Lewes Community Allotment

Lewes Community Allotment - 20 year celebration in pictures

By Emma Chaplin

What a hot day, but a beautiful one for the 20th anniversary celebration for Lewes Community Allotment. Sarah had done lots of preparations for the event, with great support from Felicity Ann, Penny and other members. On the day, Maggie, Mark, Sue, Common Cause director Topsy, myself came early to help make it look beautiful, with bunting, displays and refreshments.

There was a stunning array of lovely homemade cakes and other treats brought by members, including courgette, carrot and marmalade cake. Drinks included elderflower cordial and apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard.

We were joined by the Lewes Mayor, Janet Baah, her PA Fiona and Allotments Secretary Emma, who came to celebrate with us, to show their support of our work, and admire the displays.

During the morning, we had lots of other visitors drop by to visit the site, including the Edible Eastbourne team. A number of people expressed an interest in becoming members.

Our shed boasted a lovely display of Maggie Lambert's fantastic photos and St Nicholas Day Centre drawings. Unfortunately, support staff there felt it was just too hot for them to attend safely.

Thanks to everyone for coming, and to everyone who helped.

Twenty years at Lewes Community Allotment

By Allotment Coordinator Sarah Rideout

How it began

Lewes Community Allotment was originally known as Lewes Organic Allotment Project, or LOAP. It was created by Common Cause Coop in 1998, through the hard work of a group of local people. We've had help from Lewes District and Lewes Town Councils as well. We've had funding from different sources, for example, from the Lottery to create the raised beds suitable for people with mobility problems. We have a membership of people who work with us to manage the allotment.

What we have done

We developed workshops for children called The Lottie, working with Lewes schools for 10 years.

The Compost Doctor scheme and Wild in Lewes springboarded from here.

Current and future work

We have evolved to work with groups of people of all abilities who look after the plot, learn about growing through our social and therapeutic horticulture sessions, and take fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers home.

We are lucky to have a fantastic Sessional Worker, Felicity Ann, and a wonderful volunteer, Penny, who support our work. We also bring in other specialist trainers at times, such as James from Square Lemon Training, who demonstrates safe handling techniques, and Peter May, an expert on apple trees and pruning. 

We continue under the management of Common Cause Coop, and are currently Reaching Communities Lottery-funded through the Flourish Project, and hope to continue working with groups of people with learning disabilities from the St Nicholas Centre, Plumpton College, as well as other groups and individuals in the coming years.

 

How we grow

We use organic methods for pest control and feeding plants. Barriers such as wood ash and wool pellets deter slugs and snails, netting keeps cabbage white butterflies away from brassicas.

There are three small ponds which help to support the team of natural pest controllers -  frogs, toads, slow worms, lizards and birds which come to drink.

Around new seedlings, we may use organic certified slug pellets to get them started. We also start seedlings off at members’ homes to give them a chance to harden off.

Native wild flowers and some ‘weeds’ are left to grow, along with green manures to help foraging pollinators. Many different types of solitary bee visit the plot, including masses of red-tailed bees.

In the winter, we all get together to discuss the successes and failures of the year, and plan our next round of growing on 'big ideas' sheets. We also choose other activities to try, such as local craft skills, art projects, wildflower walks, but particularly things connecting to wildlife.

Get in touch

If you are interested in coming to sessions, we currently meet on Wednesdays.

More info on LCA here

Sarah Rideout, LCA Coordinator

07502 608929 flourishloap@gmail.com

 

 

Summer Session at the Allotment

Luckily there was a bit of cloud cover on this particular mid-July Wednesday morning, because very hot weather can make it tricky for the St Nicholas group at the allotment. Sarah and Felicity Ann had prepared some activities in the shade, including digging potatoes, looking at some of the reference library and making/decorating name badges for the Allotment Open Morning on 25th July.

Some people did some trimming back of brambles and clearing, tidying up the entrance area to the Allotment.

Last Rural Pathways session at Lewes Community Allotment

By Emma Chaplin

We had our last session with the Rural Pathways group from Plumpton College at Lewes Community Allotment. There were some challenges to navigate. The allotment had a wasps' nest, in the raised beds and Sarah was awaiting someone from Lewes District Council to sort it out. The students came later than usual because some of them had been taking part in a football match. Niyati and Pat brought Sarah some beautiful flowers.

