Archive for March, 2014

Upcoming events: energy efficiency, cycle users and swap shop

March 31st, 2014

This is just a quick reminder of three Sustainable Witney-related events happening this week:

Something for everyone this week! Kind of. But you should put those in your diary if you haven’t already; and if you want to be kept abreast of local and related meetings and news, you should definitely register for the Sustainable Witney website. In return you’ll email notifications of our posts.

Tomato cane support – from pallet wood again!

March 29th, 2014

Not content with building a raised bed out of pallet wood, we’ve been doing yet more pallet-based construction in the garden this year. This time, inspired by a review of the plant supports at RHS Harlow Carr conducted by quondam Oxford gardener Julieanne Porter, we built a decidedly functional one, ready for the tomatoes that we hope will eventually grow from what are currently very small seedlings.

» Read more: Tomato cane support – from pallet wood again!

Portland Presents

March 28th, 2014

Portland Presents from Chelsea on Vimeo.

Licensed ecological surveyors sought

March 26th, 2014

We’ve written before about the fantastic campaign to build a community path between Eynsham and Botley. The proposed path would run alongside the B4044, providing a safer alternative to this busy road for cyclists and pedestrians. A group of determined residents have been working hard to make this project a reality and they’ve just received a funding boost which could mean that construction of the path starts as soon as this summer.

However, the campaign group have been advised that they need to carry out a detailed ecological survey of the area proposed for the path (the grass verge alongside the B4044) in order to find out whether or not there are any rare or protected species living in this area. They are urgently seeking one or two licensed, qualified ecological surveyors to carry out this work. The work has to be done in the spring so would have to be started this week or next week. (If it can’t be started very soon, this could delay the whole project by several months.)

If you are a qualified ecological surveyor, please ring Ian Leggett on 01865 862614. And if you know of someone who might fit the bill, please show them this blog post!

Energy-efficiency advice, Jeune St, East Oxford

March 24th, 2014

On Tuesday 1st April from 5:30pm, SW member Dale Hoyland will be giving a talk on the subject of keeping warm, whilst keeping bills down and reducing reliance on fossil fuels and energy suppliers. It’s at the Methodist church on Jeune Street in East Oxford, and there’s more information on this blogpost.

No April Fool: just energy-efficiency advice

March 24th, 2014

LCEO_warmmeet_webflyerOn Tuesday 1st April from 5:30pm, SW member Dale Hoyland will be giving a talk on the subject of keeping warm, whilst keeping bills down and reducing reliance on fossil fuels and energy suppliers.

If you want to find out easy ways to insulate your home, get hands-on with different materials, see in real-time the difference LED bulbs make in comparison to older technologies, and discover financial help to make those larger energy-efficiency improvements, come along to this FREE public meeting a week tomorrow, at the Methodist church on Jeune Street in East Oxford.

This event is being organised by the Low Carbon East Oxford community group with the Oxfordshire Affordable Warmth Network.

Cycling with Julie

March 21st, 2014

Cycling with Julie from Paddy Cahill on Vimeo.

Using a Bike for Short Journeys: Part 3

March 19th, 2014

Following on from Part 2: Parking, pavements and potholes – dealing with the stuff you have little or no control over.


So, we’ve got our bike, our basket and our lock and we’re stood outside the shop/pub/café/jobcentre looking for the other half of the parking puzzle – a sheffield stand. Even in cycling nirvanas like Amsterdam and Copenhagen there aren’t always enough purpose made stands or suitable pieces of street furniture to go round, so for short term parking their answer is – take your own.

Hang around outside a supermarket or in a café lined square across the north sea and you’ll see bike parking organically expand as people roll up in regular rows, kick down the bike stand and remove their keys from the ‘nurse’s lock’ – quicker than you can park a car with central locking. It works as well in Horsham as it does Groningen…

In the UK the bike stand went the way of the chainguard, mudguard, luggage rack and anything else that made a bike more useful but a little bit heavier – it became another unnecessary accessory for the sleek-lightweight-dream-of-speed and the mud-flinging-all-terrain-two-wheel-tractor. Like so many bike related things, it’s another case of back to the future for the ever so simple but remarkably useful bike stand.

Think of weight as your friend; a sturdy steel bike properly equiped for the short journey is a lot harder to pick up and runaway with. For longterm parking, or just peace of mind, you will need a sheffield stand or equivalent. Don’t have one outside a favourite place? Bike parking is one of the easier infrastructure problems to solve and your local authourity can be very accommodating if you find the right person to talk to. A local bicycle user group can help with that.

Depending where you happen to be in the UK, finding suitable routes to make those short journeys between A and B can be a major headache. If you live alongside the Bristol-Bath bike path the biggest problem you’ll have to contend with is its popularity. If you live alongside an urban motorway it’ll probably involve a journey via Z, and possibly S, H, I, and T too, assuming a reasonable option exists at all. If you were unaware of it until now, it really pains me to have to break it to you that a bike user’s lot is not always the simple, carefree one I’ve painted up to now. It’s an unfortunate fact that using a bike for short journeys in our current environment is very often not as convenient, comfortable and secure as jumping in a car. Unless that is, you break a few rules. Bear with me.

