Monthly Archives: April 2011

Welcome to Transition Tavistock’s March 2011 update
The Walled Gardens at Maristow

Jenny Tunley Price launched our Spring into Summer programme with a truly amazing talk about her project of renovating the walled gardens at Maristow, describing the spine-tingling moment when she first stumbled across the gardens, giving glimpses into the estate’s history, and outlining some current restoration projects. Pigs, mushrooms sheds, hop poles and panniers full of gold were all part of the story. Most exciting of all are her plans for the future. Many people have helped Jenny in her work and many have been helped by it. It’s hoped that groups of ex-service people and others will be able to make a living from the land in future, which ticks just about every sustainability box there is. The produce sounds wonderful too; look out for more of it in local restaurants, shops and markets.

You may wish to get involved with Jenny’s work; you can contact her on – and our own Energy and Food group is planning a visit; contact if you would like details, or watch for an announcement in a future newsletter.
Another walled garden

Kate has received a call from HogCo informing her that there is a walled garden in North Brentor in need of TLC from a community group. It is also on a bus route. If anyone is interested, or knows anyone else who would be interested, in co-operating with this, then please let Kate know and a joint visit can be organised with HogCo to have a closer look.
From the horse’s mouth
Those of us familiar with the Transition movement will be familiar with the name of Rob Hopkins who continues to encourage us to see the connections between peak oil, climate change and our future. I recently had the opportunity to hear the man himself at a talk at Exeter University. If you want more information on the background of the Transition movement you can borrow the copy of Transition Timeline. However, I will mention a few points from his talk. We should view the forthcoming shortage of oil as an opportunity – so how are we making intentional plans to promote localisation and powerdown? How are we managing our food purchases when we import and export potatoes at the same rate? He also provided examples of new homes built with 50% local materials and providing local jobs. There was also a subscription based bakery where subscribers committed in advance to a specific number of loaves. The ongoing question is “How do we want to see the future and what are we doing to realise it?” There is no blue print, all ideas and participation welcome. {Mike Dennis}
Adrian is feeling flushed
Other than drinking and washing, the greatest volume of water is used for flushing toilets, something which obviously doesn’t need top quality drinking water. If we are all to help save the planet, then one of the first aims would be to use less of everything. One way to do this to make old products last longer. If this can be done in a way that makes that product more efficient then that’s a double bonus.
Ceramic toilets have an average life span of 65 years yet people seem to rip them out without a second thought just because the colour doesn’t match the new decor. Once you could buy basins, baths and toilets in a huge variety of colours yet now it’s any colour as long as it’s white.

Adrian’s house was built in the 1940s and had one toilet that was originally outside. The fitting of a window meant moving the cistern from above to one side and to do this he had to install a slim plastic one – now a new ‘white’ close coupled toilet. The house was extensively ‘modernised’ about 30 years ago when coloured suites were all the rage but as these are all in quite good repair. I wanted to retain the units and use new water saving flushing devices. Most DIY centres sell these.

The cistern is simply a tank with two devices inside. One allows the water to be flushed away to clean the pan while the other allows water in to refill it to a certain level. There is no way to vary the amount of water used. It either empties the cistern or it doesn’t. You can prevent the cistern filling too much by adjusting the height of the float or as often advised in times of drought, by putting a house brick in there! This type of device relies on using a siphon to empty the cistern. You don’t always need a tank full so the new water saving devices often have two buttons in place of the lever. One for a short flush and one for a full flush. If there’s a single button the flush is varied by the length of time the button is held in.

As Adrian had two cisterns that needed upgrading, he bought two very different types. They both need the cistern removed from the wall to fit so it was a job not to be attempted by the fainthearted. Foolish builders in the past tended to use steel screws that rust solid. However, the designers also specified steel plates to join the cistern to the pan. These too can disintegrate! Be prepared to replace these but buy them before you do the job or you may be without a toilet for a day or two.

However did they all work as intended? No – and I suspect they may now actually use more water because they sometimes need flushing twice!

Returning at last to that new toilet. The pan doesn’t hold as much water so needs less to change the contents. For this reason I can’t recommend those water saving devices in these toilets. They do however have one redeeming feature. They both include an overflow so no longer need that pipe that sticks out through the wall and can freeze in cold weather. If frozen the overflow freezes and the dripping valve slowly fills the cistern till it overflows inside the house. This rarely happens as if in constant use a slow drip is unlikely to over fill the cistern between flushes. This is one good reason for turning the water off at the mains when you go away. You don’t want to return from a skiing holiday to find you can now skate in the house!

P.S. For the future, look out for further articles on water including how to save water by not washing in a way that might actually be healthier. Also, what is the connection between a kashmir jumper, silk underwear and a ceramic gent’s urinal? Intrigued? Well I’m afraid we will have to wait for Adrian’s next contributions to find out.

Spring into Summer Sessions

Our next Session promises to be as inspiring as the first with a talk about the Embercombe community on Wednesday 11th May, two powerful films about the future of the global economy on Wednesday 22nd June, and ‘In Transition’ a film capturing a year in the life of the Transition movement on Wednesday 27th July. All events are at the United Reformed Church in Russell St, with doors opening for refreshments at 7pm and films/events starting at 7.30. Entry by donation. Please note that some of the dates originally publicised have been changed.

Over the hill and down the other side

How do we sustain food security the other side of peak oil?

A day on Transition Farming, Bio-security and the care of God’s creation on Tuesday July 5th, 10am –4pm at Shillingford Organics, Barton Lane Exeter EX2 9QQ. The Speakers will be Martyn Bragg, David Ursell and Professor Tim Gorringe. The cost is £5.00 and we need to bring our own picnic (drinks provided) and garden chair. The day includes a conducted tour of the farm. Full payment should be sent with your booking. Cheques should made payable to EDBF’ and sent to: Joan Harris, The Old Deanery, The Cloisters, Exeter EX1 1HS. For further information/questions: contact 01392 294940,

Other events and contact details

Green Drinks, an informal gathering for people who care about the environment and a sustainable Tavistock, will return in April to its customary slot on the second Tuesday of every month, at 7.30 pm in the Market Inn, Tavistock. All welcome. Transition Tavistock can be contacted at or 01822 618 715. Our website is at

For information

Devon Churches Green Action has just published a new leaflet on Green Burials, a copy of which is also attached. It’s also downloadable from

Devon and Cornwall Food Association have just launched their work based in Plymouth to collect and redistribute food that would otherwise be destroyed to community organisations. See for details.