Poplar Trees and Permaculture

The followng post was originally published on the Transition Norwich blog This Low Carbon Life on 18th January 2010

“What happened about those poplar trees on the corner in Reydon?” asked Penny. We were in the middle of an observation exercise in the Bungay Library courtyard. Fourteen of us were being introduced to Permaculture by Graham Burnett of Southend in Transition. It was a full-on weekend intensive and it’s going to be my main theme this week.

 “About half of them were cut down,” I replied. And admitted I wasn’t sure about the rest, which are still there, although there had been plans to take them all down.

At supper at Gemma’s on Saturday evening, I discovered that Paul, a tree surgeon and active member of the Green Party, had gone to investigate the trees and recommended they be left standing. And as far as he knew the remaining six were going to stay.

That September Charlotte spoke out on behalf of the community of trees on Suffolk Radio. And I wrote a poem. Yesterday I showed the poem to Paul. He said I should publish it. So following on from Jon’s poetry post on Friday, and given that part of the Permaculture ethos is what’s called people care (along with earth care and fair shares), here it is:


Poplar Trees and Post Offices

Most people I spoke to wanted the local post offices to remain open;
People were invited by the Post Office to
Have Their Say
People wrote, many people wrote, keep the post offices open, they said;
Most of the post offices were closed.

A lot of people love the poplar trees on the corner.
The council decided they had reached the end of their lives
And to cut them down
The people were informed – by a letter posted on the trees.
Most people didn’t know about the decision
Until the trees were being cut down.

A lot of us Had Our Say
The next letter posted on the trees was twice as long.
We were informed in councilspeak
That the rest of the trees were indeed to be murdered
(That’s my word for it).
We were told
What was going to happen.

Populus shares the same root as people
I read this week in Man’s Search For Meaning
By Viktor Frankl
The author’s experience
In concentration camps
Of being told
That you are nothing, or worse than nothing –
A meaningless number without use or value
Other than to be used until you drop.

It’s the way we are spoken to, told
“It must be done, there is no choice,
We are the experts
Your love counts for nothing
You don’t know anything.”

So Mr Expert, what do you know about the whisper of
The poplar leaves in the wind?
What do you know about the presence of the trees
On the corner
In the village where you don’t live?

And People, Poplar Trees, Populus
What do you feel
About being spoken to like that?
from ‘Knowing These Things How Do We Proceed?’ (2008) by Mark Watson

Permaculture Ethics Chart by Mark Watson, January 2010
Black Poplar Buds by Josiah Meldrum, April 2009

Permaculture Course

In 2010 the group plans to transform Bungay library courtyard into an inviting and sustainable green space and ‘living library’ with raised beds, compost bins, wormery and rainwater harvesting.

Graham Burnett talking about permaculture zoning

With this in mind we asked permaculture teacher and author Graham Burnett http://www.spiralseed.co.uk/ from Southend in Transition to run a weekend introduction to permaculture at the library in January. 15 of us from Bungay and other local Transition initiatives immersed ourselves in two full-on days of theory and practical group exercises.

Designing away...

The basis of the Transition movement (founder Rob Hopkins taught permaculture for many years), this approach is about “designing sustainable human communities by following nature’s patterns”. It works with the shapes of the living world (e.g. branches, waves, the spiral of snail shells, the scattering of dandelion seeds), rather than imposing artificial straight lines and boxes on it. Key before starting our project was how to take time to observe nature’s rhythms and cycles, rather than rushing for a quick fix.

Paul's fantastic garden

During the course we also learned how this ecological design system offers low carbon and energy saving solutions to food growing, transport, waste, the economy and community spaces.

After the weekend it was my turn to write for the Transition Norwich community blog (18-22 January), and I go into more detail about the weekend there, so do have a look.
To get involved with the library courtyard project, email Nick: transitionnick@gmail.com
To contact Sustainable Bungay email Sustainablebungay@gmail.com or call Josiah on 01986 897097

Pics by Josiah Meldrum (top and bottom) and Mark Watson (middle)

What a way to go…

by my own fair hands....

by my own fair hands....Having gone through almost paralysing fear after becoming acquainted with the concepts of peak oil and climate change, I have emerged as someone willing to do my best for our future, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I still have fears about the world my children will inherit, or even grow up in, but I hope they will understand how their environment works and be inspired to get involved with shaping it responsibly. I have to admit to a very shaky knowledge of economics, although I do question why our economy has to grow – what disaster would happen if we all had to be a little more localised or self-sufficient?

