Lewes

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.

A hot day for Bluebell House at Baulcombes Barn

By Emma Chaplin

michi poster with amends.jpg

It was a blistering hot July Wednesday afternoon. The ground was dry and hard. Bluebell House arrived at Baulcombes Barn for one of only a few more sessions they have with us. This is partly because Flourish funding is ending in August, and partly because the centre is moving to Horsham. In any case, endings can be hard for everyone. This group have developed important bonds with Owena and the animals.

I came along to spend some time with the group, as I sometimes do, bringing medicine from Cliffe vets for Tallulah the pony, as requested by Owena. And some cake for the humans! I also came because Flourish want to give every Bluebell House member who has come to the farm a memento. I had samples of a mug and a tea towel with the design created by Michi Mathias (see above).

Everyone who was present really liked them, thought about what they'd like and put in their orders. Joanna will ask others at Bluebell House and let me know.

We then "checked in" ie went round the group and said how we felt. Owena gave everyone an update on the farm and any animals news since the group were last here a few weeks ago.

She said:

"I took some of the pigs to the Smallholders Show. Because of the heat, we have to be here by 8am every day. The animals seem OK. The sheep stay in shade. One young ewe got mastitis, and we treated her with antibiotics. She's still not quite right, so we're keeping an eye on her. We moved the sheep on foot to a field nearer to the therapy room, so we could shear them. We were going to shear them today, but then I realised a fox had got into the community chickens and killed some of them. Foxes are hungry at the moment, plus we've got problems with the electric fence, and the earth being very dry doesn't help. I found where the fox got in. Helpfully, the pigs, who normally try to dig themselves out, can't because the ground is too hard. And the dry weather means the grass is less sugary, which is better for the ponies. They don't get laminitis. Finally, we've had an issue with broody hens. One booted another out, then didn't take care of a chick that hatched. I'm keeping a close eye on things."

Then we went out to do some chores, which included: catching up the ponies, grooming them, leading them around the field, extending the grazing area for the ponies by moving the fence, giving the pigs water, cleaning the pony fields, feeding the hens, and collecting up and soaking willow for a future willow weaving session. You can can see some of those activities in the photos above (since several members of the group prefer not to be in photos, so we've been careful who is in these). 

Finally, we gathered for a final 'check in'. We all felt better for having been at Baulcombes, seeing the animals and getting on with tasks. These were a few comments:

"I was grumpy earlier on, but being here always helps me feel better."

"I'm glad to be here. It always helps"

"I was feeling crappy but I'm glad I came today."

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.

Tourist Information Window - celebrating three years of Flourish

We decided to celebrate three years of the Flourish project with a display in one of the Lewes Tourist Information Centre windows. The Lewes TIC is situated in the centre of town, so lots of people see it, and many service users can take a look as they pass by.

We wanted to involve users in the display, for it to be entertaining and engaging, to tell a story through pictures, in the most part, and to show what we do, offering positive images of people with learning disabilities and mental health challenges at the sessions that we run at our three sites.

We included quotations from service users about how they'd felt after their sessions in the 'clouds'.

The overall look of the display was designed by graphic designer Suzie Johanson. Photographer David Stacey helped with lots of the planning and thought processes, and did a fantastic job compiling letters of the project using photographs. Michi Mathias created the pictures of the horse and stable door as well as the apple tree and apples that you can see in the photos, representing Baulcombes Barn and Ringmer Community Orchard. Lewes Community Allotment is in the centre, represented by a hazel obelisk, as well as two watering cans, two trugs (one full of knitted fruit and veg on loan from Brighton and Hove Food Partnership), and various gardening tools.

A team of myself (Emma Chaplin, project manager), Suzie, Michi and Lois gathered at the TIC with handfuls of props to set everything up. The TIC kindly lent us the astroturf, and we used the struts and fishing line to dangle everything. We stuck the photos up with push pins, added apples with blu-tac (which I got upsidedown to start with!) and laid out all the other bits and pieces, adding straw and the knitted veg. 

We've included a number of wildlife creatures we see at the allotment in the window for people to find - including a blackbird, a caterpillar, a bee, a hedgehog, a lizard and two butterflies.

Michi also created a fantastic poster which features various animals from Baulcombes Barn as well as quotes from members of Bluebell House Recovery Centre, who attend regular sessions.

Huge thanks to everyone who helped! It was Maggie's idea to do it in the first place in the TIC. Thanks to Lois Parker, for the great butterflies and lizard, and for helping out with the window set-up. James McCauley, who heroically helped with sorting, editing and printing all the project photos (on the post on the left hand side). Arnold Goldman lent us a trug, as did Anne Turner. Janet Sutherland lent a watering can and old seed packets.  Billie from Leadbetter and Good, who lent us the pig.

And thanks to everyone in the Tourist Info, who have been so helpful and supportive. 

Bluebell at Baulcombes. Lambs, a therapeutic puppy & some naughty weaners

By Emma Chaplin

The group from Bluebell House enjoyed some hot cross buns and a bit of puppy love from Dottie at their last session before Easter. There is a new weather vane outside the therapy room made from a pheasant feather.

We fed the chickens, took a look at the new-born lambs with their mums that were having extra care in the stables, then headed out along the muddy lane to feed the pigs and see the ponies.

The ponies were pleased to see us, and enjoyed their hay. Unfortunately, the awful weather had caused the battery to go flat for the electric fence keeping the weaners in, and we found them making a determined effort to escape by digging. We distracted them by mixing and giving them food whilst Owena put a new battery in place. Then we headed back to the therapy room. 

