Saturday, November 26, 2011

Marginalized Cyclist

What is it about a person on a bicycle that makes everyone else regard you as a nuisance? I'm serious. I've heard plenty of cyclists moan about other road users and their apparent dislike of two-wheeled transport. Why is this? Is it because we can park where they can't? Because we pay no road tax or insurance? because we don't need a licence? Or because we can 'off-road' whenever we feel like it? I think it's probably a combination of all of those things, and a little jealousy.

But what is it about us cyclists that causes pedestrians to get pissed off? Because they do, I'm telling you.

On an average journey into town from my house, there are certain stretches of road where, frankly, I'd rather go on the path. East Hill is a case in point. A heavily used stretch of road, used by people coming in and out of town yet during the day constantly blocked on one side by parked cars. Vehicles are continually having to stop and yield to oncoming traffic, and being a cyclist in that little mix is no picnic. I'd prefer to ride on the path but of course people tend to walk on that and so I find I'm almost always getting off and pushing for most of the way. Similarly the intersection of Oaks Rd and East Cross is a nightmare with traffic coming both ways on the A28 and it's just easier if I can enter the Rec and cycle across it. But here this provokes stares as if cycling across grass is unnatural. I've got knobby tyres, I can do it. This town has lots of lovely little shortcuts that one can use in order to avoid the High Street but even there people look at you as if you are an alien lifeform.

When I've used the path in preference to committing hara-kiri in traffic, I've encountered oncoming pedestrians and pulled off to the side or used the grass verge so as to avoid knocking them over, because I am a nice considerate person. But apparently that's not good enough. I pass them and hear them mutter "mumble mumble PATH mumble BIKE mumble ROAD mumble..." . In Rolvenden recently, where there are cars parked on both sides of the High Street, I used a short section of path when there was a bus going one way and a lorry going the other. Suddenly an old lady waved her stick at me and yelled, "You're supposed to be on the road, young man!" (which I must say, amused me somewhat - I'm 46) to which I replied "Madam, I will go back on the road when and only when it is safe to do so!" (I was only about 100 yards from my destination anyway).

Thus far in my travels around town the only stretches of dedicated bike path are to be found tucked away in St. Michaels, in the Henley Fields/Col. Stephens Way area, and only in the little cul-de-sacs. Nothing very useful for those of us that use our bikes to actually get somewhere. The path that goes between Abbott Way and Sandy Lane provides a useful shortcut into town, but it has been designated a No Cycling area. What we need is a small network of bike-only paths or bike lanes, but can it be done in Tenterden? Who can point us in the right direction? Anyone know where we need to start?

T3 November Meeting - Minutes

             T3 meeting, 24th November 2011, William Caxton.

Present:- Carolyn, Laura, Justin, Christine, Chris, Phil, Sue C, Jo, Claire

Apologies from Jeff

Since the last meeting on 20th October, we've had a successful morning weeding and winterising Highbury Hall Garden on the 20th November. We weeded the entire area, planted Daffodil bulbs and spread the entire area with woodchips. This should keep the weeds down until the spring. The woodchips were donated by Fernshire Tree Services in Staplehurst. We also made and positioned some bug hotels. Thanks go especially to Sue C for doing so much hard work, and to Di Greaves who came from Wales to help!

Lights Out Tenterden. The lights are scheduled to be on for 2nd December (late night shopping) and Lights Out will be on Friday 9th. We sent questionnaires to all the businesses in town, with the help of Sue F and the Chamber. We have had some responses, of which 78% have their lights on after closing. Astonishingly 36% of them have no idea what kind of bulbs they use. We will ask Sue F to send out a reminder to everyone, and encourage as many as we can to switch their lights off on the 9th. Jeff will hopefully take some photos on the night.