But it was a lovely afternoon. We decided to spend part of the time doing some feedback with Niyati, Pat, Emma and Mark Gilbert. Then we had a celebration.

Emma handed out certificates to all the students and thanked them for their hard work on behalf of Flourish, then we all enjoyed some of Felicity Ann's delicious carrot cake and jam tarts. Pat had made some elderflower cordial which was lovely. Some of the students had brought treats to share, and we also enjoyed some apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, which was great on such a hot day.

Emma went through the students' workbooks that Niyati had brought along, and was really impressed by their work. Some allotment members came to say hello and join in, and it was a really nice. We wish all the students well in their futures.

New St Nicholas group at the Allotment - colours and wasps

Emma Chaplin

Today was a little challenging, because Sarah discovered that we have a wasps' next at the allotment, in the raised beds, so Sarah was very careful about working with the new St Nicholas Centre group away from that area until the Council are able to come (later in the day) to sort it out.

So, after taking the register half way down the plot, Sarah explained the Golden (safety) Rules to the group. These include being careful where they walk because the ground is uneven, not taking tools from the shed (Flourish put out the tools that are needed), wearing gloves when working with soil, washing hands, not running, being aware of the ponds etc, and reporting any injuries immediately to a staff member.

Then Felicity Ann handed out paper and pencils, and the group drew flowers, insects, birds, foxes. Whatever they wanted to. Sarah asked what colours they noticed. People mentioned red, green, white, orange, yellow and purple.

After that, Felicity Ann and Sarah took the group for a little walk to look at other allotments.

A wet, wild & fun wildlife walk with Michael Blencowe at The Secret Campsite

By Emma Chaplin

We haven't had the best of luck with weather in terms of visiting The Secret Campsite in Barcombe. It was unbearably hot last summer when the St Nicholas Centre group visited. And this time we had quite a lot of rain.

But Eleanor of St Nicks and the group (which was the usual Wednesday allotment group, plus some previous St Nicks allotment attendees) said they were happy to wear raincoats and come anyway, and neither Tim, who runs The Secret Campsite, nor our (Sussex) Wildlife friend Michael Blencowe, wanted to let rain stop play, so we decided to make the best of it. Tim and Michael know each other of old.

First of all, we all gathered in the reception building of The Secret Campsite where Tim greeted us, and Michael jokingly mentioned what we wouldn't be able to spot on this visit. Butterflies in particular. But what we could do was look under the snake boards to see who might be sheltering.

So we put up our hoods and headed out. Michael was sporting an excellent, waterproof poncho he told us he'd won in a raffle.

He explained that The Secret Campsite is well known for its wildlife. They have a Wildlife Festival every year. They have bat boxes, for example, and a pond. We began by looking up at various bird boxes tucked under eaves. Then we walked further into the campsite to find and carefully lift each of the snake boards (boards which warm up when it's sunny, which snakes and other creatures like to hide under).

First of all we spotted several wood mice scampering off, and saw their nest surrounded  by cracked acorns they'd been eating. We saw a friendly toad (which Michael picked up carefully to show us). In total, we saw five slow worms and a common shrew. A lot more than we expected.

We walked into the woods for a brief look at the bluebells. We noticed the the fire point on the way, which has a dampener in case camp fires get a bit fierce, then buckets of water and fire extinguishers. Plus there's a alarm bell you turn by hand, that a few members of the group had a turn on (there weren't any campers to scare!).

We had a look up at a tree tent, Michael and Miles had a little kick about with a football until everyone caught up, and finally we went back to the main building for elderflower cordial and biscuits. Plus a look at an animal skull and some handy pictures of animals that you might see at the campsite. For fun, Michael wrote the names of all the members into the tree-named plots on the empty camp plan, with some sketches of creatures we'd seen.

It was great, despite the rain, and it was lovely of Michael to come along to talk to us, and for Tim to host. 

Thanks all!