If there’s no reasonable alternative I have no qualms about riding on pavements. For me, walking and pushing my bike at the same time is a far more difficult feat to perform than riding it. My bike is my mobility aid, which when you think about it is the same for everyone, just more of an aid to some than others.

My wife on the other hand never rides on the pavement, she invariably gets off and walks. Her tolerance of unpleasant road environments is also lower than mine so when we’re somewhere new I quite often find I’m riding along talking to myself. When I do, no questions asked, I hop up onto the pavement and we continue at walking pace until we’re past the traffic jam or the nasty junction. We have an understanding.

With PCSOs and NAGs you’ll find the situation is just as black and white but without the understanding. You’ll have to make your own judgement about where it’s reasonable to cycle and where it isn’t. It’ll depend on you and on the particular context you’re in, but on the whole you’ve got a fair chance of being seen as what you are, a human being popping to the shops or doing the school run, rather than the oft cited spawn of the devil dead set on a mission of thoughtless death and destruction.

PoliceBikesYou might like to know the actual law concerning what is and isn’t legal when it comes to riding a bike away from the road, because it’s not as black and white as most people believe, police included, but to be honest it’s quite complicated and difficult to remember. What’ll probably serve you better is something the current Secretary of Transport was reported as saying recently which reiterated guidance from 1999:

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users.

“Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

Given it’s such a rare sight these days, it’s heartwarming to think that even chief police officers can picture parents doing their best to shepherd children to school during the morning rush in spite of the best efforts of the DfT and our country’s legislature. However, remember that it’s still at the discretion of the officer on the scene so you may have to agree to disagree, take the fixed penalty notice and then decide what to do about it afterwards.

If cycle training is suggested as a solution and, for example, you’re not riding up the high street because you simply haven’t summoned up the courage to do it yet, then that might be an option you’d find useful. If you’re at the other end of the spectrum and you know how to ride a bike through traffic’s high tide but despite being able to do it you simply don’t want to – perhaps you can think of less scary ways to self harm – then say so.

Just keep in mind that neither you nor the upholder of the law are in a position to fix the cause of the problem on the spot, so a good outcome is making some small headway in acquainting police officers with the notion that using a bike is a legitimate means of transport in a criminally inadequate environment.

PotholesLeaving the pavements and getting back on the road, when the traffic’s not shaking you up a pothole probably will be. The Mayor of London recently discovered a corker on his own roads. Piling into a pothole hiding beneath a puddle, Boris took a tumble and had to retire his trusty steed Old Bikey.

“Now it was dead, killed by – the weather. Yes, amigos, it was slain by the rain.”

It makes an ass of his assonance but London’s Mayor really needs to know that Old Bikey was slain by the rain AND the regular repetitive forces of heavy traffic. Heavy both in number and mass. Old Bikey destroying, injury causing potholes don’t occur on well constructed roads with just bikes on them no matter how much it’s rained. How many potholes do you come across pedalling on the pavement?

In the short term the only thing you can do is report the hole and wait. It could be a long wait – the size of hole that tends to trouble bike users is somewhat smaller than the minimum required to trigger a repair. And it’s likely that as budgets tighten that minimum will increase again, but sit tight, like weeds and beer bellies, potholes always get bigger.

The long term solution has taken a depressingly long time to gain traction in the UK but thankfully for us it’s finally making progress: don’t put bikes in the wheel tracks of heavy vehicles on main roads – put them on a bike path. If you’re using a bike for short journeys, or would dearly love to, you’ll be wanting some space like this to do it in. Sign up here to learn more and when your councillor knocks on your door asking for your vote, ask him what he’s going to do about creating space for cycling where you live.

Not everyone’s on board yet, so if some uber-fit, dazzlingly bright cycling experts on barely equipped bikes should ride up and tell you that you’re doing it wrong, that you don’t need bike paths and that roads already go everywhere you need them to, I suggest you point them to cycling’s sadly unsuccessful pothole campaign and ask them why the AA treat them as a joke.

In part 4 I’ll be taking a look at the attitudes towards, and the expectations of, people using bikes for short journeys.

Do The Right Thing

March 15th, 2014

Ages and Ages – “Divisionary” from Rodrigo Melgarejo on Vimeo.

Our April Swap Shop at Cogges is fast approaching

March 13th, 2014

We’re organizing another Swap Shop on Sunday 6 April at Cogges, five minutes’ walk from the town centre, Madley Park and Cogges itself. Doors open at 9am for bringing, and 10am–12.30am for taking away.

What’s a swap shop, you might ask? Well, we’ve run a few before so we’ve got it down to a fine art by now:

  1. you can bring usable items you no longer need (if you like)
  2. you can take other people’s items away (if you like)
  3. but there’s no obligation to bring before you take, or vice versa

Ultimately the goal is to divert as many unwanted goods from landfill as we can, by pairing them up with people who need them and will make use of them. At the end of the day we partner with local charities to ensure as many items as possible are given a new lease of life.

