As from October 2015 we have had our own standalone site at:
We are leaving this site in place as an archive.
‘Sustainability’ has emerged as a cliché topical in news and political circles, from G20 level right down to individuals living in small communities in all parts of the world.
Why? In the modern context, sustainability, or rather the lack of it, evokes fears, anxieties and guilt for extravagant life styles which, unless checked, could well cause unimaginable poverty and suffering for future generations. As the first decade of the twenty-first century draws to an end, there have been encouraging global initiatives set in place, such as goals towards the reduction in the use of fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy resources, to address negative human impact on the environment and focus on environmental protection, sustainable economic growth and social justice.
Each and every one of us is urged to play our part within our local community. The community in the small town of Stony Stratford, largely through the foresight of its Town Council, is no exception. It has identified issues that could be crucial factors in reversing the destruction of human ‘advancement’ on the fabric of the earth and our way of life.
Stony in Bloom tackling issues
Stony in Bloom, as a part of Britain in Bloom, has no small role to play in this process. Ambitious projects undertaken and completed by SIB since its inception at the end of 2007 are a remarkable testament to the ingenuity, inspiration and extremely hard work of a relatively small group of dedicated volunteers.
Polytunnel, Composting and Acquiring an Allotment
The sheer cost of purchasing summer plants for planters and beds around the Town and the fact that more and more people say “We would like some near our place” mean that it would have been a struggle to repeat, let alone expand, the summer planting programme. Therefore the Stony in Bloom Group has erected a large polytunnel at St Mary & St Giles C E School to house the Town’s summer plants during the winter and to raise new summer bedding. Plants that are not suitable for storing over the winter will be composted and plants that have been used in the winter planter programme will be planted over the summer in a near-by allotment that has been acquired by SIB.
The importance of composting cannot be overstated. It is all about recycling the green waste from the garden. The product is almost 100 per cent organic matter and often high in nitrates. For years, peat, a vital store of carbon, has been a major ingredient in commercially produced fertilizers and composts. Research has revealed that peat bogs are at an all time low in the UK, showing that the destruction of peat bogs is causing them to dry out and release carbon into the atmosphere. Although garden products are relatively small users of peat compared, say, with power stations, gardening activists, with a close attachment to the land, have been responsible for bringing about a “no peat” culture into gardening and this policy is adopted in projects undertaken in Stony Stratford.
The fact that the polytunnel is within school grounds means that there are readily accessible educational opportunities for schoolchildren to become the next generation of gardeners, not just gardeners trying to make beautiful gardens, but gardeners in tune with what is going on in the environment and well versed in the principles of sustainability.
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left,” so said the great Albert Einstein. Indeed, where would we be without a lovely jar of honey, honey that provides so many benefits to our health? It is currently well documented that honey bees are in serious decline for various reasons – unexplained viruses, disorientation due to transportation thousands of miles to pollinate trees in vast commercial fruit producing organisations (particularly in the US), pesticides, to name a few. The heavy rainfall and cold temperatures in the summer of 2008 were disasters for the bee and harvests were poor. The major theme for Stony in Bloom for 2009 is to provide a good source of nectar-rich plants for bees. The sensory garden at Hale Avenue is described in the Permanent Landscaping Section with details of nectar rich plants in this bed, as well as the Millennium beds.
Management of Natural areas
Residents and visitors to Stony Stratford are truly fortunate to have a large area dedicated to nature conservation and public access on their doorstep.
The Millfield, beside the River Great Ouse, is given over to recreation as well as to wildflowers. Part of the field was sown with a mixture of wildflower seeds by volunteers – now there is less grass to mow, and more biodiversity.
The Ouse Valley Park is managed on the public’s behalf by the Milton Keynes Parks Trust, has an active programme of volunteer participation in nature conservation activities.
Regeneration and a Bluebell Wood
During the second half of the twentieth century, the countryside in Britain changed dramatically as the drive to produce more and more food gathered momentum and powerful mechanical farming vehicles replaced the traditional farmer and farming practices. Down went the hedges! Bluebells, a familiar woodland sight in an English spring all but disappeared and sadly so did much of the wildlife. The heart of the countryside, as it had been, melted away and it wasn’t until the end of the century there was a dreadful dawning that what had been destroyed was bringing about an ecological catastrophe.
On a Saturday morning in February an amazingly fit, energetic and enthusiastic band of volunteers set about clearing a derelict area of land in front of the Children’s Centre in London Road, Stony Stratford. The clearing took weeks of Saturday morning labours but each week gathered momentum as new volunteers saw what was happening and were inspired to join.
In March, a new hedge, comprising twelve species divided into primary, secondary and tertiary species was planted beside the footpath (see details below). Foxgloves and primroses are being planted and in the autumn bluebells will be planted, so that next spring and for many more to come a resplendent area covered in blue, interspersed with dashes of yellows and pinks, with the backdrop of a magnificent hedge, will be revealed. It will be better for wildlife - it is planned to install nesting boxes and create habitat opportunities for wildlife - and it will be better for people; generations of children will have chances to play in, learn from and enjoy this wonderful new area.
Stony Stratford is well endowed with allotments. The carbon footprint of an allotment is low since much of the work is done manually and food is generally produced organically and very close to where it is normally consumed, so minimal transportation costs. Just a few years ago, many allotments were lying idle but all that has changed and there are now waiting lists of people keen to produce their own fruit and vegetables. Horse manure is delivered regularly and on delivery days there is a frenzy of people dashing up and down the ridings with wheelbarrows to ensure that they don’t miss out on their share of the not so sweet smelling stuff!
Stony Stratford - A Better Place
The aim of Stony in Bloom’s endeavours is to enhance the local environment, through community participation and education. Through the community projects everyone has the opportunity to play their part in making Stony Stratford a fit place to live, work and play in the decades to come.
Hedging at The Children’s Centre
Carpinus betulus – Hornbeam
Crataegus monogyna – Hawthorn
Prunus spinosa – Blackthorn
Corylus avellana – Hazel
Euonymus europaeus – Spindle
Acer campestre – Field Maple
Taxus baccata – Yew
Viburnum opulus – Guelder Rose
Ilex aquifolium – Holly
Frangula alnus – Alder Buckthorn
Rhamnus cathartica – Buckthorn
Cornus sanguinea – Dogwood