Monthly Archives: November 2010

Christmas Tree Festival at St. Eustachias Church in Tavistock.

Transition Tavistock is one of the 54 organisations who have decorated a tree as part of the Christmas Tree Festival (

Come along and see our tree which is on show from Friday 26th November to Sunday 5th December. The tree lights are pedal powered! You’re welcome to come and top up the batteries!

The theme of our tree is ‘Naturally Beautiful’ – We have created a sustainably decorated tree, without the use of oil and oil related products as far as possible. Our simple and inexpensive decorations can subsequently be re-used or eaten! We hope you agree that its natural beauty will speak for itself.

How we made our decorations:
Fresh cut holly from a holly bush and then attached using cotton loops.
Bell, snowmen and reindeer biscuits made from butter, Demerara sugar, black treacle, ground ginger, mixed spice, bicarbonate of soda, egg and plain flour. Iced with royal icing and hung with red cotton.
Peanut and berry strings – strung together with red cotton.
Christmas stars -: Hand knitted from Wonnacott Organic Wool , grown near Tavistock and spun at Launceston.
Fruit nets – These are also made by knitting, using the same Wonnacott Organic Wool
Cotoneaster triangles – Cotoneaster sprigs bound with raffia
Mixed posies – Various garden and hedgerow plants and shrubs combined and bound with raffia
Duck eggs – blown and threaded
Beech nuts and pine cones threaded with cotton and ribbon
Cinnamon stick bundles secured with twine
Popcorn streamers – Popcorn, berries and liquorice allsorts strung together
Pumpkin seed streamer – seeds strung on twine

November Newsletter

Welcome to the Transition Tavistock November Newsletter; hope you enjoy browsing through it.

Please send any items for inclusion in future newsletters to us at or by post to Transition Tavistock, c/o Westden, 20 Plymouth Rd, Tavistock PL19 8AY.











A lively event took place in the United Reformed Church Hall, to celebrate this special date and the now global campaign to reduce carbon use by 10% in the year 2010. We watched a couple of short films, shared our thoughts and ate rather a lot of cake and biscuits. Many thanks to Mark Prebble for organising. There’s still time to join up or just to access energy saving tips at – where at the time of writing 110,676 sign-ups in 152 countries have been logged.

Farm Visit

A large group of Transitioners spent a very happy, sunny afternoon with Paul and Rosie Yells who hosted a visit to Wonnacott Farm, a mixed organic farm where we met turkeys, cows, sheep and pigs, and saw the elderly combine harvester and baler. The setting is beautiful and it is good to see animals and poultry reared in this way. The turkeys, not gifted with foresight, seemed particularly pleased to see us and keen to engage in conversation of a sort. It was a really enjoyable and a thought-provoking visit as the Yells shared with us some of the dilemmas they face in terms of food production and planning for a future with less oil. For example, at present there is no use for the beautiful black feathers produced by those magnificent Norfolk turkeys (seen below); and shearing the sheep must be done, but wool is currently worth so little that shearing currently makes a loss rather than a profit. Rosie has however had some organic wool spun into skeins and is expanding the herd to produce a variety of different coloured wools in the future. Closure of local abbatoirs means that the sheep have to be trucked to Wales for slaughter while the cattle go to Cornwall and the beef they produce is bought for Tesco. Plastic sheeting must be used in order that grass grown on the farm can be fed in the winter as silage. The Yells grow as much winter feed as possible on the farm, though their stockpile of grain and peas was recently raided by a posse of local deer.

We were provided with a generous and delicious tea and sampled turkey, apple juice and home baked bread and biscuits. Alongside all this hard work and self sufficiency on the farm and in the kitchen, Rosie and Paul are gradually renovating the listed farm house using natural materials and installing a wood-fired boiler to go with their solar water system. Rosie also shared her experience of getting the necessary consent for the solar water on a listed building.

More information about the farm and its produce at : there is a discount for Transition supporters who want to get together and make a group purchase of small, medium and large turkeys.

Ground water supply

Last month’s article about rain water harvesting prompted another Transition supporter to share his experience of arranging a ground water supply, thus avoiding the necessity of installing two plumbing systems. He describes his experience below.

Harvesting groundwater is an alternative way of harvesting rainwater that has percolated down to the water table, but with the added advantage that it is naturally filtered and purified as it seeps through the rocks.

We live in a cottage forming part of a row of terrace cottages in the country, all with large back gardens and connected to South West Water mains, each cottage having its own water meter. About 16 years ago, shortly after water privatisation, my neighbour suggested that we join forces and get our own water supply by having a borehole sunk before legislation was enacted prohibiting this, or requiring a licence to do so. We contacted a drilling firm with a water diviner who confidently identified a subterranean Amazon flowing across our properties and offered to drill for water on the basis of “no water no fee.” This was an offer we could not refuse.

