The following report was delivered to the Annual Parish Meeting on 30 May, 2023. It summarises ZCC activities from April 2022 to March 2023, looks forward to projects in 2023/24 and provides an update on Q1 progress-to-date…
It has been a busy year: the Repair Café has established itself as a regular event, we planted the remaining trees in Elbourn Way, started a multi-year nesting box initiative to save Bassingbourn’s swifts, re-branded as The Zero Carbon Collective and launched our website.
Sadly, Jo Freeman’s work commitments and Jill Reeve’s declining health meant that both stepped away from the coordinating group in 2022. They were tireless members, and we are very grateful for their hard work and commitment since lockdown. Fortunately, Peter Tiffin, Mark Lynch and Jackie Ives have stepped in to fill the gap in the biodiversity and energy themes and to provide impetus to our use of social media respectively.
Elbourn Way Trees
The initial planting at Elbourn Way was completed in March 2022 by volunteers from the village. However, the summer of 2022 was exceedingly tough for our newly planted trees due to an extended drought and extremely high temperatures. Fortunately, local tree champions took care of watering during this period to give the trees the best chance of survival.
We would like to thank all our tree champions and extend our special thanks to Jacqui Jobbins and Edd Long, who have continued to monitor the trees over the year and prune them when needed.
Unfortunately, there we several acts of vandalism resulting in the loss of several tree guards. Each time volunteers came out to assess and remediate any damage but, despite our best efforts, several trees did not survive. A second round of planting was performed at the end of this February. Sturdy metal guards were used to protect these newly planted trees.
The trees are doing well and getting established. We will monitor their progress through the year and the tree champions will water as required during the summer.
The area is now registered on the Queen’s Canopy website. Visit the map on https://queensgreencanopy.org/map-education-hub/qgc-map/#/.
Bassingbourn Village College Trees
We were approached by the Village College to support a student-led initiative to acquire trees from the Woodland Trust. Advice was provided on the tree packs to request and on suitable planting locations within the grounds of the Village College. The trees were planted during a Curriculum Day with support from our group (Jacqui Jobbins) and the Environment Group (Lesley Bond).
We will collaborate on further biodiversity plans with the College and the Primary School.
A Village Tree Trail has been prepared. The planned trail has been circulated to the Parish Council for reference. Tree labels have been purchased to aid identification. We aim to publish the trail in the Spring.
Thanks to Jon Malins and Anna Coakley, we held two Repair Cafés over the year. They are arranged with support from Cambridge Carbon Footprint (CCF) who provide training, a large toolkit from Mackays and Drapers, and access to specialist repairers should we need them. And the CCF volunteer Outreach Group can provide help at events to enable people calculate their carbon footprint.
Led by Jon, a team of five very enthusiastic local repairers have worked on over 80 (often very old and out of date) items, repairing well over half. Where possible, they have showed the owners how to mend similar issues in future – playing to the importance of Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle to cut our carbon emissions.
We thank all the repairers, helpers, Karen Tiffin for organising the refreshments and the volunteer cake bakers, and Jon and Anna for providing the village with a great resource.
The next Repair Café is on Saturday 9 September at 14:00-17:00 in the Old School Community Centre.
Brand and Website
After listening to what parishioners wanted us to focus on, the Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth Climate Emergency Group changed its name in the New Year to The Zero Carbon Collective – reinforcing the objective for our community to have net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Taking full advantage of the SCDC grant, the new website was completed in late 2022 and launched on 9 January. It now provides information for parishioners about the projects being undertaken, and local and national news about improving biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions. A focus for 2023/4 will be to support and grow Bassingbourn Community Food.
Public meeting (Wednesday 28 September 2022)
About a dozen people attended our first public meeting in the Old School Community Centre. We got some great feedback and ideas for future projects to help the parish to get to net zero carbon by 2050:
– plant hedges (particularly filling in gaps) and trees, not only to increase our population of birds, insects, butterflies, bees, but also to absorb our carbon emissions locally
– install more boxes for nesting birds, to encourage the increase of those we’ve been losing from our area over the last few years. A new project was kicked off as a result (see below)
– collect experiences from local people who have installed air source heat pumps, solar panels, new loft insulation and triple-glazing and then run an open meeting with Q&A to share with parishioners. The first meeting was held in March (see below).
