Life in the way of … life

It has been a little while since there were any big TTB projects, so we thought it would be a good time to let you know a little about what some of the individuals involved have been up to since the Roadshow in April.

For the most part, it has been getting on with “the day job”, i.e. looking after our families, and earning a crust.

For TTB secretary Seb Beloe, that means researching for a prominent ethical and sustainable investment company, WHEB.  He knows his stuff, and was recently on the US TV channel CNBC as an expert.


Wendy Conian, on the other hand, has been heading up the Berkhamsted Schools joint Travel Forum, promoting safety for children getting to or from school and investigating alternative means of transport other than cars.  Again, Wendy appeared on telly, on CBBC no less, to describe the fantastic Road Monster film made by children and parents from many of the schools in town.


And you can see the fantastic Road Monster video in full here:

I think it is worth saying that we have realised that the lofty aims of TTB and the Transition movement cannot be achieved with us only being able to devote our spare time to the cause.  We need to be able to earn a living during and following the Transition to a sustainable way of life.

That is our next project – Reconomy.  Join us at the Christmas shared meal on 17 December if you would like to find out more.

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Latest Poem by TTB Member Jean

Jean Poem - new typewriter 151119

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On June 17th Sue Hampton and I lobbied our MP, David Gauke, as part of the Day of Climate Action organised by Christian Aid, RSPB, Greenpeace and many other environmental and church groups. We were briefed beforehand by Friends of the Earth advisors and Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion. Caroline couldn’t stay long, she explained, because the House of Commons chamber can’t seat the full complement of 650 MPs and if you want to ask a question you have to be seated. So she needed to be in the chamber at least half an hour before the debate, otherwise she would be left standing and unable to intervene. I couldn’t help wondering why such archaic practices go on in a modern democracy. Caroline did succeed in asking a question on climate change, by the way.
Before continuing this account I’d like to say our discussion with our MP contained a surprise element. He told us that it is possible to head off climate disaster through fracking. In hindsight I can see a pattern here. There are all sorts of ‘technical solutions’ being touted to our climate crisis, for instance plasma energy, air capture and fusion power – but all of them have huge technical difficulties and all of them, crucially, divert us from our immediate task – to inform ourselves, live simply, care for others and take practical steps to protect our children’s environment. The climate is changing because we burn and waste huge amounts of energy dug from the ground. In my view, the only reliable fix is to work together to change our habits and keep it in the ground.
Entering the Houses of Parliament is like stepping into a BBC historical drama. High roofs, elaborate decoration, imposing entrances – and then the wait in the central lobby trying to catch the name of the next MP to emerge and meet his or her constituents – not an easy task, with the announcements echoing from the high, decorated roof, and the hall full of guided tours and other lobbyists.
There were five us from South West Herts Constituency – John, Margaret, Helen, Sue and me. It turned out later that many more lobbyists from our constituency were denied entrance because the hall was too full. When David Gauke’s name was called we shook hands by the desk and retreated into a corner of the lobby where our MP explained he was late because he’d just been to a meeting with the Secretary for Climate Change and Energy. We deduced that it was a briefing and the Minister was ensuring that everyone gave out the same message. Here’s how our discussion went:
We raised the issue that 50 years of scientific investigation is unequivocal. The Earth is, we said, rapidly heading to climate chaos with the current atmospheric carbon count at 403.7 ppm (particles per million) – 53.7 ppm above safe levels and climbing by 2 ppm a year.
David nodded; we were all onside.
We raised the issue of fracking because the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – is the main driver of climate change. We urged the government instead to speed up the development of renewables: wind, solar and wave power.
David surprised us here, describing fracking as a temporary expedient to bridge the gap while we build a mixed power system (nuclear + renewables + fracked gas) adding, in other exchanges, that fracking has reduced carbon emissions in America and hasn’t caused earthquakes or water pollution. The idea that you burn fossil fuels to reduce emissions was new to us and the best I could do was to point out that USA has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world. Checking the evidence when I got home, a very different picture emerged – but more about that later…
For the rest of our conversation we had an intelligent, civilised discussion. We lobbied hard about the damage climate change does to the poorest parts of the world and the danger of famines, wars and mass migrations unless we take action soon. David conceded that we have energy lessons to learn from Germany. He also told us that the UK has ambitious carbon-reduction targets and intends to take a leading role at the world climate summit in December. We offered a contrary view – that fracking, maximising the use of North Sea Oil and reducing incentives for renewable energy won’t give us much clout at that meeting. David, to give him his due, was aware of the need to invest in renewable energy research and subsidise insulation. He claimed that tax breaks for renewable energy projects are being reduced because the price of renewable energy has fallen. I did put in something rather general about a government having to lead but wished, afterwards, that I’d said we have a moral duty to do more than just follow so-called ‘market forces’. But you only think of these things afterwards.
I think a fair summary of the conversation was that we were listened to, our MP showed awareness of the problem, but we differed over whether fracking is part of the solution or part of the problem. When I got home I found a scientific report using five different computer models to show that any long-term improvement in carbon emissions from fracking is negligible. I also found a major scientific paper about methane release caused by fracking. In the USA these levels are much higher than has been realised up to now – and methane is a much more toxic greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. I also found new scientific opinion backing up the claim that earthquakes in America are being caused by fracking. I’ve sent all three articles to David Gauke and I’m hoping he will reply soon.
After lobbying we enjoyed the day. There were people with banners, in fancy costumes, waving placards, offering freebies at stalls and lots of talk between caring, committed people. It’s a very different world from inside the Houses of Parliament. One of our fellow-lobbyists told us that he believes David Gauke is ‘on side’. I couldn’t tell. I know, like everyone, our MP wants to do his best but I simply can’t agree with him that fracking is the way to reduce our emissions. It depends which world you live in, but I see this as an emergency which needs a bottom-up approach as well as top-down action to achieve a decisive, planned switch to renewable energy.
Climate change also asks moral questions about who or what we value most and how honestly we examine the impact of our own actions. To me, this one issue changes everything.
Leslie Tate

