Transition Tynedale Newsletter October 2020

Eds. Stuart Page, Matty Bevan, Megan Payne, Kevin Smith and Pixie Jewels

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Hello everyone, it’s great to be getting back in touch again after the disruption of the past 7 months. It would be nice to think that by now we would be emerging from Covid-19 restrictions back into a more normal place, but unfortunately that doesn’t look likely for some time yet.
This newsletter has a few updates for you: on-going projects that have continued through the pandemic; some things we’ve stopped doing for the time being; and some things that we need to address – some with a degree of urgency if TT is to survive and thrive.
But the main aim is to re-establish contact with and between TT members and interested non-members alike. Dialogue on things that matter to us, suggestions for new project areas, and particularly offers of help and volunteers for keeping TT running will all be very welcome.
The Status of TT – what’s its entity and shape
Currently we only have 2 Directors (Stuart Page and Kate Bramfitt) and a Treasurer (Megan Payne). We have no management committee, although we do have a couple of volunteers looking after communications (thanks to Kevin Smith and Pixie Jewels for that!).
Having limited company status means we need people to fulfil a small number of formal roles – such as Directors (minimum 3), Treasurer, Secretary, and a few others to make up a management committee.
TT was established as a limited company back in 2012. This was done to limit the legal and financial liabilities that members might otherwise face when organising events and activities.

Annual General Meeting

We will hold our next AGM Wednesday 9th December, 7pm by Zoom. At the meeting we will need at least one additional Director appointed, as well as people to join a management committee. As above, any volunteers for these roles would be very welcome. The zoom invitation link will be circulated through this email list nearer to the date.  

On-Going Activities
We still have a number of well-established projects and activity areas (see below), although unfortunately some of these have been affected by Covid-19 restrictions this year. As for emerging new projects, the last few years have been pretty quiet for TT (with the exception of HS4N – see later). However, following last year’s AGM, and a strategy day that followed in January this year, there did seem to be more of a ‘buzz’ apparent, with some new members joining and some interesting new ideas for projects. Unfortunately Covid-19 then took the wind out of our sails, so we need to try to pick up where things were left back in January.
Our usual monthly meetings have been suspended since the pandemic. Although face-to-face meetings are unlikely to be an option for some time yet, we could meet via other means, e.g. Zoom. Is there an appetite for resuming these meetings? What do people think about the best way of doing so? And importantly, again, who would be able to volunteer to organise them?

Project Updates

Hexham Spaces for Nature (contact: Andy Lees)
Hexham Space for Nature is a new volunteer project started last year which aims to ‘create space for nature and maximise the opportunities for wildlife in Hexham’s parks, open spaces and gardens.’ 
About 12 months ago we had just started to talk with Hexham Town Council and Northumberland County Council to propose some changes in the grassland opposite the cemetery and some changes in the Sele Park.  Nine months later those conversations have started to bear fruit.
Areas of long grass were left to grow through the summer in the Sele Park. In September and October of this year volunteers have planted over 1000 wildflower plugs, corms and bulbs in these long grass areas and in the new woodland wildflower border that we started last year. Funding for plants and seeds has come from Northumberland County Council and the Waitrose Foundation.
Opposite the cemetery, wildflower seeds were sown last autumn and in the summer there were hundreds of flowers of the parasitic plant yellow rattle.  Now that the grass is being managed as a meadow with a hay cut in August, these annual plants will set seed and grow again every year.  As they do, they will reduce the strength of the grasses, allowing some of the perennial wildflowers to come through in subsequent years.
Next year we plan a swift bird box project, a series of guided walks in spring to introduce Hexham residents to their local wildlife and further plant introductions into the Sele.  We have also made contact with a number of residents in Priestlands, Highford Estate, Hackford and East Hexham to explore where we might work together.
Seeing betony, violets and primroses appearing in longer grasslands around Hexham will be one of a number of changes which make a small contribution to reversing the catastrophic decline in invertebrate abundance which is being seen worldwide, largely as a result of pesticide use and habitat loss.  The contribution that invertebrate life makes to our lives through services such as pollination and micro-nutrient cycling is, of course, invaluable. But as we have seen over the last nine months the contribution which wildlife on our doorstep makes to our own mental well-being might be just as important.  As Sir David Attenborough recently said ‘people are discovering that they need the natural world for their very sanity’. I know I do.
For more regular updates and for volunteer opportunities please sign up to the Hexham Space for Nature mailing list.  Email hexhamnature@gmail.com to be added or simply follow this link http://eepurl.com/gF-lm1
You can also follow us on twitter @hexhamnature