Safe Lifting Training with Plumpton at Lewes Community Allotment

By Emma Chaplin

On a beautiful sunny April day, James from Square Lemon Training came along at lunchtime to give staff and volunteers some useful information about safe manual handling (ie lifting things), so that Sarah could then use that knowledge for planning tasks at the allotment, as well as for making sure people that come to the allotment take care of their backs.

The word 'manual' comes from using your hands (moving people is a different proposition, and these days, care workers are taught to safely use hoists etc).

James told us that back problems can be both acute (sudden onset) and chronic (built up/last a period of time).

Our backs are naturally 's' shaped, there is a curve, so you shouldn't literally straighten your back - the curve is there to provide suspension.

Having slightly bent knees is a more stable standing position than having locked knees.

We are also more stable if our feet are not close together, and we all have a dominant foot that we tend to put slightly ahead of the other one.

Twisting often poses a high risk for backs, and should be avoided. 

James emphasised the importance of careful planning for all tasks. In some instances, this might lead to the tasks not being done, because you might assess that it is not safe to do them (because the objects are too heavy, or the ground is not stable enough, for example) or, on balance, that it is not essential that they happen.

Good inductions are really important in any "work place", including an allotment where volunteers, clients and members come along to carry out tasks.

He suggested that, as quickly as possible after a new group or person starts with us, we offer basic manual handling advice, along with a tour of the site.

In planning terms, for any activity involving lifting, you take into account TILE - or

  • TASK what you're doing
  • INDIVIDUAL the strength, fitness and abilities of the person
  • LOAD how heavy/awkward the thing you are thinking of moving is
  • ENVIRONMENT the space around- do you have access? Is it firm underfoot and clear of obstacles?

General points

Think about any task in advance and do a risk assessment - ask why are we bothering moving it? Is it really necessary? 

It's a good idea to ask a group in advance of doing any tasks if anyone has back problems.

Think about how to manage each job safely. Split the task up - have a rota so no one person is doing all the lifting. It's much easier to move an empty object such as a plant pot than a full one. Or dry soil rather than wet. 

Use a wheelbarrow when you can. Position it as close as possible to the load.

Take a step rather than twist (eg as you put soil in). So position yourself so you are straight on. 

  • don't lift something that is too heavy or awkward to lift safely
  • reduce the size of the load if you can
  • clear the route of hazards, check if ground uneven, muddy, icy or slippery, remove barriers, tell people what you're doing
  • it is always best to get close to the object (principles of leverage)
  • stand in a stable, legs-apart posture
  • avoid twisting, be straight onto the load
  • you should bend your knees to get low down before lifting, so using thigh muscles rather than your back
  • keep your head straight
  • you should grasp the object low down and securely
  • do the lift in pairs where necessary - with two people of roughly the same height - with clear communication, and one person in charge (who agree in advance what the "move" command is - eg "1,2,3, LIFT")
  • keep the load close to the body 
  • follow the same principles in reverse when you come to lower the load down

James then left, and a little later, the Plumpton College Rural Pathways group arrived. After welcoming them and asking one student to take the register, Sarah talked through the principles of safe manual handling and back care, whilst I demonstrated using a pile of empty pots.

Then one group planted seed potatoes, whilst the other planted seeds, then the groups swapped tasks.

Later in the session, a load of top soil bags were delivered near the allotment gate, and the group brought the bags into the allotment in pairs, using wheelbarrows and the principles of safe lifting that they had learnt.

Grapevine post repairs at Lewes Community Allotment

 

By Sarah Rideout

Our grapevine posts needed replacing and Tom Kirkby has put new ones in using rammed earth and chalk. First he had to dig very deep holes - three of them!

Luke from Rodmell Food Forest very kindly brought some posts over, but they weren't quite long enough for this job, will be useful elsewhere though.

Lots of repairs needed at the moment...

Signs of spring & other news from the Community Allotment

By Sarah Rideout, 14/3/2018

Saw lots on our 'signs of spring' walk today - wild violets, bumble bees, lambs, skylarks, and the tiny delicate jewels of hazel flowers. A common lizard was warming itself on the tyre by the pond.

Leeks, kale, Japanese salads, herbs and brussels sprouts were all picked today in the sunshine - but look out for a cold snap again this weekend...!

