Pann Mill on the Rye, oh my

Pann Mill on the Rye in Wycombe has always held a special place in our affections. There is something very serendipitous about its position in our town’s culture. It represents something important. For us it has been a very natural home: a place where we discover both the local food economy AND local power generation all in one package.

We always describe ourselves as advocates of local energy, local money and local food so this is a perfect demonstration. Pann Mill has it all. Where better to meet the public and aswer questions about local energy and local food? According to the Pann Mill web site at

“Pann Mill sits at the eastern end of High Wycombe and is a gateway to the Rye open space. It is the last operating water mill on the river Wye, a tributary of the Thames. There have been mills on the site since at least 1086, and probably earlier. The previous Victorian mill was substantially altered in the early 20th century and mostly demolished in 1971. However, the High Wycombe Society saved the remains and the site, which is owned by High Wycombe Council, and a restoration project was started which continues to this day.”

In truth it is more than just a slice of history. It is alive. Everything from the smiles of the people who run the open days, to the wonderful garden maintained by Margaret (a legend in her own right). It is a pleasure. We are now in our third year as an exhibitor at the Pann Mill open days. We would like to thank the High Wycombe Society and the folks at Pann Mill for welcoming us to their shows. You have just missed one last Sunday 13th May but there are two more this year: Sunday 15th July and Sunday 9th September.

The days starts early for us as it does for the High Wycombe Society. All of our equipment: gazebo, table, display boards – all get shoe-horned into the back of a tiny Toyota Aygo and is on site by 9.30am on the Sunday morning of the open day. No lie-ins for us on these special days. 13th May 2012 was no different.

This year (as last) the Energy Group hooked up with our friends at SolaSave to help people choose solar power for their homes. Although we have a photovoltaic panel on display this is actually a small fraction of what we have on offer. A glance around our stall shows we had posters/leaflets on the thermal imaging project, Wycombe Homepower & Warmth buying project, the energy saving kits for loan project, the Superhomes promotion work, a variety of Transition books, leaflets on grants for home insulation and so on and so on. Next to us we had a kind-of Friends of the Earth “sandwich-filling” with the Wycombe FOE crew promoting the “Bee Cause”. The other piece of bread in the sandwich (literally) was the Food Group table selling local honey. (In fact it sold out so quickly Celia went home by lunchtime as she ran out of stock!) Twitter buddies are here too: including the Wycombe Museum with their “guess the mystery object” stand just the other side of our Local Food table.

Setting up at a Pann Mill open day is a team effort with everyone mucking-in to erect gazebos. Increasingly the old-style gazebos are getting retired in favour of the modern “pop-up” variety. We admit that we started this trend when we first turned up with ours two years ago. The HWS volunteers looked on in envy as one man erected the TTHW gazebo in about two minutes flat! More troublesome are our display boards than always threaten to fall over – they weren’t really designed for the great outdoors.

Then, at 11am, we are all open to the public. In our position we get a lot of through-traffic as people head of for tea and cake. Lots of people stop to talk. A few ask what a Transition Town is (naturally), some ask about when they can come and visit the Superhomes, a few want thermal images of their homes, we answer questions about wind turbines and hydro-power, Mark and James from SolaSave answered questions on solar energy and the day goes quickly. We tip our hat to the boys at SolaSave who give up their weekends to help local community groups such as ours. The solar-powered train-set didn’t make it to last Sunday’s event but they have promised it will be back soon.

We had been tweeting about the event using hashtag #pannmill since early that Sunday morning. This bore fruit when the nice people at North Mill Stoves (@northmillstoves “Installers of some of the worlds finest stove brands. Based in Bledlow near Princes Risborough serving Berks, Bucks, Oxon and Herts.”) came along to meet us. They even took away one of our free window stickers. It was a thrill for us to meet them and proof of the power of online social networking – if ever you needed it. (We do have a local stove-installer company whom we hope to be exhibiting with later in the year, although they were unable to make the last Pann Mill on this last occasion.)

By 5pm everyone is exhausted and full of Pann Mill tea and cake. We pack up, we go home thankful that it isn’t an everyday event. Few of us have Margaret’s strength (she’s the Pann Mill gardener). The most common question we had on the day was “I want solar panels and extra insulation but I don’t own my own home”. A real dilemma. The other lesson of the day is that more people talk to us if we have free stuff to give away. We think maybe a big reel of stickers for the kids might be a good draw and a bowl of Celia’s home-made bread (made of Pann Mill flour) enticed a few folk. Yes – people really do ask where they can buy the bread or get the recipe. Answer: you can go to Local Roots on Crendon Street for the flour but the recipe is a closely guarded secret. Just one of those Transition Town High Wycombe legends…..

We hope to see YOU at the next Pann Mill open day. Of course there is infinitely more to see than just us. You can walk all around the gardens and mill, watch the flour being ground, gaze in marvel at the wheel as it turns, turn over the contents of brick-a-brack stalls, get some secondhand books, learn a little history or just sit on the grass with an ice-cream. These events are FREE and Pann Mill is just a five minute walk from Easton Street car park. Clever. What are you waiting for? See you there next time.

If you want to help out at Pann Mill, or help at our stand, then let the High Wycombe Society (or us) know. The TTHW Energy Group is there to advise folk on home energy efficiency and microgeneration. If you are a wizard on such things then come and join us and help the public. We also have a Local Food group who do more than bake excellent bread – there is the online Local Food Guide as well as the up-and-coming Wycombe Harvest at the end of August. Working on Transition Town projects is an enjoyable way to spend voluntary time and genuinely contribute to a sustainable High Wycombe. It is also a good outlet for any local commercial organisations working on sustainability. Join us for the better way.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.


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