Palmer Park Community Orchard

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I’m excited.

For a while, we’d been talking about the idea of planting fruit and nut trees on public land around Reading. In many ways, it seemed like the perfect Transition project: a chance to sequester a little carbon, while providing free, healthy, local, organic food for local residents, creating a pleasant atmosphere and promoting local community. We’d been in contact with Reading Borough Council and Woodley Town Council, trying to get them to let us carry out planting projects on their land, but we hadn’t had any response.

Knowing that the wheels of local government can turn pretty slowly sometimes, we’d resolved to keep politely nagging away at them, but were starting to lose hope until the 29th of September when both councils came back to say they’d like us to go ahead! It seems that Council Parks departments are like buses – you wait ages for one to let you plant edible trees on their land, and then two come along at once.

Following this, Transition Reading had a projects meeting where we decided to start by focusing on one site first and looking to make a success of that. One week ago, Beth and I met with the lovely representative from Reading Borough Council’s Parks department in Palmer Park, to talk about planting a community orchard behind the stadium there.

From the Council’s point of view, they’re keen to draw people in to this under-used part of the park, and they’d like the area to be attractive, while also maintaining good visilibility to discourage “anti-social behaviour”. Beth and I learned that the RBC’s parks dept planted a community orchard in Mapledurham Fields in Caversham last year and this weekend we travelled out to Caversham to take a look at the site – 88 fruit trees neatly planted around a central clearing for community events. It was clear that a lot of thought had been put into selecting fruit tree variants with complementary flowering and fruiting periods and the site seemed carefully laid out and attractive.

We agreed to put together a plan for the Palmer Park site and to take it back to the council for approval. They will then have to bring the project through a consultation period, to ensure that the local community are happy for us to go ahead.

I think now is the time for us to contact local community groups, to get their input about the kind of trees that they’d like us to plant. If we can get people’s input now, I think we can start to build a sense of ownership that will get people using and helping to maintain the orchard later on. It’s also a chance for us to publicise the project and to start to reach out for funding.

In terms of design, I think we can meet the council’s requirements for neat appearance and visibility, and local people’s preferences for the kinds of fruit trees they’d like, while also planning for the site to be self-sustaining in terms of fertility and pest-resistance. It’s going to take some juggling, but I think it’s possible.

Overall, a Palmer Park community orchard seems like a big project and slightly overwhelming, but at the same time, if we break it into little steps and put our evergy into it, I really think we can make this happen.

If you’d like to be involved, come and let us know at treeplanting@transitionreading.org.uk.

Rich

Oak trees and Sunflowers

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On Monday night I was lucky enough to be elected as the first official coordinator
of the Reading Transition Town group. To all those present and those who voted for
me and the other posts, I’d like to say a big thank you and I hope that I can fill
the shoes of Dave Allen who, as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, was the real
first coordinator for these past 18 months or so and who chaired the meeting.

I was not the only one elected and a number of posts have been filled:

Treasurer
Ornella Trevisan

Communications Officer
Nathan Perrin

Secretary
Sarah Drummond

Special thanks to Sarah as she stepped in at the last minute to volunteer her services.

There are a number of additional non-executive members on the committee too, these
are:

  • David Allen
  • Chris Burden
  • Alan Clark
  • Ruth Hutchinson
  • Sabrina Piergossi
  • Matilde Robinson
  • Russell Seymour

We also ratified our constitution which has been carefully put together by Nathan
helped by many others in the group. Beth Scott was taking minutes and I’m sure all
the details will be posted to the yahoo group and website soon.

We agreed, very early on, that the group is to be open and welcoming and to that
end we finished the evening with fun and games as well as the usual socialising
which always seems to result in some interesting discussions and a project or two!
My role, although it sounds somewhat grand, is just an official role we needed to
fill and I expect many others to chair meetings and take the lead on the varying
projects which I hope will come up over the next year pretty much as we have been
doing over the last few months. Which brings me to my subject.

As I was walking home after the meeting, I was trying to sum up what I feel Transition
Reading should be striving to achieve and two things struck me. First, that the
evening had been a milestone for the group, a point in time that will be remembered
and a catalyst for the future. We had planted an acorn from which the oak of Reading
Transition will grow over time. Then I remembered how eager a lot of the people
at the meeting were to simply get on and do things. They don’t want to wait for
the oak tree to grow, they want fast growing sunflowers that they can watch grow
quickly and feel like something is happening.

