gardening therapy

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...!

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

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

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.