Archive for March, 2013

The heating’s still on, but is your house now losing less?

March 29th, 2013

Before the Easter break is fully upon us, I wanted to provide a brief follow-up to the thermal imaging project. The Sustainable Witney volunteers have worked extremely hard on this project and given up their evenings to venture out into the cold, all in aid of helping residents of Witney to spot where heat (and therefore money!) is leaking from their homes. On behalf of them all, a huge thanks goes out to everyone who has been interested in this work, requested a survey of your property, and especially those who were able to attend the ‘See Your Results’ public event on 12th March. This took place in the early evening at West Oxfordshire District Council’s offices, and arriving slightly late, straight from a meeting in Oxford, I was confronted by a long queue stretching out of the door to the committee room and around the lobby – a fantastic turnout of residents eager to receive a one-to-one analysis of what their photographs showed.

At this point, I would have liked to have included a couple of nice photographs of the event, reported back on the number of people who attended, and provided summary feedback from the typical issues seen by Witney residents, from their thermal images. However, for me, the evening was a blur: I would estimate that I must have spoken to at least 30 residents, and my colleague Viviane a similar number, so a really good event, if not a little rushed. We did get round to everyone in the end, as we were being ushered out of the building as our booked time was well and truly over!

As the cold weather lingers on, I hope at least some of you have had chance to make improvements to your home in places identified by this project; whether that be a simple DIY job such as installing radiator foil to reflect the heat back into your home (were we able to spot the heat impression of all the radiators on your thermal images?!) or some draught-excluding brushes around that front-door, or perhaps some seal strip around the window, or a squirt of expending foam around the kitchen sink waste outlet. Perhaps you’ve got around to doing a bigger job; topped up the loft insulation, progressed wall insulation?

If you have any general questions about improving the energy efficiency, saving money on fuel bills, accessing financial assistance through Green Deal funding etc, the Oxfordshire Affordable Warmth Helpline is a good resource: 0800 107 0044. Lines are generally open 9 – 5, Monday to Friday (but is closed over the Easter break). There is still limited funding to be able to install some energy efficiency measures for free (such as described above: radiator foil, thermostatic radiator valves, draught-proofing) for qualifying residents in Oxfordshire; more information on the above Freephone number, or at

For more information on the work I do at United Sustainable Energy Agency (merging with National Energy Foundation in the new financial year), please see my profile here. As a Witney resident myself, I look forward to a similar project being repeated next year hopefully, building on the success of this year…

Mike the Urban Food Man

March 29th, 2013

Mike : Urban Food Man from Cherry Films on Vimeo.

Reminder: general meeting and woodfuel talk on Thursday 4 April

March 27th, 2013

A week tomorrow on Thursday 4 April, Sustainable Witney will be hosting a talk on procuring woodfuel from Riki Therivel at the Oxfordshire Community Woodfuel Programme. The talk starts at 6.30pm and the meeting is at The Fleece.

From 6pm we’ll be doing committee business and administration: you’re welcome along to that too, but you might get volunteered for something….

Easter Eggs

March 27th, 2013

DippyEggsWelcome to our new monthly meal suggestion using locally sourced ingredients.

Something simple to get us going, I’m sure we can all boil an egg!

One of my favourite quick meals is dippy egg and soldiers and for the past couple of years I have been getting my free-range eggs from Mayfield House in New Yatt, a short bike ride from Witney. However, if you don’t fancy the ride you can get the same eggs in the Spar shop at the petrol station on Hailey Road.

For the soldiers you can use the lovely bread on sale at Witney’s Thursday market from the Wantage based Marcopolo Bakery. I usually bake my own bread using Wessex Mill flour, also from Wantage, which you can pick up from Cogges Farm or Huffkins in the High Street. A bread machine like the Panasonic SD-255 makes it very easy indeed.

» Read more: Easter Eggs

Wanted: volunteers to help Edible Gardens prepare

March 24th, 2013

Can you help? In advance of their great free workshop on Thursday 18 April at the primary school on Hailey Road, Edible Gardens need volunteers to help dig over the veg bed, in readiness for planting pots and carrots etc.

The current plan is to go to the school on Thursday 4 April, when the site will be accessible from 10am. If you’re available to help out, you should email Brenda Woods on and she’d be happy to sign you up for digging duty!

(If you can’t volunteer, but you’d like to find out more about growing your own, then that’s fine – you can still “help out” by signing up to the free workshop: that way, you’re helping out with “the more, the merrier”!)

Edible Gardens’ Grow Your Own Veg: workshop in April

March 24th, 2013

Edible Gardens are running a free workshop to help you get started with growing your own veg, on Thursday 18 April, 3.15 – 4.30pm at Witney Community Primary School, Hailey Road. Although it’s free you should book your place before Monday 8 April.

Once you’re booked on the workshop, you’ll find out how to grow food to eat this year: you can

  • sow some seeds to grow your own beans, beetroot, courgettes and peas
  • start off salad leaves
  • pot up tomato seedlings
  • learn how to grow spuds and carrots
  • get some ideas about cooking what you grow
  • ask questions and we’ll try to answer them

and take away all you’ve done free of charge!

To book by Monday 8 April, fill in this form and then you can either:

  • Email it to
  • Print it and post it to The Active Communities Team, Cottsway House, Heynes Place, Avenue Two, Witney, OX28 4YG
  • or call 0800 8 766 366

If you need more information or have any queries, then get in touch with the Active Communities Team at Cottsway via email or ring them free of charge on the number above.

