a success.

We’re proud to say that by careful segregation of recyclables and compostables we consigned just 1 carrier-bag of rubbish to landfill in the process. Promoting low-carbon, community-focused lifestyle choices is a key part of Sustainable Bungay’s work.

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Kiser with quinoa (serves 2-3)

1 small onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp salt

60g quinoa, 2 tbsp tomato purée, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 240 ml boiling water, 50 g toasted walnuts

Little gem lettuce leaves, fresh mint and coriander to serve

Soften the onion and garlic in the oil.

Add the spices and cook for a few seconds.

Add the salt and quinoa, tomato purée, honey and balsamic vinegar and mix well.

Cover with boiling water, cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the quinoa is soft and the liquid absorbed.

Take off the heat, add the walnuts, roughly chopped and set aside to cool.

Fill the lettuce leaves with spoonfuls of the mixture and sprinkle with the chopped herbs.

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Photos and washing-up thanks to Simon Bloom 😉

 

Library Community Garden and Bungay Gardens Art Trail – Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th July, 12 noon – 4pm

5124818We’re on the Trail! This weekend the Library Community Garden is taking part in the Black Dog Arts Garden Art Trail. We’ll be here to guide you round the permaculture garden Sustainable Bungay created in 2009, where we keep a showcase bed and run a progamme of events around different themes, from bee-friendly flowers to medicine plants.

This year we have focused on dye plants and Mary Sprake from Black Dog Arts – who gave a great talk here on woad in April – will be displaying some of her true blue fabrics in this very green courtyard.

Each year Black Dog Arts organises a Garden Art Trail around some of the hidden gardens of Bungay. Here is their invitation: “You can stroll round the town and discover great garden gems and the garden art and craftworks inspired by them.

There are approximately 9 gardens open this year mostly within the town centre but a few will be on the outskirts making this more of a diverse tour. The gardens are picked because they are all well hidden and have their own interesting features.

There will be art in all the gardens consisting of sculpture, ceramics and paintings/drawings and textile work. Also included is our Allotment Society.

BCLG 13.7.2014Refreshments will be provided at one of the gardens.

Proceeds to Black Dog arts to fund workshops in much of the art media.

Cost:
£2.00 for entry to all gardens (though entrance to the library is free)

How to get event passports:
Leaflet maps available from Bungay library in Wharton Street or shops, businesses and community buildings throughout the town.

Further information:
Phone: 01986 893 550

Website: http://www.opengardens.co.uk/open_gardens.php?id=226

Wildflowers at Bungay Castle

BCB’s Gemma Parker has worked with Jasmine Lingwood’s family to create a wildflower area at Bungay Castle. The following is an update from Gemma:

When Jasmine died in 2012 she was kind enough to ask for funeral donations to go to the Bungay Community Bee Group. As Jasmine was a member of Suffolk Wildlife Trust and keen to see wildlife thriving in the area we wanted to use the money in a way that very much reflected the work she did during her lifetime. In the summer of 2013 a group of like minded people along with Jasmine’s family got together at Bungay Castle to see about creating a wild flower area for bees & pollinating insects. With the permission of the Castle Trust we decided that a pilot area should be planted to test whether our idea would work successfully. Using Rose Titchner’s expertise along with experience of sowing a wild flower meadow in Flixton we proceeded in the Autumn to lift the existing turf & sow two wild flower mixes (details of the exact flowers can be found below) ready for flowering the following Spring.
In April 2014 a plaque was erected in memory of Jasmine & the work the bee group has done and the pilot space has developed into a beautiful flowery area. This is a great motivator to extend the area & create a bee border along the castle.

Wildflowers at Bungay Castle

Meadow Mix for Sandy Soils: Yarrow, Common Knapweed, Wild Carrot, Viper’s Bugloss, Lady’s Bedstraw, Oxeye Daisy, Common Toadflax, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Musk Mallow, Ribwort Plantain, Hoary Plantain, Cowslip, Selfheal, Meadow Buttercup, Bulbous Buttercup, Sorrel, Bladder Campion – plus Meadow Grasses (to prevent bareness in winter): Common Bent, Sweet Vernal Grass, Crested Dogstail, Fine-leaved Sheep’s Fescue, Sheep’s Fescue, Slender Creeping Red Fescue, Smaller Cat’s-Tail.
Cornfield Mix: Corn Cockle, Corn Chamomile, Cornflower, Corn Marigold, Common Poppy

Topping Top Bar Afternoon

The sun shone and the bees were busy. Always good news when one wants to look at a colony of bees. I have a horizontal Top Bar Hive (hTBH) in my garden which has had bees in it for two years now, last week they swarmed and gathered handily on my trampoline so now there is a Top Bar nuc box as well. They will be transferred into a hive when the weather improves.

Top Bar hives are a relatively recent introduction to the UK so it was a chance for  interested people to come along and see one in action as well as play around with an empty one. As with any social gathering cake was present, every one of which had bee-pollinated ingredients; chocolate, oranges, lemons, almonds, cherries and of course, coffee.

Bee chat :)

Cakes, all with bee-pollinated ingredients

It’s easier to adopt more ‘natural beekeeping’ or apicentric beekeeping methods with a Top Bar Hive, but Bungay Community Bees  also has conventional National hives and a soon to be tried out modified National (to make use of our spare National equipment without using printed foundation wax sheets – but more of that in a later post). Two of the biggest advantages to a Top Bar Hive are that the bees build their own comb and that when you inspect by opening the hive up only a small section is revealed at a time, thus retaining nest scent and warmth as much as possible.

Get closer!

 

Looking through the glass panel

 

Comb of stores

 

capped honey at the top, nectar in the centre. Fallen comb inside and on the left.

capped honey at the top, nectar in the centre. Fallen comb inside and on the left.

You can see inside and to the left a comb recently fell from the bar, the bees have  attached the upright portion to the follower board, which isn’t terribly helpful from a beekeepers perspective but I have left for now. The horizontal portion is being harvested and the wax used elsewhere. We only inspected a couple of bars this time as I didn’t want to disturb the colony too much, the new queen should be hatching soon.

We had a quick peek inside the nuc box  to see how they had settled in over the week. I had expected  all the syrup I gave them as back-up to have gone but it was only  half gone so they were obviously managing well even with two days confined to the hive due to weather. I had also expected to see maybe two or maybe three bars of comb but they had built on every bar (six in total) although the last was very small still. Happy Bees

Top Bar nuc one week on

 

New comb in Top Bar nuc

If you are interested in any of  our different hive types please get in contact and we can arrange for you to see them. We have hTBH’s as mentioned and are also getting to grips with some Warre (stacking Top Bar Hives) at the moment. They all overwintered well and have produced several swarms already.

We now have a facebook page on which our beekeepers post regular pictures and updates, just search for Bungay Community Bees and ‘like’ the page to receive them.

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