Tying in with that thought, I have been inspired to learn new skills, especially those relating to domestic productivity. Not only do they save me money, but there is enormous satisfaction in learning how to do something for myself, especially if it turns out particularly well. So far I have turned my hand(s) to marmalade, jam, elderflower champagne, bread-making and knitting. I am going to learn about fruit and vegetable bottling and sewing later this year. The greatest obstacle to success has been time management, especially with 3 young children, however a little organisation can achieve a great deal.

My latest venture has been into bee-keeping with Bungay Community Bees. There are many benefits to participating in a community group: I have enjoyed the sense of comradeship, exploration and support from both Sustainable Bungay and Bungay Community Bees – so much more can be achieved collaboratively. For example, I would love to know more about planting for bees but don’t have time to research the topic thoroughly – luckily two members of our group are particularly interested and are building a ‘bee calendar’ as one of their projects.

Carefully sliding the brood frames in and preparing to put the crown board on top

I have made many friends in Bungay, all with similar over-arching concerns, all coming from a place of concern about the future and all rolling up their shirt sleeves and doing what they can within their own lives. But best of all, everyone has their own area of particular interest and so nobody has to do everything, or feel isolated and overwhelmed. There are positive aspects for our future after all.

Sustainable Bungay 2009

planting apples at greengrow on valentine's day

January 2009 

Sustainable Bungay has so far this year presented a talk on Peak Oil and Climate Change to the Rotary Club, which sparked lively interest and discussion. Also two of our core members attended a steering group meeting in Beccles where they were invited to share their experiences in the setting up of a Transition Town. 

February 2009 

We held a Sustainable Bungay strategy day on Sunday 1st at Josiah and Ellie’s house, where about a dozen of us looked at the events and activities planned for 2009. These include our Unleashing, to take place in May, and The Big Green Market in September. 

After the above meeting Josiah set up a google group for SB, where there are discussions, files and pages. It’s already pretty active so do have a look (there is a link in the right hand side bar). You can see the notes of our strategy day in the Files section. 

Several members of Sustainable Bungay went to GreenGrow’s Apple Tree planting day on Saturday 14th in Ilketshall St. Andrew, a village just down the road. It was the first clement weather for ages, and we all joined in with the plantings, which was instructive and good fun at the same time. We learnt about varieties of apple (Ashmeads Kernel, Suntan) and about grafting varieties onto rootstock, as well as how to use a sledgehammer! (for the stakes). 

the first transition east gathering at downham market

March 7th 2009 Transition East Gathering 

The East Anglian Transition Gathering in Downham Market. There were several of us from Sustainable Bungay present at this day long intensive in Downham Market, organised by Transition Downham Market and Villages. There were several Open Space sessions in the morning and a World Cafe in the afternoon (for more on these meeting tools see The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins). This gave Transitioners from all over the region a chance for us to meet each other, network and swap experiences. Plentiful, delicious and sustainable food was provided by the hosts as well as those visiting. 

March 15th 2009 The Age of Stupid 

The Age of Stupid Film Premiere, Norwich. Six of us car-shared up to Norwich for the premiere of this British film about climate change seen from the year 2055 looking back to the present with documentary footage showing how human-caused climate change is already seriously affecting the earth and all life upon it. 

We also launched our first quarterly SB newsletter this month to be distributed throughout the town and to the local press. 

March 21st 2009 Give and Take Day 

We gave the first of our community resource sharing days with social enterprise Bright Green. Here is the press release:  

Old is the new new! With worries about climate change, peak oil and an economic recession, now is the time to value our waste. It’s great to recycle, but it’s even better for the planet to reduce and reuse. To encourage us all to help the environment and our pockets, Sustainable Bungay is hosting a Give and Take Day on Saturday, March 21st, 2009 from 10am-1pm at Bungay Community Centre. A Give and Take Day is a chance to get rid of things that you don’t want or need anymore and to pick up something that you do – all for FREE! 