 Edible Hexham & Community Garden
(contact: Elizabeth Leonard, Rosemary Theobalds)
Despite the ‘lockdown’ Edible Hexham volunteers have been busy – you will hopefully have noticed the new beds at Hexham railway station!
There has been increased local use of the HMS garden. The school also spent time there with the students attending during lockdown and have expressed an interest in using the garden for their special needs cohort. We hope they’ll also be keen to sweep up leaves!
There may be written signs that need renewing or upgrading on the various beds. Thanks to Wendy’s slates we have material for signs and we’re approaching time for maintenance rather than planting.
Hexham people have shown these last few months how they enormously appreciate the town’s green spaces and especially the volunteer efforts to enhance them; good clear signs about our work would help make people feel connected and hopefully attract more volunteers.  

Orchards (contact: Matty Bevan)

The new community orchard planted at Tyne Green in March 2018 is looking healthy, and really adds to that quiet corner.  We had good support from the Lions Club in the making of the orchard, and are thinking about how we can enhance the orchard and our relationship with the Lions, for instance by creating a sign or information board.

Cycling (contact: Ted Liddle)

One up-side to the pandemic has been the number of people taking to cycling, and in the early days of lockdown it did feel like a permanent change to a more cycling-friendly future was possible. Although the roads have quickly returned to their usual busyness, we have heard commitments from politicians at both local and national levels to establishing better cycling facilities and encouraging cycle use. Although not specific TT activities as such, there have been well attended family cycling events over the summer that members have taken part in, which have helped to raise the profile of cycling and encourage participation. Hopefully more to follow!Apple Pressing (contacts: Chris and Megan Payne)Although TT are not able to go ahead with public or even small group pressings this year there are still excess apples out there!  We are currently looking after the TT apple press and equipment.  If any member wants to use it please get in touch and we will organise a ‘Covid secure’ transfer.  All we ask is that it is not ‘sub-loaned’ and is cleaned thoroughly before being returned.

Meanwhile another member, Mark Shipperlee has built himself a new press and provided this update which we are happy to share:
 
Did you know we have the highest per capita cider consumption in the world, but China grows 50% of the world’s apples – many of which are made into concentrate and used in some of the UK’s well known ciders!! Also did you know the original apple trees were (and still are) growing in forests in the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan?
 
Well, this may be the most unusual of years but it is time to get the bumper harvest of apples processed. After seven years my original press was getting a little tired, so I have taken the opportunity to upgrade the design – with much heavier timbers and also made from Larch that I felled and milled myself.
 
People are welcome to contact me to arrange to bring apples and share in the process of pressing. I have an electric scratter which speeds up the process and this “sort of” traditional press, that aims to get 50% juice from the apples. It is all about “mucking in” so maximum group size of four please, and all activity will be outside. Varieties of apples are good – try to mix the pressings, but if you have a large volume from one variety, happy to do a single variety pressing. You will need to bring your own containers for juice, but I have funnels and jugs for handling it here. The deal – it would be appreciated if you could leave either 20% of apples or juice for us, to help cover our time. If you want to know more –email mark@shipperlee.co.uk, or text 07854 694 429 (do not always pick up calls if working)
 
Mark nearly forgot to mention that nothing goes to waste – the “crushed” apple pomace will be going to a friend, to feed their pigs
 
 

***  Possible new projects  ***

In our January strategy day we had a number of potential new project areas identified, including: Hexham water fountains; opportunities associated with Hexham Heritage Action Zone; possible hydro project version 2.0. All great ideas, but very simply, we need people to drive these and other ideas forward. Volunteers very welcome!

Other Local Groups Activities

Hexham Climate Action is encouraging people in the Hexham constituency to write to their MP, Guy Opperman, the UK Pensions Minister, asking him for full divestment from fossil fuels. To this end, they invite interested TT members to join in on zoom on Wednesday 28th October, 7.30 pm to find out more:
 
“Join us for a Zoom call where we will learn more about fossil fuel divestment and Guy Opperman’s position on it from a member of the Divest Parliament campaign, who will also share tips and tricks for how to write convincing letters to MPs. We’ll then stay together on the call to write some letters, share our thoughts, and chat. “
 
The zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82901213320 
Hexham Climate Action has a facebook group (closed group but new members welcome), and will email interested participants with any outcomes once they have heard back from Guy. The plan is to organise a meeting with him and his constituents about pensions divestment.
Ariane Baty