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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:


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

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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.

Swine Flu – Another reason for building resilience?

Over at Transition Wigan they have an interesting post about the swine flu and local resilience. Have a read and put Southend on Sea in place of Wigan – share your ideas in the comments.

Courses – Intro to Permaculture and Earth Healing

1. If you can’t make the  Introduction to Permaculture Design weekend run by Transition Westcliff members Graham Burnett and Ron Bates, another course is being run by Marina O’Connell at the Apricot Centre nr Manningtree 01206 230425). 25th & 26th April This will be a good introduction to Permaculture leading onto a planned Permaculture Design Course to be run by Marina and Spencer Christy near Maldon. What is Permaculture? Permaculture is about creating sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns. An ecological design system that inspires and empowers us to create our own solutions to local and global problems, it provides ways to design and create healthy productive places to work, rest and play. (Taken from http://www.permaculture.org.uk)

2. Earth Healing – Process Work, Deep Ecology, and the Role of the Earth in Healing Trauma, Depression, and Sexuality with Gary Reiss (PhD) from Eugene Oregon. at the Apricot Centre nr Manningtree 01206 230425) 27-29 November. If you are interested in resilience and how to work with Trauma this may be a good seminar for you. The Earth is there for us as a source of healing and nourishment if we know how to open to Her. We also need to be there for Her, as she has suffered from our neglect and abuse. Our relationship with the earth can help us in healing trauma; connect us to earth based sensuality and earth based spirituality. Gary Reiss Ph.D http://www.garyreiss.com Has taught and practiced Process Work for 28 years worldwide. Specialities include Mid East, family therapy, comawork, addiction work, and anger problems. Thanks Mark O’Connell

Women’s Environmental Network – film screening, community allotment, plan for 2009

Transition Town Westcliff is supporting local groups and projects leading our locality to a greater resilience. Check here about the community allotment and have a read below.

Christmas is behind us, we’ve welcomed the New Year, and our sights are now set on our WEN programme for the coming year.

We’ve started our Growing Your Own Food project at the Manchester Drive allotments, Leigh on Sea, so the main part of our first meeting for 2009 will be taken up with the showing of a dvd  ‘The Allotment’ which demonstrates the benefits and fun of growing your own organic fruit and veg alongside other members of your local community.  Even if you only have a small veggie patch you will be sure to find lots of useful tips.

We’ll also have a short ideas session starting at 7.30 pm because ….

  • We need to get cracking with planning our Earth Day 2009
  • We hope to have a ‘make your own cosmetics & toiletries’ evening soon
  • Will we be marking ‘Real Nappy Week’ this year?

If you’d like to be involved in planning any of our 2009 WEN events or if you just want to come along to hear about the allotment, to see the dvd (starting soon after 8 pm) and meet up with our local WEN group you will be very welcome.

We meet this coming Thursday, January 15th, at 7. 30 at Fresh Horizons, Ditton Court Road, Westcliff (very close to Westcliff Station) – look forward to seeing you there!

For more info contact Eileen 01268 752264 or Carol 01702 342148

submitted by Kamil

‘Grow Your Own’ film night at Springfield Drive Allotments, 19th June 2008

Transition Town Westcliff celebrated (nearly) the Solstice by showing the wonderful film ‘Grow Your Own’ in the Springfield Drive Allotments canteen on the evening of June 19th. Based on true experiences, this homegrown British comedy drama tells the story of what happens when a group of refugees are given allotment plots as therapy for the traumatic events they have witnessed, and the reaction of the established plot holders. A truly entertaining film, it also carries an underlying message about the mutual support and value of the sort of resilient communities to be found on our allotments. Amazingly however such communities are becoming an endangered species as short sighted councils and developers continue to sell off prime growing land rather than getting serious about responding locally to the threat of global food insecurity, or indeed heeding the current demand for allotments from would-be ‘Good Lifers’ in search a chance to grow fresh organic fruit and vegetables (Springfield Drive currently has a waiting list of some 25 people as I write, and many Londoners I have met speak of 10 to 15 year waiting lists!!)

