A History of Greener Waldringfield

Greener Waldringfield started in 2009, growing out of the foundation of Transition Woodbridge (TW) in which four of us were key initiators. (Before that Neil Winship’s SIPLE - Suffolk One Planet Living - had had a year or so of interesting meetings). One of the insights of the Transition movement is that traditional skills of making and doing are going to need to be recovered – and low energy traditional equipment is still relevant. We got funding for an apple press, steriliser for bottled fruit and juicer, and a dehydrator – giving us the ability to extend our fruit harvest without using freezers. Because TW was operating on the Rob Hopkins ‘Just Do It’ principle and grant money was needed to fund this, we used WALGA (now Waldringfield Gardeners) to administer it, as it had a constitution and a bank account. The fruit preserving equipment was heavily promoted in Woodbridge and for some years TW volunteers used to process apples harvested by invitation or gleaned into juice for homes and shelters. The press is borrowed regularly by half a dozen users, but the other pieces only by a couple of devoted bottlers and driers.

A couple of years later those Waldringfield members of TW decided to focus their efforts more at home in the village. In 2010 we had an Energy and Community day: here is the report that went into the Parish Magazine:

The Energy and Community event on Saturday 16th January was well attended with over fifty people through the door during the course of the morning and about forty attending at least one of the talks – by John Taylor from the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership (he had a lovely pair of pictures: if we want to change we should think of ourselves not as powerless passengers on an ocean liner, monolithic and cumbersome to turn around, but as part of a flock of starlings where the actions of a small number can lead to the dynamic swirling change of course of the whole flock), Debbie Wargate, the SCDC ‘Green Officer’ who bravely prefaced her talk with what she personally had done to reduce her carbon footprint (which includes cycling to work more often – Felixstowe to Woodbridge – pretty good!) and Chris from the Energy Saving Trust. Finally Robbie from East Green Energy talked about ground-source heating – he could have talked about lots else too. All talked about the new feed-in tariff for micro-generation which starts in April and makes payback for, for instance, photovoltaic panels on a large roof, e.g. the village hall, possible within about three years – after which they are an earner. They were all busy at their stalls all morning handing out relevant leaflets on insulation, energy saving tips, grants, funding etc and talking through people’s queries and problems.

As a result of this day several households in the village bought photovoltaic panels and we borrowed energy monitors from the Suffolk Climate Change Partnership. A few of us joined WHEAT – Woodbridge Healthy Eating And Trading, a short lived group buying whole foods from Suma, a worker owned co-operative; and an oil bulk buying collective, also short lived.

‘Get Going on Your Bike’ in 2011 attracted only half a dozen takers but was immense fun and sometimes shamingly enlightening: there were three workshops – Is your bike safe? (one had been assembled with the forks the wrong way round, so not!), Are you safe on your bike? (several of us were lamentably slow to get going) and a curated ride to Newbourne (stiff old necks make knowing what’s behind difficult). Several of the takers for this have maintained being out and about on bikes.

In 2012 we investigated Community Composting in Norfolk, there being none in Suffolk – the initiative of a Master Composter, of whom there are now four in the village. At that stage SCC groups could get Landfill Tax rebate (now discontinued) for measured diversion from landfill. Inspired we applied for grant funding from the Suffolk Foundation, the Greenprint Forum and the Big Lottery Foundation and set up Waldringfield Community Composting. This has always been run by WALGA, as GW had not financial capacity. We decided to tackle the fraction of compostable waste that is the most difficult to deal with, food waste, with a variety of tempting technical solutions from very low tech (worm bins) through bokashi bins to the recently produced Hotbin. About thirty-five of the latter are in operation around the village but the take up of bokashi and worm bins was low. We have not found sites for any communal dead-hedging to deal with the other compostables not easily accommodated in an ordinary compost bin, which is large prunings which villagers routinely drive to the Foxhall site, or laboriously cut up to fit into their brown bins (which were designed that size so that large woody stuff would not fit in!) Much organic matter, which should go into local soils, still goes away in the brown bin collection, even though the service is no longer universal and Suffolk residents have to pay directly for it – and it travels all the way to Parham for very carbon intensive processing. We set up WCC in 2013.

