Common Cause

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.

Last Rural Pathways session at Baulcombes Barn

By Emma Chaplin

We had our last session with the Plumpton College Rural Pathways students at Baulcombes Barn on Friday. First of all, the group fed the pigs and tended to the hens as usual. Then they came back to the pony field area to clean that (and meet Ben, the new pony) and remove some posts.

They had a break for a drink of Ringmer Community Orchard apple juice first because it was hot.

Emma and Mark Gilbert took students aside one by one to do a feedback exercise. Rhiannan from Bluebell House was kindly there to cook food for our end of term celebration over an open fire by the pond, because she's great at it. She recently did an Erasmus cookery course in France. Rhiannan fried onions and made a fantastic salad with finely sliced fennel and lots of other interesting and delicious ingredients.

Mark, who has excellent skills in this area, helped her with the fire and the meat cooking. Rhiannan has developed an interest in meat and butchery and is talking to Owena about it. Owena had provided sausages and burgers from her own animals, and bought locally made Mamoosh pittas.

First we presented the students with their certificates. Owena and Ivan have been very impressed by how hard the group have worked. So Emma created certificates which told each person what Owena and Ivan thought were their strengths, and then she read all of these out before giving them out.

Then we ate a delicious lunch by the pond. It was a beautiful setting. Niyati had brought Owena flowers and elderflower cordial. Emma had brought a carrot cake by Felicity Ann, sessional worker at Lewes Community Allotment, for afters.

Everyone thanks Owena and Ivan, and Rhiannan. What a lovely term it's been. We wish all the students the very best of luck in the future.

Rural Pathways at Baulcombes

By Owena Lewis

The Rural Pathways group worked again as a great team, catching the weaners in the trailer.

Some of the group mixed the feed while others prepared the trailer. The weaners were enticed into the trailer, and two members kept the gate closed. We sorted out the males and females and then drove the girls in the trailer to their new enclosure.

Straw was put in the ark to keep them warm, the gates were secured so they would not try and return to the boy pigs.

Follow up, no escapes until Sunday afternoon, one girl weaner had got out, but was very keen to return to the girl enclosure. The electric fence needs to be put up!

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

 

Apple Course with Plumpton Supported Interns

On a sunny day in early October, a group of 13 Supported Interns from Plumpton College came along to Ringmer Community Orchard, where Peter May, Stephan Gehrels (from Brighton Permaculture Trust) and facilitator Mark Gilbert greeted them and put on a day of learning about apples; picking them, grading them and weighing them. The group worked very hard and managed to pick lots of apples, mostly Red Falstaff with some (green) Edward VII. They also tasted some juice from the Fruit Factory at Stanmer Park.

Here are some photos (taken by Mark Gilbert):

One week later, the same group went to the Fruit Factory at Stanmer Park where Stephan of Brighton Permaculture Trust showed them how to wash the apples, cut out the rotten bits, then crush them in the macerator, put the pulp in the hydropress, and press the pulp into gallons of lovely raw juice.

The group then tasted it, poured some into glass bottles and some into plastic containers. The glass bottles went on to be pasteurised, the group could take the raw juice containers away, one each, to drink (within three days).

A passer-by came over to buy some raw juice for her grandson, which was fun.

Here are some photos of the day (taken by Emma Chaplin):

In the afternoon, after a lunch break, Bryn from Brighton Permaculture Trust (BPT) joined the group to give a tour of the orchards at Stanmer. He talked about how orchards were planted in order to produce food and drink, for people to enjoy and learn in, to support wildlife, and to provide blossom for bees to produce honey. He showed us the bee hives.

He explained that BPT help schools and communities to plant orchards. Each orchard will feed three or four generations of people because apple trees can last to be over 100 years old. Trees get less productive as they get old. Pruning helps refresh growth. Sometimes older branches fall off and leave holes. These are good for insects and birds. Blue tits and great tits love them, and they also eat green caterpillars. 

The orchard we first looked at holds the national collection of Sussex apple trees, and each had a beautiful ceramic name label, made by Anne-Marie Bur.

We looked at the moss and lichen -  Bryn said that there are 60 species at Stanmer - and told us that lichen is an algae and a fungi living together. 

Members of the group asked lots of questions as we walked around. Bryn asked us to think about why trees produce fruit in the first place - and what we concluded, was that it means the tree spreads its seeds - after the apples are eaten. These happened by means of horses, pigs and bears in Kazakhstan, where apple trees originated. 

We looked at some Golden pippin apples. It's thought the Romans might have eaten apples similar to these. The Romans were skilled at grafting, and we know they cultivated orchards. Surviving Roman mosaics certainly depict apples.

Bryn showed us the Sussex collection, which has a row of trees planted at an angle so that they stay small - also, Bryn explained - branches trained to grow sideways produce more fruit. 

We looked at the Knobby russet - which tastes nice but has rough skin, like a toad.

Bryn showed us a large lump at root of tree which he told us had come from the grafting process. 

We discussed why there are so many types of apples, and we thought it was because they all taste different, their ripening times vary, and each has adapted to grow in a particular place. 

We talked about the Great Storm of 1987 and the fact that it led to a lot of damaged and destroyed trees in Stanmer.

After this really interesting walk and talk, the group headed back to the Fruit Factory, where Stephan had finished pasteurising the juice. The bottles were warm but ready for the group to take back to their base at the Linklater, where they can design their own labels. These they will show Huw at the Elephant and Castle pub, the last part of the apple juice project between Flourish and Plumpton. Then their juice bottles can be sold towards a charity of the students' choice. Here is a link to the work done by last year's students.

Thanks to Stephan, Bryn, Peter and Mark for all their hard work - and thanks to the interns for all of theirs too.

Emma Chaplin, Flourish Project Manager