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ALL ARE WELCOME – The National Transition Town Roadshow, Berkhamsted. April 18th 2015

TT Roadshow

Getting to know each other.

On Sunday April 19th Berkhamsted hosted the National Transition Town Roadshow. This all-day event, with people attending from Berkhamsted, Tring, Chesham, Kings Langley, St Albans, Letchworth and Milton Keynes, offered a wide range of workshops about shaping your local community. They included: saving energy at home, working together in street groups, local planning, developing local businesses, regional currency and growing your own fruit and veg. The emphasis was on getting to know neighbours and working with them to reduce carbon emissions and using the resources we have around us to regenerate local economies.
We were lucky enough to have facilitators from Totnes, Haddenham and other transition towns to show us how they’re doing it and some good meeting places including upstairs in the Kings Arms, Chesham House (by St Peter’s church), the Quaker Meeting House and the Civic Centre.
In my first workshop I met Ben Brangwyn from Totnes, Devon. Ben (whose Welsh surname means ‘white raven’), told me about his two roles as ‘Doctor Bike’ and local currency organiser.
As ‘Doctor Bike’ Ben repairs pushbikes in the Saturday market in exchange for a hug or a service (anything from music tuition to fixing appliances). The idea of skills exchange is to give something of the self rather than rate everything by its cash value. The overall purpose of Doctor Bike was, of course, to get more people on two wheels. I also discovered that Ben prints money! This is the local Totnes pound, blessed by the Bank of England and accepted by 150 local businesses. Ben explained that they’d started the currency by surveying local traders and discovering, amongst other things, that they preferred £21 notes to the standard £20. All the workshops emphasised the value of grassroots consultation, involving people creatively at every level of projects.