A Rainy Day

March 22nd, 2013

194 grams from James Miller on Vimeo.

Active travel and health: a talk in Oxford

March 20th, 2013

Public attitudes towards cycling are focused on “safety” – but what are the health effects? Dr Oliver Mytton, Lecturer in Public Health, will give a talk entitled Active travel – good for your health, but how good? in Oxford at St Michaels in the Northgate (at the junction of Ship St and Cornmarket).

The Spirit Level – The Fleece, Church Green

March 17th, 2013

SpiritLevelWednesday 20 March at The Fleece, Church Green, Witney, at 7.30 pm.  Admission Free but limited places.

If you have read The Spirit Level, you will find this talk by Madeleine Power, Senior Researcher at The Equality Trust fascinating. If not come and find out what it’s all about.

To book please access


Comparing life expectancy, mental health, levels of violence, teenage birth rates, drug abuse, child wellbeing, obesity rates, levels of trust, the educational performance of school children, or the strength of community life among rich countries, it is clear that societies which tend to do well on one of these measures tend to do well on all of them, and the ones which do badly, do badly on all of them. What accounts for the difference?

The key is the amount of inequality in each society. The picture is consistent whether we compare rich countries or the 50 states of the USA. The more unequal a society is, the more ill health and social problems it has.

Inequality has always been regarded as divisive and socially corrosive. The data show that even small differences in the amount of inequality matter. Material inequality serves as a determinant of the scale and importance of social stratification. It increases status insecurity and competition and the prevalence of all the problems associated with relative deprivation. Particularly important are effects mediated by social status, friendship and early childhood experience. However, although the amount of inequality has its greatest effect on rates of problems among the poor, its influence extends to almost all income groups: too much inequality reduces levels of well-being among the vast majority of the population.

Arranged by the West Oxfordshire Green Party.

Turning a raised bed frame into a vegetable garden

March 17th, 2013

As you’re probably aware from previous posts, I’ve been building a raised bed from pallet wood, and last weekend Kate and I planted our first seeds in it. So to round off this short series of posts, I thought you might like to see how we went from a bare wooden frame to an actual vegetable garden.

» Read more: Turning a raised bed frame into a vegetable garden

TGiF – Brought to today by the letter…

March 15th, 2013

Magazine <B> 5th Issue: Brompton – English subtitle ver. from Magazine <B> on Vimeo.

Dedicated followers of Fairtrade

March 13th, 2013
Girl on catwalk with Fairtrade logo on dress

Photo credit: David Pearce

Gianni Versace eat your heart out! On Thursday 7th March we saw that there’s enough talent locally to rock the fashion world. Wendy from Witney Fairtrade Action Group (WAFTAG) introduced Witney’s first ever Fairtrade Fashion Show, the screen lifted to reveal a catwalk and we were off!

Over 150 people crammed into the auditorium at Abingdon and Witney College to see the students’ fashion creations, all made with Fairtrade materials. Students modelled their own and each other’s work. The theme of the show was “Protection” and we saw some seriously imaginative variations on that theme, from a military-inspired dress to an insect exoskeleton! My favourite was the chain-mail-inspired dress where the chain links were in the form of  leaves. Students of Art, Media, Make-up and Hair all worked together to create a knockout show.

Preparing for the event took months of hard work from WAFTAG and the college, but the result was well worth it.

We also got a reminder about why we were there: buying Fairtrade might mean a few more pence for an item at the checkout, but the difference is literally life-changing for the producers. The Fairtrade mark means that cotton producers don’t just get a fair price for their crop; they also get extra funds to plough back into their community. Before the show we saw a short film about a community in Mali, who have used their Fairtrade funding to build a maternity unit locally. Before the maternity centre was built, pregnant women had to walk miles to give birth at the nearest medical centre and would often suffer complications on the way.

Before the show’s finale we had the chance to enjoy refreshments (courtesy of the Co-op) and browse a range of Fairtrade stalls.

We rounded off the night with a personal message of support from Sir Steve Redgrave, an avid backer of Fairtrade who even has his own Fairtrade clothing line.

It is great that Fairtrade is so well recognised within Witney and that students from Abingdon and Witney College have been so creative in designing using Fairtrade cotton… The difference Fairtrade can create for schools, healthcare and employment is dramatic and truly life-changing. The small premium that we pay for Fairtrade goods in the UK converts to a huge difference in the lives of farmers in West Africa and India… Being involved with Fairtrade is something you should all be very proud of and please keep spreading the message.

Join Edible Gardens on March 19 to discuss April event

March 9th, 2013

Edible Gardens are meeting on Tuesday 19 March [edit: date changed]: why not join them? This is an especially exciting meeting, as they’re planning their workshop, at Hailey Road Primary School on Thursday 18 April., 3.15 – 4.30pm

The idea is that at the workshop local gardeners will help people to sow seeds, pot on seedlings and plant out chitted potatoes, etc. And it looks like it’s going to be a great success: several local companies are already getting involved: donating seeds, compost and seed trays.

If you can’t help out, then do come to the event itself: more information here closer to the time! And if you’re interested, feel free to get in touch with Brenda of Edible Gardens directly.

Catching the Wave

March 8th, 2013


Bike advocacy in the UK has been the perfect pastime for depressed optimists. A cycle of cresting waves of possibility constantly dashed against rocks of, meh, disinterest. A match made in a manic hell.

» Read more: Catching the Wave

TGiF – Beach Boy

March 8th, 2013

Felt Bicycles – The Cruiser Series from Felt Bicycles TV on Vimeo.