St Michaels Village Christmas Fair. This is on Sunday, 27th November from 2-4pm. We have a stall there in exchange for a raffle prize. We will take the opportunity to do some awareness raising, show some bug hotel ideas and sell some T3 jam. Everyone is welcome to help man the stall, talk to the public and generally mingle!

Treasures of Tenterden This is set for Monday 26th December, to coincide with the Hunt. Steve at The Vine has agreed to let us have a table inside The Vine, but volunteers to mingle with the crowd and encourage participation are needed. We need to get there by 11 to get set up. We have almost completed the questions, but still need to walk and time the route. Volunteers for that too! We need to get the sheets printed, as well as posters.

January Event As yet we don't have an event planned for January. Suggestions were a Quiz night, with a local theme, or a film show or possibly combine the two, with a supper of some sort. Possibly using Highbury Hall or Zion Baptist as a venue.

Future Events and suggestions
Swap Shop (plants,seeds,books,etc) at the end of February
A T3 Tea event around Easter, possibly combined with a 'Clean Up ' Day
Sue C suggested a 'Green Up' day as a title
We need to fix a date and venue for the Zero Carbon Jam, and work out the logistics of this.
We have been offered a stall at May Fair
Can we get a stall at Tentertainment?
Diamond Jubilee celebrations: Saturday, a Craft Fair on the Rec. Monday, a 'Retro Coffee Bar' in Highbury Hall
Phill would be able to make a pedal powered Smoothie Maker if we can get hold of an old bicycle and blender. This would be good fun to use at outdoor events.

10th December there is an open day at Kench Hill. This is an ideal opportunity to go and have a look at the set up there, including the fabulous Ridan composter etc.

Date of Next Meeting
Thursday 15th December, venue to be confirmed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lights Out Tenterden: The Numbers (So Far)

You may recall a few weeks ago we sent out a questionnaire to all businesses and shops in the High Street, to try to encourage them to participate in Lights Out Tenterden, which is coming up fast, folks! Friday December 9th is the big night and we want to see as many shops on that night with their lights off. So far the response has been interesting. After crunching some numbers, Carolyn has come up with these sets of figures:

Of the responses we have had, 79% have lights on at night.

Of these, 73% are window display, and 37% are Security lights. There is an overlap, hence the figures dont add up to 100.

67% have lights on all night, and 37% are on until midnight (or earlier ie 11pm).

55 % are on for aesthetic purposes, 36% are a Security requirement, and 27 % by Head office instruction (again,an overlap in the answers).

45% pay the bill themselves, 55% are paid by Head Office.

64 % use Halogen, 36% don't know.

36 % are prepared to turn off for one night only, 64% are NOT prepared to turn off at all.

So, those are the numbers so far. Let's see if we get a late surge of responses to improve some of these.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tenterden Freegle

It is with great pleasure that I can announce the formation of Tenterden Freegle, Tenterden's very own online reuse group. I applied to Freegle in late August at the suggestion of Di Greaves, who lives in Llandrindod and is part of the Transition group there. She is the sister of  Sue Childs, a T3 member, and regularly pops down to Tenterden and joins in our activities here.

Anyway, last week I received an email to let me know that my application had been successful and now Tenterden Freegle is up and running, with me as the moderator. All you have to do if you have something you'd like to give away or if you'd like to request something, is head on over to and sign up. Don't forget to read the FAQ, rules etc. Obviously there are certain things that you can't ask for or give away, like animals, illegal items and the like, nor can you 'borrow' items (unless you arrange that in private away from the site) or charge money for items. After all, this is Freegle - the word 'free' is in the name.  You can also head over to our Facebook page at and follow our Twitter feed at!/TenterdenFreegl (there's no 'e' because Twitter limits the amount of characters you can use in a name).

Don't tip it or skip it! Give it away with Freegle!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Weeding, Winterizing, Woodchipping

Well folks, yesterday was Sunday the 20th and we trekked up to Highbury Hall where we have our Community Garden. Our aim was simple. to pull the weeds one last time before winter set in, to plant some daffodil bulbs and to cover the entire garden with woodchips which were kindly donated to us by Rob Twyman over at Fernshire Tree Services in Staplehurst (plug plug!).