Audience at Centenary Theatre

Audience for Rob Hoskins discussion at Centenary Theatre

Another Totnes resident, Fiona Ward, told us about transition-type businesses designed, as she said ‘to strengthen community resilience’. She described these as enterprises which meet a local need, are financially viable and offer social benefits to the community. Often they are owned or part-owned by local people. She gave examples of 20 local enterprises in food, construction, energy and transport, many of them reusing each other’s waste products. They included Community-supported Farming Schemes (CSFs) where people take over a patch of land. We heard about a 10 acre site worked by people in Melbourne and a farm in Kings Langley converted into a small business park with planting areas around the workshop-sheds. She also described the ground-breaking ‘Atmos’ project in Totnes: an old dairy farm being redeveloped by the community in partnership with business.
Fiona’s organisation, REconomy, supports ‘shop local’ campaigns and ‘pop up’ shops in disused premises (with, she said, 7 out of 20 start-ups being successful). She talked about supporting Dorking’s ‘Golden Ticket’ day with prizes on offer, some of them jokey. So in the hairdressers’ the first prize winner was invited to cut the hairdresser’s hair! Fiona also described an enterprise forum in Brixton where people pitched ideas for start-ups in front of local residents. Unlike the Dragon’s Den, many of them were immediately offered free vans, tools or labour by an audience with limited means but large hearts.
REeconomy has also pioneered a project in Totnes involving larger businesses who plan to develop 10% of the town’s potential resources over the next 3 years. The unused resources which REeconomy had costed out were a) investing in the production and conservation of local energy b) expanded land usage.

TT Roadshow

Our very own John Bell joining Rob Hoskins and other members of Transition Network on the panel discussion.

Throughout her presentation Fiona emphasised that plans need to vary according to local conditions. She also presented figures to show that local businesses are good at employing local people and using local suppliers. She did warn against recruiting outside consultants to advise on start-ups because it’s only by involving local people that you can really find out what it is wanted.
The workshop on local currencies, which my wife Sue Hampton attended, confirmed some of Fiona’s points. For instance, if you spend £100 at Tesco, on average £82 leaves the area. This workshop was led by Robert Mostyn, who is developing the Grand Union Pound, a local currency for Berkhamsted, Tring, Hemel, Kings Langley and Watford.
The outstanding example of a local currency is the Bristol pound. Like all local currencies it depends upon a range of local businesses agreeing to use it – over 650 in this case – along with a larger financial institution (often a credit union) acting as a link to the FSA and exchange points where people can trade UK pounds for the local currency. In Totnes, the exchange points are local shops and the money is printed on demand. The only stipulation the Bank of England makes is that local currencies must be withdrawn and reissued every third year. Interestingly, in Totnes they found that when the time for withdrawal arrived, only 60% of the local currency was returned. The rest went into the hands of tourists and collectors. This didn’t alter the beneficial effects of the currency over the three year period. These were: keeping the money in the area, giving a psychological and financial boost to the community and creating good customer/retailer relationships. Some firms sold goods at 10% discount to customers using the local currency.
Sue and I went to three other workshops. In the Transition Streets sessions the leader described local residents getting together to help each other insulate houses, car share, garden, show films or work together on any local project which they fancied. The benefits were social, practical and financial. In the saving energy session facilitators from Haddenham described how they have developed external thermal imaging which calculates energy usage and a technique for locating and sealing drafts inside houses. Despite the fact that it’s quick and simple, they did find a poor take-up for the full process, possibly because some residents didn’t want to allow outsiders into their homes. But someone from a St Albans transition street suggested that the process would get a lot more usage if tried on a street where residents had already worked together and become confident about opening their doors to strangers.

