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Introducing Nene Coppicing & Crafts

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 26.10.2015

Time: 16:55

Matthew Robinson, PECT’s Woodland Management and Volunteer Manager, talks about the formation of a new community group for our local woodlands.

Nene Coppicing & Crafts is a group of enthusiastic volunteers who have, under Peterborough Environment City Trust’s guidance for the last three years, been acquiring skills in coppicing, woodland management and greenwood crafts.

In the winter of 2014-15, the first plots in Bretton woodlands and Castor Hanglands were coppiced (a traditional method of managing woodlands and encouraging a greater biodiversity).

Once cleared of the dense Silver Birch growth, it was found that many of the old Hazel stools in this abandoned coppice were no longer viable, but it enabled us to practice layering techniques and infill planting with locally-sourced Hazel saplings. The need to fence the coppice plot to prevent deer from browsing on the new growth led us to experiment with various dead hedging techniques until we evolved something that suited the material we had available.

During the following summer, despite the need to control brambles and the vigorous Silver Birch re-growth, we found plenty of time to make charcoal from much of the felled Silver Birch and practice greenwood crafts, using shave horses and a pole lathe made by some of our members.

Shelters for a camp kitchen and a tea area have also been constructed, using tarpaulins and Birch poles. Group members are ever researching and practicing new woodcraft skills, from making cordage (cords or ropes) to hedgerow sauce using woodland materials.

Bretton’s woods and Castor Hanglands are rich in biodiversity and hopefully our coppicing efforts will bring benefits too. We will be keeping an eye on the changes in our plots as they mature.

We actively encourage other volunteers to join our activities and we have had a diverse set of visitors, from staff on corporate team-building days to families keen to get their children to engage with nature, plus we also run volunteer woodland management days on Tuesdays. We are always keen to learn more ourselves and are more than happy to share what we have learned.

For more information about volunteering, call Matthew Robinson on 07736 308475 or email matthew.robinson@pect.org.uk.



The Great PECT Bake Off

Category: General

Date: 21.10.2015

Time: 14:15

Nine weeks, 30 bakes, one winner and a lot of competitiveness. The Great PECT Bake Off has seen staff from Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT), PECT Consultancy Ltd, and Sustrans competing against each other to be crowned champion baker.

I was in the third round of heats, and our challenge was sugar-free cake and, like all the rounds, we had to follow the PECT ethos and be as sustainable as possible – so it was free-range eggs, organic carrots, and wildflower honey all the way.

I was competing against Office Manager Selina and the unknown quantity of new guy Stuart, our Commercial Manager. There was a lot of banter back and forth during the week leading up to our bake, trying to psych each other out without giving away the details of what we were doing. We brought the cakes in on Monday morning and had a sneak peek of each others before everyone else came in.

I got a bit worried at this point, because although I had made a three-layered carrot cake it was very plainly decorated with just some regular icing on the top. Selina had decorated hers with dozens of fresh blueberries and Stuart had gone all out and iced the PECT logo onto the top of his cake! I was going to have to hope mine was the best tasting (and possibly win people over with the fact I had made three times as much cake as everyone else).

Judging rolled around at lunch time and we finally got to try our bakes; personally I preferred my own, but I am fairly biased and it was hard to tell whose the judges preferred. We left the room whilst the judges voted and were called back in to the news that I had won!

Fantastic news, but this meant I was into the final, which meant more baking and much tougher competition. I was going to be up against the seven other round winners and we were going to be making showstoppers. As the weeks progressed and I found out who was going to be in the final I got a bit worried about my chances, but I stayed quietly confident that my baking abilities could lead me to victory.

With less than a week to go we found out the brief: traditional cakes. A wide brief which allowed a lot of interpretation from the bakers, and meant we had chocolate cakes, vanilla sponges, lemon drizzle, red velvet cake, a lemon and raspberry cake and my own five-tiered green velvet Ombre cake.

My cake was shaped like a house and came complete with green coconut grass, a pond, shortbread animals and a gingerbread fence. It had taken two days, a lot of flour, eggs (free-range of course), butter and sugar (Fairtrade naturally) to make and there were a few mishaps along the way, with a whole cake having to be binned because I forgot the raising agent, a first attempt at a fence which could only be described as a blob, and an unsuccessful attempt to decorate with food colouring rather than writing icing.

The standard was very high and seeing and tasting the other cakes I knew it was going to be close – and it was. When the final results of the secret ballot came in I had come second, losing out by just one vote to April’s very tasty lemon and raspberry cake. It was very disappointing (especially knowing how close it was), but a very fun experience and I would do it all again. Now I just need to work out how to top my efforts from this year…

This blog was written by Andrew Ellis, PECT's Fundraising Officer.



What does a Commercial Manager do at PECT?

Category: General

Date: 20.10.2015

Time: 09:53

It is a very good question!

Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) is not a FTSE100 company or a multinational conglomerate so why does PECT as a charity need a Commercial Manager?

Well what many people do not seem to realise is that PECT is an independent charity, and not part of a local council (despite what many of my friends and family thought when I decided to take the post here).

With the independent status comes great opportunities; the charity can invest time, energy and resources in delivering projects most needed for the city. It can provide impartial advice to schools, communities, businesses and the local authority on environmental issues and with its independent status PECT can partner with other like-minded organisations.

