The Oncoming Food Crisis

Bishopston Murton and Manselfield was and should be again part of Gower’s food growing heritage. Numerous market gardens thrived and fed local people through supplying local markets and in turn created livelihoods for thousands of people. We must set up this local food growing system again in a short window of time to mitigate the coming food crisis.

What Crisis you may ask?

A food crop of any kind requires adequate doses of fertility, sunshine and rainfall for a bountiful harvest. In the UK due to climate change rainfall patterns are changing.  According to our own government research  from Cranfield university (contained in the Climate Risks Assessment 2 Evidence Report) and Exeter University the most serious risk from climate change is the loss of half to three quarters of the best arable land (grade1,2 and 3a); in current crop production areas of the South and Eastern England and Scotland. We also checked this with Dr Iain Brown of Dundee University one of our leading Climate Scientists and coordinator of government climate reports. In effect some of the best cereal growing land due to drying and lack of dependable water supply for use on farms will no longer be able to bring crops to harvest. Imported food cannot be relied on as growers abroad will be facing the same issues as we are. Last summer was evident of this trend where we experienced a global summer drought.

We will need to grow more food locally but how do we do this? We cannot rely on artificial fertilizers and pesticides which use natural gas in their production due to the emissions, cost and availability: Russia is the biggest producer. GMO crops require harmful herbicides and are not the panacea frequently proclaimed. The issue of food security is not high enough on the agenda of government at all levels but what manifests proportionate and precautionary food policy now?

If we do the basic sums as our friends in Brecon Beacons have done as part of the Our food 1200 project we see that Swansea would need over 3000 acres of market gardens for very localised food production in its peri-urban districts. An estimate (on the low side) is that one person is required per acre to farm in a regenerative organic method. How do we make these numbers happen before food insecurity and potential famine dictates before it is too late. How will these people be trained, organised and access land for growing and living on? These are some of the questions Climate and Community a registered charity which leases a small field in Manselfield have been working on in detail.

In 2017 we set up an environmental educational charity after over 20 years learning, researching and setting up practical rural skills training projects aimed at providing a pathway for young people into sustainable rural skills. Coppice management, hedge laying, willow basket making and many ancillary skills were our main area. Later we worked with Ed Revill in Murton and learnt his pioneering methods using woodchip as a growing substrate for vegetable production. With the aid of fungal association in no dig beds; vegetable production and nutrient density are maximized by a chip based brown earth soil which draws down stable soil carbon. There are many forms of no till regenerative farming methods and this is just one of them however on a strategic level this growing system is beneficial because it requires no artificial fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. However it does require a steady supply of woodchip, the most sustainable would be from the management of coppice (some exists already in the area but we need to plant much more). It is only the waste branchy material which would be needed for woodchip, the small round wood timber would be a valuable resource in itself. This closed system would need trained people to plant new coppice and bring into rotation existing neglected coppice as well as set up no dig market gardens.

The charity has been setting up a demonstration plot with volunteer workers in Murton. We began on the field in 2020, got hit by COVID restrictions for 2 years but we are now recovering enough to have capacity to start setting up the site infrastructure and create a portable skills school. This is to enable volunteers to work, train and volunteer on the field. The project is based on another important practical example in history the ‘Civilian Conservation Corps’ which was part of the New Deal in 1930’s America. The aim is to grow a food growing, woodland management hub which produces trained young people, a demonstration plot for others to learn from and most importantly food: fruit and vegetables we can sell at local markets. The charity is part of the current environmental networks in Swansea such as Swansea Environmental Forum, Swansea Climate Action Network and 4the Region. However this is not easy and we are all volunteers working with very limited resources. We need all the support from local people, community council and county council to have a chance of making this work. Currently planning policy is a major barrier to new entrants starting out in agriculture of any kind which is not attached to an existing farm head. Our set up does not have any need for permanent development. The skills camp is designed to work on an itinerary of work sites using military shelters and Mongolian yurts very low impact and locally made. It is quite exemplary for low fossil fuel use. This is a genuine response to the climate risks facing us and an attempt to help in overcoming the impending food crisis.

If you would like to know more, help, volunteer, donate please contact us at

Climate Conservation Camp 2022!