Locally Grown Flowers by GillyFlower

Locally Grown Flowers by GillyFlower

I attended a group who discussed how we could bring in the playful element to transition events. Tabitha described an event in Tooting where a closing down shop was used to offer free community activities. These included sitting on a sofa and telling someone about an incident from life and the listener repeating it back, recording personal/local history on pieces of wood which were then planted in flowerpots and displayed in the window, and discussing the question “When did you last make someone happy?” Madela described the social benefits of community singing and artwork about friendships/relationships.
The day ended with food, drink and fraternising in the Centenary Theatre, a talk by Rob Hopkins, who co-founded the movement, some poems and a preview of a transition musical.
Writing to John Bell, who leads Berkhamsted Transition Town, I said “It was a wonderful day with great community spirit and lots of fascinating experience to chew over. I was so impressed by the people whom I talked to round tables and afterwards. To share so much understanding of the culture we live in is a rare and beautiful experience.” And it was!
Berkhamsted Transition Town will be discussing ideas we might want to try in our town on Thursday May 21st at 8.00 in HERE café, Lower Kings Road. Everyone is welcome. If you want to contact the organisation, go its Facebook page, its website at or ring John Bell at 07811 379938.
Transition is fun! Leslie Tate

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Chance to invest in solar panels for local schools

We have been working recently with the Schools Energy Co-operative to help put solar panels on our schools here in Berkhamsted, starting with Ashlyns and moving on from there.

Now is your chance to invest in the schemes.  The returns to you are attractive, and the schools gain a lot as well, so it really is win-win.

To invest, you need to download the application form from the Schools Energy Co-operative website, make sure you read and understand all of the terms, fill in the form and send it off.

Benefits to Ashlyns

  • Electricity sold at 7.25p – no price increases for 20 years
  • Profit share and reduced price electricity worth about £100,000
  • Education: energy, business, maths, geography
  • Panels given to school after 20 years
  • School tackling climate change

Benefits to you

  • Minimum investment £250 – investment not donation
  • EIS Tax relief of 30% – i.e. you get 30% of your investment back as income tax relief straight away
  • Anticipated return 5%, increasing each year by inflation, excluding the EIS tax relief
  • You can get your money out of the scheme on a first-come, first served basis –  15% put aside after 3 years; then 5% a year
  • Social and environmental impact – making a difference

This is a long term investment in shares to deliver an environmental and social impact as well as a financial return.  As with any investment product there are risks.  Your capital is at risk and may not be readily realisable.  Returns are projected, variable, depend on performance of the project and are not guaranteed. Consider all risks before investing and read the Share Offer.

The slides from the presentation at Ashlyns School are available here.

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BIKEFEST 2014 – September 21st

Where: Canal Fields car park, Berkhamsted

When: September 21st 2pm to 4.30pm

For children and adults alike.  Bring your bikes, and make some noise!!

The crowds are gathering at Bikefest 2013. Prominent here is the bike fixing service offered by Lovelo cycles. In the far distance, you might make out the younger kids being trained by the Little Bike company.

Come and try one of our family guided rides. These rides are on-road, but with experienced riders to keep us safe. They start and finish at Canal Fields, and typically take just 15-20 minutes. Parents or guardians are expected to accompany their children, so make sure you all bring your bikes.

We will also have:

Lovelo and the Little Bike Company fixing bikes free of charge (within reason and not including parts);

FREE cycle training for children new to riding (balance bike or new on a ‘real’ bike.

Toddler Time Trials on balance bikes – see your child go like WIGGO!

Activities for competent riders, cycle skills, tricks and slow races.

FREE personal trainer advice sessions on how to adjust your bike – how to get your kids to learn to ride – fitness sessions, and more!  These sessions can be booked on the day at the TTB Gazebo;

Bring an old bike and sell it; buy a second-hand bike or a reconditioned one;

OR just come and EAT CAKE!

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LOCAL CURRENCY meeting 12th July

Transition in Kings is holding a meeting about the development of a local currency and what progress they have made so far. There are already models in the UK, and internationally. A local currency can unlock hidden parts of a local economy, stimulate local employment and help to develop regional economic autonomy in food, energy, waste treatment and transport.

This month’s meeting is at 10:00am – midday, this Saturday, 12th July.

