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The Powerdown Show reviewed

The Powerdown Show is a 10-part series of 20 minute documentaries that takes a fresh and engaging look at climate change and peak oil. Produced by the Dublin based ‘Cultivate’ educational collective, the series focuses on positive responses to these challenges, offering practical and inspiring examples of community action. Without underplaying the enormous implications of the twin threats we are facing, the makers argue that we also have a golden opportunity to create a far better, more sustainable way of life for ourselves and for future generations if we use intelligent design strategies to approach ‘energy descent’. Made to professional standards, each episode uses a mix of interviews, real life case studies, animations and even humour to explain the core problems before moving onto potential solutions such as localised food production, sustainable building, alternative energy, green economics, permaculture and Transition Towns.

The films were made to accompany Cultivate’s program of training for “Leadership, Livelihoods and Local Resilience”, and whilst there probably isn’t much in The Powerdown Show that is new to seasoned permaculturalists or community activists, it is a fantastic resource for awareness raising and would be great for showing in schools, at film clubs, etc. The twenty minute format means that each episode can be used to introduce a topic whilst leaving plenty of time for group discussion or other activities, something that can often feel pushed out at screenings of longer documentaries. A marvellous tool for any permaculture educator or Transition Town core team, especially as the makers give license-free permission for public screenings to any Transition initiative. I’m looking forward to using this with our local group.

You can obtain your copy here

Graham Burnett http://www.spiralseed.co.uk

(This review originally appeared in Permaculture Magazine)


While on a visit to some friends who – what a coincidence:) – are members of Transition (Stour) Valley we’ve met Chris from Clacton whose projects are certainly worth looking at. He transformed his home and garden to be as self-sufficient as possible and offers to share his skills and experience. You can visit him (by appointment) for a sneak peek or for longer as a working or paying guest.

Their next open weekend there as part of the Heritage Open Days in Clacton is on the September 12th and 13th.

193 Burrs Rd
Clacton-on-sea CO15 4LN

Woodland Resource Centre

Click on image to see full size

Traditional Building Skills Courses, Seminars & Lectures

Traditional Building Skills Courses, Seminars & Lectures

April 2009 – March 2010



Hands-on courses

CPD lecture programme

Special events

Terms & conditions of booking

Booking form


Since 1997 the Historic Buildings and Conservation team at Essex County Council has run a series of one, two or three day hands-on courses in traditional building skills. The courses aim to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our historic buildings by using the appropriate methods and materials to repair and conserve them.

The courses are run from our workshop at Cressing Temple Barns, but where possible we use live sites throughout the county. Our tutors are all excellent craftsmen who run their own businesses using their skills every day, and who have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Those attending the courses include owners of historic buildings, practising craftsmen who want to specialise in traditional repairs, and general builders and contractors as well as interested amateurs. Courses are open to all skill levels unless specified otherwise.

Running alongside the hands-on courses is a comprehensive range of short lecture sessions. Titles vary annually but their aim remains the same, to educate and inform professionals such as surveyors, architects, building contractors, self-employed tradesmen, plus the owners of historic buildings, in the technical and practical issues involved in the care and repair of our historic buildings.

Hands-on courses

Lime Plaster for Plasterers

3rd April 2009 at Cressing Temple Barns

This one-day hands-on course is aimed at working plasterers interested in broadening their experience, and amateurs with some plastering skills. The day will explain how to fix laths, prepare lime putty mixes, and plaster on to laths as well as highlighting the importance of good preparation and aftercare. Cost £95.

An Introduction to Long Straw Thatching

23rd -24thApril 2009 at Belhus Woods Country Park

This two-day introductory course will give you the opportunity to learn the basic method of long straw thatching. We will be working on a ‘live’ project in one of Essex County Council’s Country Parks, using long straw, the traditional thatching material of Essex. No experience needed. Cost £190.

Timber Frame Repairs

13th – 15thMay 2009 at Stambourne

Those attending this three-day hands-on course will learn how to repair historic sole plates and studwork on a live project. The course has been designed for working carpenters and joiners but home owners with basic skills are very welcome. The course will also cover carpentry joints, the choice of timber and analysis of repair strategy. Cost £235.

Understanding Wrought Iron

29th May 2009 at Cressing Temple Barns

The purpose of the course is to offer a rare opportunity to work with hot iron in the forge and to understand the art and science of wrought iron. All participants will be able to take away their forge work at the end of the day. Cost £95

Wattle & Daub

4th – 5thJune 2009 at Great Saling

This two-day course shows how to use traditional materials for infill panels in timber-framed buildings. The course is intended for people who want to broaden

their experience into the area of conservation and repair. No experience needed. Cost £190.