Sarah visits Rodmell Food Forest

Sarah Rideout, Feb 2018

I went along to Rodmell Food Forest in the snow. It was great to see what's going on at this wonderful project just down the road, and up the Downs...

I met the team, volunteer coordinator Luke Manders, plus volunteers, Sandra and John.

Rodmell Food Forest is at the top of Mill Lane, Rodmell, on privately-owned land. The space has been partly permaculture designed, and Luke is starting permaculture training soon to develop this path further. 

Although they have financial support at the moment, all involved were interested in discussing the different ways the project could go. 

Luke cooked a lovely veggie lunch and we talked about:

aims, outcomes, outputs - who's it for, what's the main purpose, what could be produced.

assets, limitations - great existing financed site with shelter, loo. Little public transport, non-accessible currently.

practicalities - risk assessment, public liability insurance, DBS etc.

connections - Brighton Permaculture Trust most logical, WWOOFers (Working on Organic Farms), local people (perhaps hold an event with food)

Other topics we discussed - the site aspect, crop rotation advice, growing methods, pond benefits

We walked around the whole site, it was very interesting to see how they are growing using Hugel beds (earth is piled on top of dead branches, organic matter, manure and soil on top). have been meaning to try this method for some time at Lewes Community Allotment!

It was a pleasure to visit, and I'm pleased to say they said that they found the visit very helpful: "Full of care, support and appreciation - lucky us!"

Scott Walker, inspirational speaker

Part of the Flourish ethos is about creating challenges for the people we work with and supporting our service users, where appropriate, towards getting jobs. As part of this process, we arranged for a special guest speaker to go to the St Nicholas Centre.

So it was our great pleasure last week, to welcome 18 year old Scott Walker, our first 'inspirational speaker'. The idea was he could tell us about his life, and his journey to getting a job. Then we could ask him any questions about that. Our hope is that this conversation could inspire others to think about their own lives, and what they might like to do with them.

Job coach and friend to Flourish, Mark Gilbert had initially made contact with Scott and brought him along. Scott now works for the Special Assistance team at Gatwick Airport, helping support passengers who have disabilities or special needs get to their flights.

We began with myself and Mark introducing ourselves and Scott to the group, then we went round so everyone in the room could say their name. Almost everyone who came had attended sessions at Lewes Community Allotment in the past, and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces. There were 16 members of the centre, plus staff members Brian, Eleanor and Caroline, and myself (Emma) from Flourish.

Scott then told us about himself and his childhood, which hadn't been easy. He talked about the first signs of his disability, the tremor in his arm and leg. When he first went to school, he found it really hard, especially writing, understanding and numbers. The teachers were not helpful, he said, they didn't really understand his disability, and would force him to write, even though this would mean it hurt him. His parents struggled with it as well. He then attended a different mainstream school, but "They didn't understand my disabilities either, so I would get put in detention. So I would call in sick. They promised me a laptop or iPad, and I didn't get either. Aged 14, I went to another school. They also promised equipment I never got. They kicked me out. I went to another school, which was no better. I wanted to be a PE teacher, but they said I needed English and Maths, and I couldn't do them."

Mark invited the group to talk about their own experiences of schooling. One person said she was dyslexic. The school she went to had tried to help her, but weren't able to do enough.  "School made me feel emotional, teary and worried."

Scott told her he related to that.

Another group member said they had to leave aged 9 because the school didn't give them enough support. It didn't really feel as if the people that spoke had a very positive experience of being supported and encouraged at school. Someone who went to St Anne's school for people with special needs thought it was good, but sadly, that closed down.

Scott said: "They labelled me a failure, and didn't see what I could do. It drove me to depression. The things I dreamed of, the teachers said I had no chance. I was forced to go to Crawley College to do bricklaying - even though I wanted to study Media. I hated it. The school careers advice wasn't good. They didn't listen."

But then Scott met Richard Lamplough - a job coach for people with learning disabilities, where Mark sometimes works. Richard has companies called Won't Ever Be Ltd and A Potential Diamond, working with people with learning disabilities, helping them to get jobs.

