Editorial: March 2010
A Permaculture Journey
As we approach the end of the financial year, we, as a PAVO supported project under the PEP Small grants Scheme, come to the evaluation of what Mid Wales Permaculture Network has achieved since its formation – only in July 2009. It seems amazing that we have only been in existence for such a short time, supported by PAVO since mid August. Writing the report was so encouraging that I will share it with you so you can get an idea of the scope of activity.
The Network was set up in July 2009 as a result of requests to run a Permaculture display at the TT Rhayader Green Fair. An appeal on MWH Freecycle Café forum for spare seedlings for a plant giveaway on the display led to many enquiries from members of the public who wanted to be part of any new Permaculture network that might be set up. It became clear that this was needed across mid Wales, centred on Powys, where people are often very spread out and find it hard to know what is going on or to contact others interested in sustainable approaches to living and growing, especially Permaculture. Such was the interest that we decided to form a Network. The response of visitors to the stand at the Green Fair, and the contacts made through MWH Freecycle Café, formed the original nucleus.
By the time we applied for the PEP grant, we had an offer of free website design. This has been pivotal in the growth of the membership and the ability of the Network to be influential and supportive to individuals and groups in Powys. We have provided input and post-course support for the Introduction to Permaculture courses held by TT Llandrindod in 2009, and we expect that there will be a Full Permaculture Design Course in the Llandrindod area in 2010: MWPN has been asked to have an input into the planning for that.
We have supported the launch of the TT Llandrindod Food Group, with planning and facilitating of the initial workshop in October 2009. We attended the WAG Climate Change Consultation in 2009, also representing TT Llandrindod and TT Rhayader, to whom we submitted a full report of proceedings.
We are currently involved with TT Rhayader in the planning of a Permaculture community garden at Cwmdauddwr School, which will complement the TTR eco-refurbishment of the building as a community space that will be a model of best practice in retrofitting. It is anticipated that MWPN and TTR will collaborate in using the resulting resources as a centre for teaching and learning sustainable practices, especially Permaculture.
Last summer, MWPN hosted an open afternoon at our HQ, Nannerth Ganol, where we are creating a demonstration garden, including forest garden plot, which can be used as a teaching resource and venue for visits on Permaculture courses held locally. Nannerth Ganol is of especial and historic interest, being a classic elevation site with medieval longhouse, and illustrates core siting and usage principles of upland husbandry as taught on Permaculture courses. MWPN has already hosted an educational and hospitality visit to Nannerth Ganol by the long distance cyclists from the Welsh Youth Forum on Sustainable Development, during their trek from Machyntlleth to the Welsh Assembly Government on their fact-finding mission on cycle routes.
The Network is now a member of the RENEW project, based at the Walled Garden, Doldowlod: we aim to support the work that RENEW is doing with education in sustainable living and growing.
The Network has proved useful to many people for contacts in the last 8 months. We have put students in touch with mentors for research on dissertations, have found tutors and speakers for groups, publicised Permaculture-related events to a wide audience, and carried news reports of relevant developments in sustainability generally and Permaculture in particular. We have aimed to keep our regional TT groups in touch with what other groups are doing, thereby providing inspiration, contacts, and proven templates for action. We feel we have succeeded in keeping Permaculture high on the agenda for many organisations in Powys and its neighbouring counties.
Our website has developed a magazine of articles that is added to monthly. We have had great input from excellent writers on varied subjects, including farm allotment schemes, seed saving, pollinator-friendly gardening, humanure systems, relative merits of Permaculture courses, and scrub woodland potential, to name but a few. Our recent interview with Transition Hay on cross-sector partnership attracted national attention through Rob Hopkins’ (Transition movement founder) commendation for it on his internationally-read blog. We now carry book reviews and are being taken seriously by major publishers, including Thames and Hudson, and Permanent Publications. The site has a members’ section where core films about Permaculture can be viewed.
In addition to the monthly e-newsletter to individuals, and email updates for important events, we keep in touch with over 80 organisational contacts. We compile a printed newsletter for members who do not have internet access or email. This includes all the new articles on the website, together with a digest of news and events, plus the monthly editorial. This is a free service: we do not ask for subscriptions, but welcome donations
New projects for 2010
The Network HQ will take part in Seed Trials of Welsh vegetable varieties with Dyfi Valley Seedsavers this season, which involves attending 2 workshops, growing plants and recording results. We are also committed to the RENEW and TTR joint trials centred on pulses and grains, supported by GLASU.
We are currently embarking on a major growing project, focussed on perennial vegetables and herbs suitable for under-storey planting in Permaculture Forest Gardens. The results will be used in three ways: – 1) Seedling giveaway at the 2010 Rhayader Green Fair on the Permaculture display, 2) Building a stock to use in the planned community Permaculture garden at Cwmdauddwr school; we are taking advice from Radnor and Brecknock Beekeepers on the pollinator-friendly aspect of this initiative. 3) Planting in the demonstration Forest Garden at Nannerth Ganol. This project has been financed from the PEP grant for seeds, growing medium and ancillaries.
Expenditure and volunteer input
Major expenses have been for transport to relevant meetings and events. Others have been mainly concerned with computer consumables and printing/postage. For the current growing project, I have chosen biodegradable pots because, though not cheap, these are more suitable for a Permaculture project as not only will they set a good example to members of the community who receive the plants as part of our campaign to encourage local food resilience, but they will also ensure the best chance of survival after transplanting of valuable perennials.
Volunteer input from the coordinator, treasurer and webmaster has totalled in excess of 600 hours in the six-month period from when the PEP grant was awarded, up to end February, and clearly far exceeds our match funding ‘in kind’ requirement. The achievements of the Network to date would not have been possible without this time commitment. Also all editorial material on the website has been contributed without charge by staff writers and guest authors.
The financial support from PAVO and the PEP has enabled MWPN to get off to a flying start. We have encouraged people in Powys to grow food sustainably, and provided an educational resource through our published articles. We have established an interactive forum on the website that enables individuals to find information and contacts, and make offers of help and resources. We have helped move TT initiatives forward and acted as a medium for information exchange between TT and similar groups.
We are building on this work in 2010 by having a positive input into 2 local community growing projects, and to the creation of a Permaculture community garden, and by persuading people in the Rhayader-Llandrindod area to try growing perennial and pollinator-friendly edible plants by making seedlings freely available, to help native bee populations, to begin seedsaving, and discover varieties suited to local conditions. We are also beginning to establish a database of resources, skills and plant stocks in the region that members can draw upon to increase local resilience, and this will be a valuable addition to the local green directory planned by TT Llandrindod.
We have solicited offers of hosting for a programme of visits to members’ plots in the coming season, following our successful open afternoon at the MWPN HQ Permaculture garden in 2009: we are also collaborating with TT Llandrindod in establishing a regular ‘garden gang’ meet to help with tasks and learn through practical experience in different conditions, ranging from backyard to smallholding. The first of these in March is a seed swap get together at RENEW, with shared food and a working party to help with tasks in the Doldowlod Walled Garden. Longer-term aspirations for the establishment of a forest garden that can be used as an educational resource - both in its creation and showcasing - are being discussed with a Powys landowner. In the meantime the work continues on the Forest Garden at the MWPN HQ as a demonstration plot.
We are advised that we can apply for charitable status under the umbrella of the Permaculture Association of Great Britain, who have been encouraging and supportive. We are registered on the Association’s Project Directory, and will apply for affiliation status by showing what we have achieved in our first year of operation.