Here's a few piccies of the great event...

Here's what the border looked like when I got there shortly before 9 am.

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.  ~Doug Larson

But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else.  In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit.  Weeds are people's idea, not nature's.  ~Author Unknown

Christine doing her back in.

Only halfway along one border, and look at the piles of weeds!

The big mound of woodchips.

What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fortune of the Republic, 1878

Insect hotels ready for deployment.

Sue digging the area near the wall for the daffodil bulbs.

Di, Chris and Carolyn making bug hotels.

Laura came and helped out despite having a nasty cold.

Chris folds some ivy stems for the bug hotels.


Sue puts in the daffs.

I hung some of the bug hotels from the bird table.

I found some old bricks and stones so I made a stack of them and put in a bug hotel.

There was a ton of woodchips so we spread them behind the hall as far as we could.

You can't really see but the interior of the pile of chips was steaming hot.

A hollyhock plant that seeded itself, probably from some that grow outside some of the neighbouring houses.

The winter pansies are still going strong.
So the garden looks neat and tidy and the woodchips should be deep enough to prevent weeds from coming up too much during the winter months. Hopefully when we get back to it in early 2012 we shouldn't have too much to do.

But make no mistake:  the weeds will win; nature bats last.  ~Robert M. Pyle

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wildlife Stacks

One of the easiest things to create is a bug hotel -  all you need are some sticks or bits of bamboo, an empty container to wedge them into and some method of hanging it up or somewhere to place it where it will not be disturbed. A good start is an empty soda bottle. The size does not matter. All you need to do is to remove the bottom of the bottle with scissors and string a length of sturdy garden twine through the top of the bottle and loop it through the bottom, then tie it off so that it's hangable. Then grab a few dry leaves and wedge them along with some bamboo and/or twigs into the bottle so that they are securely wedged in. Make sure they're differing sizes and that there are lots of little nooks and crannies for insects to creep into. They're sure to find those nice warm leaves and find a cosy place in there to shelter from the elements. You could also use an old beat-up bird house with the front removed and do the same thing with shorter sticks, then a square of chicken wire tacked over the front. Then you could hang it on a tree or on your wall, like this one I saw at Heronden Gardens.

If you are more adventurous you could create a wildlife stack.

What many types of wild creatures really need are those naturally occurring nooks, crannies and decaying tree trunks that provide all the housing space they might need. For those of us who really can’t provide the real thing, a wildlife stack is a good alternative and they can give us a glimpse of creatures we otherwise might not get to see. To improve the chances of your efforts being rewarded it is important you provide plenty of pollen and nectar-rich plants. Made of recycled materials, stacks imitate the natural features required by wildlife. They are especially suitable for the 1,500 or so invertebrates regularly found in the average garden, many of which help control garden pests such as aphids. Stacks may also provide refuges for amphibians and hedgehogs. A wildlife stack will give you the opportunity to watch these fascinating creatures close up, and begin to understand how they behave. You'll also be able to show your friends and family, and maybe then they can provide this wonderful wildlife a home in their garden too!

To get started

  • Choose a firm, level site in the sun or light shade - most invertebrates like moist areas of dappled shade. Find somewhere that's easy to see, perhaps close to a hedge, shrub bed or pond.
  • Arrange some bricks on the ground on their side. If you have bricks with holes in them, face the holes outwards. If not, butt a pair of bricks together side by side and leave a small gap before the next pair. Create ‘H’ shaped cells of bricks and fill the space between with woodchips, leaf litter and sand (frogs and toads like to bury themselves into sand and soft soil).
  • Lay a wooden pallet, a sheet of plywood or strips of wood across the top of your bricks and then construct the next level in the same way. Remember to fill the gaps with your materials like hay, straw, dry leaf litter and wood chippings. Straw will provide nesting sites for ladybirds and thin twigs will provide shelter for larger insects. Place another pallet across the top and repeat. Logs and pine cones will provide extra homes for all sorts of insects.
  • Keep your stack dry with roof tiles or a sheet of board covered in roofing felt or polythene. On top of this, place crushed brick rubble, concrete or limestone chippings and plant with sedum or other low growing drought tolerant plants.