Richard was working with Crawley College to increase work opportunities. Scott was about to quit, but then Richard talked to him. Scott told him he most wanted to help other people. Richard knew the Special Assistance team at Gatwick, and arranged for Scott to go for taster course, then helped him with an interview for a job there, which he now has, and loves.

We talked about the number of challenges for people with learning disabilities for getting work. St Nicholas has a Skills to Employment course that a number of the group attend.  Someone commented that "most of us want to get a job". 

One group member said he works at County Hall, washing up and cleaning, someone else volunteers in a charity shop.

Mark then explained to us what being a job coach means. He said he works with people with learning disabilities to agree with them what they are capable of. He then supports them in seeking work.

Scott told the group that the manager at Gatwick didn't really look at his CV, but said she gave him the job because of his personality, and the fact that he was so enthusiastic. "She didn't care about my Maths and English. But there are some unkind employers who don't understand - and you wouldn't want to work with them. I used to be a plasterer and bricklayer. Even though I explained, my employer didn't understand my disability - issues such as not being able to remember all the tools he told me to fetch. 

Then Scott talked about the job he does now.

"Airports can be busy, confusing and complicated. For anybody, it can be confusing. But for people who can't read or have sensory issues, such as autism, they can easily find it overwhelming. My company has desks which assists people to get around the airport. We provide customer service, to make sure they feel relaxed, not stressed and can get to their flight safely. We help them all the way to their plane if necessary. One example of what I do was helping a little boy on the autistic spectrum. My job was to keep him company, so he didn't run off. I put him in wheelchair to start with, and that wasn't right. By listening, I learnt what he did need. And learning from experiences makes me better at my job."

Scott dresses very smartly and professionally. Mark pointed out that this sends a positive message about him to other people. 

Scott says he polishes his shoes and takes a lot of care to look smart. "My boss says she wants to recruit 100 of me!"

Mark pointed out that Scott "doesn't look like a guy with challenges". Scott told us his parents didn't used to believe in his disability - they only understood about it quite recently.  "You have to do it for yourself. Ask for help, and push yourself."

Questions

Mark asked the group how much they think Scott earns per hour.

There were guesses that ranged from £2000 to £2. In fact, he says, he earns £8.25 per hour, the same as everyone doing that job. He is currently contracted for 46 hours a month, but is often asked to do more. Scott told us he is learning to drive at the moment, which is expensive, but he still lives at home.

The group then asked the following questions:

Do you work night shifts?

Not at the moment, but I will do when I get more hours.

How many staff are there in a team?

Loads! Zone G has 5 people at a time, 20 on the air side. So maybe 50 working at any one time, over both terminals.

What are your travel-to-work costs?

£50 for a four week bus pass.

Do you have a security pass? 

Yes. You have to have a background check, for security clearance. They take up references, I work in the aircraft field, and go right up to the planes. There is a lot of health and safety involved.

How old were you when you started?

17. I was young for a lot of responsibilities. But they saw my potential, despite a lack of qualifications.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with a disability?

Seven or eight.

The last two questions were:

What's your favourite part of your job?

Helping passengers!

What's your least favourite part? 

The way passengers can treat you when they miss flights.

End of the session

At this point, our special session came to an end, with the centre kindly providing refreshments. But first we did some thank yous: Brian for having us, Mark for contacting and bringing Scott, everyone for coming, listening so attentively and asking such thoughtful questions. But most of all, we thanked Scott for being such an amazing inspirational speaker. He told us he'd never done it before.

Finally, we asked the group:

Did you find it useful?
Everyone agreed it had been really helpful.

Has it driven you on?
The answers were a resounding "yes!"

Emma Chaplin, 26 February 2018
 

VizAbility shadow puppet show at Westgate Chapel

A few months ago at Lewes Community Allotment, when the group from St Nicholas Day Centre were looking at the floppy, frosted leaves, they commented to Allotment Coordinator Sarah that they thought the leaves looked "like puppets" as they moved them, and the group playfully made the leaves 'speak'. As a consequence of that, sessional worker Felicity Ann and I found wildlife finger puppets as little Christmas gifts for the group. And, having done an interview in January 2018 for Viva Lewes magazine with Hannah, who runs the VizAbility drama group at Westgate Chapel Lewes, part of the Oyster Project. I asked Hannah if VizAbility could put on a performance on their new shadow puppet play Birds Nest for the St Nicks group. She kindly agreed.