It’s been hard work this year on the field, but we have achieved a lot. What do they say: you cant see the wood for the trees. We organised over 50 volunteer days, organised craft sessions, open days and  focussed skills days over the past year. Hedgelaying and scything continue to be popular as traditional skills that are relevant and enjoyable to do. Newly trained volunteers scythed half the charity field and cleared a third of the field boundary of dense bramble, felled two trees on the field boundary which were suffering from Ash dieback and processed branches for woodchip on site and firewood. Volunteers also completed another 50m of hedge on Murton recreation ground. Two of our volunteers have accumulated enough skill and confidence to teach on their own and with support: Nick Bingham instructs hedge laying and Nicole Yardley instructs basket making.

In July we decided to hold our first camp to be part of the Great Big Green Week an event promoted UK wide to highlight climate action among community organisations. Using all the renewed infrastructure and volunteers recruited over the last 18 months we were able to offer a climate camp. We also ran our first crowdfunder to promote and fundraise for the camp totalling £1,960. The camp ended with live music and a facilitated discussion by Climate Cymru a Welsh campaigning organisation who visited as part of their Green Tour of Wales. 40 people visited over the week, 10 people camped. There was a lot to do but it was great in the last weekend to welcome new people to the camp; share a meal cooked on the fire shield and hear the views of real people trying to make sense of this massive problem called climate change.

We have a long way to go to build a camp similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1930’s America. A massive effort launched as part of the New Deal where nearly 3 million enrollees between 1933-42 lived in camps and did emergency conservation work in the face of an economic depression and widespread environmental degradation.

What we are trying to do is create a seed project in the field which at the right time can be expanded and resourced to recruit thousands of young people needed to re-skill and rebuild our farming and forestry in the face of challenging conditions. It may be the difference between food or famine.

What went on in The Great Big Green Week!

This November world leaders will gather at the UN Climate Summit, COP26, to decide the next steps for us to change and avoid the worst effects of climate change.  The national Climate Coalition promoted the Great Big Green Week between the 18th-26th September. Communities all over the country organised environmental themed events to highlight the upcoming climate change talks including Swansea. This included a Repair Cafe at the Environment Centre, Swansea Community Growers network  event: Skills  for Future Resilience, Bat walk at Penllegare Valley woods to name a few. Climate and Community organised a Climate Cafe and film show here in Murton on Saturday the 25th, outdoors in their field and under canvas.

The main documentary shown was about the Civilian Conservation Corps, but what was that and why is it relevant to the current Climate Emergency? From 1933-42 3 million volunteer enrolees signed up to live in rural camps and carry out emergency conservation work. This was part of Roosevelts’s New Deal. The economic depression had created high unemployment levels especially in the young. America was suffering from vast areas of environmental degradation in the form of soil erosion and flooding caused by intensive farming methods and deforestation. During those 9 years over 1 billion trees were planted as well as a whole range of practical land based environmental work. The lesson to be applied from the CCC related to the practical response to a massive social, economic  and  environmental problem. It took young people out of the city housed them in camps and trained them in sustainable skills. The outcome was positive for the people and the planet. Climate and Community would like to build on networks in the community so that we can start facilitating a Climate Conservation Camp for the current Climate Emergency.

Climate and Community will be having a regular Green film event, in the field under canvas, our film archive is diverse including shorts from a 100 years of cinema so please email or message if you would like more information, also check our facebook page.

Taking Climate Action in our Community: Learning to Scythe in Swansea

The Scythe is an ancient tool with a wooden handle and curved blade designed for mowing grass and other tough field vegetation. Once you have acquired the technique, a scythe is a joy to use and is an important tool for people and planet.

Climate and Community is an environmental educational charity working in Bishopston. In 2019 volunteers began clearing bramble and bracken to make space to plant trees, a community willow bed and pollard existing trees to create a more biodiverse parkland habitat on a local green space called Mansel Green. We need to regularly scythe this area to keep ‘knocking back’ the invasive bracken and mow grassland species at the end of the season to encourage new wildflower growth the following year. We follow the recommendations of Plant life a national charity that manages meadows and campaigns for better management of grassland meadows and roadside verges.

