Walk Wood sculpture trail at Sheffield Park Gardens

Project Manager Emma Chaplin was invited to attend the opening of the new Walk Wood sculpture trail at the National Trust-owned Sheffield Park Gardens near Haywards Heath. The sculpture trail has been created by Sussex artist and wood engraver Keith Pettit, who likes to work with natural materials.

Andy, the head gardener at Sheffield Park Gardens, has regularly worked with the Nature Corridors for All group from the St Nicholas Day Centre, some members of which also come to our Community Allotment. John Parry, founder of the Linklater Centre in Lewes, was in attendance. They have worked with the Nature Corridors group for a long while now. 

We were invited to walk around the new woodland area with one of a number of knowledgeable guides. 

We saw that Keith has created portals that lead into and out of the area, as well as other sculptures that you come across as you walk along the pathways. These are sympathetically built in or around trees, such as 'cycles' made of beech and yew, mostly using materials sourced from the area. Some you have to look hard to spot! Other sculptures include a striking woven spiral and two web-like sculptures. 

Our guide explained that a particular kind of hedging has been created around the new walk area as a barrier to protect the woodland. It has green waste between two lots of wire, which allows small mammals to move through it and also forms a habitat for insects. The pathway are made of chipped wood that's been cut down, and there is temporary 'dead hedging' made of twigs to keep visitors on the pathways.

Our walk guide, who has worked at Sheffield Park for a very long time, described what they learnt after the Great Storm of 1987 when many trees were lost. He told us about the history of the woodland walk area, how 'commercial' trees had been planted when it was private, which weren't particularly sympathetic to the history of the land. He said it will take a very long time (beyond his working life) to fully restore the woodland area with indigenous species of trees, and described the process of trying to restore it sympathetically and mindfully as 'historic gardening', rather than commercial gardening. 

All the different groups ended up back where we started. It's a lovely place to visit. We enjoyed some refreshments and a piece of a truly splendid 'woodland wildlife' themed cake.

Keith Pettit has had an interesting and varied journey, workwise, and Emma has invited him to come and talk to the Rural Pathways group next year about how he came to make a career working with his hands: as a wood engraver, sign-writer and sculptor, sometimes outdoors, often using materials he finds. Every year, he makes extraordinary, dramatic wooden sculptures that go up in flames at East Hoathly Bonfire!

A visit to The Secret Campsite

Flourish have faced challengingly cold weather before, but we haven't had a day that was quite so scorchingly hot as the June day we went to The Secret Campsite.

We'd arranged a visit to meet Tim Bullen, the owner and manager of The Secret Campsite, which is based 'somewhere' in Barcombe. We'd thought about doing this because they do a great deal to encourage wildlife at the site, and are even about to hold their annual Wildlife Festival with our friend from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Michael Blencowe.

Sarah and (me) Emma arrived first, met Tim and had a quick look around. We really liked how it feels like you are miles from anywhere, and seeing all the trees that have been planted. We enjoyed looking at the tree house tent. 

Then the group arrived from St Nicks, and we had a chat with Eleanor about how hot it was and how careful we all thought we needed to be about making sure that nobody got overheated. 

Tim began by giving everyone some water to drink, then explained that the campsite is based on what used to be Chubbs Nursery, where they grew and sold plants. The campsite is a very friendly spot for wildlife, he said, and designed as a quiet place for humans to escape to as well. He told us that he did a landscape management course in order to learn how to manage the land and the wildlife where they have created the campsite.

Visitors who come to camp unload their cars and wheel their tents etc in wheelbarrows to the large meadow where the tent pitches are, rather than driving to them, to keep the place peaceful.

In terms of wildlife, Tim said they get a lot of slow worms, snakes (including adders), bats, butterflies, moths, birds including birds of prey such as red kites, tiny beautiful goldfinches (which love thistle seeds) and nightingales, which have an incredible song.

They sometimes set footprint traps to see what animals have visited overnight.