After the film, which I have to say was very positively received, Kamil facilitated a lively discussion around climate change, peak oil and local food security for Westcliff, and introduced the ‘Post It Note Tool’, whereby participants were given four different- coloured post-it notes. They were asked to write on them accordingly: Pink – One thing I can do Yellow – One thing Westcliff can do, Orange – One thing the Government can do, Green – One other thought.

These were then stuck up on the wall for everybody to read – or would have been if they didn’t keep falling off! Kamil has the notes and has promised to write them up when he returns from his family visit to Poland, but some ideas that stick in my mind include; “setting up a local garden share scheme to link up people who have gardens they can’t or don’t want to look after with people who can’t get allotments but want to grow food” and “More films in the allotment canteen!”


Kamil here: The write up from the Post It Note Tool. People at first said they don’t have ideas, they don’t know what to write, maybe the problems are to complex, maybe we don’t know enough and then they wrote…

One thing I can do : grow own food, compost, organic, invite you to our open day in August – where you can have a stall and talk to the many people who visit the show, start growing my own food and spread the word, buy locally grown produce, grow your own, grow fruit and veg in garden (non GM), I can grow more food, support Transition Town etc. , encourage schools to get children involved in growing veg., I’m doing it www.savepriorypark.org, talk to people, use farm shops,

One thing Westcliff can do: share food surplus, exchange food/skills, people need to come out of denial, support local growers, local production, involve local radio BBC Essex, provide more cycle paths, don’t allow allotment to close, involve local schoolchildren – re-educate, all ‘green groups’ should provide leaflets and local talks to community in Westcliff advising people regarding issues on growing their own food, sharing journeys by car, spread the message via the schools, talks, engagement, buy only local grown produce where possible, get council and housing associations to encourage and support tenants in growing and sharing, replace the urban trees with nut trees, do not buy food not grown in england, more bike only lanes, excess produce to be shared out, protect gardens from planning,

One thing the Government can do: listen, empower local councils to provide more land to enable people without gardens to grow their own, the government will not change – they are the problem, the gov should educate us with more information about how to conserve energy, subsidizing local growers, educational programs, literature etc., all new developments should meet sustainable criteria – not just buildings, not tax fuels made at home eg. diesel substitute made from cooking oil, promote organic, return us to self sufficiency – currently less then 30%, encourage the return to traditional farming, stop the gov building on farm, change attitudes to quality of life, stop building on green land, reward people who cycle, share car journeys, grow their own, incentives will work

One other thought:more meetings like tonight aimed at general public, continue talking to everyone and setting an example, turn over unused/unwanted land to food production – share among local people, thank you, cooking oil to help the fuel situation MORE FILM NIGHTS,

Looks like plenty of ideas to me:)

As this write up shows people of Westcliff can be creative in finding ways to overcome peak oil and climate change. We will look into the above mentioned ideas and they will inspire our work and hopefully we can together grow some projects out of them.

The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins reviewed by Graham Burnett

This review was written for ‘Growing Green’, the magazine of the Vegan Organic Network and has also appeared in Permaculture Activist

The Transition Handbook


  • Paperback: 224 pages

  • Publisher: Green Books; 1st edition (6 Mar 2008)

  • ISBN-10: 1900322188

  • ISBN-13: 978-1900322188

  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 22.6 x 2.2 cm

Concepts like ‘climate change’ and ‘peak oil’ can cause us to feel confronted by something overwhelmingly huge that we cannot do anything about. The central message of the this book is that “this state of mind is not the place to start from if we want to achieve something, do something or create something.” Indeed, by shifting our mind-set we can actually recognise the coming post-cheap oil era as an opportunity rather than a threat, and design our future low energy societies to be thriving, resilient and abundant – somewhere much better to live than our current alienated consumer culture based on greed, war and the myth of perpetual growth.

The Transition concept emerged from work permaculture designer Rob Hopkins had done with the students of Kinsale Further Education College in writing an ‘Energy Descent Action Plan’. This looked at across-the-board creative adaptations in the realms of energy production, health, education, economy and agriculture (plenty of scope for vegan organics when petro-chemical based farming and high consumption of animal products are things of the past!) as a ‘road map’ to a sustainable future for the town, and was unanimously adopted by Kinsale Council.