You could even incorporate bird and butterfly feeders into the design of your wildlife stack, and possibly some plants like the one in this picture.

What to use and/or include
The following list is in no way exhaustive, feel free to come up with your own ideas.

Pallets, or strips of wood
Pen casings and drinking straws
Cardboard tubes and corrugated card
Straw, hay, dry leaf litter and moss
Plant pots
Plastic and ceramic pipes of various diameter
Roofing felt
Bricks and concrete blocks, preferably with holes
Roof tiles
Hollow bamboo canes
Dead hollow stems cut from shrubs and herbaceous plants
Logs drilled with various sized holes
Crushed brick and concrete rubble
Succulent plants

Some other examples of wildlife stacks:

Wildlife stack from the RSPB's feature garden at BBC Gardeners' World 2008 - (RSPB)

Photos by Hayley Parfitt

As you can see, they're all quite easy to make and constructed of stuff that is not hard to find. True, they vary in the levels of complexity yet they all serve a very useful purpose, particularly if you happen to be a garden critter. Make it a family project and create one this month!

(Dawn Isaac)

Forthcoming Happenings


Sunday November 20th - Weeding and Winterizing Our nascent Community Garden at Highbury Hall needs a major weeding. We are having some free woodchips delivered by Fernshire Tree Services in Staplehurst, and we have a large quantity of bulbs to plant, so get your gardening gear on and head to the Hall on the morning of Nov. 20 to weed, plant, and spread woodchips over the flower beds to protect the bulbs and combat weeds. We are also creating some insect hotels and placing them about the place. We'll get to the Hall at about 9 and should be done by lunchtime - the more people show up the faster we can get it done!

Thursday November 24th - T3 November Meeting  Our November meeting will be held at The William Caxton on the evening of the 24th November at 7pm. All are welcome to attend and participate. If you have something you think we should be tackling, let us know!

Sunday November 27th - St. Michaels Village Hall Christmas Fayre  We shall have a stall at the Christmas Fayre, informing people of our projects and we'll also be creating bug hotels, which is a fun project for kids and helps remind everyone about the need to look after our native wildlife species during the winter months. Please attend and if you'd like to help man the stall and make bug hotels etc. let us know.

Friday December 9th - Lights Out Tenterden  Exactly one week after the Tenterden Christmas Lights are switched on for the holiday season, we are organising this event in order to highlight the issues of saving energy and light pollution. For the uninitiated, light pollution is extraneous light that filters into the night sky from lampposts and shop windows and cars, making the sky never truly dark. Ever looked across the fields at night and seen an orange glow on the horizon from a town's lights? That's light pollution.

The businesses in the High Street have been asked to switch off their lights after closing time in order to make the High Street Christmas lights look that much brighter and more festive. The participants are doing this on a strictly voluntary basis and some have volunteered to do it on more than one night. As we move towards a world in which more and more alternative energy solutions must be considered, we at T3 are trying to help the Town's traders move in the right direction. After all, if the Chamber of Commerce can reduce their Christmas lighting power bill by over £1000 just by switching to low-energy bulbs, then there is no reason why we all cannot benefit in the same way.

Monday December 26th - T3's Treasures Of Tenterden   On Boxing Day a good brisk walk does us all good after scoffing all the yummies on offer on the Big Day, so why not combine a good walk with a bit of history, a test of knowledge and the chance to win a prize?

