Archive for September, 2013

Meeting and Social Chit-Chat, The Fleece

September 29th, 2013

SWLeafLogoNewOur next meeting will be on the 10th October at The Fleece – ask at the bar for directions.

We will have the general meeting at 6 and have a social chit chat from 7.30pm.

This will be a chance to come along and talk to us about what you think we should be doing, bring along new ideas, get involved if you want to and meet up with the volunteers who currently run Sustainable Witney. Please do come along there really is no commitment to anything.

Urban Tourist

September 20th, 2013

Sk?adak “Turysta” from Pan tu nie sta? on Vimeo.

Recycling VHS Tapes

September 18th, 2013

A few weeks ago on our Facebook page I asked the question what can we do with old video tapes? If you don’t want to weave with them it seems the safest thing to do is to donate them to a Salvation Army centre. I wanted to know what happened to them next and here is the answer (many thanks to Sian Stokes from WODC for finding out for us.)


When we receive the VHS cassettes they are removed from their cases, paper to one bin, case to another. The VHS cassettes themselves are stacked in cubes. 2622 VHS’s per cube weight approximately half a tonne. See attached picture, a cube being made up in the foreground other cubes at the back.

The cubes are sent to Singapore where they are dismantled by hand.

  • The outer cases will be made into such things as garden furniture.
  • The Film is heat treated and will become amongst other things floppy coat hangers for children’s clothes.
  • The white plastic cogs are valuable in their own right as there is a healthy market.
  • Similarly the aluminium pins are sort after as a precious metal and so again have a value.

Paul Ozanne
Salvation Army Trading Company Limited

Alternatively the WODC ‘media bank’ on Woodford Way accepts them.

Using a Bike for Short Journeys: Part 2

September 15th, 2013

[UaBfSJ Part 1]

BasketLights, locks and luggage –¬†how to match your bike to your life and make it at least as convenient as the alternatives…

In the mid-noughties I spent a year living and working in a german town just north of Nuremberg. Even for Germany it’s quite a special place from the point of view of cycling and at that time had a modal share of 33%, meaning a third of all journeys in the town were being made by bike. One of the first things to strike me, other than the bikes when I strayed onto the cycle path, was the sight of men riding bikes with baskets. Years of social conditioning caused my cultural compass to spin everytime I saw a basket not paired with the fairer sex. What was it all about?

Convenience. The human/bike interface managed with a minimum of fuss by dropping any loose paraphernalia into the basket at the beginning of a journey and hooking it out again at the end. Plenty of cyclists that I recognised as ‘normal for the UK’ commuting longer distances, or perhaps regularly touring at the weekends and in the holidays, were using Ortlieb panniers but they were in the minority. For the various local jaunts that take from five to fifteen minutes, attaching, detaching and lugging around an expensive cycle specific luggage system appeared to be more of a hinderance than a help.

The basket is simple and versatile. Whatever you’re leaving the house with (bag, jacket, library books), whatever you’re coming back with (bread, eggs, beer) can all be dropped into this open access universal storage solution. Whether it’s wicker, wire, wood or even a plastic crate advertising a reassuringly manly beer brand, once firmly attached to the bike it’s unlikely to get nicked.

Poor security, or just the fear of things being pinched, is another barrier to regular bike use. Even for those that persevere, what seems like a sensible value-for-money solution can turn into a royal PITA if you can’t rely on it being on the bike when you return. Lights are a prime example of this.

BikeLightBecause lights aren’t always needed they’re generally considered an accessory. Someone who begins cycling over the summer months might not find themselves on a bike after dark until September and even then it’s probably occasional. If the lights will rarely be used why not get the cheapest? It’s silly to spend more on something you hardly use, right? That line of reasoning usually leads to detachable battery powered lights which although they’ve been chosen because they’re cheaper, it doesn’t mean having them nicked is OK so they’re never left on the bike.

This works for some people – tidy people with perfect memories and predictable lives. If you’re the kind of person who forgets to go to the loo before setting out on a long journey, can’t remember where you last saw your passport, or can’t predict when you’ll next be out beyond sunset, this will be the beginning of a series of infuriating fumbles in the dark that you failed to put a price on in the shop.

The first time you’ll need them they’ll be in the kitchen draw, the next time in your other bag, the fourth or fifth time the batteries will be flat and if you were organised enough to buy a spare pack (and remembered to bring them with you) you’ll drop the front light trying to clip the battery cover back on, in the rain, simultaneously cracking the case and breaking the switch that turns it on.

It’s not the end of the world, it’ll only take 30 minutes or so to push the bike home, less if you ride all the way on the pavement, but still plenty of time to reflect on the money you saved and what you did with it.

The alternative is to accept that you’re fallible and you’d like some lights that aren’t. Bike lights have improved dramatically in recent years and the combination of a hub dynamo and a quality front and rear LED light can be relied upon from one year to the next without the hassle of batteries or blown bulbs. Consistent illumination at the flick of a switch, automatic even, continuing for several minutes when stopped at junctions. I’ve never had dynamo lights stolen from a bike and I don’t know anyone else that has. They’re secure and convenient.