Sometimes you can see great crested newts and purple emperor butterflies, he told us. The butterflies like all the flowers that grow around the campsite and in the meadow.  They have a regular hedgehog visitor, and Tim told us that hedgehogs need holes in hedges to get around. 

Tim showed us one of their ponds, which was lovely, but then we decided it really was too hot to do any more walking. But Tim said we'd be welcome to come back in the autumn, when there will be lots of apples and other fruits ripe! Thanks Tim, it was really interesting to find out where the 'Secret' Campsite is :)

Rural Pathways groups - Last Session Celebrations

It's been a great pleasure for Flourish, running regular sessions for groups of Rural Pathways students from Plumpton College at Lewes Community Allotment and Baulcombes Barn. The young people have all worked very hard and got a lot of work done. So to thank them, we had celebrations of their time with us at their last sessions.

Lewes Community Allotment's group's last session.

First of all we did some work, such as weeding, then we stopped and had a visit from a friendly cat.

Then we enjoyed some Ringmer Community Orchard juice, or water, as well as a lovely feast of cheese, quiche, chopped veggies, hummus and homemade samosas brought by Niyati. Then allotment member Karine came along with a spectacular cake to thank the students for all their hard clearing work at the Allotment, which the members have really appreciated.

Finally, Common Cause director Topsy Jewell presented everyone with their own certificate that Emma had brought along.

Baulcombes Barn last session

 

 

At the last session at Baulcombes Barn, first we did some work on the farm. So we split up into groups and either collected eggs or fed the pigs.

Then we went back to enjoy some burgers in rolls or pitta made from Owena's pork, as well as freshly boiled eggs from her community hens, washing down with apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard. 

It was a lovely way to say thank you and goodbye to the group, who have all been brilliant.

Michael Blencowe from Sussex Wildlife on bugs & butterflies

Today the St Nick's group came up on a sunny but blustery day for a bug and butterfly session with our old friend, Michael Blencowe from Sussex Wildlife.

We walked around the allotment with him as our guide, looking for bugs, catching them sometimes to see them, then letting them go. We also walked up the path outside the allotment. He pointed out various birds as we walked around, including a wren, and wood pigeons.

We saw a dock bug. We learnt that some bugs and beetles take on the look of a wasp to protect themselves - including the wasp beetle and the hover-fly, both of which he showed us.

We saw a hawthorn shield bug.

We were surprised to hear that there are 3,000 varieties of beetle in Sussex alone. He showed us an asparagus beetle, a wasp beetle,  a long horned beetle,  a pretty swollen-thighed beetle and a rose-chafer beetle.

He told us that foxgloves, which we have by the ponds, are good for bees.

Sarah mentioned that the broccoli is covered up to stop pigeons and cabbage white butterflies from eating it all.

Michael showed us a mullion caterpillar on the plant of same name. We saw an ichneuman wasp. We also spotted a rare small blue butterfly.

Finally, we were delighted to get our copy of his wonderful new Sussex Butterflies book, which he kindly signed.

A new allotment group from St Nicholas visit Baulcombes Barn

Have a look through our slideshow of St Nicholas Day Centre members' recent visit to the farm

It was lovely to welcome the new St Nicholas Day Centre allotment group to Baulcombes Barn for a visit. It was a sunny morning. The Bluebell group were there to meet them, and had brought cakes. I brought apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, made by another Flourish group. Owena had cooked food to try, including pieces of her own chorizo sausage, pork sausage and pieces of hogget (one year old lamb), plus some goats’ cheese made by a friend of Owena. So after introducing ourselves, we started off with a delicious mini-feast.

Owena explained the safety rules of the farm, such as not eating or taking human food near the animals, washing hands after touching animals, closing gates, being quiet around the animals so as not to scare them, not going behind horses (in case they kick) and being careful of slipping on poo or uneven ground.

Then we put boots on and went out to visit the farm animals that Owena had kindly brought to the area near the hut so that the group could meet them without going through the fields.

