south downs national park

Last Bluebell House session at Baulcombes Barn

By Emma Chaplin

It was a hot day and we all knew it was going to be a poignant session with the Bluebell House group at Baulcombes Barn, because it was the last one to be held here.

Flourish funding comes to an end in August 2018, and Bluebell House is moving to Horsham.

As Owena pointed out, members of the group have gone from being anxious around the animals, to being confident and assured, and that has been a pleasure for all of us to be part of. 

Lunch was going to be a late one, so I made drinks and shared courgette cake to tide everyone over.

Since Rhiannan has done the Erasmus cookery course in France, and has developed her skills and confidence as a chef, she kindly agreed to be in charge of cooking over a firepit for the celebration meal, with myself in a supporting role. Before we lit the fire, we brought two buckets of water over, just in case there was an issue with the ground being so dry.

From her farm, Owena had provided hogget burgers, sausages and boiled eggs. Rhiannan had made rose harissa koftas from hogget mince and made pittas to put them in, with yoghurt dressing and pomegranate seeds. Also, she'd made halloumi and watermelon skewers for the vegetarians, and a lovely salad made from fennel and other delicious things. Sue had brought courgettes and beans from her allotment, and we cooked those in foil in the fire. I brought apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, which is special and went down very well indeed. 

Whilst Rhiannan and I cooked near the pond area, everyone else spent time with their favourite animals, saying goodbye.

Then we gathered to share a delicious meal, before going inside for a final check in. I gave out the gifts of mugs, tea towels and framed prints of the cartoon of the farm Flourish had had made, and the group gave Owena a wonderful pyrography picture of a pony as a thank you for being such a great group leader.

Owena praised everyone for coming to what we all knew would be a painful session. Endings are never easy.

It has been a pleasure working with the wonderful members and staff of Bluebell House, and Owena has been a wonderful person to work with. We've all learnt so much. 

Thank you to Rhiannan for her amazing cooking!

Owena will be doing two weaving sessions at Bluebell House in August, and Emma will come to the second one.

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."

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.

Chickens, lambs & a puppy. Our St Nicholas group visit Baulcombes Barn.

By Emma Chaplin

Our regular allotment group from the St Nicholas Centre really enjoy visiting the animals at Baulcombes Barn, so Owena agreed to host them on (mostly) sunny April day, so they could see the newborn lambs, groom the ponies, see the broody hen and much else besides.

It was lovely for us to see some old faces get off the bus with support worker Eleanor, as well as members of our current group. Volunteer Penny and sessional worker Felicity Ann came along too, which was great.

Penny and I made some drinks (tea, coffee, and homemade elderflower cordial), then we sat outside the therapy room, those who wanted to taking turns to hold Dottie the puppy, whilst Owena explained the safety rules of the farm - washing hands after touching the animals, not eating near the animals, and being quiet and gentle around them so we don't alarm them.

We watched some swallows fly down into the stable roof - Owena explained that they had arrived after their winter migration a couple of days before.

Then we went to see a broody hen on her eggs, fed the chickens, collected some eggs, held the cockerel and a hen, saw the lambs in the field, watched whilst Owena caught Tallulah the pony, stroked Buster, said hello to Frankie, and finally, those who wanted to, groomed Tallulah in the yard.

Lots of interesting questions were asked during the visit. Do horses prefer apples to hay? (Owena said they mostly eat grass now they can). Does the broody hen ever get off her nest? (yes, to eat, drink and stretch her legs). Owena also pointed out that Dottie had some fur shaven because she'd recently been spayed so she couldn't have puppies. Some people weren't sure if they liked that, so we chatted about it for a bit, and what it means to have puppies that then grow into dogs.

Everyone thanked Owena for a lovely morning then got back on the bus to head back to Lewes.

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. 

Rural Pathways do some strategic thinking about.... mud

From Owena at Baulcombes Barn, March 2018

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Wall of mud

The Plumpton College Rural Pathways students were working very well at the farm on Friday morning.

They are all learning to mix and feed the pigs, collect the eggs, clean the hens out and fill hay nets for the ponies.

One student wanted to clear the yard and suggested using the sludgy mud to create a wall.

Good job they wear such sensible overalls and boots!

Allotment news - Conservation Volunteer-mended steps and pathways & a new bench

NEWLY-MENDED PATHS AND STEPS

There's been some hard work going on by a team from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers), led by senior officer Tim Hills. They have fixed the steps leading down to the tap. Lewes Town Council have been kind enough to help fund this.

The TCV team have also been mending and improving our paths, which, alongside Lewes Town Ranger's regular strimming of them, has made them safer and more accessible. They've made the slope much safer, with a chestnut frame, widened some paths, flattened the camber.  We're very pleased that our Lottery funding allows us to do this.

Thanks guys!

NEW BENCH

We have a lovely new and beautifully long bench at the allotment! It's thanks to a very kind donation by Transition Town Lewes, and the timing couldn't be better, because our old benches, having provided long service in the almost 20 years that Common Cause have run the community allotment, are reaching the end of their lives.

This sturdy new bench will benefit all of the groups that use the site; the weekly groups from the St Nicholas Day Centre and the Plumpton College Rural Pathways students, as well as others.

Members and project users come along and work very hard, so having a really good place to sit and rest, and enjoy the beautiful view, is important.