Cardiff (from Cyclestreet’s photomap)

Emerging from a shop to find someone’s walked off with your wheels isn’t. Not only will you have to walk home you’ll have to carry the bike as well as the shopping. More often than not this’ll be down to a glorious gift from the world of cyclesport; the quick release lever.

In cycle racing punctures are inevitable. Rolling resistance and weight are the key parameters when choosing racing tyres so the focus shifts to managing the flat when it happens. With a team car or a sacrificial domestique on hand to provide Sir Wiggo and Froome Dog with replacement wheels, the QR lever gets them back in the race within a few seconds.

For our ten minute trip to the library there’s little to be gained by arriving 30 seconds ahead of schedule and unless you’re the leader of a political party with a chauffeur in tow you’re unlikely to have instant access to a spare wheel. In our world, the real world, the primary goals are avoiding punctures in the first place and hanging on to our wheels. This is best achieved by purchasing a pair of the virtually puncture-proof Marathon Plus tyres from Schwalbe and steering clear of quick release wheels. That’s not to say there aren’t bike thieves out there with spanners, but you’ll have lengthened the odds by not making it so ridiculously easy for them.

Those odds will shorten considerably again if you leave your bike parked somewhere for several days though. The peace-of-mind solution for minimising your losses is a decent D-lock stored on the bike so it’s there when you need it. But bike parking’s not just about big locks. There’s a whole other side to the equation that we have little or no control over and I’ll be lumping that together with the other stuff that lurks beyond the garden gate in part 3.

Others have cracked this nut in the UK. A D-lock tucked into a back pocket for pinning a colour coordinated front wheel to its partner with lights attached to a messenger bag. That works too. Not a lifestyle choice most of the public will ever make, and a different MO to the one I’m advocating, but taken in the round it fits the profile of those who regularly make their local journeys by bike. A hipster roaming around Hackney and a vicar’s wife dropping off cakes to the WI share the key to short journeys – no matter where they’re going, their bike suits their clothes.

From East to West

September 13th, 2013

The Rag & Bone Man from Make Your Bones on Vimeo.

Raised bed update: successes and failures

September 7th, 2013
This was one of our first decent-sized carrots

This was one of our first decent-sized carrots

A few people have mentioned recently the raised bed we built out of pallets at the start of the year; a couple have even inquired as to how we’re getting on with it. So this is a quick post to keep people updated.

As you can see in the image here, we grew some mighty carrots, with little or no trouble. Some of them did turn out remarkably small – one or two grains of rice, or at a pinch kidney-bean sized – but generally they were fat and healthy, if occasionally stubby. The height of the bed – 40cm – might be the reason why we’ve avoided carrot-fly.

Anyway, here’s an earlier photo taken in May, showing the bed really starting to take off:

Raised bed really taking off

Raised bed really taking off

The vibrant-green leaves are (perpetual) spinach; the grey-green ones are broad beans; the little jagged ones are carrots, and you should be able to see some coloured stalks of rainbow chard (it took much longer to come through.) Overall, we had great early success from leafy veg. The broad beans, on the other hand, were tasty, but not very many of them given the number of plants.

Later on, we made the mistake of planting two tomatoes in the bed: Gardener’s Delight and Alicante. When we got them from the stalls at the front door of Cogges, they were rather small and unassuming. After a week or two after planting, they had gone wild:

Carrots grow big, and tomatoes really start to take over

Carrots grow big, and tomatoes really start to take over. A sunflower droops far right, and a couple of straggly nasturtiums try to escape

The tomatoes have since grown much, much bigger. We’re pruning them like crazy, to try to stop them from branching. But along with the now straggly carrot leaves, they crowded out pretty much everything else. But there are at least a large number of (still green) tomatoes on them, so we’re looking forward to a decent crop. And then rapidly getting rid of them.

The biggest failures have been brassicas: curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli, two of each plant given to us as presents. Because of the crowding from the rest of the plants, we were simply unable to protect them from butterflies with any netting or structures early enough. First we noticed eggs under the leaves, which we dutifully got rid of; then we noticed caterpillars, which were flung to the far end of the garden; but then leaves started disappearing. In the end, we gave up the fight; a few days later, they were all stripped to stalks.

We’re ending the season with a squash plant, running slightly late (it had a check when we transplanted it into the bed; not sure why), many radishes which should happily be ready in a month or two if we can keep the caterpillars off them, and a number of leeks, which I’m hoping to winter but – as they’re still seedlings – might simply expire.

It’s all been a big experiment, and for every disheartening development there’ve been two or three moments of glee, as we’ve picked, cleaned and cooked our own vegetables in mere minutes: as fresh as you can get them. And there are bound to have been setbacks in our first year of growing. Next season, I keep telling myself: next season we’ll get it right. I’m sure of it.

Life in the Bike Lane

September 6th, 2013

‘Det Vidste Jeg’ by Ingenmandsland from KAAN ARICI on Vimeo.