Some of the new group were not familiar with touching or feeding farm animals, so it took some courage to come forward and do that. Sue and others from Bluebell were very kind and helpful with the St Nicks group members.

We started off by looking at a swallow’s nest in a stable, then fed the chickens. We saw some of the new lambs and their mums, and fed two of the sheep with pellets. Then we took a wheelbarrow full of nettles to Penny and her two remaining piglets. Finally we went to see the ponies, caught Jerry up in a head collar and member of the St Nicholas Group come and patted him.

We finished by a visit to the wildlife-rich pond for a little sit in the sunshine whilst St Nicks waited for the minibus. Some of the newts had been eaten by a heron that morning unfortunately, but it was a beautiful and peaceful spot for a rest.

Emma Chaplin

Flourish Project Manager

News from the Allotment

See the slideshow below...

By Sarah Rideout

Last week, we enjoyed the lovely blossom coming out on the crab apple tree by the gate.

On Tuesday, we had a visit from Victoria Williams, director of Food Matters, who develop Brighton and Hove Food Partnership projects. They do great work, including running cooking and gardening sessions for people with dementia.

On Wednesday, we were very pleased to show off our beautiful hand made tripod and trivet, made by Ian The Luddite. They will be most helpful for future Fire and Feast events. 

We also enjoyed a visit from a four-legged new helper!

Lots of hard work went on at the regular sessions with both groups as you can see.  

We went to take a look at the Rangers putting in a new kissing gate in the adjacent field. Later we rather rather cheekily borrowed their drill and some screws to fix one of the raised beds!

Plot 22 visit: Flourishing at Lewes Community Allotment  

A guest post from Angela, one of the lovely Lady Gardeners from Plot 22, who recently visited Flourish recently

"Seven of us made our way from Hove to Lewes Community Allotment in early April (near the Nevill estate), where the Flourish project run regular sessions. As we were walking along by the other allotments, we were spotted by Emma, Project Manager of Flourish, standing up high, waving at us from Lewes Community Allotment. We could not miss her bright red coat and warm smile. She called us up the verge and we entered the allotment.

We were treated to hot cross buns and refreshing drinks. Sitting there under the large shelter, built from chestnut, we received an informative illustrated talk about the 19 year history of the allotment. Also the current usage of what grows well. Several herbs really like the chalk soil.

The view of the brow of the Downs that sunny glorious day was incredible. We saw a sheepdog herding sheep and a procession of horses riding by the perimeter fence.

Sarah Rideout,  the Flourish Allotment Co-ordinator, gave a very interesting and detailed tour of each small area of planting beds, sheds, picket fence story, pizza clay oven refurbishment project, willow fencing made on site... 

The blossom was about to burst on the trees. She showed us where the lizards like to stretch out on a disused tyre when it gets very hot.

We were meant to visit in February the same time Storm Doris hit the UK. So after being disappointed, our group re-arranged to come on this day which turned out to be more than perfect!  Everyone enjoyed themselves very much!"

Photos by Yvonne

Lambing time

lambs at baulcombes april 2017

We went along to Baulcombes Barn in the middle of the lambing season (25 had been born so far), to hand out the keyrings we'd made for Bluebell members, using photos of their favourite animals, to remind them of the farm and what they enjoy about being there, when they're away from it.

The sun was shining. We had a look for newts around the pond, which has got rather too much blanketweed in it. Owena told us that well-rotted barley straw will help with that. 

All restrictions on chickens had been lifted (except you still need to wear overalls to handle them, which need to be washed after use, which Owena is in the process of purchasing).   

We walked around the lambing field to go and groom the horse and ponies (lots of their winter coat came out) and feed the pigs. Tallulah the pony has had a cough, so Owena gave her some medicine. We finished off by clearing some horse poo from the field before heading back. 

Easter Fire and Feast with Chloe Edwards

Chloe Edwards from Seven Sisters Spices joined us for the morning at our Community Allotment for a Fire and Feast event just before Easter. We had our usual Wednesday morning group from the St Nicholas Day Centre, and Chloe showed us all how to chop (the safe 'bridge' method using the whole hand to hold the vegetable, to prevent slipping and injury) and also mashing, to prepare a delicious meal of bean burgers and tasty salads.

