community allotments

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

 

 

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.

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 Visit to Plot 22

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dsc_1897

It was a great pleasure to visit Plot 22 in Hove last week. The person who developed this beautiful community allotment near Aldrington train station is Emma Houldsworth. Here is their website, and it's well worth taking a look, listening to the audio portraits, and the Year in the Garden photo diary is brilliant. Lovely recipes too. They call it a 'little oasis' and that's exactly what it felt like. Our lovely community allotment is high up on the Downs, has breathtaking views and is a healing, nurturing place to be. Plot 22 felt equally nurturing and good for the soul, and the two allotments share many things...

  • being a safe, welcoming space
  • teaching about gardening according to organic principles
  • growing food that is shared
  • aiming to be sustainable
  • having community membership
  • supporting local wildlife
  • having at least one pond
  • excellent sheds
  • firepits

...Plot 22 nonetheless has a somewhat different feel. It was women-only the day I was there. They have some indoor space, which feels quite cosy and contained. There are greenhouses and a covered seating area. They always eat a meal together. And their composting loo is a thing of beauty! I loved that is was 'twinned' with another loo.

I really enjoyed meeting some of the allotment group, sharing tea and delicious homemade apple tarts. Then we had a tour. There had been a first frost, so these chaps needed digging up. They are called Yacon and are an unusual type of potato.

Yacon potatoes

Yacon potatoes

Teasels

Teasels

Emma told me that they had a lot of teasels growing all over the place, but needed to have a bit of a tidy up/weed. They didn’t want to deprive the birds of food, so one of the group had the idea of hanging them up in a tree instead so that the goldfinches and greenfinches can eat the seeds.

Emma gave me some chillies to take away - which we can hopefully try to grow at our allotment next year. She warned me they are very hot.

Chillies

Chillies

It was a great pleasure to spend time in such a lovely place in such good company. We'd be delighted if the group came to visit us one day.