 We will be at The Vine on Boxing Day, right after the annual hunt, and you can pick up from us a quiz sheet which will guide you on a tour around some of the hidden treasures of Tenterden. Simply by following the route, answering a few questions correctly and using your observational skills, and returning the completed sheet back to us, you just may win something. You'll feel better after a nice stroll and you will probably feel smarter too!

If you want to get involved in any of the above activities then head over to our Facebook page at or shoot me an email at If you want a chat call me on 07506899337.

Cheers y'all


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lights Out Tenterden

A few months ago in our second meeting Emma Isworth brought to our attention the fact that many of the businesses in the High Street leave a lot, in some cases all, of their lights on after closing time and late into the night, which is not only a tremendous waste of energy (in the form of light and heat and electricity) but also quite likely to be expensive for the companies involved, especially if they are using traditional bulbs instead of low-energy fluorescents, halogen bulbs or LEDs. Not forgetting the fact that most of that electricity is not going to be from renewable or sustainable sources. And once you start getting into things like light pollution (Google it), we could go on for hours. Well, after all our other projects have either started or come and gone we finally got around to addressing this problem and so one evening Carolyn went up and down the High Street and made a list of those businesses whose lights were blazing. 

Once the list was compiled, we wrote a letter with an accompanying questionnaire, like so:

Dear Manager,

We at Transition Town Tenterden (T3) are a group of local residents and businesses aiming to reduce the town's carbon footprint and improve its resilience in the light of 'Peak Oil'. To that end we want to encourage energy saving and so we are writing to ask you for help with our new project. As we move through Autumn and the nights draw in, our thoughts have turned to the issue of lighting, in particular the number of shops and businesses in the town who have lights on after closing time.
We would like to organise a 'Lights Off Tenterden' night to coincide with the Christmas Lights being on, on Friday 9th December. As you know, the Christmas Lights look fantastic, but imagine how much better they will look without the distraction of shop lights. As you may know, the Christmas lights are low energy bulbs, a change which has seen the energy bill reduce dramatically since they were changed, from £1300 to £83.
To enable us to organise this event, which will be great publicity for Tenterden, particularly for the shops, we would be grateful if you would spare a few minutes to answer a short questionnaire. The replies can be either posted back to the above address, emailed back to, phoned through to the above numbers, or handed in to Nelsons in Bells Lane. We would be grateful if you could reply by 30th November .
Yours Sincerely etc.

The questionnaire looked like this...

1)Do you leave any lights on after closing time?

[A] Window Display/Signboards  [B] Security light only  [C] All lights 
[D] No lights on.

2)If yes, how long are they on?

[A] All night   [B] until midnight

3)Why is it necessary to do so?  

[A] For Aesthetic purposes only 
[B] Security Requirement (mandated by Insurance company)
[C] Head Office instruction

4)Who pays the energy bills for your business ?

[A] Self  [B] Head Office

5)What type of bulbs do you use ?

[A] Incandescent [B] Halogen [C] LED [D] Don't Know 

6)Would you be prepared to turn all of your lights off ?

[A] Yes,One Night only [B] One Week only [C] Permanently [D] No, not at all 

We sent this email to Sue Ferguson at the Chamber of Commerce and she sent it to all the Chamber members and a few others she could think of, about 250 in all. We went up and down the High Street and handed the letter and questionnaire in at all the non-Chamber members. A few responses are starting to drift in; we are hoping that given the deadline of Nov. 30th, we'll get lots more in the coming weeks. So far, there are some who are for it, and some who cannot and will not because they are concerned for security (one shop had been ram-raided in the past and won't participate; they even stated that advertising an event such as this is just asking for thieves to show up en masse and have a crack at Tenterden. However, it is optional!). The ultimate goal is obviously to get everyone to reduce their lighting hours and switch to low-energy bulbs, but if we can get a lot of people to switch off on December 9th (and possibly beyond) then the LED Christmas lights in the town will look that much prettier. We will see!