We got the fire going early and by the time the food was ready to cook, the fire was down to nice hot embers, perfect for cooking.

With bean burgers sizzling and buns toasting, we made the finishing touches to tzatziki (yoghurt, mint and cucumber), a pickling salad of radish and carrot, tomato salad and just-picked green salad, all with guidance from Chloe.

Then we enjoyed sharing the lovely food and having a chat in the fresh air.

Thanks to Eleanor, Emmanuel, Felicity Ann and Maggie for helping out.

Sarah Rideout, LCA coordinator, April 2017

Have a look through our photos of the event. Some were taken by us, some by Chloe.

A sunny April day at the Allotment

What a lovely morning at the Allotment. Here's Andy, planting our new plum tree from Woodruff's

And here's a common lizard sunbathing on a tyre - all pics from allotment coordinator Sarah Rideout

And here are some of our allotment members, working hard

And here are some of our allotment members, working hard

Piglets and Jerry the new horse at Baulcombes Barn

A slideshow of the Bluebell House group, featuring Penny's piglets and Jerry the new horse

It was lovely for Flourish project manager Emma Chaplin to see some old and new faces from Bluebell House at Baulcombes Barn at the end of March. We sat around the woodburner for a check-in and a chat. Owena had been using the pegloom when we arrived. She mentioned the fact that there are still restrictions on the chickens because of avian flu - they are outside and we can see them but not pick them up or feed them. We then went for a visit and she showed us her new Cream Legbar chicken, who lays blue eggs!

Emma asked everyone about whether they'd like a project keyring to remind them of Baulcombes and the animals when they aren't there. The group agreed they'd like that to happen and said they'd tell Emma as they went round the farm what pictures they'd most like to have to keep. Emma said she would then sort that out.

Emma also mentioned she would love it if anyone wanted to write things for the Flourish blog, or send photos to her. A couple of people expressed an interest in that.

Then we made our way to the pig and horse fields, where Emma met the new horse Jerry for the first time. He is a horse not a pony, and has a handsome blaze on his nose as well as fine white socks. He's quite a dominant horse, and his arrival has changed the dynamic of the herd, which is interesting. A couple of people led Buster and Jerry on headcollars.

We also saw Penny's ten new piglets, all different colours and very sweet. They came out to see us. We fed Penny some nettles, which have iron, which she needs because of having so many piglets to feed. Owena also fed her.

Then we cleared the horse field of poo.

Herb and Story Walk

Saturday 25th March 2017, 2pm.

By Andra Houchen

Kym Murden is a herbalist and storyteller who lives and works in Lewes. She has a particular interest in how people connect with the landscape.

On a beautiful, sunny day with a rather chilly easterly breeze, five Community Allotment members, along with a number of other people, went on a guided walk with her, to learn about herbs and plants, as well as ancient Celtic stories. 

We met Kym at the entrance to the Tumuli Field gate, Landport Bottom and started by walking up the Tumuli Field. Kym explained that the mounds we saw and stood on were burial mounds from ancient times and this chalk downland area supports a huge variety of wildlife and plants.

As we walked up the field, some of us looked at the different plants and others listened for different birdsong. We heard about the medicinal qualities of nettles and dandelions and the best time to pick these plants to harvest them at their best. We noticed the cawing of crows and the rather more melodious song of what we thought might be blackbirds. Kym told us that skylarks were nesting in the fields around us and we heard one a little later.

When we paused, Kym started to tell us a couple of Celtic tales that have been passed down the generations and we listened to these tales as we went along, looking at plants and trees, some with medicinal qualities like hawthorn and some which have toxic properties (beware!).

Kym explained that she watches where various plants grow, some pop up in places where they haven't grown before. It’s important to harvest responsibly to make sure they continue to grow and spread. We saw a couple of perfect comfrey plants, a snake disappearing into the hedgerow, and learnt that trees 'talk' to each other and communicate through a network of beneficial fungi.