Flint Walling

24th – 26thJune 2009 at Wendens Ambo

Students on this three-day course will repair and rebuild a churchyard wall using flints and lime mortar. There will also be a demonstration of flint knapping with the opportunity to have a go. The course will be of interest to bricklayers, general builders and home owners alike. No experience needed. Cost £235.

Lime Mortar & Conservation Brickwork

2nd– 4th September 2009 at Castle Hedingham

This three-day course aims to encourage the use of lime mortar and correct brickwork repair by repairing the brickwork of a 19th century wall. We will also look at a selection of different pointing styles. The course is aimed at home owners wanting to tackle small repairs but may also be useful to working bricklayers who would like to broaden their experience. No experience needed. Cost £235.

Lime Plaster for Home Owners

2ndOctober / 6thNovember / 4thDecember 2009 at Cressing Temple Barns

A one-day course, aimed at owners of historic buildings who want to tackle small patch repairs to their homes. The day will show how to hand-mix small amounts of lime plaster, and to repair or replace patches. No experience needed. Cost £95.

Lime Plaster, Run Mouldings & Pargetting

21st – 22ndJanuary 2010 at Cressing Temple Barns

A two-day course covering the art and craft of lime plastering, mouldings run in situ, and pargetting. It is open to working plasterers who want to broaden their

experience, home owners and the enthusiastic amateur. No experience needed. Cost £190.

Repair & Conservation of Historic Windows

25th – 26thFebruary 2010 at Cressing Temple Barns

In order to keep as much of the old fabric of the historic building as possible, conservation officers will normally insist that doors and windows are repaired and not replaced. This two-day course is intended for working carpenters and joiners who want to develop their experience in this area of woodwork. Amateurs with an interest in historic joinery and who have basic woodworking skills are welcome. Cost £190.

Weekend Courses

Caring for Your Traditional Building

10am – 2.00pm Saturday 2nd May 2009 at Great Dunmow Maltings

Aimed at owners of historic buildings, this course will look at sympathetic methods of repair and show you how a simple maintenance programme can avoid many of the problems associated with historic buildings. We will look at why it is so important that your building can breathe, how and why you should give your home an annual health check, and give you basic advice on making your home more energy efficient. Cost £20 or £25 including lunch.

The House Detective

10am to 2.00pm, Saturday 4th July 2009 at Great Dunmow Maltings

Many of us would like to know more about the houses we live in. During the day we will take you through from medieval timber framed to Victorian buildings and show you how to read the building you live in as well as how to find out about the social history of your home. There will be a guided tour of the maltings at the end of the day. Cost £20 or £25 including lunch.

CPD Lecture Programme

Each lecture will consist of two one-hour talks. They will be of interest to architects, surveyors, conservation professionals and planners for specification writing and site supervision, as well as owners of historic and listed properties. All lectures take place at Cressing Temple Barns near Braintree. A light lunch and refreshments are included.

Energy Saving and Historic Buildings

29th April 2009

This session will explore how to improve the energy efficiency of historic buildings without damaging its historic character or fabric. It will consider what measures are compatible with the traditional behaviour of historic buildings and provide an update on insulation products and energy saving methods suitable for traditional construction, with case studies. The problem with measuring energy performance (such as for HIPs) will also be discussed. Cost £50.

Energy Generation and Historic Buildings

17th June 2009

This session will consider how to introduce renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass boilers and heat pumps, into the historically sensitive context of a listed building or conservation area. It will consider which methods are most effective and therefore most justified, and which might be most acceptable in the wider planning context. Cost £50

From Tree to Timber Frame (Timber Conversion and Geometry)

8th July 2009

Medieval buildings, even vernacular ones, were carefully designed using geometrical principles. This seminar, will demonstrate how buildings were laid out by masons and carpenters in buildings as diverse as Ely cathedral and the Cressing Temple Barns as well as explaining how carpenters converted trees to buildings. The morning session will be followed by a guided tour of Cressing Temple for those who are interested. Cost £50

Saving a Historic Building – Dunmow Maltings Case Study

16th September 2009

Buildings fall into disrepair for many reasons including changing agricultural, industrial and social patterns.  This session will discuss the various problems and strategies involved with securing the future of a vulnerable building, and will illustrate them with the successful example of the Dunmow Maltings. Cost £50