In August the charity organised a one day scything workshop tutored by Mathew Collinson (Swiss Valley Meadows). To teach a group of volunteers the scything technique, how to mow a field and maintain the blade. This was kindly paid for by Lyndon Jones the local County Councillor. Lyndon said ‘I am happy to encourage the learning of these important skills and their contribution to improving our wilder green spaces.

We need more volunteers to join a team to scythe the green. Nick Bingham who lives in the village has taken this job on but needs some help! Nick says ‘Over the 2 years I have enjoyed the scything and to see how effective it has been at bringing back the beautiful wildflowers and grassland species. It has been really satisfying work’.

Scything versus Strimming?

The Austrian Scythe is an efficient cutting tool when used properly has:  no vibration, no emissions and no noise pollution. It is a very sociable tool to use. Not only can it mow a field but clear in smaller garden areas, around trees, and hard to reach spaces needing more care. Something we should be looking at more seriously with regards to Climate action in our communities. Other greenspace groups in neighbouring districts have organised scythe workshops this summer: Incredible Edibles Carmarthenshire, Kenfig nature reserve (Plantlife) and Dyffryn Tywi Project indicating a growing trend in picking up on this amazing tool.

The charity owns 6 Austrian scythes, which can be used by volunteers.

Those interested in learning more and helping as volunteers,   please contact us

Building the Willow Craft Community: Skills Sessions in May

In May we held basketry skills sessions on Mansel Green next to the newly planted willow bed which in November we will harvest. In the mean time we have bought materials from a commercial grower in Somerset to supply the project.

The plan is to introduce and teach willow weaving skills to any person or group who is interested in learning and may have an interest in helping to harvest and teach others. I have found the best way to develop your own skills is to pass them on.

Nicole and Shan attended 3 sessions, Nicole has built up her skills in a number of classes and has decided basketry is something she enjoys and is good at but needs the discipline of a class to focus on practice time.

Working in a group is an ideal way to do this, as others motivate and help you overcome your own inner tyrant who is over critical. Others seem to love our work better than our selves, because we see all the faults and they see all the beauty!

Nicole completed a Finnish bilberry basket, a small berry picker traditionally made by nuns to collect bilberries and the like. Small, built by using scalloms around a hoop, the base uses side stakes woven backwards and forwards to form the base. It is a perfect forage basket for a child.

Shan is a beginner who was eager to learn and prepared to listen intently which always helps when learning new skills. She decided to make a round cauldron shaped shopper. An interesting first project which included learning pairing, waling, French randing, slewing and a 4 behind 1 rod border. As well as how to fit and wrap a handle bow.

Students often wonder why they are exhausted after a day’s basketry, the brain when learning new things has to build new neural pathways and this takes energy. A process which is also incredibly good for your health and wellbeing.

On the second Friday we were  visited by the Swansea Women’s group and their children who brought their own film crew (two capable ladies) to film Saba, who organises the group. She is in the running for a reward from Chwarae Teg for all her hard work organising events. Fingers crossed for Saba.

The women made Catalan platters, spiral bird feeders, and a garden trug. We hope to invite them back again as they enjoyed themselves. The children were very well behaved and interested in just being on the green. One of the little philosophers wrote a message on the blackboard we should all heed.

The following Friday we invited the Murton Youth group to attend. Andrew Walker brought six children to have a talk about the project and to do something practical. In less than two hours we had an interactive talk about climate change, using the Schlesinger graph, and relating climate changing timescales to the age of an Oak tree (it can live for over 500 years if it is lucky). We showed them a coppiced Hazel and a pollarded Willow, an efficient form of management which prolongs the life of the tree and produces harvestable materials and finally the willow bed.

Each form of management produces local materials in the short term: annually coppiced basketry Willow, medium term: coppiced Hazel every 7 years and the long term: pollarded Hornbeam, every 10-20 years.

The children had time to make a small willow item for the garden; their more ambitious ideas would have to wait for another visit. It ended with sharing a home-made sponge which was lovely. We hope to welcome them back again in the coming weeks and months.

We will be organising another skills session on Saturday June 29th. If you are part of a community group or individual interested in an introductory skills session please get in touch.

We are all Volunteers, working as a volunteer: our motivations


Working as a volunteer means you are not working for a wage, but what are you working for?

The Mansel Green plan relies on people volunteering their time and energy to implement appropriate local action on climate change. A true demonstration of generosity, but why do it?