The views from the top of the path were stunning as we wended our way back down past Lewes Community Allotment and the Highdown allotments and finished a very interesting and enjoyable walk on the South Downs.

 

Project User Group Session

Here are some photos from our Project User Group meeting hosted by the Lewes Community Allotment on the morning of Wednesday 15 March 2017

Allotment coordinator Sarah and Flourish project manager Emma were delighted to welcome members of Bluebell House Recovery Centre to Lewes Community Allotment (LCA) for a project user group meeting. The Bluebell group normally attend sessions at Baulcombes Barn with Owena. All in all, we had 22 people come along, including clients from the St Nicholas Day Centre, our sessional worker Felicity Ann, LCA members and support staff from all the projects.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. We all introduced ourselves and put on name labels. Hollie helped Emma to do this. Emma gave everyone a copy of the new Flourish ethos and asked them to think about it and comment on it at the end, or afterwards, if they had views. The ethos says: “We create a safe but challenging outdoor experience where participants can learn and develop skills, gain confidence and a deeper understanding of themselves and others, while widening their opportunities in the community.”

Sarah then took a group for a tour of the allotment, including the lovely new shed. She showed off our new willow hurdles for the vegetable beds, made from willow picked at Baulcombes Barn. Sarah explained that, after we stopped for refreshments (apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, tea and delicious nettle and cheese scones, made by Felicity Ann), she was happy to demonstrate how to do the willow weaving with anyone interested.  

As we ate our scones and drank our juice, people chatted about various things, including the ten piglets who had just been born at Owena's. The mum is Penny. Baulcombes also has a newly arrived black horse called Jerry, who seems to be ruling the roost with the other ponies, Tallulah, Frankie and Buster. The chickens are now free to range again. Owena told everyone, after being kept in the polytunnel during concerns about avian flu being spread by wild birds. she did feel, however, that the hens had rather enjoyed being in the polytunnel, so she's keeping it up.

A couple of people from Bluebell House, Ashley and Sue, took Sarah up on her offer to show them how to make willow hurdles..

The feedback about the ethos was positive "I think that says exactly what we do"  "I wouldn't change it. It seems right to me", so it was agreed the Flourish would adopt it as it is.

It was a truly delightful morning. Lovely to see people chatting and enjoying the sunshine.

Willow hurdle making with Lewes Community Allotment members

We'd seen some excellent work at the Community Allotment making willow hurdles to protect the beds by Plumpton College students. Then our members gave it a try - also with great results. 

Visit to Little Gate Farm

Click through our slideshow...

Owena, her partner Ivan and I took a trip over towards Rye in early March to visit a care farm in Beckley set up by Claire Cordell in March 2014 called Little Gate Farm. Hannah Briars, who is Head of the farm, was kind enough to meet us and show us around.

We began with a cup of tea made in their beautiful, cosy kitchen, which we drank sitting outside under the shelter, watching goats leaping about in the field nearby. Hannah told us that Little Gate Farm covers 46 acres, and explained that they support people with learning disabilities (who they call their 'Rangers') to develop confidence, communication, independence and work skills. They then support Rangers into paid jobs.

Claire's motivation for setting up the place as a care farm came about because her daughter Evie has learning disabilities. Evie wanted to work in a café, and Claire felt that supported employment was a way to allow learning disabled adults to reach their aspirations.

Little Gate Farm is open from Tuesday to Friday. They provide a daily minibus service to collect up to twenty people, age 19 plus, from about a 20 mile radius. Each Ranger has a different pace, skills and set of particular needs, so part of what Hannah does is to assess each person and come up with an individual plan for them.

A Young Ranger Project for those between 8-21 is being developed too.

The Farm provides an education programme covering independent living/life/work skills, and then supports Rangers through a supported employment programme, 'job carving' where appropriate. 

