Annual Report on Activities for 2013-2014
Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint, Keymer and Ditchling (HKD) Transition is a group of residents who have been working since 2009 on community-led responses to climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy, building resilience and well-being. We are one of over 1,000 Transition initiatives around the world. Our aims are:
- to promote awareness of ‘peak oil’ and climate change in our area;
- to promote enthusiasm for preparing for the consequences of peak oil and mitigate the effects of climate change;
- to develop groups and projects that involve local residents in creating a sustainable future by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our resilience to the changes that lie ahead
We now have well over 300 people on our mailing list, 8 people on our Management Committee, and a wonderful group of volunteers who help organise events and activities. 2013-14 was an even more active year than usual, with a revival of our Energy Group, a brand new project to create a village orchard in Ditchling, and a series of events including seed swaps, celebrating bees, films and dancing our socks off.
Communications – Astrid Stubbs
Communications continue apace and we now have nearly 350 members signed up to receive the newsletter created using Mailchimp, an active Twitter account (https://twitter.com/HKDTransition) with over 200 followers and have produced a monthly newsletter, flyers, posters and other publicity material, including reports for local papers.
The challenge is to continue to build on these achievements and find fresh ways to keep people informed and engaged.
As part of engaging others in the use of digital technology, we organised and led a highly successful and over-subscribed digital inclusion event at the library in Hassocks, which helped people with little or no experience of the internet get online.
Thanks to new committee member Christine Barker we now have a link to Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/HKD-Transition/525151994276884 – which Chris has updated and rejuvenated, reaching out to many new members.
Energy in Hassocks report – Juliet Merrifield
Hassocks, like other villages, is working on a Neighbourhood Plan as part of the Government’s Localism agenda. The plans are to create a vision for the village in 2030, with a main focus on land use, including where houses and industrial/commercial buildings should be built, their design standards and the materials to be used in construction. HKD Transition sees the Neighbourhood Plan process as a way to support the transition of our communities to a low-carbon future, through the design of building development, encouragement of energy efficiency, and emphasis on renewable energy generation.
Our Energy Group researched and wrote a report on Energy in Hassocks (potentially as a template for reports for Hurst and Ditchling). Our report identifies opportunities to make significant reductions in energy demand and reduce energy costs, and to generate a high proportion of energy locally from renewable sources. We could reduce demand for gas (the main energy source for heating) by a third simply by making existing homes more energy efficient. We could generate electricity from solar panels on homes, public buildings and solar farms to meet all village needs. Hassocks homes alone have the potential to generate almost a third of the village’s total electricity use.
Our report with recommendations was submitted to the Hassocks Parish Council’s Working Group on the Neighbourhood Plan. More recently, HKD members have also contributed to reports on transport, housing and footpaths developed by Hassocks Amenity Association and submitted to the Hassocks Parish Council.
HKD Energy – John Willis
Looking back it seems amazing that it was just under a year ago, in December, that we reconvened the Energy Group after more than a year in the doldrums. This followed OVESCo’s presentation at the last AGM, which injected a great deal of enthusiasm for supporting a community owned solar energy project.
Things accelerated in February with a very encouraging meeting at Downlands School as well as OVESCo’s Peer Mentoring scheme being established, whereby OVESCo received government funding to help them pass on their knowledge and experience.
By May we had agreed on the concept of setting up a new not-for-profit society and had five directors on board – and HKD Energy was born. (Actually it was a rather traumatic birth as our application to the FCA coincided with new legislation coming into force and we eventually had to resubmit our application to FCA in August as HKD Energy Limited – a ‘community benefit society’ – but that is really part of next year’s report!)
The year ended with several visits to the roof at Downlands with solar suppliers, with encouraging feedback that confirmed the viability of the project.
Eco Open Houses 2013 – John Willis
This event was organised in September by Transition Town Lewes (TTL) with support from HKD. The first of the two weekends was for houses located in Lewes, with the second weekend for houses located in villages close to Lewes. TTL support the event with a very useful and informative booklet that summarises all the houses.
HKD helped with two houses – one in Hassocks (Chris & Hilary Handel) and one in Ditchling (Sally Williams & David Browne). Both provided a lot of interesting features and drew good numbers of visitors. We found that it worked well to have an HKD person in the meet and greet role, leaving householders to show people around and answer the many questions.