As the drill went deeper and deeper the driller looked increasingly glum but we eventually hit a good supply of water at about 180 feet below ground level. The borehole was continued to 210 feet in order to get a good sump of water in the aquifer. I then ran a flow test to ensure that there was enough water for two households and our gardens. I can’t recall the flow rate but it has proved sufficient ever since, even for filling up my large fishpond in one go.

The next stage was to have the water analysed for bacteriological, herbicide, insecticide and and elemental contaminants. Its quality proved to be even better than that the South West Water supply for for many of the so-called impurities, and in all parameters was well within the maximum specified in the Water Supply Quality Regulations 1989. However, as we live in a former metaliferous mining area the water proved to be rather acid due decomposition of sulphide minerals in the rock so producing sulphuric acid that gets into the groundwater. This was easily rectified by installing a filter charged with magnesium carbonate granules in the system. The water has been analysed a couple of times over the last 16 years and its quality has been maintained.

The borehole was cased down to the water table and the system consists essentially of an electric-powered pump near the bottom of the 210 foot borehole. A sensor turns the pump on when the pressure in the pressure vessel falls below a predetermined figure. The pressure in the pressure vessel can be varied and a dial shows the water pressure in our taps. The water passes from the pressure vessel through the adjacent filter cylinder and thence to our respective households. Everything is housed in a small wooden shed situated on the border of our respective gardens. We elected to stay connected to the South West Water supply so that we are ensured of water in the event of our borehole running dry, the pump malfunctioning or some other disaster. To change from our own to SW Water supply simply requires opening one stopcock and closing another. Other than having to replace our pump sensor that was on two occasions blown by lightning strikes we have had no problems and the well has never run dry.

I can’t remember exactly what it cost to install the system but it was not more than £8000. The cost of a borehole system depends on how deep one has to drill to reach an aquifer, and how far the borehole is from your electricity supply and from the mains water pipe. As we shared the cost of installing the system we have easily amortised our capital outlay and had the benefit of virtually unlimited amounts of sweet water. The estimated annual cost of our water is less than £100 for two households with two and four persons respectively – or less than £50/annum per household. This includes the cost of the electricity for the pump, the granules for correcting the acidity, a Ph meter and standard fluids for periodic checking of the water acidity/alkalinity, chemical laboratory analyses of water quality every 10 years, and a small standing charge for the benefit of remaining connected to SW Water; but no allowance for interest on the initial capital outlay. I think this represents better value than a rainwater harvesting system, and one has better quality water.

Incidentally, I still have four large rainwater butts that I use for watering the flower beds near the house as it is sometimes more convenient than a hosepipe.

A final word of caution. A neighbour whose property is only about 500 yards distant from ours thought he would follow our example. He had two boreholes drilled, both of which were dry. But then he refused to have a water diviner tell him where to drill! As a professional geologist I have always been rather sceptical about water divining, but it worked for me.

Energy and Food Groups

Both groups will be gathering for celebration and chat at Green Drinks, on Tuesday 14th December at the Market Inn in Tavistock. The group will be mulling over priorities for next year, which could include setting up a community interest company and/or a hydro electric project.

Christmas Tree competition

Our Transition tree will be taking its place in St Eustachius Church with tree-dressing on the evening of Thursday 24th and day of Friday 25th November. You are welcome to help out and/or supply natural/edible decorations. The trees will be exhibited between 26th November and 5th December to raise money for charity, so pop in and have a look.

Tavy1 Eco-team has just started out on its quest to reduce the energy consumption of its members, who will be encouraging each other and sharing tips on how to reduce their carbon footprint. They will be expecting to save money in the process – families typically save around £170 per year by engaging in eco-teams. More details at or phone Mike Dennis if you would like to know more.

Climate Change Report

The Royal Society states “Climate change continues to be a subject of intense public and political debate. Because of the level of interest in the topic the Royal Society has produced a new guide to the science of climate change. The guide summarises the current scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers highlighting the areas where the science is well established, where there is still some debate, and where substantial uncertainties remain. The document was prepared by a working group chaired by Professor John Pethica, Vice President of the Royal Society and was approved by the Royal Society Council.” The guide is available for download here We can also recommend Prof Tom Jackson’s new book: “Prosperity without Growth.”

Green Drinks happens every second Tuesday of the month, at the Market Inn, Tavistock. Next one is coming up soon at 7.30 on Tuesday 9th November; all welcome.

New digital strategy game

Fate of the World is a global strategy game that puts our future in your hands. Decide how the world will respond to rising temperatures, heaving populations, dwindling resources, crumbling ecosystems and brave opportunities. An early Beta version is available to download for £9.99 + VAT and the full version will go on sale for £19.99 in time for Christmas. Watch a trailer and find out more at