Design for Conservation Areas

23rd September 2009

This session is aimed at local authority planning officers and is devoted to the design of new development in conservation areas. The appraisal of conservation areas and the analysis of local character and context are discussed, as is the role and effectiveness of local authority guidance, such as the Essex Design Guide and the Urban Place Supplement. Cost £50

Heritage Law is Changing! The Heritage Protection Review

21st October 2009

This session will provide an update on the status and content of the Heritage Protection Bill which proposes to change the legislative framework for listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled ancient monuments and registered parks and gardens. It will explore the key changes in how “heritage assets” are protected and how this will work in practice, at an immediate, local level. Cost £50

Structural Repair of Historic Buildings

11th November 2009

A brief look at some repairs to the structure of masonry and timber buildings and the philosophy behind the decisions which led to those repairs. Cost £50

Landscaping for Historic Buildings

25th November 2009

Planning guidance recognises the importance of the setting of a listed building.  Hard and soft landscaping, boundary treatments and garden design can have a decisive effect on the appearance of listed buildings and conservation areas.  This lecture will examine the legislative framework affecting these issues, and will look at solutions suitable in the context of a historic setting.  Cost £50

Damp Proofing and Timber Treatment

10th February 2010

The session will dispel the myths about damp and timber decay by looking at how to assess the problems and then find an appropriate solution for traditional buildings, without necessarily using chemical treatments. Cost £50

Building Regulations and Historic Buildings

17th March 2010

Building regulations and listed buildings often seem to be in conflict, a situation more apparent than real. These two talks will address the application of the Building Regulations to listed buildings, covering disabled access, insulation, fire and sound. Cost £50.

Buying and Selling a Listed Building

31st March 2010

This lecture will be of special interest to new or prospective owners of listed buildings and Estate Agents. We will help you through the law surrounding listed buildings and the other issues involved in owning a listed property, separating fact from fiction. Cost £50.

Special events

Analysing and Consolidating a Masonry Building

20th May 2009

Held at the ruined St Peter’s Church at Alresford near Colchester, this session will look at how to analyse and record historic fabric, the use of lime mortar in consolidation and flaunching, consolidation techniques and soft capping. CPD event. Cost £35

Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Canal Talk and Cruise

17th July 2009 at Paper Mill Lock, Little Baddow

The Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation runs through a largely unspoilt part of rural Essex and connects the county town of Chelmsford with the tidal estuary of the River Blackwater at Heybridge Basin. Designed by the renowned canal engineer John Rennie, most of his original structures are intact together with the entire length of the original waterway. The day will start with two talks about the waterway’s history and how it is being preserved today, followed by lunch during a relaxing three-hour cruise. Cost £55 including a light lunch.

Caring for Churches

14thOctober 2009 at Writtle College, Chelmsford.

Parish Churches are our most notable historic buildings, being not only architecturally important but also symbols of the life and aspirations of the communities in which they stand. This series of lectures will help those

involved in caring for church buildings through the labyrinth of legal controls and give advice on making them more comfortable and versatile buildings. Cost £25 including light lunch.

A tour of a traditional brick works & a guided walk through Bury St Edmunds

11th March 2010

A rare opportunity to visit Bulmer Brick & Tile Company and Bury St Edmunds in the company of one of the country’s leading traditional brick-makers. You will look at and discuss the conservation and repair of historic rubbed and gauged work. The day will help professionals to specify and oversee work in the correct manner, and will also be of interest to the enthusiastic amateur. Cost £95. Lunch not included.

Build Your Own Bread Oven

Take out-door cooking to the next level by learning how to build a traditional brick bread oven for your back garden. This course would be suitable for homeowners or brick layers and builders who would like to offer their clients something different.

If you are interested in this course please contact us for more details.

Cost and date to be confirmed

All so of interest…

Traditional Buildings of Essex and Beyond

Ten Tuesday evenings from 6th October 2009 at Trinity Methodist Church, Chelmsford

Essex boasts a wealth of smaller buildings of early date. Discover when, why and how they were built, and how they compare with buildings in other areas.

This course is run by the Essex Historic Building Group. For details and to book, contact 01245 256102. Cost £50


To confirm your booking return this form with a cheque, payable to Essex County Council, to:

Katie Seabright, Historic Buildings & Conservation, Essex County Council, County Hall, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1QH.

Tel: 01245 437672 Fax: 01245 437213

Email: Traditional.BuildingSkills@essexcc.gov.uk

NB: Please check availability before sending in payment

Course details and booking forms are also available at:


Course name: ………………………………………………………..