So, on a particularly bitter February morning, instead of meeting at the allotment, we met at the Westgate Chapel.

VizAbility is a group which meets every Wednesday morning at Westgate. The group come up with ideas for plays, and once they've decided what they want to do, they then create their own costumes, decide on what music they'd like, and do lots of rehearsing. Then, when they're ready, they perform for different community groups in Lewes, who might not otherwise be able to see many shows. Day centres, for example. At Christmas, VizAbility put on a performance of The Infant King It's a lot of work, but they enjoy it, they told us.

Hannah, with help from Lucy, leads the group and they all come up with ideas, then decide how to turn those ideas into a shadow puppet play.

The play they were performing for us was called Birds Nest after a Chinese proverb:  “That the birds of worry and care fly over you head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent." 

We all sat down, then the performance began with music and some actors doing shadow puppet work inside a blue tent, using lighting to create the shadows.  There was a clever way of showing words for the worries we sometimes feel - panic, paranoia, worry, fear. Then, someone came to help "take the worries away", hold the person's hand and bring more positive, calming words.

The costumes were great, and all the different clips of music that went with the play were really powerful. We enjoyed the dance, the music, the drama and the costumes. Everyone had clearly worked very hard.

After the performance, they kindly shared some delicious food and drink with us. 

Then we watched some films that the Oyster Project have made over the years.  First of all we saw Time slip, Journey of the Coin, with actor Sarah Gordy, which won the 2013 OSKA Bright International Film Festival (Carousel).  This looked at historical attitudes people with learning disabilities have had to face, and it did this by going back in time. John Russell of Oyster recorded and edited it. The film had a powerful and challenging message and conveyed it very effectively. We discussed this afterwards, and how it has taken people challenging those attitudes to bring about change.

We also watched a shadow puppet film based on Mary Shelley's dreams. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.  She once visited Lewes and went to see Dr Russell about her strange dreams. He recommended she bathe in the moonlight sea, and she ended up having happy dreams!  

Finally, we saw a film called Love and Peace, set in Newcastle.

Then we all had a chat. For their next project - the group told us that they would like to help doctors learn how to communicate better with disabled people. We thought that was a brilliant idea.

They hope to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2018 too.

We thanked them so much for the warm welcome and a really interesting morning for all of us.

Emma Chaplin. Flourish project manager Feb 2018

 

New Rural Pathways student group at Lewes Community Allotment

We were delighted to welcome a new group of Rural Pathways students from Plumpton College to the allotment. It was their first session in this academic year. Unfortunately Sarah the allotment coordinator wasn't well, so the group was led by a group of us. Myself (Emma, Flourish project manager), Mark, Felicity Ann, Penny plus Niyati and Maisie from Plumpton.

I introduced myself and explained a bit about the Flourish project. I checked out photo permissions and discussed the Golden Rules. These include safety measures, such as: being aware of uneven ground, not running, the fact that there are ponds, wearing protective gloves when dealing with thorns and brambles, using tools safely etc, and inviting thoughtful ways of behaving at the allotment, including awareness of allotment neighbours (ie not shouting), and being aware of others working around you - good teamwork etc. I also talked about the Flourish ethos. 

We were joined at that point by two allotment members, Sue and Carina, who came over to welcome the students. Mark invited them to say a bit about why they liked being members of a community allotment, and what benefits being part of a community can offer. They said that they enjoy the companionship, the fresh air, the exercise, as well as sharing the tasks and the produce that is grown over the year.

After that, everyone from Plumpton and Flourish introduced themselves and told each other what vegetables and fruit we either liked or hated.

Mark then took the group onto the Downs next to the community allotment for a game of 'bat and moth', as a fun exercise to get to know each other a bit better, as well as a way of thinking about our senses and how we use them. He began by asking us to form a circle, then to close our eyes and listen to how many sounds we could hear in 30 seconds. After we opened our eyes and checked in, some people heard a few sounds (birdsong was common), others heard lots of different ones, including voices, cars, dogs, children playing. 