The idea of ‘Transition Towns’ was subsequently rolled out to Totness in Devon before becoming an almost viral movement across the country as communities from Lewes to Brixton began to consider how they might become more resilient by, for example, localising food production (food feet, not food miles!), developing renewable energy sources, building with sustainable natural materials, enhancing regional economies (LETS, local currencies, etc) and promoting distinctive ‘cultures of place’.

Emerging from this context, The Transition Handbook is pretty much a permaculture manual for redesigning human communities. The book is split into three highly readable sections; ‘The Head’ – why peak oil and climate change mean that small is inevitable; ‘The Heart’ – why having a positive vision is crucial and ‘The Hands’ – exploring the Transition Model and how to make it work. It’s not a one-size-fits-all prescriptive blueprint, rather it provides a range of tools, activities, case studies and techniques that can be adapted to all kinds of situations, including a suggested ’12 step program to Transition’, how to overcome the ‘Buts…’ that can stop us being proactive, and a very interesting section applying the psychology of addiction to our current oil-dependency. It’s not without a sense of humour either – cuttings from newspapers of the future inform us that the top TV shows of 2012 include ‘Celebrity Love Allotment’ and ‘Pimp My Patio’ and that Posh and Becks will one day enjoy nothing better than snuggling up on their cob bench after a hard days mulching!

The Transition Model isn’t about waiting for our ‘leaders’ to come up with the solutions that will save us, but instead encourages us to take responsibility and ‘get up and do it’ ourselves. Indeed, here in Westcliff on Sea our local transition initiative was born out of a pub chat and has been steadily growing ever since. We try not to stop and think too often about the enormity of what we might have taken on, but certainly this wonderful book will make our journey far, far easier. And lots of fun too.

Graham Burnett is the author of ‘Permaculture – a Beginners Guide’ and ‘Earth Writings’ (www.spiralseed.co.uk) and is currently involved in setting up Transition Town Westcliff (www.transitionwestcliff.org.uk)

You can obtain copies of the Transition Handbook here

A bit of history…

Transition Town Westcliff originated from a pub chat between Steve and Graham back in July 2007. Steve had a copy of ‘The End of Suburbia’ and thought it might be a good idea to put on a public showing. Graham had attended the Peak Oil symposium at the national Permaculture Convergence the previous year where he saw Rob Hopkins talk about the Transition Movement. This had emerged from work he had done with the students of Kinsale Further Education College in producing an Energy Descent Action Plan, and in preparing the ground work for a low energy future for the town (more here ). The idea of ‘Transition Towns’ was subsequently rolled out to Totness before becomming an almost viral movement across the country as more and more communities began to consider how they might develop resilience and be able to thrive in a post peak oil/climate change future. So we thought ‘wouldn’t it be good to set up a Transition initiative for Westcliff?’ When Graham got home he promptly emailed Ben Brangwyn and asked what the next step would be. Ben emailed back a very useful document explaining the ’12 steps’ recommended for a new Transition project, which can be viewed here. With Graham having major work carried out on his house with the instalation of a wood fueled central heating system (carbon nuetral!), and both of us having impending weddings, we promptly put the idea on the back-burner, but were quite chuffed to see that 2 chancers chatting in a pub constituted a new ‘mulling’ Transtion initiative when we next looked at the Transition website!!

In the meantime we’d mentioned the idea of Transition Towns to a number of other people, and at very short notice were offered the chance of a week long display in Southend Library in early Jan 2008. We decided that part of our display would be about presenting positive and hopefully inspiring images of the town, which involved plenty of charging around on our bicycles with digital cameras on the last days of the year, as well as plundering others’ photo collections, so big thank you’s to Simon Wallace, Keith Baxter, Jay Scarlett of Scarlett Fireplaces and John Williams at Growing Together!!

The display generated plenty of interest and comment, and led to our first public event, the showing of The Power of Community at Southend Library, which just about brings the story so far up to date…