Farm update from Owena, 16 April 2018: Lambing is now over. 54 lambs have been born. No ewes were lost, although a couple needed some extra care. Penny has just had her piglets, but unfortunately, due to the difficult weather conditions, the extreme mud and some bad luck, only two have survived. 

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
 

Last session of the year: a walk to an ancient church and some thoughts about the benefits of fresh air, even in the bleak mid-winter

We enjoyed some festive food and drink at the last session of the year with members of Bluebell House at Baulcombes Barn. We drank delicious apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard. Owena made a delicious and warming lamb casserole dish with some of her hogget (using spices from Seven Sisters Spice), plus there were homemade mince pies. Owena had obtained permission and a key for us to visit nearby St Peter's church in Hamsey. Thanks to the church for allowing the visit.

We all set off, saying hello to the chickens and rams as we passed, down the track for what was a very enjoyable walk, over the bridge over the railway tracks.

We all thought that the church is lovely. It's probably the best unrestored church in Sussex and featured in the recent film adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel, My Cousin Rachel. It has never had any electricity, but instead is lit by candles for services. This makes it particularly interesting in terms of atmosphere. We felt it to be tranquil and calming, even though most of the group are not church-goers. We enjoyed sitting for a while inside the old stone with thick, whitewashed walls. We loved the soft, natural light that streamed in via the stained glass windows.

For anyone interested, here is more information about the history of St Peters, if you scroll down this link

After we'd had a look round, inside and out, we left, first looking at the gargoyles on the tower. Then we walked back via a visit to feed and say hello to the ponies and piggies.

In her reflections on the term with the group, Owena talks about the sometimes negative impact wet and grey weather during winter can have on us, and how Christmas is often a emotionally challenging period for many people. Yet, the group tells us in our discussion with them, fresh air and connecting with nature, as well as the experience of looking out for and caring for the animals that they know at the farm, is always beneficial. This is what they said: "it feels good to learn about feeding and caring for animals" and "I feel better being focused and doing something which takes my mind away from my problems".

Emma Chaplin, Flourish project manager, Jan 2018

Bluebell at Baulcombes. Rams, vets and piglets

Project manager Emma Chaplin went along to meet Owena and the new Bluebell House group at Baulcombes Barn on a lovely Wednesday afternoon in early November. Sue from Bluebell House had made a beautiful new Baulcombes Barn sign.

As everyone introduced themselves, Owena explained that the vet was due to look at Frankie's sore skin on his tummy during the session, and asked if everyone was ok with that. If anyone wasn't ok with it, they could stay out of the way, but everyone said they didn't mind meeting the vet.

Sandra mentioned that her ponies were in a recent movie that was filmed locally, Goodbye Christopher Robin.

We ate our lunches together, and Owena discussed health and safety issues for new people (washing hands, not eating food outside the shelter area, being aware of the mood of the animals etc), then we went outside. There are three rams in the field near the shelter. Owena mentioned a few things to be aware of when entering their field, including:

  • don’t rub between horns, because they take it as sign to fight
  • if you get chased, turn round and spit at them, because they hate it

Some people went to see the rams, some fed the chickens, a few groomed the horses, and helped when the vet arrived by helping keep Frankie calm as he was sedated and treated. The vet shaved his tummy, washed the skin with a special treatment (Frankie has very thick hair and might have been overheating in the mild autumn temperatures), then rinsed that off with a hose and applied cream.

Then we all walked along to feed the pigs and meet the piglets. When we got back, one new member of the group said after his walk and time with the animals:

"I've calmed down and woken up. I feel better now"

Here are some photos of our afternoon:

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

Apples! Flourish User Group outing to Ringmer Community Orchard

Flourish were delighted to be able to hold a meeting of project users at the Ringmer Community Orchard. Orchard coordinator Katharine Finnigan had suggested it would be a good time to come, since lots of apples are ripening at this time of year. 

We welcomed the St Nicholas Day Centre group, who normally attend Lewes Community Allotment, and a group from Bluebell House, who usually go to Baulcombes Barn every week.

None had visited the Orchard before, but they have tried the juice, and it's been very popular.

The groups had been warned to wear sensible footwear, which was a good idea since the grass was long and wet. Emma and Felicity Ann welcomed everyone and Peter May then took the group on a tour to explain about the history of the site, how it had come to have so many varieties of Sussex apples as well as other fruit, as well as explaining a bit about the differences between each apple variety, how they grow and when they ripen. 

People were able to meet each other, learn about apples and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Felicity Ann had brought some wonderful apple cake, bramble jam and crab apple jelly tarts she had made from Allotment produce.

Everyone picked some Lord Lambourne apples to take home.

Emma spoke to everyone about the newsletter and planned project-wide exhibition in June 2018, with the hope that people can think about what they'd like to be included, or what they might like to contribute.

Emma said she'd be pleased to arrange another opportunity for people to visit.

Taster session with the Download Group

We were delighted to welcome the Sussex Partnership Recovery College Download Group to the Allotment in July.

They came for a taster session - and taste is what they did! After we'd done some introductions and talked about our favourite seasons, we went round the allotment tasting different fruits and vegetables. These included: Japanese wineberries, cloudberries, raspberries, plus fennel, parsley and nasturtium flowers (which are quite peppery!).

We also looked for wildlife at the allotment.

After we'd done the tasting and looking for wildlife, we went into the shelter for some drinks (Sarah had made some delicious blackcurrant cordial) and some wonderful blackberry crunch bars and raspberry buns made by Felicity Ann with berries from the Allotment.

Find out more about the Recovery College on their website here