Archive for February, 2014

Something Went Wrong

February 28th, 2014

Bubble from Elliot Dear on Vimeo.

I won’t let you fall as low as I’ve been.
I promise to crawl until I’m back on my feet.
If something were wrong, do you think I’d leave?
If something went wrong, don’t you know I’d be here.

So who’s been unfair? Who causes you sorrow?
And who’s been unkind? Who’d burst your bubble?
And who drags you down, down, down, down…?
Who handed out lines? And now I’m in trouble.

I won’t let you fall as low as I’ve been.
I promise to crawl until I’m back on my feet.
If something were wrong, do you think I’d leave?
If something went wrong, don’t you know I’d be here.

WODC’s swap shop on New Yatt Road next Wednesday

February 27th, 2014

WODC are running their own swap shop on Wednesday 5 March, 11am-2pm at the Elmfield council offices on New Yatt Road.

You can swap unwanted items for lovely new things for free:

  1. Hand over your own items
  2. Receive one token per item
  3. Choose another item from the swap shop
  4. Exchange one token for this (new) item

For more details visit the WODC website.

The WODC swap shop is part of Climate Week 2014, a national campaign to raise awareness of climate-change issues, and to encourage people to live and work more sustainably.

Quarterly SW meeting dates announced!

February 26th, 2014

At our AGM a couple of weeks ago (more on that soon) we agreed to book our next four quarterly meetings. That way, you’ll know when and where to find us! We’re meeting on:

If that sounds a bit over-organized then don’t worry: we’ve planned in advance so you don’t have to! Everyone’s welcome at the meetings and you don’t have to feel like it will commit you to helping out (although it’s always appreciated when people can volunteer an hour or two at a swap shop or similar event.)

One advantage of planning this in advance is that we can also confirm that all of these meetings will be held in Witney town centre: in fact, in St Mary’s Church, right at the end of Church Green. If it’s a sunny July then I might even try to get everyone to sit outside… with ice-creams….

SW AGM, 11 February 2015

February 26th, 2014

We’ll be having our 2015 AGM on Wednesday 11 February, in a room at St Mary’s Church, on the Leys end of Church Green.

The meeting will start at 7.30pm, and will include:

  • A retrospective of 2014
  • Nomination of the new committee
  • Planning events for the year ahead
  • Discussing the future of the CAG network and how it affects us
  • Possible fundraising opportunities

(Detailed agenda available on request!)

SW meeting, 15 October 2014

February 26th, 2014

We’ll be meeting on Wednesday 15 October in a room at St Mary’s Church, on the Leys end of Church Green.

The meeting will start at 7.30pm, and the idea will be to plan and report back on Sustainable Witney events and projects. Here’s some items that will be on our agenda:

  • Swap Shop
  • Thermal Imaging
  • AGM
  • Portal
  • Other events
  • Planning some informal drinks

Come along, if only to find out what we’re up to: you don’t have to volunteer if you do, although it’s always much appreciated!

Setting up a local group with CAG Oxfordshire

February 26th, 2014

On Wednesday 9 July we’ll be chatting with local organization network CAG Oxfordshire, accompanied by a bring-and-share meal. The meeting will be at St Mary’s Church, on the Leys end of Church Green. We start at 7:30pm.

Oxfordshire is especially lucky in the sheer scale of its network of Community Action Groups (CAGs), of which Sustainable Witney is one. These groups both support each other and also benefit from the great centralized help and advice provided by the kind folk at CAG Oxfordshire.

That means it’s easier than you might think, to set up and run your own local CAG. So why not come along: for ideas, inspiration, and maybe even a helping hand?

SW meeting, 24 April 2014

February 26th, 2014

We’ll be meeting on Thursday 24 April in a room at St Mary’s Church, on the Leys end of Church Green.

The meeting will start at 7.30pm, and the idea will be to plan and report back on Sustainable Witney events and projects.

More details closer to the time!

Mmmm Beer!

February 21st, 2014

A_SANMIGUEL_Bicycles from on Vimeo.