I hope that we will do both over the next year. We need to strive with the hard
behind the scenes organisation and enjoy the immediacy and impact of the projects
that people will think of. My aim is to make these things happen and to really bring
together a lot of the environmental groups and people in Reading.

Now, where did I put those sunflower seeds!

Peter Ruczynski

   

September 1st Meeting

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Little Green ApplesThe glass half-empty part of me was fearing our first open meeting might be a let-down compared to our inaugural event. I needn’t have worried. Turnout was strong (around thirty of us) and everyone arrived keen and full of ideas to take us forward.

Minutes from the meeting follow below. Thank you Alison for your diligent note-taking skills!

Transition Town Reading meeting minutes, 1st September 2010 @ RISC

Short version:
Important dates:
Monday 6th September: East Reading neighbourhood group meeting (contact Madeleine).
Monday 13th September, October Festival event working group. Great Expectations, 7:30pm.
Monday 20th September, all TTR meeting, 7:30-9:30pm, RISC.

Actions:
Nathan:
put lists from first event onto www.transitionreading.org.uk.
Not owned:
find contacts for neighbourhood group that have none right now.
All:
Contact Misha (cermakovamichaela “at ” gmail.com) if interested in joining Abundance project.
All:
Join TTreading yahoo group, and read Transition Town primer if you can.
Nathan & Jeremy:
add google resources map to web site.
Principals subgroup:
co-ordinate principals discussion, and present back to whole group.
Peter R.:
set up yahoo groups for TTReadingNorth, TTReadingEast, TTReadingCentral, TTReadingWest.

Ideas:
Consolidate into North, South, East, West and Central Reading neighbourhood groups to begin with.
Join abundance project if interested.
Support TFC.
Food preserving workshops.
Local leaflet (newspaper) on what is going on.
Stall at Farmer’s market.
LETS give a presentation to TTR.

Long version:

Apologies: Madeleine, Ruth, Rob W., Liz J., Alan C. and others.
Attended by many (estimate 25+)
Chair: Sabrina
Minutes:  Alison

Agenda discussion:
Sabrina proposed:
– Where are we now?
– Where do we want to go from here?
– How are we going to do this?
– to include roles for people in groups (chair, minutes, finances).
Sunil added:
– (We are) transitioning us as a community as well as ourselves. Proposed an agenda item for a group for outward and inward transisition.
It was addded:
– Space for discussion on what exactly is a Transition Town.
It was proposed:
– Should have a summary of last event.
It was asked:
– Role and relationship between Transition Town Reading (TTR) and GREN.
– It was suggested that this followed on from a principles discussions.

SUMMARY OF LAST EVENT:
David described In Transition event:  well attended, film screening, followed by small local groups working on questions <TO DO QUESTION>. The responses from these questions were collected into lists which will be put on the website. Local groups have started to form from that first meeting.

*Action*: Nathan to put lists from first event onto www.transitionreading.org.uk.

Discussion followed:

Nathan: Transition model is not prescriptive, idea is that we acknowledge issues, collectively agree and work on what we can do to move to a low hydrocarbon future. We should reuse best practice and links with what is already happening.

Ornella:  Important to create neighbourhood *local* groups. Collaboration with GREN could be on different themes.

David: Our Transition Neighbourhoods are larger than some transition towns!

Suggestion to all: GO TO TRANSITION NETWORK to see what is happening.

Andrew: We should prioritize possible actions and concentrate on the ones that have highest impact. It’s about education too. Andrew has background in energy analysis. E.g. stopping car use much bigger impact on energy reduction compared to not leaving appliances on standby.

Sabrina: What expertise can we all bring?

Jeremy: we (everyone) needs some way to feedback to the group.

Russ: (in response to Andrew’s point): every action valuable because it’s part of an attitude change.

Sunil: Inclusivity: some people may be”doers”, some “thinkers”, find a way to include everyone.

Points also contributed:
How do we keep communications between the neighbourhood groups? Suggestion: e-bulletin.
We need to learn from groups outside TTR boundary,

WHERE ARE WE NOW:

Round-up of the transistion neighbourhood groups:

East Reading: Group has formed. Covers New Town and Uni area. Madeleine is the contact, dealing with mails. No email (e.g. yahoo) group yet.