At a rough estimate we’ve diverted around a ton and a half of waste from landfill through our past few swap shops, and they’re also a great way to envisage the things you own, and the very ideas of second-hand and reusing, in a different light. Come along if you’re available!

(Oh, and if you’d like to support the swap shop, here’s a poster you can print off and put up in your workplace or wherever you like!)

Personalised heat-saving advice for Witney residents

March 12th, 2014
Two men chatting in front of a poster saying "Affordable Warmth Network"

Dale Hoyland talks to a resident about energy-saving.

Homeowners gathered for personalised heat-saving advice at last night’s thermal imaging feedback meeting. This winter our team of volunteers have been busy taking thermal images of Witney homes.  We invited the people whose homes have been thermal-imaged this winter to view the images and get energy-efficiency advice tailored to their specific needs.

Dale Hoyland of the National Energy Foundation gave a presentation on how to interpret thermal images. He was on hand afterwards to explain people’s images one-to-one and offer advice on topics such as insulation, fuel-saving and home improvement grants. The rest of the team were also available to chat about energy efficiency measures and offer general advice. Energy-saving household items such as radiator foil, energy monitors and power-down plugs were available to buy.

This winter’s round of Sustainable Witney thermal imaging is now over, but our team of trained volunteers will probably re-start the project in autumn 2014. To add your property to our waiting list, email . (You don’t have to own the property to get it thermal-imaged, you just have to live there.) Please do also get in touch if you’re interested in helping out with the project next winter – we’re always looking for volunteers. For updates on this and other Sustainable Witney projects, why not subscribe to our email updates?

Gravel extraction consultation, Eynsham

March 10th, 2014

Oxfordshire County Council is putting together its policy on the extraction of gravel and sharp sand between now and 2030.  There will be a meeting at Eynsham Village Hall on Friday 28th March at 7pm for residents to learn more about the plans and have their say. Peter Day from the county council’s planning department will give a summary of the draft policy and explain how it has changed from earlier versions. He will also answer any questions. The meeting will be chaired by Charles Mathew (county councillor for Eynsham division) and Gordon Beach (parish councillor for Eynsham and also district councillor for Eynsham & Cassington ward).

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can still read the draft policy online:
Core Strategy- Minerals and Waste 2030

Comments on the policy should be addressed to

There will be further consultation in the autumn but comments made now (before April 7th) have more chance of influencing the policy.

Reminder: thermal imaging feedback meeting tomorrow

March 10th, 2014

thermal image of a terraced houseDid you have your house thermal-imaged by our team of volunteers this winter? In November 2013 and February 2014 we responded to over 50 requests for thermal imaging of homes in Witney. We didn’t manage to get through the entire list of requests but if your home was thermal-imaged you will have received a little card through the door inviting you to a feedback meeting.

The thermal imaging feedback meeting takes place tomorrow (Tuesday 11th March) in committee room 1 at the West Oxfordshire District Council offices at Woodgreen. The plan for the evening is as follows.

5:30pm Doors open. You’ll be given a print-out of the thermal images of your house and asked to fill in a feedback form.

6pm Presentation by Dale Hoyland of the National Energy Foundation. He will explain some of the most common problems revealed by thermal images – and how to solve them with affordable energy-efficiency measures.

6:15pm-7pm: An opportunity to talk to the thermal imaging team about your images, get some advice about energy-efficiency improvements to your home and buy radiator foil.

Our 2013 thermal imaging feedback meeting was very well-attended and we’re hoping for similar numbers this year.

This event is only for people who have already had their home thermal-imaged by our volunteers. To add your name to our waiting list, email . We’ve finished the current round of thermal imaging but we will probably re-start the project in November 2014. For updates on this and other Sustainable Witney projects, why not subscribe to our email updates?

Free compost this Fri/Sat for local residents

March 9th, 2014

If you live locally and want free compost, you should get down to Cogges Manor Farm this Friday and Saturday. In return for everyone giving WODC green-bin waste for processing, there’s now compost being delivered free!

Edit: breaking news; the compost will be delivered at 12 noon on Friday!

Each of the two days, a lorry will drop off the compost at the disabled car park for Cogges Farm. If you’re local to Witney, you’re welcome to bring your own sacks and get some free compost, for your garden or allotment. Bring your own sack and take it away.

But do look sharp: when it’s gone, it’s gone!

Thanks to WODC and SW’s Sian Stokes for organizing: if there are more compost drops in the future, we’ll definitely keep you posted, so why not register for updates?

Free compost: available from Cogges Farm for two days only

March 9th, 2014

Free compost, made from green-bin collections, will be delivered by WODC to the disabled car park of Cogges Manor Farm, from 12 noon, on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 March.

Local residents (including allotment holders) are invited to help themselves to a sack of free compost: bring your own containers. First come, first served!