Meet Emily

Transition Stroud newsletter editor Josephine Murray (JM) talks to Emily Howgate (EH), who runs permaculture-based garden advice company Muck and Magic with Shila Brown.

See below for three things you can do today!

JM: What prompted you and Shila to set up Muck and Magic?
EH: Shila and I met while doing a Permaculture Design Course – here in Stroud and found we share a down-to-earth northern humour as well as green-fingered glee. Over the next year we chatted lots about our love of working with gardens and people to bring more nature and nurture to life. Muck & Magic was born in 2021 and taps into my background in ecology and sustainability, and Shila’s skills in community resilience.

JM: Can you tell us more about Muck and Magic?
EH: Our activities – whether teaching workshops, coaching and designing in gardens, or hosting group events – celebrate wildlife and wellbeing as much as food and flowers. We’re rooted in the Permaculture ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Shares and these give us – as well as our clients and students – a ‘compass’ for making good decisions. Essentially it’s the same as the Transition Stroud focus on sustainability and social justice – just different words!

Shila and I love collaborating with like-minded local groups. Last year we worked with the team at Stroud Valleys Project to create a little ‘pollinator paradise’ patch in Stratford Park and the benefits of that are as much in the team-work as in the final planting. We also love seeing the growth that happens when people attend our Permaculture workshops (next one coming up in March if you fancy joining! often people join thinking they’ll just be focussed on gardening well, but seeing how permaculture ideas also weave into making happy and healthy projects, relationships, and communities is so much more transformational.

JM:  Whereabouts do you live?

EH: I live in the Paganhill neighbourhood of Stroud. I’ve been there four years and love the nature spaces that surround us (Ruscombe Valley to the west and Stratford Park to the east) along with the strong spirit of the people here – the Paganhill Community Group is an awesome example of neighbours supporting one another through the different crises we’re facing – whether it’s covid, cost-of-living or climate emergency.

JM:  What do you do in your spare time?
EH: I love being outdoors so can often be spotted on local footpaths walking with my dog and foraging little hedgerow delights. My allotment (where I grow organic/no-dig veg and blooms) plus supporting our community garden in Paganhill also keep me busy, and means I get a good ‘green-fix’ from nature to keep me perky.

As well as local practical action I also want to help shift the wider ways our world works to help build sustainability for the long-term. I volunteer with the campaign to Make Votes Matter  to help bring in a fairer political system; because better voting gives better social and environmental results.

Three Things You Can Do Today

1.      Just add water! Making a little pond in your garden is a fab project – birds, bees, dragonflies, and frogs will all be delighted (And so will you!). Wildlife Trusts have some simple tips so you can do-it-yourself; our friends at Wild Stroud have a workshop coming up if you want more in-depth info’ about wildlife and water or you can contact us at Muck & Magic to help in your garden.
2.      Feed the birds (singing the Mary Poppins ‘tuppence a bag’ song optional 😉 – Now’s a good time to add or improve your bird-buffet. Food in hedgerows is less in late winter – and as we approach spring, and nesting season, the birds will need extra nutrition. Keep feeders clean to prevent accidental disease spread, and only put food out little-and-often to minimise waste, and rodents.  
See more info at the Wildlife Trusts. Also take the time to enjoy spotting the birds and tuning in to their songs – our gardens attract an amazing range of cute, colourful characters. And free apps like ‘Merlin’ by Cornell University can help you hear who’s singing. Lots of fun!
3.      Plant a tree (or a shrub, or a climber…it all counts!) – Winter is the time to plant bare-root woody plants – these save on compost compared to pot-grown plants and so are extra sustainable and economical. Get them planted before the end of February so roots can establish well in the cool damp soil before summer hits. Adding woody plants like trees, shrubs and climbers gives extra habitat for birds and bugs and extra beauty for you – just choose something that suits the soil and space you have. (Ask for help if you don’t know). My favourite small trees for both nature and loveliness are Amelanchier (June berry) and crab apple – both bear blossom and also fruit.   The Gardeners’ World website has tree planting tips. 

Find out about more local Stroud Transitioneers

If you would like to share your sustainable living story, please contact Josephine on