Then Mark said we were going to play bat and moth. This involved one person being a bat, wearing a blindfold, several people were moths. The blindfolded bat was going to try to touch them, with the rest of the group standing around in a circle as 'trees'. The person being a bat could use echo location - the mechanism that actual bats use to catch insects. What that actually meant in the game was that if he or she said 'bat', the moths had to respond by saying 'moth' immediately. This helped the bat locate the moths using his or her ears. To make the game safe for the blindfolded bat, the people around the circle or trees would shout 'tree' if the bat got close to them.

If was a very interesting game, and it became clear that you are much more likely to be able to find your 'prey' if you use the echo location frequently. The bats did really well, but commented that it is disorientating losing one sense that you normally rely so much upon, ie sight.

After the game was over, Felicity Ann showed the group around the allotment - the raised beds, compost heaps, the ponds, the shed etc.

For future sessions, the students will be undertaking gardening tasks when they come, such as turning over the compost, clearing the ground and weeding.

We look forward to seeing them all again.

Emma Chaplin, Jan 2018

St Nicholas group go on a winter flower walk from the allotment

It was lovely to welcome back the St Nicholas Day Centre group for the first session of 2018, especially on such a bright, sunny day. The group came by bus with support worker Eleanor. Unfortunately Sarah the allotment coordinator wasn't well, but I was able to come (Flourish project manager), as was sessional worker Felicity Ann and volunteer Penny.

After we greeted each other in the shelter, we discussed what season it is (winter!), the fact that we'd had the shortest day in December, so the days were slowly getting longer, and how much we liked it when there was more light. We noted what the weather was like (sunny, with some clouds and gentle breeze. The temperature was 6 degrees according to Emma's phone). The Eleanor took the register. There were five in the group, with two absent. We realised it was Natasha's birthday, so we wished her a very happy birthday.

Felicity Ann then took all of us on a walk/hunt for winter flowers as well as a look at new life sprouting in the beds. We went around the allotment, noting flowers such as the catkins (male flower of the hazel), mallow and marigolds, all the winter veg and salads growing, and the measures put in place to keep cats off them.

Then we headed up the track to the old racecourse. It was a beautiful, bright, clear morning, listening to (and seeing birds - one in a tree had a beautiful, varied song - when we later asked Sussex Wildlife officer Michael Blencowe, he thought it might have been a fieldfare) and spotting winter flowers, such as gorse and violets.

It was a gorgeous walk, and we enjoyed the wonderful views across to sea and over the Downs. We even found an old horseshoe!

Thank you Felicity Ann and Penny

Emma Chaplin Jan 2018

Last session with St Nicholas group before Christmas - herbs, scones & lots of fun!

It was the last session before Christmas for the St Nicholas allotment group. Because the weather was so wet and windy, we held it in the day centre. Sarah and volunteer Penny went up to the allotment to pick some herbs and brought those down to make herb bundles. Project manager Emma came along with some Ringmer Community Orchard apple juice to share. Sadly sessional worker Felicity Ann wasn't able to come because of family illness, but she sent along some magnificent cheese and pumpkin scones and mince pies for the group to eat.

Some excellent festive hats were worn - including a splendid Christmas pudding tea cosy!

Everyone identified their own herb first, and smelled them, as well as sniffing some pieces of fir Sarah brought. Then the herbs (rosemary, bay, thyme and sage) were split into a bundle for everyone. Helped by Eleanor, Sarah and Penny, members of the group tied their own bundle with a piece of string and Emma helped them add a name tag. There was some lovely knot and bow work going on!

Then we played a Food Chain game, identifying what eats what. Then Sarah brought out an exciting box. Flourish had found everyone a little Christmas gift relating to wildlife. There were finger puppets and keyrings of bats, mice, rabbits and ladybirds, plus some bees.

Next we had some apple juice, scones and mince pies - and had a lovely surprise visit by John Parry who knew lots of members of the group from his time at the Railway Land. Also, Robert, who had been an allotment group member joined us for a little while.

