Archive for the ‘Food’ category

Autumn event schedule: Swap Shop, Dinnertime, Cogges Christmas, committee meeting…!

September 21st, 2014

We’ve come back from our summer break with a great schedule of sustainable events for Witney in autumn. We’re not finished yet, but here’s what’s already planned thanks to SW and other CAGs and like-minded organizations:

  • The committee is having its quarterly meeting at St Mary’s Church on Wednesday 15 October. All welcome: you don’t have to volunteer if you come along.
  • There’s an autumn Swap Shop at Cogges on Sunday 26 October. Come along, get rid of your old (working) stuff, and maybe find a bargain.
  • Dinnertime returns to Witney on Sunday 19 October. Click through and have a look at that amazing food they cooked last time; and then let Ellie know you’re coming along via the contact link on that post.
  • We have a stall at Cogges Christmas fair on Sunday 7 December, where we’ll be demonstrating sustainable Christmas decorations!

We’re also planning a sustainable drinks some time in the autumn, an informal social evening where we don’t have to feel like we’re organizing or doing specific tasks. Keep informed of this, and all our events, by registering to subscribe to our news feed.

Dinnertime, the free communal food skillsharing, on 24 August

August 16th, 2014

Dinnertime, WitneyDinnertime is a fun afternoon of cooking together and free food, and it’s coming to Witney on Sunday 24th August!

At the Methodist Church on the high street, volunteers, raw ingredients and utensils will all be available 2–5pm on the Sunday afternoon. All you have to do is book a free place (see below) so they’ve got an idea of numbers, and come along to roll your sleeves up and get cooking.

There’ve been Dinnertimes run elsewhere in the CAG Oxfordshire network, but this is the first event in Witney, and we hope it’ll become a regular community kitchen. So do come along, to learn new cooking skills and make new dinnertime friends. Families welcome!

To book, contact Ellie at or on 01993 866695.

Plastic-free takeaways?

July 16th, 2014
fish and chips in cardboard container

Photo credit: jACK TWO

Grabbing a takeaway in Oxford might become a little kinder on the environment, thanks to a proposal by the city’s licensing committee. Oxford City Council is proposing a ban on polystyrene containers for takeaway food and a move towards biodegradeable packaging.

Takeaway containers are a good example of how single-use plastic has come to seem normal: they’re a handy substitute plate for a single meal, with the expectation that they will be thrown away immediately afterwards.

But where exactly is “away”? Well, there’s a lot of Styrofoam in our oceans. Research reported in the National Geographic involved taking water samples from oceans all over the world. The researchers found that all of the samples contained derivatives of polystyrene (used in disposable cutlery) and Styrofoam (used in many takeaway containers).

Once Styrofoam breaks down, the tiny polystyrene components start to sink, because they’re heavier than water […] So it’s likely that this styrene pollutant is prevalent throughout the water column and not just at the surface.

This invisible threat to wildlife is already causing huge concern among marine scientists. So why on earth are we still eating takeaways out of Styrofoam containers with a plastic fork? (Think about it: when you’re eating fish from a Styrofoam container, there may well be traces of Styrofoam inside the fish too.)

Street traders are understandably worried about cost; it’s true that Styrofoam is cheaper than the biodegradable alternatives. (It’s also hard to believe: why should a petrochemical-derived product that inflicts such a cost on our oceans be cheaper than a cardboard one?)  But many takeaway outlets have managed to use less damaging packaging without harming the bottom line; just think of the traditional newspaper-wrapped fish & chips. (If you want a more recent example, fish & chip chain Harry Ramsden’s switched to biodegradable packaging two years ago.) And perhaps if non-harmful packaging became the norm, manufacturers would find ways to produce it more cheaply.

The Oxford proposal is still just that – a proposal. The council consultation on it won’t end for a few more weeks. But if it succeeds, there won’t be quite as much reason to feel guilty about that late-night kebab. Could Witney try it next?

July 9th meeting is now a CAG chat and bring-and-share meal

June 10th, 2014

For our summer SW meeting, we’ll be chatting with the good folks at local organization network CAG Oxfordshire, accompanied by a bring-and-share meal. This will take place from 7.30pm on Wednesday 9 July, at St Mary’s Church, on the Leys end of Church Green.

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?

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.

Raised-bed cooking: chard pie

July 21st, 2013

It started with a pallet. Sustainable Witney member J-P dismantled a wooden pallet into its component planks, then built a raised bed out of it . Then he turned it into a mini allotment and when you last heard from him in May, it was doing well.

I’m his wife and I’ve decided to blog about the fun bit: turning what we grow into tasty meals!

Picture of raised bed with greenery in it

Our raised bed in mid-June

By early June, the raised bed was a riot of green, with a lot of spinach and chard. (The picture of the bed was taken after I gathered enough for that evening’s meal.) Here’s my recipe for chard pie.

Pie base

100g grated carrot
100g wholemeal flour
100g oats
100g butter
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda


Chard (and spinach, if you like)
1 onion
A few garlic cloves
1 egg

What to do

Mix all these ingredients together until there aren’t any offensively dry or offensively buttery lumps. “Crumbing” with your fingers helps to get the texture right.

Then press the mixture into a lined, greased, baking tin, roughly 8 inches in diameter. Chill it for half an hour, or if you’re impatient, freeze it for ten minutes.

Then bake the pie base for about quarter of an hour at 200C.