A lot of care has gone into the detail of the Farm environment itself. There were so many intriguing things we enjoyed noticing, such as the great welly storage, the superbly-cut, interlocking, curved wooden decking pieces and the children's bucket that's part of a drain!

There is a wheelchair-accessible stable block under construction. They have pigs, sheep, alpacas, ponies, goats and rabbits that the Rangers help care for. Although the pigs are trying very hard to escape by digging their way under the mud. Owena and Ivan explained what they do to keep their pigs in at Baulcombes Barn.

Little Gate Farm Rangers manage and chop wood and sell bags of it as well as making charcoal, which they also sell, both run as social enterprises. They also sell fruit and veg, including what they grow in their beds and polytunnel at the weekly market in Hastings, so that Rangers can get selling and marketing skills.

We thought the den with the car boot door was magnificent. 

What a beautiful, inspiring place, with lovely people. We hope they can visit us soon.

Emma Chaplin

 

Making willow hurdles at the Allotment

A slideshow of our willow weaving session

On a wild and stormy afternoon, with Hurricane Doris on the way, the Plumpton Rural Pathways group arrived at Lewes Community Allotment, carrying bundles of willow they had cut two weeks ago at Owena's smallholding, Baulcombes Barn. Local basket maker Sarah Lawrence was on hand to show them how to weave the willow into hurdles to edge the flower and vegetable beds, to keep the soil in. 

She began by talking about health and safety - particularly with sharp secateurs and working with long pieces of willow that tend to whip about and can damage eyes.  

We split into different groups to do different tasks.

Sarah told the weaving group that we needed to find the fattest lengths first to slot into the wooden frame that Neil Merchant had kindly made for us to allow us to make the willow hurdle structures. These pieces of willow were then cut with loppers to equal lengths. 

Sarah said we needed to be careful to keep the outside structural ends straight and upright whilst we wove thinner pieces across them so they don't pull together and make a triangle. We then took turns to weave the willow pieces across between the uprights, turning at the ends, doing it in pairs at each end one at a time, changing which side of the hurdle we started with each time for stability, and pushing the willow down each time. 

We loved the different colours of the willow. We all had a go and were really pleased with how it worked out.

Sarah had also brought a paint tin lid opening tool for making holes in ground to make a hurdle straight into the earth, and she showed another group how to do that!

The other groups got on with some excellent tidying and trimming back work.

Emma Chaplin

A visit to Landport Community Garden

February 2017

I'd been wanting to visit the Landport Community Garden for a while (garden, not allotment note - that's intentional. They do grow fruit and veg, but they're happy for people to come along who just want to enjoy the space, perhaps make tea. You don't HAVE to garden to become a member).

A good reason to visit cropped up when we were thinking about the camping toilet we have on our Community Allotment, and wondering about the possibility of fundraising for a Thunderbox composting toilet.

I go along to meet David Gray, who got a group of people together to create the lovely walled garden five years ago, from what had basically been scrub land. He's pictured above with his beloved pond.

The first striking thing about the garden is the location. I assumed it would be part of the Landport allotments, but it's not. It's tucked away out of sight through a blue gate next to Landport Farmhouse at the end of Hayward Road.

I really like the peace and tranquillity here. I also like the pond, the arbour, the lawn with chairs, the fruit trees and the raspberry stakes along one wall. The bug hotel is very Lewes and fun, and the scarecrows make me smile.

David shows me round, including a peak into the Thunderbox composting toilet. It's wooden, self-assembly and up some steps (the company can do wheelchair accessible ones, but there are a lot more expensive). It's very nice. There is no smell whatsoever.

David explains that, over the years, they've had financial support from the Council and the National Lottery as well as donations. This has enabled them to create raised beds, similar to ours, as well as add a polytunnel, a shed and a shelter. Probationers helped build some of the raised beds and Sussex Downs students helped put up the polytunnel.