We're hoping to fashion seat cushions of some description, perhaps from wool from Owena's sheep at Baulcombes Barn. She's made some for her own benches with her peg loom, so that might be an excellent winter project.

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

Last Bluebell session at Baulcombes. Marshmallows & felt!

By Flourish project manager Emma Chaplin

It was a sunny, muggy day for the last Bluebell House session at Baulcombes Barn of this project year (which for Flourish, runs September-August).

Sitting outside under the shade of a tree, we began by 'checking in', each person saying how they feel about being there.

We then shared some lovely refreshments. Rhiannan had very kindly brought her delicious fluffy homemade marshmallows to share, including banoffi flavour, coconut ice flavour and pretty pink and yellow marshmallow, rhubarb and custard flavour. We wondered where the word 'marshmallow' came, because it's the name of a plant. Rhiannan thought it related to throat lozenges - and indeed it does. The sugary marshmallow we know derives from the medicinal confection originally made from the marshmallow plant.

There was apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, and tea for those who wanted that.

Owena explained that one activity for the morning, for those who were interested, was felting. Felt is made out of wool. And felt-making, she told us, is an ancient art. In Mongolia, for example, they make yurts with it, using horses to tread the felt. It's both waterproof and warm.

Owena had a basket of wool from her sheep. She demonstrated 'carding' the wool, then teasing it out into squares (or any shape you want) in order to make a flat, fine shape. You end up with a pile of about 8 pieces, and you alternate the direction of 'threads'. 

She said the method is to place these on a large piece of tarpaulin in a place it's ok to get messy, Then you pour washing liquid over your pile (it's soap that makes the wool stick together), followed by boiling water. You pull the tarpaulin over the top, put wellies on and stamp! Felt is formed when there's been friction, Owena explained. You can also use a rolling pin to do this.

The felt ends up very wet, so you can then put it in spin dryer or whack it on the ground, if you're outdoors, to get the water out.

Also, Owena said, you can make felt pots, by wrapping the wool around a boulder or pebble, soap using a bar, add boiling water as before, then cut it open to make your pot.

Sue, Rhiannan and Di helped make a felt rug, teasing out the carded wool so that the fibres would bond together to form felt. It quickly turned to felt with the boiling hot water and soap and friction from them walking on the mat! It was too wet to take back to Bluebell, so Owena took it home to spin dry and will deliver it to the centre next week. The group would also like some wool to do their own felting at Bluebell.

And for those interested in seeing to the animals, their job was to get the ponies in. They had been moved to the field near the cabin. Owena explained that too much sugar in the grass had been causing laminitis (painful hoof inflammation) in the ponies, so she'd moved them to a field with less rich grass. They'd been struggling a bit with the flies and the heat. Frankie needed a fly sheet to protect his skin.

Some of the group caught them all up to come in the stables for a bit of shade. Frankie's fly sheet was removed, and they were given a drink and some hay.

So the ponies were attended to, the hens fed, including the chicks. Plus we had a look at the two unexpected new lambs that had been born after the ram escaped.

We finished the morning with feedback from each group member. There were comments about having learnt a lot about the animals during the year; feeling more confident handling the ponies and enjoying being outdoors. We all felt sad to end the sessions for this project year, and spoke about next autumn.

Rural Pathways groups - Last Session Celebrations

It's been a great pleasure for Flourish, running regular sessions for groups of Rural Pathways students from Plumpton College at Lewes Community Allotment and Baulcombes Barn. The young people have all worked very hard and got a lot of work done. So to thank them, we had celebrations of their time with us at their last sessions.

Lewes Community Allotment's group's last session.

First of all we did some work, such as weeding, then we stopped and had a visit from a friendly cat.

Then we enjoyed some Ringmer Community Orchard juice, or water, as well as a lovely feast of cheese, quiche, chopped veggies, hummus and homemade samosas brought by Niyati. Then allotment member Karine came along with a spectacular cake to thank the students for all their hard clearing work at the Allotment, which the members have really appreciated.

Finally, Common Cause director Topsy Jewell presented everyone with their own certificate that Emma had brought along.

Baulcombes Barn last session

 

 

At the last session at Baulcombes Barn, first we did some work on the farm. So we split up into groups and either collected eggs or fed the pigs.

Then we went back to enjoy some burgers in rolls or pitta made from Owena's pork, as well as freshly boiled eggs from her community hens, washing down with apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard. 

It was a lovely way to say thank you and goodbye to the group, who have all been brilliant.

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.

News from the Allotment

See the slideshow below...

By Sarah Rideout

Last week, we enjoyed the lovely blossom coming out on the crab apple tree by the gate.

On Tuesday, we had a visit from Victoria Williams, director of Food Matters, who develop Brighton and Hove Food Partnership projects. They do great work, including running cooking and gardening sessions for people with dementia.

On Wednesday, we were very pleased to show off our beautiful hand made tripod and trivet, made by Ian The Luddite. They will be most helpful for future Fire and Feast events. 

We also enjoyed a visit from a four-legged new helper!

Lots of hard work went on at the regular sessions with both groups as you can see.  

We went to take a look at the Rangers putting in a new kissing gate in the adjacent field. Later we rather rather cheekily borrowed their drill and some screws to fix one of the raised beds!