Bring along any useable unwanted items from 10am on the day. These can be household and garden items, such as books, toys, bikes, tools, kitchenware, bric-a-brac, plants, furniture and clothes. If you don’t have anything to bring, just bring yourself and you might find something useful that you need. There will be information stands about a range of environmental issues, as well as fair-trade teas, coffees and locally baked cakes for a small donation. 

the give and take crew outside the community centre

With help from Bright Green in Lowestoft, Sustainable Bungay will even be able to collect bulky items, such as furniture, from your home in Bungay on Friday, March 20th and can deliver these items to their new homes on the Saturday afternoon if you can’t transport them yourself. A team of volunteers will be on hand to record items donated and taken and to sort anything left over at the end of the event. Most of the remaining goods will be donated to charity shops and similar organisations and some may be sent for recycling. We hope to have nothing to send to landfill. If you would like to be a volunteer, please contact us. 

For more pictures of the day click here

 April 4th Spring Tonic Walk

Mark leads a medicine plant walk in his wild neighbourhood in Reydon for SB and members of theTransition Norwich Heart and Soul group.

“I’d been working with plants, especially wild and medicinal ones, for many years and in many places. So I organised a Reconnection with Nature walk with Charlotte in coastal Suffolk where we live and invited fellow Transitioners from Transition Norwich and Sustainable Bungay, where we’ve been most active, to spend the day with us getting to know some of the neighbourhood plants. The main thrust of the day was to inspire others to get in touch with the plants and trees growing where they live.

We based the day on three Transition plants, Nettle, Cleavers and Dandelion – traditional herbs used to spring clean the system and help the body “transit” from winter into Spring. The walk itself was an introduction to many food and hedgerow medicines such as burdock, hawthorn, rosehip, ground ivy, damson and garlic mustard, and a guide to the main native trees. The day also featured a slide show and a delicious shared lunch, including Nettle Soup and a Cleavers Plus Tea.”

From This Low Carbon Life, the Norwich Transitioner’s blog www.transitionnorwich.blogspot.com



For a full slide show of the day click here.

April 9th 2009 The End of Suburbia 

As part of the lead-up to the Unleashing on 9th May we showed the seminal Transition documentary about Peak Oil, THE END OF SUBURBIA at The Fisher Theatre (Gallery) at 7.30pm, with a discussion after the film. 

shaun chamberlin and the sb unleashers by the bungay timeline

Saturday May 9th 2009  The Great Unleashing 

Bungay Community Centre, Upper Olland Street, 7pm 

 This is the Transition rite-0f-passage where the inititiative “unleashes” itself into the wider community and invites everyone to celebrate. We decked the hall with branches of blossoming trees and May flowers and sat at tables with different themes, ranging from Food and Farming to Reskiling. Our guest speaker was Shaun Chamberlin, author of the just-published The Transition Timeline. Kate and Josiah introduced the evening and after Shaun’s talk we engaged in round-table discussions about our Transition themes and added our insights to the Bungay 20 Year time line. En route we enjoyed Bungay tapas (locally grown, produced  food cooked by ourselves), drank local beer, cider and elderflower cup, listened to  music and lively conversation. 

Here is our press release. For a full write of the evening click here. 

Sunday June 28th 2009 Summer Picnic 

Sustainable Bungay enjoyed a shared picnic on the Old Grammar School field. This was an informal get together open to all to enjoy this community space while it’s still there. Food was shared and everyone, adults and children alike, played games on the field during the afternoon. 

Summer issue of the SB Newsletter now out! 

July 2009 

Working with CRed Suffolk and the UEA Sustainable Bungay began work on  a carbon audit of Bungay. We’ll take a sample of the town’sresidents based on the type of house they live in and ask acouple of dozen easy to answer questions. The analysis ofthese questions will provide us with a bench mark against which we can measure change and develop new projects (forexample, it could become clear that insulation bulk buying groups are a priority if very few people have adequate roofinsulation). The results will feed into the Town Plan that is being prepared by the Community Partnership. 