Save Our Bassingbourn Swifts
This project will support bird species within the parish boundaries that are on the Birds of Conservation Concern ‘red list’. The common swift, a summer migrant with an established breeding colony, has been chosen as the flagship species. The project will be realised by increasing the number of nesting sites within the village.
Twenty swift nest boxes have been purchased. Installation of these boxes on private houses has begun. Taking into account boxes that have also been privately purchased, a total of 25 boxes have been installed. Four swift call systems have also been installed to attract the birds to the boxes. These call systems will be moved round different locations within the village to encourage widespread take up.
Three house martin nest cups have been purchased and installed. These birds are also on the red list. Along with privately purchased nest cups, a total of 14 artificial nests have been installed. One house martin call system has been deployed to attract the birds.
Schwegler Nest Box Project
A theme within conservation is to “keep common species common”. Six Schwegler nest boxes were purchased for use by blue tits, great tits, or house sparrows. The latter species, although common locally, is on the red list. Two of the boxes (‘C1’ and ‘C2’) were installed in the churchyard. Neither box appears to be in use yet. By agreement with the Woodland Trust, four boxes have been put up in Ford Wood. This is a rolling agreement over the next 5 years. One box (“F1”) has been used by great tits. Another box (“F2”) has been used by blue tits. Overall, this success rate is very encouraging.
We thank Chris Holcroft and Dave Norris for their assistance putting up nest boxes.
Energy Meeting – Insulation (Wednesday 1 March 2023)
With more than two thirds of homes within the village built before 1985 and most of them EPC-rated lower than C, the first step to improve the energy efficiency of the parish housing stock is to ensure their insulation is as effective as possible.
This meeting presented the main options for retrofit insulation, together with input from parishioners who have implemented some of these options, summarising their experience of the process and their results. There was plenty of discussion and the presentation finished with a checklist of “next steps” that residents might consider.
The material used in the presentation will be available on the ZCC website.
Thermal Imaging Camera
In 2022, the Cambridge Carbon Footprint acquired several thermal imaging cameras that individuals can borrow to identify problems with insulation, draughts and damp in their homes. Some changes are easy for people to fix themselves, such as draught-proofing and thermal curtains, while others may need professional help like special insulation.
As a result, significant improvements in comfort can be achieved, together with a reduction in energy bills and carbon emissions.
The good news for parishioners is the Zero Carbon Collective is hosting one of the cameras, so collection and return is easy! A number of people in the village have already borrowed the camera and the ZCC conducted two surveys for people.
Looking forward to 2023/24
We have five main initiatives planned for the financial year 2023/24:
1) Nest Boxes
a. Increase the number of swift nesting boxes on private properties
b. Identify other swift nest site opportunities (e.g. parish church, school buildings)
c. Continue Ford Wood nest box plan
d. Identify other opportunities for Schewgler nest boxes
2) Work with the Parish Council and other stakeholders to develop a “Nature Recovery Plan” (which will include the next phase of hedging/tree planting for the village);
3) Progress the North End Allotment/biodiversity area;
4) Ramp up Bassingbourn Community Food production and take up, using the website and social media to support engagement with growers and consumers, and;
5) Keep the Repair Café a regular feature on the village calendar by holding at least two cafés.
Gardening for Wildlife Talk (Tuesday 16th May 2023)
On Tuesday 16th May, we hosted a talk by Iain Webb (Community Conservation Officer for the Wildlife Trusts of Beds., Cambs., and Northants.) on “Gardening for Wildlife”. The talk, which was attended by 19 people, showed us how our gardens can support biodiversity within the village.
Bassingbourn Community Food – Veggie Boxes and Salad Club
Libby’s veggie box scheme will start in June/July. She is growing many of the same types of vegetables as last year but is also trying some new ones like turnips and borlotti beans. If you would like to be a buying member again this year, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Libby is also launching the ‘Salad Club’, born out of a desire to reduce the need for plastic packaging for salads. The principal is that salad club members can, whenever they so choose, come to Guilden Gate equipped with their own bowl/container to harvest delicious, organic salad straight out of the ground. We have only ten salad club memberships up for grabs, at a cost of £65 each (for which you get around four months’ worth of salad from June to September). Please email us on email@example.com if you would like one!
And we will be running BCFood volunteer days again through the summer – the next will be Sunday June 18th.
We would like to thank the Parish Council for their support to help our community move towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The ZCC receives funding as part of the PC’s annual budget, without which we would not be able to run our projects.
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