New TGV service to Barcelona

February 19th, 2014

It’s long been possible to get from London to Barcelona by train. We’ve already written about the well-established option of getting a Eurostar to Paris, then a sleeper train from Paris to Barcelona.

But now there’s a second, quicker option for that London-Barcelona journey: a high-speed daytime service. As rail blogger The Man in Seat 61 explains, there is now a train service going from Paris Gare de Lyon to Barcelona at speeds of up to 199mph. This means you can do the Paris-Barcelona leg of your journey in about 6 hours 25 minutes. That’s faster than the sleeper, which takes nearly 12 hours, and it will probably be cheaper too. (Sleeper prices tend to reflect the fact that you’re getting a bed for the night as part of the deal.)

Booking London-Barcelona

The actual train options for the London-Barcelona journey are pretty limited: a Eurostar to Paris, then from Paris to Barcelona it’s either the overnight sleeper or the daytime TGV. But there is a fairly confusing set of options when it comes to deciding which company to use for your booking.

A year ago I wrote a blog post describing all the options for booking your London-Barcelona trains. I said that Loco2 was my favourite option – and it still is. Loco2 allows you to book a journey starting with the UK station of your choice. My partner has just booked an Oxford-Barcelona journey, and we could just as easily have booked Cardiff-Dublin or Birmingham-Brussels. The journey will obviously still be in several stages (London-Paris, then Paris-Barcelona, plus your initial journey to London) but you can book it as a whole rather than using two or three separate websites.

I wrote last year that anxious travellers might prefer to book their journey stages separately in order to allow lots of time for changes, but this is no longer necessary – Loco2 allows you to specify the changeover time required. (Click on the button that says “Add via/stopover”.) loco2 screenshot

Prices for the Paris-Barcelona TGV start at €59 one way, but as ever the cheaper tickets sell out quickly and of course you have to add the cost of the Eurostar on to that. Realistically you can expect to spend around £200 per person for a London-Barcelona return.

This service only started running in December 2013, so it’s early days. But I’m looking forward to trying this new option for reaching Spain by train and I’ll report back after my first journey.

Plastics talk at Brookes

February 17th, 2014

Kate from Sustainable Witney will be speaking at Oxford Brookes University about living with less plastic. She will be talking about her own experience of doing Plastic-Free July last year and giving tips on reducing the amount of disposable plastic in your life.

The 20-minute talk is part of Sustainability Week at Brookes, a five-day programme where each day has a different sustainability theme: water, transport, food, waste and energy. Kate’s talk will be on the Wednesday, which is Waste Day. Her talk will be followed by another talk about Coca Cola’s recycling technology, then a screening of the award-winning documentary Trashed. Both talks and the screening are free, but you can make sure of your seat by registering in advance.

The talk will be in the Chakrabarti room, JHB208, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site.

Fairtrade Fair

February 17th, 2014

On Saturday 1 March it’s time to celebrate all things Fairtrade, with an event organised by Witney Fairtrade Action Group (WAFTAG). Come to the High Street Methodist Church from 2pm to 4:30pm for Fairtrade smoothies (made with pedal power!), cream teas, a children’s choir and stalls selling an exciting selection of Fairtrade goods.

The event is part of Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 24th February to 9th March. The theme of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is bananas, which are currently sold so cheaply that the people who grow them are trapped in poverty. Colombian banana farmer Foncho will be coming to the UK to ask our government to investigate unfair supermarket pricing. Visit the website to find out more and sign a petition supporting Foncho.

Feel free to print the Fairtrade goes bananas poster and display it in your window!


Transition Area Eynsham’s 5th birthday party

February 16th, 2014

Green TEA (Transition Area Eynsham) are having their 5th birthday party at the White Hart, on Saturday 22 March 8pm–11pm.

Members, supporters and fellow-travellers welcome! Feel free to bring your other halves; food is a bring-and-share.

Girl on a Bicycle

February 14th, 2014

GIRL ON A BICYCLE Trailer HD ( from Jobs Steven on Vimeo.

