Val walks with me on to the start of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and I spend a pleasant day walking its length. It was never built for much trade, principally the carrying up to Bridgwater of the wool from Taunton so it makes for very pleasant walking, soft Somerset countryside and lovely canal side facilities for visitors. It forms part of a Sustrans route and has a very imaginative display running its length; the solar system.
Half way along its length you are faced with a very large yellow globe; the sun, it is made to scale and at intervals that correspond to the relative distances of all the planets in our solar system. As I walk from it to Taunton I take in the tiny metal ball bearing sized planets and the proximity of the earth to Mercury, Venus, and Mars and the huge distance between them and the outer planets, Jupiter, and Saturn and their size, enormous compared to us, though tiny compared to the sun . It is an interesting lesson in the relativity of things. Were we to use the growth of the Chinese economy as a measure for transition’s success we might feel disheartened, yet if we measure our success by how many places have taken the ideas on board and are running with them, making them their own, why then we are a resounding success. Both are true, and yet we can choose where to concentrate our energies, and it is this that will make all the difference.
I am met just beyond Creech St Michael by Fran Hicks and Vickie Briggs of transition town Taunton and together we walk into town. They are vibrant enthusiastic good transition company, and it feels like being met by members of my tribe, shared language, shared ideals, common understanding; kin.
We go to the Quaker meeting house for storytelling and there is a lovely group of folk gathered; Chrissie Godfrey and Paul, Fran and Vickie, Nicola, Pixie, a young and very enthusiastic member of the Make Do and Mend group, Bob the gardener, Adrian from the neighbouring village of North Curry and Transition Athelney, Silvia and Pat from over the Devon border and Transition Uffculme, Helena from the Quakers, and Val, my host from Bridgewater. A host of 13, in a circle, telling tales, and it flows beautifully; ‘tis a full moon too!
I tell my tale and am delighted at the response; Chrissie sets us off in good stead with a really wonderful continuation of my tale and is soon followed by Fran in equal style. I hear of the many wondrous things this vibrant group are up to; first the Transition Together pack. The council love it and sponsored it and printed the booklet and want to give it to every household! Transition Taunton would simply like the chance to pilot it first to check it works well before giving it to all. They have two transition together streets working through the workbook already.
Transition Together was first created by Fiona Ward in Totnes (http://www.transitiontogether.org.uk/ where it is doing fabulously well and the very first transition street came up with the ides of petitioning for solar panels on all roofs in Totnes which later resulted in Transition Town Totnes being awarded half a million pounds from the government to equip ten percent of all Totnes homes with PV panels, and the local council funding them for the civic hall roof in the centre of the town.
In Taunton there is also a wonderful success story linked to the Transition Together tale. You see, tells Chrissie, prompted by young Pixie to tell the tale of the lion they were all afraid of who turned out to be a big cuddly teddy bear, there was once, as well as the Transition group, who were having fun, The Powers That Be, a powerful group who everyone was afraid of, a fierce lion who lived in the big council house.
Well. Transition Taunton decided they must meet with The Powers That Be, and so it was that that arranged to meet with Kevin the Mighty. One whole hour they were granted, one hour, thought Kevin the Mighty; that should be plenty of time to get Climate Change ticked off his to do list….
One hour to make a difference.
Well, off they went; the two transition folk who volunteered to brave the lion. One hour later the three emerged… what fun they had had together, Kevin the Mighty joking about how he had once believed he could tick Climate Change off his list in just one hour, and the transitioneers delighted; the big fierce lion, why it was a cuddly teddy bear, and the outcome of the hour spent together? 11 workshops agreed to and over 300 Taunton folk trained about transition!
Car Park attendants, engineers, lawyers, surveyors, council workers, plumbers; all manner of folk came to learn, to vision, to create the Taunton they would like to see. And when they were done? The wonderful vision, a compilation of all those people’s visions, was handed to the council; this was what the people of Taunton wanted.
Well now the storytelling group were nicely warmed up and they were off , with tales galore with which to delight me.
There was Bob the gardener and the doubting Thomas’ and how he had persuaded one to have solar panels fitted to his roof and another to plant his garden the permaculture way, and then came more, the group extolled the virtues of their wonderful Bob of the infectious gardening;
There was Pixie and her tiny 2m square patch jam packed full of veggies and Adrian and Bob’s beans, of every variety that were making Adrian’s garden both beautiful and edible, and Paul & Chrissie’s garden, inspired by Bob’s advice.
Then there was the funded green training offered to 11 folk to train to become home energy monitors to teach people how to measure the energy loss in their homes that 22 people turned up to apply for after an article was put in the local paper, the County Gazette, and how it was that they got Vickie out of the home energy monitors, a bright and vibrant local food and garden enthusiast for their core group.
Pat from Uffculme talked of the challenge of transitioning a large and wealthy village and her glut of greengages and how she had decided to turn them all into jam and chutney and then had realised she didn’t need all of that, nor the money from selling them, so she will put the jars out on the green stall of the village fair, to attract attention and to sell those pots of greengage jam and send £50 to help those in Pakistan suffering from the effects of climate change. As she speaks another idea comes to her and she talks about hiring a home energy photo machine and offering it around the3 village so that people can see how much money they are wasting and that they might be encourage to make a difference that way. There are murmurs in the group about helping Pat to acquire the machine.
Bob and Pat exchange jams and Bob hands me a lovely ripe apple picked from his tree that very morning. I give the gift from Climate Friendly Bradford on Avon, the book of poetry and the cloth bag and am presented with a sock monster to take on, a gift carefully stitched by Pixie of the Make, Do & Mend group, from a recycled sock, and with a message to tell
“The revolution is cultivation”
I receive too a copy of the greatly treasured Taunton Transition Together manual, a joint effort, each section carefully researched and then written by a different member of the core group.
We eat food from everybody’s gardens and the group tell me how they always have food to share and Pixie touches everyone by saying that when she talks about the transition group it is the tea and cake and sense of belonging to the group that she talks about, and just that they are there, doing things, together.
Vickie does the website, and is the food group representative on the core group, as well as being an amazing gardener and has planted fruit trees all over the town as part of the transition tree group with the council as part of the money the local tree surgeon reminded the council they had axed, and they had forgotten about and so they got it reinstated.
Fran is the celebration lady and she is now taking care of her garden, thanks to Bob, with two other transition folk, one of them Nicola. Nicola tells me she is inspired by the tale of Glastonbury Chicken Cooperative as she wants to keep chickens and has a friend who has too many and wants to get rid of some of them but if she can share with others it will be possible to keep them.
Silvia talks about a nearby village who kept putting money into a kitty and then when someone who really needed it came along, they gave it to them, as a gift.
Val tells the tale of how it was that a permaculture course changed the course of her daughter’s , and that now she and her family have a large garden that they tend and is happy.
I go home with Fran, happy too, full to the brim of happy tales, of people doing good in the world, and having fun, and making themselves and others happy. This is a powerful group, who have filled my storyteller’s bag to the brim. Thank you Taunton Transition Town.