Sarah showed a slideshow of  photos of 20 years of Lewes Community Allotment that Emma had compiled of photos taken by Sarah, herself and other members over the years.

It was a lovely morning.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and happy new year from everyone at Flourish.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and happy new year from everyone at Flourish.

Making bunting with the St Nicholas group

It was a bit too windy for making leaf bunting at the allotment, so we made some instead at the St Nicholas Centre. We also decorated some sugar paper bunting that Maggie had brought with chalk designs. We also got to practice our knot-tying skills! Then hung it up in the sensory garden outside.

We looked at how land artists Chris Drury and Andy Goldsworthy make their leaf sculptures. People really responded and liked their work. Then we made a leaf picture of our own. 

Thanks to Maggie for leading the session and for the great support from Felicity Ann and Penny.

Words and pictures by Sarah Rideout

Photos from almost two decades at Lewes Community Allotment - from early days to Flourish!

Lewes Community Allotment began life in 1998. It's gone from being an unused plot to the wonderful, accessible resource now enjoyed by many local groups and individuals. We have raised beds, a covered shelter, a pizza oven, ponds, children's area, fruit trees, herbs, flowers and an abundant array of vegetables. 

We will be celebrating 20 years in 2018, and we'd like to thank everyone who has supported the project. All our wonderful members, Common Cause Cooperative directors, Lewes Town Council, the National Lottery, plus all the people, young and old, who have come up to lend a hand, muck in and help, or simply enjoy the space.

Sarah Rideout,

Photos by Sarah Rideout, Emma Chaplin & others

Bench cushion at the Allotment

Since we've got such a fine new bench at the allotment from a Transition Town Lewes donation, we felt it would be really lovely if interested allotment members created a cushion for it, made from wool from Owena's sheep at Baulcombes Barn.

So Owena came up to the allotment with bags of her wool and her peg-loom, to demonstrate how to make a peg-loom 'cushion' (which could just as easily be a rug). They are relatively easy to make, once you've got the technique, and every one is different, which is particularly nice - it depends on the colour of the sheep, and Owena's sheep are Shetland sheep, which have different coloured wool, from pale to dark brown. 

Owena showed us examples of ones she's working on and explained that wool, once so valuable, has largely lost value in this country - and is mostly exported. The top she was wearing has been made from soft, fine merino wool. In New Zealand, they have developed fine wool products such as merino, which are still commercially valuable.

She told us that you can weave with either unwashed or washed wool. The former is somewhat smellier and the outcome more random, but can be washed in a machine after it's been woven. Washed and combed wool, on the other hand, is fluffy and cloud-like. She handed round examples of combed/washed and uncombed/unwashed wool and explained that you can wash the unwashed wool in a tub with a hard olive oil soap bar. Or, you can get it washed and combed by an expert she knows with suitable equipment, which does make life easier! She had taken some of the Shetland wool to Diamond Fibres to be processed into 'slivers' which we can use for peg loom weaving. 'Slivers' - the first stage of raw fleece. Roving - is when you get a long cord of it.

She then demonstrated how to use the loom, which is quite simple once you've got the wool prepared. You use strong strands of wool to run through the rug as you weave it, that get tightened as you press each woven layer down. Differences in tension make for variations in widths of the woven rug/blanket. Once you've filled each peg, you pull the pegs out of what you've woven, one by one, and push them back in to the holes again, so you can start weaving again. So the length of the weave increases bit by bit. 

Emma and Sarah went to measure the bench so the allotment weavers could decide how many pegs to use to make the cushions to fit the seat ie the right width. In terms of length, Owena pointed out you can make one long weave to make a cushion, or several smaller ones, which you can then join together.  

The group began to weave their own cushion, with Owena's supervision.

Update - early November

Everyone that wanted to (including volunteers, staff, allotment members and project users) has contributed to increasing the length of the peg-loom cushion over the intervening weeks, so it's a lovely patchwork of all our efforts. Owena returned to work with the St Nicholas Day Centre group in order to show them how to finish off the cushion, ready to go on the bench. So now we have the finished product, and it's comfy, warm and lovely. Thanks everyone, wonderful joint effort.