The Community Garden differs from our Community Allotment in a number of ways. Both are run along organic principles, have raised beds and welcome members of the community to come along. But the Landport Garden is tucked down low, and very sheltered. We are up on the Nevill, on the Downs, on chalk. We've got stunning views but the site is much more exposed. Having a polytunnel up there would be challenging. We are permitted to have campfires however, which the garden is not (they are next to residential properties, whereas we are not).

Neatly-hung spades and forks in the shed

Neatly-hung spades and forks in the shed

David explained that, after five years, he's handed the running of the garden over to Marina Pepper. Members meet there every Monday, between 11am-3.30pm, and anyone is welcome to drop in. It's free. People share the tea and biscuits fund. Produce is shared. For more information, and contact details, see the poster below:

Poster for the LCG sessions

Poster for the LCG sessions

Emma Chaplin

Rural Pathways group at Baulcombes

Feb 2017 Because of the current risk of Avian flu from wild birds, all the chickens are shut in a polytunnel, and we all needed to dip our wellies in disinfectant before entering the yard.

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Then we split into three groups. Some of us filled nets with hay for the ponies, with one person holding the net open, the other stuffing the hay in. This caused much interest for Frankie, who put his head over the door and tried to eat the hay as we worked. After the bags were full, we put them on the gates for each of the three ponies to eat. A couple of sheep came for a nibble too.

Another group mixed up the pig feed. Owena was putting the food into the open trailer which she'd placed in an opening next to the field for them to eat inside. This is because one of the pigs is going to the abattoir next week and she wanted the pigs to get used to going in and out of the trailer before taking one of them away in it. It took a bit of getting used to, but they got there.

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The third group went to clear horse manure from the pony field.

Then, some students went off with Ivan to trim brambles in the sheep field, and Owena showed Connor, Natalie and Ebbie how to lead Buster and Frankie on the head collar in such a way that they don't push you off the path you want to follow (you sort of have to lean into them).

Owena also explained that, although the ponies are very muddy, it wasn't a good idea to groom them when their hair is wet. Ponies can get mud fever if mud gets brushed into their skin.

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Finally, the whole group gathered for some hot chocolate to warm up.

Emma Chaplin

Cutting Willow at Baulcombes Barn

We had a special January session with a group from Bluebell House Recovery Centre, cutting willow from the bed at Baulcombes Barn. The willow has to be cut by March. Here's some more information about growing willow.

The Bluebell House group could stay later than a usual Wednesday morning session, so they brought lunch with them. And secateurs! Owena provided the gloves and we headed out to the willow bed - in wellies - it was very muddy.

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First of all, Owena needed to strim back some brambles to make it easier for us to cut the two types of willow growing in the bed, so most of the group left her to it and carried on walking beyond the willow bed in order to go and see the horses and pigs.

We didn't see the hens, because they are are shut in at the moment, because of the risk of them contracting avian flu from wild birds.

Nicola was keen to see Buster, and so we went to the horse field, via the pigs and the yard to fetch a wheelbarrow, so some of us could clear up poo from the field.

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DSC_2143 (1).JPG

The younger pony Frankie came up to the wheelbarrow to see what was happening, but then put his ears back. This is probably because he didn't know my face. Horses (and sheep) can recognise human faces.

Oscar was brave enough to approach Buster. Buster is a friendly pony, but this was Oscar's first time touching a horse. Nicola supported and encouraged him and he did really well.

Then we headed back to the willow beds. We laid a tarpaulin on the ground to put the willow once cut, because the ground was so wet. Then some of us cut the willow, others sorted it into piles of thin, medium and thick stems. Some bits were too short and wispy to use, so they will be burned.

The welcome warmth of the woodburner  

The welcome warmth of the woodburner

 

After some hard work, the group headed back to the cabin for lunch around the woodburner to warm up.

We all felt it had been a good day. It was lovely to welcome new people as well as those who had come before. People tried things they hadn't done before, such as going right up to a horse.

With the willow cutting and sorting and even navigating muddy slopes and climbing under fences, we worked as a team and got a lot done. The fresh air did us good too, as did the company of the animals.

The willow will be ready for weaving in six weeks.

Emma Chaplin