It is held at Charter Court, Vicarage Lane, Kings Langley, Herts WD4 9HR, the local Parish Council’s offices. Anyone is welcome to attend and contribute. Come straight in. Refreshments are available.

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Permaculture Cinema – TONIGHT!


Tonight’s Permaculture Cinema Social event will be at 7.30pm upstairs at ‘Here’ cafe in Berko.

We will be watching the film ‘Seeds of Permaculture’  – you can check out the trailer on their website.


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Big push for local resilience – we’re hosting a Transition Conference

Sunday 23 March at Box Moor Trust

Local solutions to Global problems

We’re organising a conference day for the Transition Towns in Beds, Bucks and Herts.  Let’s not let the side down – we’d encourage as many of you as possible to attend at least part of the day.


The day will consist of Open Space Workshops facilitated by people who are using community based approaches to develop local solutions to global problems. The day will empower you to be part of the local Transition movement to a sustainable future, resilient to global problems.


* talk to others about climate change and reducing carbon emissions
* develop a plan for engaging your community, including your local authorities
* be aware of the wealth of experience available, and how to access it
* recognise and celebrate all the good efforts being made


Workshops include:




Community Energy – (GUCE)
Transition Streets (Transition St Albans)
Personal Resilience (Andrew Davies)




Energy assessment gizmos – (Tring in Transition)
Food Security – (Haddenham in Transition)
Scaling Up (Andrew Davies / Transition in Kings)


Venue: Box Moor Trust, London Rd, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP1 2RE


Time 10:00am – 4:00pm  Book here:
Admission is £5.00 to cover costs for those who can afford it.


Please bring a packed lunch with you and/or food to share. Tea, coffee etc. provided.


John (Berkhamsted), John (Kings Langley), Gail (St Albans), Andrew (St Albans), David (Haddenham), Andrew (Sweden).
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Eradicating Ecocide – an evening with Polly Higgins

“Bunch of idiots”.

That’s what one man muttered loudly as he walked past people selling tickets for a talk by international environmental campaigner and barrister, Polly Higgins. I prefer “bunch of do-ers!”

Polly was coming to Ashlyns School to talk about ‘Dare to Be Great: Eradicating Ecocide’. Polly is lobbying the UN to make Ecocide an international crime and campaigns globally, so the least Transition Town Berkhamsted could do was fill the hall!

And fill it we did – with 130 residents eager to know about Ecocide, and what we can do.

We learnt Ecocide is ‘the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished’. We all know Ecocide happens – for example, we know the Amazon loses forest the size of France every day. But many of us prefer to not think about human impact on our planet. It’s a bit over-whelming!

So, Polly brought her passion on Ecocide to Berkhamsted, illustrating her talk with worrying examples: Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands produces four times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil extraction, and ironically uses enough natural gas to heat three million Canadian homes, there’s the Pacific Trash Vortex – 100 million tonnes of floating rubbish  polluting sea and coastlines, 100 species become extinct every day… the list is depressing.

But Polly is inspiringly determined to make Ecocide the fifth crime against peace – alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. Perpetrators would therefore be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

Illogically, Ecocide is already a crime in war-time – this makes no sense at all. Nor does it makes sense that Ecocide was on the Rome Statute but disappeared in 1997 without judicial process. Figure this out – the US, UK and Norway objected to the proposal.

On the night, Polly dared the audience to be Great, admitting it took her a while to set her idea in motion. The ‘not trying’ is failing. So, the very least we can now do is to join Polly’s campaign at

And we can also do a little bit more… if you have any concerns about the environment, please join the action group that formed on the night. It’s called  B-WEL (Berkhamsted- Wants Ecocide Law). Call Sue on 07975 812866 or visit

We’d be idiots not to do something.

Bex Plenderleith, Mummy of Max (8) and Tilly (4), the reasons why I joined TTB and Polly’s campaign, Eradicating Ecocide.

Photos © Andrew Tweedie

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