South Reading: Group has formed. Yahoo group created, Peter R. is moderating this.

Then some discussion on how we make sure we keep communications going between the group: we don’t want create islands in creating neighbourhood groups. Idea of online groups (e.g. yahoo) with RSS feeds into the hub, as well as the idea of group contacts going along to “hub” meetings. Nathan explained existing Transition Town hub model.

Caversham:  an email has been sent around from the last meeting, but a group hasn’t really got off the ground yet.

Earley: groups hasn’t really formed yet. Graham H. was keen on using a centre in Earley.

Central: Group not really got off the ground. The people in this group at the In Transition meeting were actually spread over quite a large geographical area.

*Suggestion*: Consolidate into North, South, East, West and Central Reading neighbourhood to begin with.

Peter W. mentioned model of 10. Ideal group size being 10, if a group gets bigger split it down.

Sabrina: suggested project division possible rather than regional.

Many people mentioned retaining flexibility.

Some discussion of existing projects, e.g. mobile cider press (use of one has been offered by Thame group).

Ornella: As well as practical projects, wants an exchange of ideas and projects. Ties in with knowing what each person’s skills are.

Lead to discussion on similarity with LETS.

*Suggestion*: Peter asked if LETS could give TTR a presentation.

Jenny noted that there could be things that you’d want to share (skills) in TTR but wouldn’t have necessarily put on LETS database.

Suggested that we need to think about TTR and LETS.

Local projects:

Food related, “Abundance Project”:

Paul H. and Micha explained the Abundance project concept, history of it from Sheffield, and attempts/ funding to set up an abundance project in Reading. Anyone interested in taking part in the Abundance project should contact Micha (cermakovamichaela “at ” gmail.com).

Interest in learning preserving skills. Merry knows a lot about this. Michele mentioned idea of workshops on cooking suggested for / at RISC.
*Suggestion*: Cooking workshop teaching how to preserve.

Chris: (related to Abundance), need to think about who will benefit, e.g. giving away food could impact TFC (for example).

Andrew: important to educate ourselves on the effect of our actions. For exaple, if everyone cooked food from these fruits then we could be increasing fossil fuel usage. Education and attitude very important.

Peter W.: part of TT is reduce carbon footprint. Learn how to preserve without cooking.

Sunil: transition from mwhere we’re at. Abundance redices food miles. We should have an eductain element in everything we do.

Chris: shouldn’t cook the good fruit. Trying to reduce the reliance on distant produce by replacing woth local produce.

Heather: Does all this suggest a couple of principals?
“What value does it have?”
“The community value is the value”
Following principlas would help in identifying projects.

Sarah: If there were extra fruit, we could give away with a leafletraisinmg awareness of TTR.

Peter W.: reinforced Sunil’s point, chance to educate on apples, always with an eye on fossil fuels.

Richard: We should know where the food goes, and we shouldn’t overproduce.

Nathan: We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. Acting with good intentions. Educate and want to do right thing. And accept if later find out that should have done somethong different.

Sabrina: In figuring out what todo, look beyond right/wrong, good/bad etc, instead look a helpful/unhelpful. Transition is about coming together with different skills.

Energy related projects:
Paul H.: on GREN website info on a meeting with Islamic Trustees of Env, FOE & reading Energy Pioneers. To tell people how they can use feed-in tariff.

Sabrina: Contact Sabrina for info on Reading Enegry Pioneers projects, including purchase scheme for Photo Voltaics.

Discussion:
Sunil: Find out about existing projects. SUPPORT TRUE FOOD – IT IS AT RISK OF CLOSING DOWN (www.truefood.coop).

Paul R: Suggested an A5 leaflet with info on what is going on, combine with True Food leaflet drop. Include hints and tips.

Jeremy: make it a local newspaper.

Sabrina: Possible leaflet subgroup?

*Suggestion*: Do a True Food leaflet drop in your area.

Chris: (food related, taking away trade from local shops. Only give away in certain situatin, otherwise charge, but less than others.

Jeremy: Had started a google map of where notice boards, true food etc are.
*Action*: add google resources map to web site.

Jeremy: Had followed up on Diana’s idea of stall at the Farmer’s market. Has spoken to John at market and TTR could have small (2m) table. Need to follow-up on what we could do with this.