On the regular Wednesdays and Saturdays we have run for the last month  our volunteers have included asylum seekers, ;local residents some regular, some a one off and charity trustees.

What are our day to day motivations? Here is an attempt to summarise the main drivers:

socialising, making friends, teamwork

This is the most obvious and common motivator to attend, getting things done in a group and sharing experience is enjoyable and addictive. We are social animals and it is natural to work in groups. We can get a greater work load done and that feels good, a collective good. It motivates hard physical work. Working with and talking with the asylum seekers opened my eyes to how dangerous the world is and how important it is to listen to other people’s personal accounts and experience. I certainly know more about the political situation of Kurdistan and Sudan. Working with local village resident Nick gives me a perspective of village life over decades and helps me understand Bishopston better. We can also enjoy working with like minded people which reduces our isolation by demonstrating how much we need each other.

experience, training, CV building activity

Learning new things can be exciting and challenging. Boredom is often characterised by too little stress, learning new things stretches and works your mind and provides healthy levels of stress. Especially when you learn skills and share knowledge while not even realising it. Building experience increases our confidence and transferable skills we use elsewhere, including the work place.

shared purpose bigger than our selves.

As a motivator this cannot be under estimated. When it works it contributes to our personal wellbeing and wellbeing of wider community and the natural world. It is bigger than our selves, a letting go of exclusive personally driven behaviour. This is summarised by a young volunteer Rhian who said ‘I felt it was better to do some work on a collective project rather than a private garden’. We feel good about ourselves.

Understanding why we do something is paramount to this process. Tom Crompton in his work on communicating climate change and engaging people to take action. It illustrates that we should assume the majority of people wish to do something positive about the environment but how that is translated in our practical actions is at times complex and multifaceted. The key is to keep it simple, do the deadly obvious and be consistent without being obsessed with what others think of you.

I am reminded by the beautiful film ‘The Man who planted trees’. A fable where a single man plants trees every day to re-populate a windswept valley. Over decades of consistent hard work he creates a diverse home for nature which includes the happiness of the humans. At the beginning of his journey locals either ignore him or think he is an eccentric. The story is told by one young man who helps him for a short while and returns many years later. The man had the faith of his convictions even though he had to work most of the time on his own.

All this can be summed up as lessons on interconnection

A delicate process of engagement, combating doubt, apathy and despair

Dealing with these internal emotions and beliefs are a very real barrier for each of us to act. At different times we all experience these feelings; it is the ability to overcome them which makes the difference to all beings.

Rejuvenating Northway Corner, Murton

The last few months have been hard work, carrying out ground work for planting a willow bed and 100’s of trees on Mansel Green. We have received 450 trees in total from OVO Energy through The Conservation Volunteers (TCV). We have been planting on the west side of Mansel Green opposite Murton recreation ground, starting at the top end from the Northway corner. This open side is being planted with Hornbeam, Oak and Beech in the dryer parts and Alder in the wetter parts. As well as a mix of Guelder Rose, Crab Apple, Field Maple, Wild Cherry, Bird Cherry, Birch, Dogwood and Rowan.

The drainage is variable over the site and must be observed for suitability of species. We had time to pollard some sprawling Grey Willow on this side which when cleared has allowed us to plant up more trees and expose young self seeded saplings such as Oak, Hazel and Hawthorn. This has given a clearer view down the west side. We also used an old method to dry up a muddy dip in the path near the pollarded willow; this involves digging a ditch and burying hardwood brash, covering the trench with soil creating a slight mound. This is hopefully going to dry the wet dip in the path for a while.

Each tree has a c. 1m diameter circle dug out, removing grass, bracken rhizomes and anything which will compete with the young tree. This will also give us space to scythe around the trees to control the bracken.  Any competition in the first 3 years will reduce its growth and so we must put in the extra work and give the trees the best possible start. Many trees get planted in community green spaces which do not receive the aftercare needed. Any planting will always have a failure rate, but good planting and after care will cut this down by a lot. Tree planting will carry on until the end of April.