In 2012 the Village Hall Coffee Morning started – we talked round and round this and eventually just said “Right, we start next week.” It has become a much valued monthly village event run by its own stalwart team and generated lovely revenue for the village hall. The idea of a lunch club, as many villages have, didn’t fly.

A second Energy and Community Day took place in 2013 with again green technology companies present plus some other interesting participants like the inventor of the Rubbish Diet – to slim your bin – and Kelsale cum Carlton energy group. The day had a rather poorer take up than the previous one, and we are not sure of the identifiable follow-ons. There were a few who wanted to show their house heat loss with photos on the infra-red camera we borrowed from Carlton cum Kelsale (and anyway their soft-ware seemed to have gone missing, so it was not possible to interpret the photos accurately) and the car-share web-site we set up has been very little used – it’s still there though!

In 2016 we arranged three talks by Prof John Midwinter, FRS, on climate change and what you can do. All of these were well attended and the last, on how he has up-graded his house to be much more environmentally responsible, inspired some emulation. In 2017 Regan Scott gave a most interesting talk titled ‘The Politics of Nuclear Power’. Communal energy generation is something we have often talked about.

A more joyful event was a safari supper – we had talked around this endlessly as we had around getting a village notice board (so that we don’t have so many unsightly and often out of date notices leaving little ends of microplastic under the drawing pins when they are torn off) and bulk deliveries of bread from the Cake Shop for instance, but we have only managed to make the Safari supper happen once so far – shared meals fared a little better with two!

Among joyful events the Pumpkin Party scores high – invented by a former resident to include all ages and all venues it starts in the village hall with an afternoon of craft, eating pumpkin delicacies and pumpkin carving, progresses through Church Field with lanterns to the beach where vegetable boats with tiny bees-wax candles are launched and the Sailing Club’s hospitality enjoyed. Sky lanterns and flaming brands, part of the original vision, are banned – this is a strictly no-plastic do!

2018 was of course the year of many Armistice commemorations – two of us used the Greener Waldringfield umbrella to run a supplementary event focusing in a forward looking way on current efforts to create Peace: we did not get many contributors to the white poppy display we organised (a long-running Peace Pledge Union scheme) but more than forty people came to hear the venerable Bruce Kent and representatives from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and CND as well as a talk from Jonathan Ruffle, the writer for the four year-long sequence of radio plays Tommies, a recital of poetry, and a Chinese calligraphy workshop. War is after all the most environmentally damaging thing we humans do.

Another thing we talked round and round is a Community Directory – modelled on something the WI, when the village had one, started as a Millenium project and continued until its demise, to welcome newcomers to the village. The idea of building on that was part of the Parish Plan in 2012 – no one else was picking up the idea so we did, early in 2019: every household got a copy and it is up-dated on the Greener Waldringfield website set up in 2016. This grew out of a six week programme in which a small core of us tried each week to address reducing our carbon footprint with a different target each month.

There are three of us who have done the Plastic Action Champion ‘training’ and in 2018 we also took part in the Love East Suffolk Spring Clean – about thirty people plus ten more from the Friday Ladies Walking group and some others on a more individual basis spent a morning clearing more than 50 bags of litter plus some large piles of fly tipping - we think of it as a pre-beach clean, as the beach and the ocean is where it would mostly end up. We have continued with annual walks to keep the approach roads to the village free of rubbish – and latterly added removing redundant tree guards as advocated in the AONB Free The Trees campaign.

There is nothing we wouldn’t consider relevant – we were even delighted to host a Death Café initiated by the Greenprint Forum: what do we do with our mortal remains! And finally, in February 2020 we hosted a Repair Café, in which local skilled volunteers augmented by techies from MakerSpace in Ipswich retrieved from an early death a range of bits – bikes and vacuum cleaners to a forty year old radio. There was a clothes exchange, promotion of electric bikes by several enthusiastic owners in the village, a youth forum and a most stimulating and well attended presentation on Climate Change by Ian Kay.

Copyright 2021 GW