Date of course: ………………………………………………………

Name: …………………………………………………………………..

Company/organisation: ……………………………………………

Address: ……………………………………………………………….


Post code: …………………………………………………………….

Tel: ………………………………………………………………………

Email: …………………………………………………………………..

We may use your details at a later date to gain feedback on the courses.

Help reduce the amount of paper we use. Please tick to receive course information via email.

Thank you.

Terms and conditions of booking

Paying for courses

Payment must be made in full at the time of booking. Please note we can only accept payment by cheque.

Cancellation of course by Essex County Council

If the course is cancelled by Essex County Council we will refund you in full or you may transfer on to another course within the same programme.

Cancellation of booking by attendees

If a booking is cancelled more than four weeks in advance of the start date of the course we will refund you in full.

If a booking is cancelled fewer than four weeks before the course, booking fees will not be refunded unless, the course is full and the place can be resold.

Changes to published information

At the time of publishing all information is correct, however Essex County Council reserves the right to make changes to the programme if necessary.

Any people booked on these events and affected by changes will be contacted as soon as possible.

Essex County Council Heritage Publications

Regional Variations in Timber Framed Buildings in England & Wales down to 1550 – £16

Information booklets produced by Essex County Council – £1 each

Looking After Your Old Buildings

The Conservation and Renewal of Timber Windows

Pointing with Lime Mortars

Conservation in Practice information booklets 50p each


Plastering & Limewash

Wattle & Daub


Conservation in Essex Series

No4 – Historic Buildings – 50p

No5 – Shopfronts – £1.50

No6 – Signs & Lettering – £1

No7 – Conservatories & Historic Buildings – £2

No8 – Infill in Historic Areas – £2

Traditional Building Materials in Essex – Pargetting £1

The Changing Church – £3

Mr Pink – the architectural legacy of W.F. Crittall – £10

P&P included

To order publications please contact Katie Seabright on 01245 437672 or at Historic Buildings and Conservation, Essex County Council, County Hall, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1QH. Please make cheques payable to Essex County Council.

Transition Westcliff on Youtube

Using the open source program ‘Open Movie Editor‘ and images from our Flickr site, I’ve created this short little promotional film for Transition Westcliff which you can now view on Youtube. The learning curve for OME is incredibly shallow, I got my head around it in just a few minutes, and there are clear tutorials at the website that will clear up anything that might be confusing (at first I couldn’t work how to add titles, but once it was explained it was dead easy). The best thing to do is download and have a play and experiment. The only drawback about OME is that it will only run under Linux, but I’m sure equivalent Windows compatible programs are available – maybe try Nero? Or better still break the Windows habit and make the change to Linux!!

As well as hopefully drumming up some interest in TW, I hope this film also gives a little bit of exposure to Southend’s finest roots rock reggae act The Beatroots maybe we’ll get them to do a Powerdown gig for us at some point??

Posted by Graham

Eco Homes Tour and Talk

Transition Stroud energy group visit to a local solar installation

Transition Stroud energy group visit to a local solar installation

Home owners and renters wanted!

Do you have a solar panel installed? Are you heating your home with a woodstove? Have you put  up insulation at your home? Do you heat your water with a solar heater? What other measures have you taken to reduce your bills and your carbon footprint? From the smaller to the more daring improvements. Does your house demonstrate any of the ones mentioned below:

  • environmental renovation
  • renewable energy
  • reduced energy bills
  • water savings
  • waste water recycling
  • rainwater harvesting
  • green roofs
  • natural and recycled materials

Get in contact to share your experience about you’re first steps towards a more eco-friendly house.

We aim follow the good example of  http://www.ecoopenhouses.org/ to:

Water conservation

Water conservation

empower and inspire members of the public to make environmental changes to their own homes through seeing what practical steps other people have taken in their homes. It is about people learning from the
experience of others and making positive changes to reduce their environmental footprint

We plan to have a tour in Westcliff and beyond – Southend Borough wide if we have enough interest. The date would be established with the home owners – spring, summer?

Some home owners could tell their stories and show their improvements on a guided tour and others could help us by joining in an evening social or
discussion about home improvements.

You make the rules and we want you to feel safe and comfortable working with us, get in contact and share your ideas for that day.

You can support others in making important choices to their homes just by sharing your experience.

write to kamilpac@googlemail.com, call on 07707676308 or leave details here.

Similar tours have taken place around UK and were very successful so it is time for our locality to have one too:)







Map mind for the project.