We are also running a community willow bed project which involves in the first stage the planting of a basketry willow bed for community use.  This project is funded by the Peoples Postcode Lottery and will run for 1 year March 2019-March 2020. We ordered c.28 varieties of willow suitable for fine basketry as well as larger varieties to use in living willow structures. Names such Dicky Meadows, Light Dicks, Golden Rod, Grissette Noire and Oxford Violets roll off the tongue. The varieties vary in size, colour and texture. It is said that each species can differ in colour and characteristics particular to location so it will be interesting to see how they perform. Hopefully it will become a beautiful space for people and wildlife as willow is loved by bees, insects and other wildlife.

A diagram has been drawn to show where all the varieties are, there isn’t anything more frustrating than losing the identity of willow varieties, because some are easy to identify but many are very similar to each other. Basketry Willow varieties come from four main species Salix Viminalis, Salix Triandra, Salix Purpurea and Salix Alba. The Genus Salix readily crosses and creates hybrids; there are many hundreds of basketry varieties because local growers selected varieties which grew best in their areas. I have favoured Purpurea because they are more tolerant to acid soil and harsher conditions. Now the rods are in they will have every chance to grow roots before the hotter part of summer arrives. We were a bit late planting but it looks ok as of April 2019. We set the geotex mulch for south westerly winds so a few weeks after planting a blustery east wind arrived to lift the mulch mat and knock off a few shooting buds. Jules attended to it with more wood to hold the geotex down.  Each crop of rods must be cut annually and the plantation will not be fully producing until the third year. As for the project, the next stage is to run basketry skills workshops to attract volunteers interested in learning how to manage the willow bed. An essential part of any craft is learning about the materials they use: how to grow and prepare them for optimal performance and beauty. Dates for workshops will be made public at the Mayday festival in Murton May 4th recreation ground.






We are all volunteers. We also have groups of Asylum seekers who kindly help us on Wednesday and Saturdays. Najad, Meman and Cameron are Kurdish, Faris, Hassan and Muhammad are Sudanese. They work

really hard and we have learnt alot from each other, certainly about the dangerous and unsafe conditions happening on other parts of the planet. Nick also joins us 3 days a week and is a resident of Bishopston. We originally met Nick through the hedge laying course on Murton recreation ground. Nick continued to volunteer

by helping to lay the Murton hedge the following year. Nick enjoys outdoor work and described a common experience of trying to find a reasonably paid job working outdoors when he was young but gained employment elsewhere and took another path. He certainly now is an accomplished tree planter: excellent at choosing sites and preparing the ground for baby trees.

On volunteer days we put up a shelter, provide refreshments, biscuits and light lunch. These volunteers have been extremely helpful in how much progress we have made in planting trees and digging the willow bed.

We invite anyone to come and join us and have some tea, chat and plant some trees and help please. As the season changes will be moving on to scything bracken and Japanese Knotweed, path improvements and drying shed construction (for storing willow).

Why Willow? Easily Grown, Biodegradable and Beautiful!

We are facilitating village and town communities to grow, maintain and use their own materials; and in the process learn the relevant essential skills. We are beginning with setting up a community willow bed in Bishopston, Gower.

Weaving  has been with us from the beginning, early stone age man had already mastered weaving plant fibres to make nets , cloth and carrying baskets. Need is the mother of invention and the technology continued to evolve into fish traps, animal traps, armour, hats, bee hives,, hurdles and wattle and daub for shelter. The list goes on. Materials used are diverse and depends on the regional plants growing local to the maker. In the UK soft materials such as Rush are used as well as harder materials such as willows (the Salix family). The techniques have evolved over centuries to make  containers which are biodegradable . In manufacture or disposal no harmful bi products remain in the environment. This is the hallmark of a sustainable fibre, modern materials have their uses but also their cost.

We need to re-invent the use of biodegradable containers and  re-invigorate the craft industry which sustains it.

Think Global, Start local

The professional and country style basket making tradition existed together. In the rural districts most farm heads had their own withy bed; a patch of basketry willow which was cut every year for use on the farm. The farm workers would spend a window of time in the calendar year to make the baskets needed for the coming year. The skills were passed on between workers as and when necessary. You do not need to be a professional basket maker to make baskets for yourself and your local community. With basic skills, useful baskets can be made, used and sold. This is about utility not perfection.

The willow craft community is an attempt to build this tradition back up and base it in a wider community like a village or small town. First we need to learn to grow the materials, and secondly community members need to learn a basic set of skills and baskets which can be learnt and passed on. Baskets which are relevant and useful to our lives today and those which help to change the way we live our everyday lives. Changes we need to make so that we can live with nature and not against it.