Jeremy: (added at end of meeting) Has found a company that does biodegradable banners. Anyone interested in sharing the cost (approx £100) for a TTR banner?

PRINCIPLES DISCUSSION

Sunil: “12 steps” to transition. TT is flexible, based on patterns that can be updated.

Dave: 12 principals based on permaculture principals.

Pete W.:: The ethics are:
Care for Earth.
Care for People.
Fair Shares.

Paul H: won’t sort out the principals now. Suggest a structured seesion to do this, or an online collaborative doc (e.g. a google doc) that all can refine.

Ornella: If small group working on this should be mixed.

Concern that a small separate group not participatory enough.

Peter: rather than creating new, find out what is already there. Read resources on web.

Richard: has material on process that could help.

Veronica: We should all go to local library and ask for TT handbook.

Dave: offered to put together a draft of principals for discussion.

Sabrina: Don’t want to loose preexisting stuff, want to add our concerns.

Peter W.: Principals and patterning are around designs. We need to sort out ethics first.

Russ: getting bogged down in semantics. We should base ourselves on what has already be done. We will have a feeling on it. Think it will grow organically.

Dave: If we become a Transition Town, then we will get more support from the network.

*Action*: Subgroup to form to coordinate the principals task, and will feedback to the larger group, where there will be an open discussion to form TTR’s principals & ethics.

NEXT MEETINGS

Monday 13th September, October Festival event working group. Great Expectations, 7:30pm.
Monday 20th September, all TTR meeting, 7:30-9:30pm, RISC.

At next meeting we need to cover how we share the load.

Volunteers needed to chair and take minutes at next meeting.

Everyone please…
Join the TTReading yahoo group so that we can stay in touch.
Read the Transition Town primer if you can.

Barriers, Antidotes, Projects, First Steps…

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Further to our inaugural meeting on 19 August, here is the exhaustive list of barriers, antidotes, projects and first steps we collectively identified during the meeting. Thanks to Peter for collating these:

Barriers

  • Time
  • Popular Culture
  • Health and Safety
  • Built Environment
  • Lack of Government Vision
  • Government Buy In
  • Fear of being poor
  • Lack of Open Space/Common Ground for flats
  • Too much work
  • Individuals can’t make a difference
  • High cost of public transport
  • Majority won’t follow
  • Wrong Priorities
  • Convenience/Lack of will power
  • English Reserve
  • Lack of Time
  • Isolation
  • One person against a lot of officiation
  • You think you have no time/effort/experience
  • The infrastructure is too “built”
  • Lack of experience (knowledge)
  • Home-life + family can be an obstacle
  • It’s not cool [instant, fast, sexy]
  • School teachers are not trained properly
  • Lack of real democracy
  • Values (success = ?, happy = ?)
  • Social isolation
  • Fear
  • Sparing Time
  • Fast Food
  • Lack of focus
  • Fear of change
  • Disillusionment
  • Overwhelmed by enormity of challenge
  • Lack of Leadership – Big Picture; Co-ordination
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Knowledge
  • Apathy
  • Distance – Lazy
  • Lack of Energy/Motivation
  • Negative Media
  • Time – Lack Of
  • Alternate Agendas which conflict
  • Apathy and Inertia of People
  • Government Buy In
  • Public Embarrassment

Antidotes

  • Pop Culture (Education – Home Economics, Environmental Issues, Control the curriculum)
  • Time – 1) Live locally/work locally, 2) Get let out early for Environmental Work; 3) Flexi-time, 4) work from home
  • Work locally
  • Self discipline
  • Support the next step
  • Baby Steps (Start small)
  • Take care of motivation
  • Do some (one) thing that grabs you + a friend
  • Rebalancing our lives and priorities
  • No buts – take it into our own hands
  • Using Noticeboards – mapping/knowing where they are
  • Facebook
  • Keeping in touch
  • Use freegle
  • Acknowledge activities people are already taking and reward them
  • Change what you value
  • Just do it anyway
  • Individuals take responsibility
  • Joanna Macey (workshops) – Inspiration from fear
  • Be the change – lead by example
  • Web-based info that shares Reading’s usages and positive effects for community to see/appreciate
  • Local community gathering – street party to celebrate community (promote)
  • Community Notice Boards – some way to communicate events
  • Competition – Who (Houses) use the ‘least gas’ or ‘Recycle the most’ etc
  • Get message across to all sorts of established groups e.g. Churches, W.I. Etc.
  • Start Young – educate the children
  • From little acorns… Small differences
  • Optimism
  • Willpower