Got into the garden yet?

February 13th, 2014

Between the floods still clustering along the Windrush, and the sleet hanging menacingly in the air, you might not feel ready to begin a season’s gardening. But, trust me: spring is just round the corner. If you’re thinking of growing your own this year or even next, then a few small jobs completed in the next month or two could reap big rewards.

If you’ve got an allotment, you probably already have a list of tasks as long as your arm that you know your have to tackle. There are plenty of non-growing tasks, although the local garden centres (usually so keen to hurry onto the next season) don’t have much in the way of spring supplies in yet: trust me, I’ve tried! But you can also already start planting hardy veg like carrots, and broad beans, and even kick off your leafy greens, tomatoes and herbs indoors: have a look at sites like for more ideas, and don’t forget that past editions of Gardeners Question Time are available in perpetuity!

If you don’t have an allotment, or indeed much existing space to grow your own, you’ve still got time to build a square-metre raised bed from waste wood (the best garden investment I ever made.) And if that doesn’t suit, then Edible Gardens meet every second Monday of each month in the coffee bar of the Methodist Church on the High Street. They’re a local group who aim to help bring grow-your-own to everyone, with a public veg bed project in the town centre alongside the flowers, and plenty off ideas about how you might, say, share growing space with someone, in return for helping out with digging….

Finally, don’t forget that this Saturday is the pre-season volunteer open day at Cogges. Along with 2014’s first volunteer-run “Big Dig” in the Victorian kitchen garden, there’ll also be an opportunity to chat to existing volunteers from all areas of the farm museum. There’s no better way to learn gardener’s lore or essential skills than by actually gardening, alongside other gardeners, and hearing what they have to say. When you do decide to take the leap and grow your own, a stint helping out at Cogges might give you the edge in that first season!

After all, they might say the best gardening is done with pen and paper in the kitchen; but surely the best result is to have managed, all by yourself, to put food on your plate for next to nothing. 2014 could be your year for doing just that.

Why is eBay making life easy for bike thieves?

February 12th, 2014
Photograph by Matthew McVickar showing attempted theft of his bike.

Photograph by Matthew McVickar showing attempted theft of his bike using a car jack. Pic released under a Creative Commons licence.

Most cyclists know about bike marking: the police carry out free public sessions where they indelibly mark your bike with your postcode. You can then add your bike’s details, such as the frame number and model, to the National Cycle Database. This means that if it’s stolen, you can mark it as stolen on the database.

This all sounds good, but will it really help you get your stolen bike back? Most bike thieves are stealing to sell – and the internet is a great place to do it. Smart thieves will avoid adding too much identifying detail to their online seller listings, so they won’t list the frame number and they may even avoid giving the correct make and model.

But what if sellers had to give the frame number? It wouldn’t stamp out reselling of stolen bikes – but it would make online selling less convenient for thieves. That’s why cyclist Richard Biggs recently created a petition asking eBay, one of the world’s biggest online marketplaces, to make frame numbers mandatory for bike seller listings. The petition gained 5,989 supporters before closing. Then Richard came up against an unexpected problem – he couldn’t actually deliver the petition to anyone at eBay. This giant online marketplace is distinctly lacking in human beings to communicate with. After several “return to sender” responses he did a bit of digging and found personal contact details for John Donahoe, the CEO of eBay.

The response? Making frame numbers mandatory in bike listings would be “too difficult”. If you know a tiny bit about web development, you’ll know that adding an extra field to a seller’s listings is actually quite easy. In fact, eBay already makes it compulsory for car sellers to add registration numbers to their listings.

Maybe it’s time for more cyclists to get in touch with eBay to express their wish for this very minor change. The postal address for eBay UK is:

eBay UK Ltd, Complaints Department
PO Box 659, Richmond-upon-Thames

They’re on Twitter too, as @eBay – but they never seem to respond to any attempt to contact them on there.

If more cyclists get in touch, perhaps we can persuade eBay to change its policy and stop making life so easy for bike thieves.