For PECT to operate we rely on charitable grants, donations, sponsorship and Gift Aid. All of these come with some strings attached and uncertainty about if we will receive them year on year; PECT therefore needs to find additional unrestricted income to enable the charity to operate and support local and national environmental and social initiatives.

As the Commercial Manager for the charity, it is my responsibility to identify opportunities for making unrestricted income, income not designated for a particular activity, service or project.

This might be as simple as making and selling a PECT calendar, to horizon-scanning future government policy changes to identify new prospects. The role is very diverse and enables me to work with all area of the charity, something which I am really enjoying.

I have 318 days left at PECT until my secondment is complete and I head back to the Dutch Civil Engineering Company from where I came, but I know already that those 318 days are going to be packed with fun, laughter, cake, yoga and hopefully a lot of opportunities to raise some funds for a fantastic charity.

Stuart Dawks is PECT’s Commercial Manager. For any enquiries you can contact him directly on 01733 866439 or stuart.dawks@pect.org.uk.



Energy Matters Project

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 15.10.2015

Time: 13:33

Alice Lister, the Energy Matters Project Officer, tells us more about her role working with Peterborough communities.

Fuel poverty isn’t something people often talk about, but why would they when very few people know what it is? The basic definition of fuel poverty is when someone cannot afford to adequately heat their home to a comfortable temperature (somewhere between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius).

Luckily the number of people classified as “fuel poor” remains to be a minority, yet having visited over 100 houses so far in Peterborough, energy bills appear to be a concern for the majority – especially with winter on its way.

I have learned a lot so far during my time as an Energy Matters Project Officer, and am pleased to say I’ve been able to help a large number of people. Bills can seem confusing, but now I can confidently lead people through their energy bills and explain what they mean. This makes tariff comparisons far easier, so residents can understand what they are paying for and be aware of any potential savings they could make.

Sometimes switching tariffs is a little daunting, so it’s nice for people to have a helping hand when deciding what to do. I find myself now recommending to family and friends to get themselves online and look out for the best deals!

Although my project is running for six months, it is not the first (nor will it be the last) fuel poverty project that Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) has run. It really is brilliant to see dedication to a good cause, since after all, these projects benefit not just the environment but people too.

I am aiming to have boosted awareness of fuel poverty by the end of my project, as well as the knowledge that we’re here to help. So with some hard work and my fingers crossed, let this winter be a manageable one for everyone in Peterborough!

If you’d like to find out how the Energy Matters project could help you, call Alice on 01733 882540, email alice.lister@pect.org.uk or visit www.pect.org.uk/EnergyMatters.



The PECT Bake Off Final (dun dun duuuun!)

Category: General

Date: 14.10.2015

Time: 17:49

Michaela Anthony, who is volunteering with PECT, talks about her time in the PECT Bake Off competition.

I made it! Alongside seven other hopeful contestants, I made it to the PECT Bake Off Final 2015 – woop!

You won’t believe the rocky road I took in creating my finished showstopper, using eco-friendly ingredients. I hope you can empathise with some of my experiences…

Times were getting intense. Monday 6pm – no cake. 6.30pm, still no cake. The panic soon set in, I mean what was I playing at? – the final was just around the corner and I had NOTHING! I had no time to mess around, since Mary Berry had said: “It has to be perfect.” (no pressure there!)

So I began making my three-tiered (yes that’s three-tiered) lemon drizzle cake. Measure, whisk, bake! And in it went, no issues here. Then the problems began. I was keeping to the timings and all was going well, then on taking one of the tiers out of the oven, I singed my wrist on the oven shelf, so now I was an injured baker, still fighting for my survival in the competition.

I made the timings up as I went along, so there wasn’t really any systematic 'small comes out first, then medium, and then large' so out came the three cakes together. 8pm. Now here for my fatal mistake, I attempted to make my own fondant icing (the hard way!). I meant business, so I was having none of that marshmallow malarkey from the Bake Off tent. No, I was doing it the ‘proper’ way.

‘Boil the dissolved sugar to 115 degrees centigrade.’ OK minor issue, I had no way of measuring the temperature, no thermometer in the house, nothing. So out to purchase a thermometer! But my thermometer was very stubborn and I couldn’t get it up to temperature.

But that was not the end, because I still had to roll it out and time was not my friend. I started rolling it out, but I needed buttercream to cover the cake first. So I whipped up a small batch, and it was a small batch because I was almost out of icing. Miraculously I managed to cover the three cake layers, followed by the fondant icing sugar.

12pm – breathe. I had finally finished this marathon of a showstopper.

The day arrived, I rushed to PECT to set up my homemade cake stand, made to look like a forest scene with a green base, covered with leaves and logs to hold up the cakes, mimicking something of a toadstool.

Now eight finalists meant a lot of cake! Even for the greatest of cake lovers, this was a challenge. But we rose to that challenge, it was a tough job, but somebody had to do it! The standard was immense and the nerves were too.

But the worthy winner was…April. She produced a delicious raspberry and lemon flavoured cake, with a close second being Andrew’s Green House cake, with a difference of just one vote. They were honestly both sPECTacular!

Thanks to all the bakers and judges, what a brill time it was!