Projects

  • Garden Shares linked to allotment waiting lists
  • Recycling rewards (as vouchers?)
  • Food preserving group
  • Better publicity for local business/farmers markets etc
  • Land share
  • Community Allotment
  • Community Composting
  • Harvest from peoples gardens/fruit trees etc
  • Web site that informs people how to get around reading on foot/bike etc.
  • Sharing Skills (Reading Lets)
  • Freecycle
  • Community Agriculture/Veg box schemes
  • Time for people
  • Community Gardening
  • Landshare
  • Passing on gardening skills to young people
  • Community on old Avenue School Site
  • Community garden on Ennerdale Road (derelict site)
  • Have a vision of creating a brown field eco village
  • Establish Agroforestry/Wild Fruit
  • Educating People about edible plants
  • Getting more young people involved
  • Petition local MP/Council
  • Community projects for renewable energy (e.g. Wind Turbine/PV)
  • Energy Efficiency + Retro fit
  • Car Share
  • Landshare (under utilised -> utilised for crops + Food)
  • More allotments form community land on short term lease or on floodplain (create more capacity)
  • Selective traffic assistabce – Only yeld to small or multi-occupancy cars
  • Car sharing with neighbours
  • Sharing resources/produce
  • Garden sharing
  • Getting to know our own neighbours and their possible needs
  • Shared garden scheme organised by existing local group
  • Food and resource exchange network
  • Rreading “Pound”
  • Fruit collecting Scheme
  • Big Society

First Steps

  • Buy Local
  • Boil Kettle Once – use thermos flask
  • Run car off waste veg oil
  • Share some knowledge
  • Tell a freind what we did tonight
  • Use books instead of computers (effectively)
  • Drink tap water (not bottled)
  • Use bike (always) not car
  • sew seeds
  • Wood burner for heat
  • Pick food from the wild larder
  • Consider electric car
  • Rain Water Harvesting
  • More intelligent food buying
  • Reject, Reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Buy less packaging (food)
  • Use true food coop as well as supermarket
  • Walk if possible instead of driving
  • Reduce Lawn – use mulching
  • Plant a seed
  • Washing on line – not tumble drier
  • Washing/Hot water/Central Heating – turn down the heat
  • Reduce red meat consumption
  • Chimney Balloon
  • Replace my fridge
  • Composting
  • Using old tyres to grow potatoes
  • Plant veg garden
  • Car boot sale
  • Persuade son to switch things off e.g. Shower while soaping
  • Start growing veg using Square foot gardening
  • More careful driving to conserve fuel

TTReading

  • Community ideas – compost, garden help, litter pick, information sharing, block parties promoting transition
  • PUBLICITY
  • Community groups create ideas and lead on it
  • Network with other areas – share success
  • Proper Cycle Routes
  • Formalised Hub
  • Keep communicating – build awareness
  • Keep us in touch with one another
  • Eco-squat
  • More meetings to establish practical needs/actions
  • Publicity group to educate and inform and recruit
  • Big party – with renewable energy
  • True food to take up residency in a local pub
  • Coherent Strategy
  • Everyone bring 5 people to a future showing of a film
  • Share info and best practice
  • Formalise networks with an exchange town (i.e. Transition Town twinning)
  • Form a local sub group
  • Run a re-connect event

Oh, What A Night!

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Hot August NightA million thanks to every one who turned out to support us at our first public event – Transition Comes to Reading! I think the team would agree that the evening surpassed expectations in almost every way. If you were there, I sincerely hope you were feeding on the common sense of hope and positive energy as we were. Additional thanks go to those of you who stayed on after the In Transition screening to give your input, in spite of the somewhat stifling conditions.

All of your input is valuable to us. We are taking forward the ideas that you proposed that evening and would urge you all to attend our next meeting. Full details can be found here.

The Transition model is a refreshingly positive approach to a set of problems that may seem insurmountable right now, but if we try our hardest to make our neighbourhoods more resilient ones, we might just do it together!

See you next time!