Let’s bring back our local indigenous baskets! Baskets used in food growing, serving food and transporting food.

A Guide to Planting Trees in Bracken and Bramble on Mansel Green

An example of a planting on Mansel Green.

There is a lot of Bracken and some Bramble in the area of Mansel Green; where we need to plant the trees and convert it to parkland. It is intended to mow the space between the trees with scythes which over time will get rid of both Bracken and Bramble until the shade from the trees suppresses what is left. The grasses should then form the ground cover making a park with trees and grazing.

There are 450 trees to be planted. The core of the park will be Oak and Beech with a block of Hornbeam for pollarding on the North side.

The first thing to do is to remove any Brambles if there are any; including the root ball in the ground for at least 1 metre around the place where the tree is to be planted. This can be done with a Mattock or Spade to loosen the root which can then be pulled up. The whole Bramble can be dragged away and folded up ready for burning. If the Bramble has to be cut off first, leave a stem long enough to give a handle. Care must be taken to avoid the thorns, suitable gloves are required. These must cover the wrists, such as welding gloves.


Once the Bramble roots have been removed, we go on to remove the Bracken in an area of about 1m across. This is where the tree is to be planted and the area should be cut around with a

spade to the depth of the spade. Then using a border fork the ground should be forked over to remove the Bracken rhizome.


Bracken Rhizome

Now the tree can be fetched and planted. Get the soil ready first and dig out a spade full of soil to make the hole for the tree to be put into. When fetching the tree, be very careful not to damage the roots or allow them to dry out. Put the tree straight into the hole at the right height with the roots spread out and push soil around the tree until it is supported. Using both hands press the soil down firmly adding more soil as needed.

Trees planted (note here there are two oaks in the same hole, most holes only have one tree)

Wood can be added around the hole to give some material for fungal activity to work on. Then a bamboo stake and rabbit guard are put on (see main photo at top of this guide). Put the stake up wind of the tree, at Mansel Green the prevailing wind is from the South West. So put the cane South West of the tree about 6 or 7cm away taking care to avoid the roots underneath. Then cut the rabbit guard down if necessary so that some of the tree with a few buds is sticking out the top. Make one loose tie to the tree with twine and one tie to the guard.

If some mulch is available e.g. rotted Bracken it can be spread 5cm deep over the hole to suppress weeds and make removal of weeds easier.

Finally place some brash around the planting to deter grazing animals. Be careful when using Willow tops; don’t push the ends into the soil as they may take root and grow which we don’t want. The brash can be moved to one side when the area is to be mowed by scything and then returned until the tree is beyond harm from potential grazing animals.

Mulch added to keep weeds down.


Brash around to deter grazing




Tree Survey in Copley Wood

Climate and Community were asked by the community council to carry out a tree survey in Copley Wood, Mansel Green Bishopston. This is being done as a precursor to drafting a plan for the wood which the community council and Bishopston residents will be consulted on. We are planning to put a version on the Bishopston Vocal Eyes group page, so people can vote and give comments. As well as talk to local groups in person.

On July 2nd we joined Jenna Higgins a qualified arboriculturist at Copley Woods as we had arranged for her to do the survey work. Jenna has much experience in woodland management and has also completed a coppice management apprentice scheme. So she has the academic and the hands on practical experience. We began by setting up a shelter inside the wood for shade and tea making. Jenna packed her kit and was soon off making notes. Bob and Jules made tea and arranged a visit with Susan Rodaway, the Vocal Eyes coordinator and Pennard Community Councillor. She joined us at lunch time at the camp and told us about Vocal Eyes, its history and success so far. We concluded that the crucial part of the Vocal Eyes process is getting people to register and vote. Susan mentioned the lack of Wifi points in Bishopston, which is needed at venues to help people register.

Later in the afternoon we walked around the site with Jenna, making comments and identifying more plants and trees. The drainage is interesting as it is very variable over the site and creates varied habitats.  Willow, Oak and Hazel dominate the older wooded areas, while bracken and bramble dominate the more open areas which have more recently become vegetated. Even in this area we found an Orchid indicating a bio diverse site.