 We also continue meeting twice a month: every last Tuesday at the Library and every third for Green Drinks at the Green Draagon. Green Drinks provide an informal opportunity to meet and chat with people who are interested in green issues – everything from social justiceand the environment through to alternative economics and sustainable building. There is a Green Drinks network all over the world. In Bungay we meet at 7.30pm every third Tuesday of the month. All welcome. 
September 6th  Greenpeace Fair
The 20th Waveney Greenpeace Fair held at Hulver Farm at St Michael South Elmham was a lively fundraiser. Because of new restrictions on car parking any more people walked, cycled, took the bus and car-shared to this colourful, good-natured Fair and enjoyed its wide range of stalls, local bands and beer, campaign info and children’s activities.Transition Initiatives from East Anglia, including Sustainable Bungay, shared a stall in the tea-tent (which they also helped organise and run) to talk about the projects they are actively engaged in across the region.
  We are offered an opportunity to work with the Bungay Library to develop their courtyard as an activity space and growing area. Nick puts up an SB community noticeboard in the entrance and organises a set of shelves for books on the triple crunch.
September 22nd Car-Free Day
We  are celebrating World Car Free Day by cycling to Geldeston Locks to meet and greet the Zero Carbon Caravan (ZCC) as it passes through Bungay on its way to the UNCCC in Copenhagen (see Diary) . The ZCC travels from Wales to Copenhagen without using fossil fuel transportation; it has been welcomed (and joined) by many Transition Initiatives in East Anglia including Bedford, Downham Market, Cambridge and Norwich; on Wednesday it will proceed to Leiston, with some Bungay folk hitched to it.
Says Kate Jackson who organised last year’s Bungay Carfree Day with local schools: “In the positive spirit of the Transition movement we thought this evening’s bike ride to welcome the Caravan would be a good way torecreate the joy of biking together and engage everyone in the small thrills of zero-carbon travel.”
October 4th Energy Day 
We hold an Energy Day at the Library with a solar panel demonstration, alternative energy information, our work-in-progress carbon audit and of course cake!
“We will have a demonstration of alternative energy technology and be on hand to discuss different ways of reducing fossil fuels. We will also be introducing  our community carbon and ecological footprint survey. The results will provide a baseline figure for Bungay, allowing us to measure the success of our projects and to help us develop new ideas – from car clubs to group buying of solar thermal panels. And Gemma Parker (now resident cook at the Three Willows nursery) will be providing some delicious cakes and teas! You can also check out our lively notice board and selection of books about climate change and peak oil and what we can do to make ourselves and our communities more resilient.”
(from our Autumn Newsletter now out)
 November 14th Transition East 2nd Gathering
Sustainable Bungay form part of the Transition East Support Group and help organise the 2nd Transition East Gathering in Diss.
“We had a great day. In spite of the torrential weather 55 people from 18 different initatives travelled from Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex and converged in Diss. Here we are (most of us anyway) just at the end of our plenary in which we summed up the events and the conversations we had enjoyed together.
In the morning we mapped ourselves in time and space. We said outloud where we were 1) along a time line according to when and how our initiatives began and 2) where we were within the Eastern Region and what our plans were for the future. We then had an Open Space session, conducted by Rachel from Downham Market, with twelve different subjects from Insulation to Abundance schemes to Communication with the Media.
The main slot of the day was Transition Troubleshooting in which we posted our troubles on the wall and set about finding ways of dealing with them in five different groups led by the Transition East Support Team. These included Group Dynamics, Communication (inter-group and media), Facing Profound Lifestyle Changes, Burn-Out and Fall-Out and Dealing with Officialdom. This was a new creative move within the Transition process that rippled across country to Totnes (see Rob Hopkin’s post on http://www.transitionculture.org/ today).
(from transitioncircleeast a regional blog created this month by Charlotte  to report on local news and log all the initiatives in the Eastern Region) www.transitioncircleeast.blogspot.com
December 5th The Wave  

waving at the wave

Thousands of people flowed into into London to take part in a national demonstration called The Wave, organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, to call for action on climate change ahead of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Sustainable Bungay coordinated a Waveney Valley coach thanks to generous support from the Co-op.

