New community orchard at Clay Park!
Due to the snow, we had to postpone our orchard planting (as we'd been advised that the trees are vulnerable to damage when temperatures are freezing) although we still popped down to Clay Park to see it in the snow! Martin Stallard has been hard at work finishing off the stone walled banks, and they looked particularly lovely with a blanket of snow on them.
We rescheduled the planting for the following weekend, and although there was a bit of drizzle the weather was much better! Liz Turner (formerly Trees for Health) and Wendy Stayte (previous coordinator for Incredible Edible Totnes) came along to offer their expertise and more than a dozen volunteers showed up to lend a hand. The most challenging bit was hauling everything up the muddy site - of course we would be planting the orchard as far from the gate as possible! - but planting the trees themselves was straightforward, although each one looks like it has a little fortress erected around it as there is a stake to support the tree and a guard to prevent the local deer from damaging them.
This brings our Postcode Local Trust funded activities to an end, although we are shortly taking delivery of our benches from Landworks, and we have a good selection of tools for ongoing maintenance! We're also looking forward to revealing our foraging map of Clay Park, put together by Myrtle Coooper of Wild & Curious Foraging (who has led 4 foraging sessions for us over the last year). You'll soon be able to pick one up from the site entrance.
It's very busy behind the scenes at Transition Homes. We're waiting to hear from Homes England (formerly the Homes & Communities Agency) on a grant bid to them for our shared ownership units - we should get a decision any day now. Other grant bids are in the pipeline too. We've tendered the build contract to four local building firms, and have a preferred contractor who we're now looking to appoint. The detailed design work with our civil and structural engineers and our architect is coming to a close, so that the fully designed scheme will be ready for the contractor to cost up. Our detailed highways plans are with Devon County Council Highways for approval. One thing we're really looking forward to arranging with the contractor is community engagement - ideas include a monthly open day where residents and other locals can come along for a tour, to see what's been happening, and hopefully get their hands dirty!
A particular challenge for us has been how to embed the use of local building materials, particularly timber, in the build contract. We need a lot of timber, and in order to get an LABC warranty on the homes, timbers for certain uses must be treated and graded in certain ways - which means some things we need aren't available locally. Thankfully we have two members of the team who have been working in the local timber trade for years so know who to talk to, and have been working with our architect to specify - for all sorts of uses from big timbers for the substructure, framing timber, kitchens, doors, cladding, etc - where the timber will be sourced. There are lots of legal negotiations going on with solicitors, neighbours, Devon County Council and South West Water (all very normal!) for the new road and sewer connection. Our M&E (mechanical and electrical) engineers are designing the private wire system and working with Argand to figure out the metering and other requirements for this innovative part of the scheme!
Recently we had a group of local permaculture students use Clay Park as a case study, for them to create their own design for the site which they presented on their final evening of their course. It was fantastic to see their enthusiasm and to hear some new ideas, and we were impressed at their ability to look at an empty 7 acre field and imagine what it may become!
Earthwrights have designed us a lovely natural play area to go next to the community building, a local architect has volunteered some time to do some artists impressions of thesite, the new website is under development, and we're shortly about to start a consultation on the ruined barn.... phew. This is just some of what's going on to get ready to start building late in 2018.
The team is made up of 6 volunteer Trustees - Tom, Mary, Erica, Laura, Zav, and Ruth - and 3 key volunteers - Jim, Ben and Sally - who all contribute their time around their jobs, and part-time coordinator Nicola. We're always open to volunteers - for example, there are things to do at the site, we're seeking a Trustee with finance experience, and if you're a wiz with WordPress you could help with the new website!
A common question is 'have we allocated the houses yet?' to which the answer is no: we won't do this until we've got finance in place and a start date and build programme, so that we know when the houses will be ready. So if you're interested or know someone in need of affordable housing, would like to lend a hand, or have any other queries, please get in touch with Nicola on firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, we are seeking supporters to help us cover our modest (~£2000/yr) core costs - if you can donate a small monthly amount to help us then please please fill in this form. Your support would be hugely appreciated!