Colander with green leaves in itIn the meantime, gather your chard. (You can easily add spinach to this too; nobody will notice.) I gather mine in a colander so I can wash it in the same container.

Chop and fry an onion and a few garlic cloves. Chop the green stuff. When the onion is going brown, add the chard (and spinach, if you like) to the mix.

Beat an egg and add it to the mix. Turn the heat off as soon as you add it and keep stirring. Add salt and pepper and keep stirring.

Put the mixture onto your pie base. Top with cheese – any cheese will do, really. Then put back in and bake for about half an hour at the same temperature. Then take out of the oven, leave to cool for ten minutes, remove from the tin and serve!

Chard and spinach pie on table


  • I didn’t create this recipe; it’s adapted from one I came across several years ago. If anyone knows the source, let me know so I can credit it.
  • Making and chilling the base is time-consuming, so I always double up on the quantities, make two bases and pop one in the freezer.
  • While the pie is in the oven you can (with any luck) go out to your raised bed again and get some lettuce for a salad to go with it!

Cogges beer and cider festival

July 15th, 2013

Cogges, the living, breathing Victorian farm and food museum on your doorstep, is having a beer and cider festival on August 2-3.

Along with over 40 locally brewed beers and ciders, there’ll be a pub quiz, barbecue, Aunt Sally and other games, and even live music: Eloise Rees, Roukes Drift, The Lash and much more. £8 advance / £10 on the door; over-18s only; doors open from 6pm each day till 11.30pm. Price of ticket includes a commemorative Cogges tankard and two free half pints!

Also on Saturday 3 August, Witney BUG will have its regular afternoon meeting at Cogges. There’s every good chance that, all business having been conducted, it might segue into the beer and cider festival….

5 myths about bees – busted

June 20th, 2013

Here we present five common myths about bees… and why they’re wrong!

“Bees make honey…”

» Read more: 5 myths about bees – busted

2013: the year of the bee?

June 17th, 2013

We recently gave three ways you can help to save the bees. But why are they in so much danger? And why should it matter to us?

» Read more: 2013: the year of the bee?

Witney Festival of Food & Drink, St Mary’s

May 13th, 2013

wffdCome and see us on our stall at the Witney Festival of Food and Drink in St Mary’s Church, Church Green between 9:30am and 5pm this Saturday 18th May.

Details and news here…


SW hosting Bee Cause meeting on Thursday 6 June

May 11th, 2013

On Thursday 6 June we’re hosting a meeting for Friends of the Earth to speak to West Oxfordshire groups about the “Bee Cause” campaign. This will start at 7pm, at The Fleece.

The talk will cover: an introduction to the campaign; what’s happened since the campaign was launched last year; activities currently ongoing in Oxfordshire (including Witney) and beyond; and what we can do to help reverse the decline in British bee populations.

We’re aiming for a 50/50 talk/discussion and we’d love people to come along and take part!

(Please arrive promptly for the 7pm start.)

Farmers’ Market

January 28th, 2013

Witney Farmer’s Market has relocated to the Market Square where you’ll find it on the last Friday of every month.

Sustainable Witney were kindly offered a pitch to promote sustainable living and we jumped at the chance. We promoted the events we are running this year which include swap shops, upcycling workshops, another Refashion Show and helped to give away the free farmers’ market re-useable bags. 30+ people stopped by to talk to us.

It has a good variety of stalls selling bread, vegetables, preserves, cakes, meat and beer, which ticked off most of the things on my shopping list last Friday.

We will be there again next month on Friday 22nd February so why not drop by for a chat?

Local food, local solutions @ Horspath Village Hall

September 2nd, 2012

Are you interested in Local food? Are you looking for inspiration on how to take an idea forwards? Do you want to find out about other innovative ideas around local food from groups from across Oxfordshire? If the answer is yes then here’s just the thing to help you out.

a href=””>Community Action Group (CAG) Oxfordshire,Oxfordshire Rural Community Council and Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Association are delighted to invite you to attend an exciting networking event on Thursday 13th September from 7pm until 9pm at Horspath Village Hall focusing on local food.

(More information on this blogpost!)

Oxfordshire-wide local food initiative, Thursday 13 September

September 2nd, 2012

If you’re interested in growing and sourcing food locally, but aren’t sure what the next steps might be: there’s a county-wide meeting to share information, sources and skills on local food, taking place on Thursday 13 September in Horspath Village Hall, 7pm–9pm.

There will be a range of speakers, talking about the selling, purchasing, and growing of local food, and how to educate about it. There will also be opportunities for you to link up with existing groups focussed on local food, who will be there to share information and expertise with new groups or individuals who want to get started.

This meeting is organized by Community Action Group (CAG) Oxfordshire,Oxfordshire Rural Community Council and Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Association. If you want to know more about similar events in future, you should subscribe to The Key, CAG Oxfordshire’s newsletter.

Courses at Cogges

July 11th, 2012

Back in the winter, transition and sustainable groups from across West Oxon held a meeting at Cogges and spoke to one of the trustees about ideas we thought might suit the sustainable food theme.

Whether coincidence or not, well done Cogges for putting on courses to help people get to grips with, or brush up on, skills that we used to take for granted.

This month it’s Keeping Chickens, and in August there’s Apple Juice and Cider Making followed by Mushroom Cultivation.

If you haven’t bought your season ticket to the farm yet it’s good value at £13.50 for the year allowing you to visit the farm whenever you want whilst supporting this lovely venture.

And do check the website for their other events this summer.