Earlier organisers, Kate and Rita flew the SB flag at the Climate Emergency Rally in Norwich and spoke about some of the solutions we were engaged in. On Dec 6th both starred in BBC’s The Politics Show, talking about Transition and the Bungay Allotments.

On December 23 we all meet for a Christmas Party at Kate and Rita’s to celebrate our very full Transition year.

How Bungay Community Bees Works

Bungay Community Bees – a Natural Beekeeping Project: With Honey Bee vulnerability in mind, Bungay Community Bees aims to manage hives in as sustainable a manner as possible. We are not a commercial venture and honey production is viewed as a bonus rather than a prime motive for bee keeping. We aim to use two or three systems over the next few years until we find one that suits us and the bees best. As a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture we have a proposed plan to expand both hives and beekeepers as follows:

Year 1: how we fared in 2010
During our first year 37 members were recruited. With subscriptions set at £20 we raised enough money to buy 3 National Hives with basic equipment, smocks and veils, insurance for 2 keepers, training for 2 more keepers and 2 nucleus’ of bees. In addition we had 1 hive, some equipment and some bees donated to us.
Members chose to participate as much or as little as they wished. This meant that although we never saw some members they were still receiving regular updates by e-mail, reports of the monthly summer meetings and a copy of the 2010 end of year summary. Visits to hives and any other significant events were also written up as a blog on the website. Others chose to attend meetings and visit hives and a new sub-group considering planting for bees was begun.

Year 2: how we fared in 2011
During our second year we recruited just under 50 members, again paying £20 each. We trained another beekeeper but have yet to set them up with bees, she will get going in Spring 2012. We did get a small honey harvest which we used to bake some honey buns at a group meeting with the surplus being shared out to those that wanted some. The first top bar hive got used but unfortunately not for long as wasps drove the bees out.

The Plants for Bees project got off the ground with a flourish, as did the Education and Outreach one. As a group we grew quite rapidly and have had to adopt a slightly more formal set-up, with roles and leads more tightly defined. Alongside this we have set up a programme of meetings and events for 2012, each of which will be followed by a newsletter.

Year 3: plans for 2012
In the third year we again hopefully recruit a similar number of members, again with subscriptions remaining at £20. We aim to train another two beekeepers and build our colony numbers up so that each is responsible for two hives. If we succeed the honey and wax share will increase.

Plants for Bees and Education and Outreach will continue to develop their projects.

Potential benefits for members include:
• Visits to the hives with the BCB beekeepers to learn more about apiculture
• The possibility of having a hive in garden (if the site is suitable; hives will only be tended by insured BCB beekeepers)
• The chance to attend monthly summer meetings, often with a hive visit and a topic of interest
• The chance to attend a beekeeping course paid for by BCB with the Waveney Beekeepers Group, followed by being set up with one or more of the group hives.
• An invitation to the honey harvest and bee party every Autumn.
• Regular updates and photos via the BCB pages on the SB website.
• A share of the wax and honey. BCB will be as much about caring for bees as about bee products: yields cannot be guaranteed and, certainly in the first few years as the hives establish, are likely to be very low and possibly non-existent.
• The opportunity to join either of our 2 sub-groups; plants for bees and educational/outreach projects.

Year 4:
Consolidation. A similar number of members are recruited, again ideally the same as in years 1, 2 and 3 with the subscription fee to be determined depending on the wishes of the group. General concensus could ask for a reduced fee or for funds to go towards education or planting within the community. The only expenditure is insurance for 6 beekeepers, consumables and extra equipment that might be required. During this year the merits of the various hive types are assessed.

Year 5:
Same as year 4, or the group might decide to repeat the growth cycle for a little longer.
Over time the honey and wax share should increase to the point where a £10 annual investment delivers an excellent return in honey and other hive products – but it could also be that in some years we produce little or nothing.

If you’d like to join us for the 2012 beekeeping season please click the button below and fill in the form:

Bungay 'Unleashing'

A big thank you to everyone involved in organising the Unleashing and to all those who came along (just over 70 in the end) – it wouldn’t have been quite the same without you!