Ditchling Village Orchard
The Turner Dumbrell Foundation owns a small plot of land on Boddington’s Lane in Ditchling that HKD Transition has helped to become a village orchard. After seeking community input on how to use the land in 2013, an orchard emerged as the top choice, and HKD developed a successful proposal to the foundation for how it could be developed. With very little time to spare before the deadline for planting fruit trees, the village got behind the project. Over 50 people came to the first planning meeting, with standing room only at Mister Magnolia’s.
Soon afterwards, a large team of volunteers helped to prepare the site. On 23 February some 25 volunteers aged from 8 to 80 came together to plant fruit and nut trees, under the expert guidance of Bryn Thomas and Peter May from the Brighton Permaculture Trust. We planted 5 traditional Sussex apples, 2 plums, a pear and 3 cobnuts, and a wildlife-friendly hedge along the western and northern fences.
The Orchard Planning Group thanks all the volunteers who helped prepare the site for planting, and with the planting itself, who worked hard with good cheer and brought plenty of cake. Thanks also to the team of volunteers that is maintaining the orchard, including watering, mowing and pruning. Last but not least, thanks to the Turner Dumbrell Foundation for making the land available and funding the planting and site preparation.
Films – Chris Thomson
In the course of last year we showed two films which illuminated environmental themes in quite contrasting ways. We began with ‘Chasing Ice’ which, with the help of our friends at the Hurstpierpoint Ditchling Film Societies, was shown on 11 October in Hurstpierpoint and exactly a week later at Ditchling. The film graphically illustrated the toll being taken of Arctic ice by global warming as recorded by acclaimed photographer James Balog via his Extreme Ice Survey.
By contrast, ‘Moo Man’, which we showed on 5 June in Hurstpierpoint and on 3 July in Ditchling, could hardly have been any closer to home. Filmed over four years it told the inspiring and at times quite moving story of farmer Steve Hook’s relationship with his herd of cattle at Longleys Farm on the Pevensey Levels. Notwithstanding the power of the supermarkets, Steve created and met a thriving local market for raw, unpasteurised, organic milk and at the same time was able to take devoted care of his cows.
The Big Buzz – Bec Hanley
In May this year we joined forces with South Downs Garden Centre to run a two day event to raise the profile of the importance of bees and to encourage people to look after their gardens with bees and other wildlife in mind. Heather McNiven from Brighton and Lewes Beekeepers’ Association brought her bees along, which were a big draw for adults and children. There was also a bee friendly plant hunt and seed bomb making for children, and information stalls run by HKD Transition, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Friends of the Earth, Sussex Biosphere and Sussex Wildlife Trust.
The early May bank holiday weekend is a hugely popular time for people to visit garden centres, so this event was a great success, with hundreds of people collecting information and talking with experts about bees and bee friendly gardening.
We plan another partnership with South Downs Garden Centre in 2015. We’re grateful to the staff at the garden centre for their very active support for this event.
Seed Swap – Juliet Merrifield
Seedy Saturday at Hassocks Village Market is becoming a February fixture now. In 2014 the event attracted even more people, some of whom came specially to swap seeds, others just happened by. The activities for children were popular, especially the seed bomb making (great to get your hands dirty). Adults brought their own saved seeds to swap and happily left with new varieties to try in their gardens in 2014.
Ceilidh 2014 – Juliet Merrifield
The annual ceilidh is a highlight of the HKD Transition year, both because it is our main fund-raiser (generating income to pay for our website and publicity materials, and underwrite the costs of community events) and because it’s so much fun. It rotates between the villages and this year it was Hassocks’ turn. As usual the Unreel Ceilidh Band was energising and got everyone on the floor to swing their partners and do-si-do. Once again Sarah Furey mobilised a team of volunteers to produce an excellent Ploughman’s Supper, with local bread, cheese and home-made chutneys and salads. A good time was had by all.
The role of the committee is to ensure the group keeps working toward its aims, manage communications and finances, organise fund-raising and other activities, network with other groups with similar values and represent HKD Transition when needed. In 2014 we sadly said goodbye to long-term member Sarah Furey when she moved out of the area. Sarah’s energy and dynamism will be sadly missed. We said hello and welcome to two new committee members: Dan Hyndman and Christine Barker. Dan has long been an active volunteer with events like the seed swap and bee day, and helps maintain the orchard at Age Concern. Chris has got our Facebook page active and reached many new people.