Special thanks to Shaun Chamberlin who gave up his Saturday night, trekked up from South London, and gave us a fantastic presentation. His coverage of peak oil and climate change was incredibly lucid and really helped to set the context within which Transition, and indeed everything, works. Shaun went on to talk about the importance of cultural stories, the timeline process and the power of community action; suitably inspiring and empowering after the reality check presented in the first half of the talk.

  • If you’d like to have a look at Shaun’s website, Dark Optimism, it’s here.
  • If you’d like to buy a copy of his book, The Transition Timeline, we still have a few copies left and can offer them at £8 (ex. post and pack – we also have some copies of theTransition Handbook at the same price).

We’ve uploaded some photos of the unleashing here. If you took some pictures and would like to share them do get in touch (contact email in the top left hand box), we’d love to see them.

We also got some positive press coverage with articles in the Bungay and Beccles Journal and Waveney Advertiser and the same article in the EDP (hard copy) with a mention on the front page of the Waveney edition.


What happens next?

The Timeline: Over the next few days the Timeline – created at the Unleashing, will be transcribed and posted here. By joining Transition East and then becoming a member of the Bungay Group you’ll be able to add to the Timeline. Alternatively you could send us your thoughts via the google group or our e-mail address (both also in the left hand column). Even better, come and meet us all in person. Every third Tuesday of the month we host a Green Drinks event at the Green Dragon in Bungay. The next one will be on the 19th May, there’s a poster here with all the details. On the fourth Tuesday of the month we have a more formal meeting where we manage on-going projects and discuss any ideas that emerged at Green Drinks in more detail; do get in touch if you’d like to attend.

Projects / Theme groups: There are things that the group are already doing, such as planning for the next Car Free Day (22nd September), the Big Green Market or the Carbon Audit and we’d welcome extra input on these. But a whole host of new ideas emerged at the Unleashing – from gardening at the library, through setting up a community supported agriculture scheme, to insulating our homes better. Unlike many Transition groups we probably won’t split into theme or sub groups immediately, instead we’ll wait to see what happens at the next few meetings and how the Bungay Timeline changes our current thinking.

Bungay Timeline

Spring Tonic Walk April 2009

One of the main things about getting involved in a Transition Initiative for me was the realisation that I might actually be able to share some of what I know with others who might be interested. In the meetings of the Norwich Heart and Soul, Arts, Culture and Well-Being group I’d been attending, for example, I was keenly aware of sitting in a room with all sorts of different people, every one of us with something of value we could do or share.

I’d been working with plants, especially wild and medicinal ones, for many years and in many places. So I organised a Reconnection with Nature walk with Charlotte in coastal Suffolk where we live and invited fellow Transitioners from Transition Norwich and Sustainable Bungay, where we’ve been most active, to spend the day with us getting to know some of the neighbourhood plants. The main thrust of the day was to inspire others to get in touch with the plants and trees growing where they live.

We based the day on three Transition plants, Nettle, Cleavers and Dandelion – traditional herbs used to spring clean the system and help the body “transit” from winter into Spring. The walk itself was an introduction to many food and hedgerow medicines such as burdock, hawthorn, rosehip, ground ivy, damson and garlic mustard, and a guide to the main native trees. The day also featured a slide show and a delicious shared lunch, including Nettle Soup and a Cleavers Plus Tea.

Setting off down the lane. There were young alexanders growing in profusion. This is when they can be used as a pot vegetable. To be honest I find them a bit, well not that tasty. But they are edible and maybe there are better ways to cook them than I have tried so far. When the flowers come out in early summer the smell is lovely, like honey.

Remember to be sure of correctly identifying any plant before you eat it. Going out with someone who knows the plants is always the best bet. Here I am showing fellow transitioners Butcher’s Broom, a native and prickly plant in the lily family, aka knee holm.

Eighteen people took part in a lively and enjoyable event. Karen told us the next week that she had spent the rest of the weekend totally immersed in getting to know the wild plants in her neighbourhood, seeing cleavers everywhere and tasting all sorts of plants she never knew were edible before.

by Mark Watson, originally posted on This Low Carbon Life, 2009

Photos: Tincture and Book Table by Josiah Meldrum; Discovering Butcher’s Broom by Helen Simpson Slapp; Signature Oak by Karen Alexander

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