We had a great session with our St Nicholas Day Centre group at the allotment, talking about seeds. How they protect themselves, how they encourage birds and animals to eat them so they get spread. Felicity Ann had collected trays of seeds and nuts, and the group looked at them one by one to decide what each one was and where the seed was. We also cracked the nuts and ate them - delicious cob nuts and sweet chestnuts. Emma arrived with some raw apple juice to try that the Plumpton supported interns has pressed the day before from Ringmer Community Orchard Red Falstaff apples. Sweet and very delicious.
Since we've got such a fine new bench at the allotment from a Transition Town Lewes donation, we felt it would be really lovely if interested allotment members created a cushion for it, made from wool from Owena's sheep at Baulcombes Barn.
So Owena came up to the allotment with bags of her wool and her peg-loom, to demonstrate how to make a peg-loom 'cushion' (which could just as easily be a rug). They are relatively easy to make, once you've got the technique, and every one is different, which is particularly nice - it depends on the colour of the sheep, and Owena's sheep are Shetland sheep, which have different coloured wool, from pale to dark brown.
Owena showed us examples of ones she's working on and explained that wool, once so valuable, has largely lost value in this country - and is mostly exported. The top she was wearing has been made from soft, fine merino wool. In New Zealand, they have developed fine wool products such as merino, which are still commercially valuable.
She told us that you can weave with either unwashed or washed wool. The former is somewhat smellier and the outcome more random, but can be washed in a machine after it's been woven. Washed and combed wool, on the other hand, is fluffy and cloud-like. She handed round examples of combed/washed and uncombed/unwashed wool and explained that you can wash the unwashed wool in a tub with a hard olive oil soap bar. Or, you can get it washed and combed by an expert she knows with suitable equipment, which does make life easier! She had taken some of the Shetland wool to Diamond Fibres to be processed into 'slivers' which we can use for peg loom weaving. 'Slivers' - the first stage of raw fleece. Roving - is when you get a long cord of it.
She then demonstrated how to use the loom, which is quite simple once you've got the wool prepared. You use strong strands of wool to run through the rug as you weave it, that get tightened as you press each woven layer down. Differences in tension make for variations in widths of the woven rug/blanket. Once you've filled each peg, you pull the pegs out of what you've woven, one by one, and push them back in to the holes again, so you can start weaving again. So the length of the weave increases bit by bit.
Emma and Sarah went to measure the bench so the allotment weavers could decide how many pegs to use to make the cushions to fit the seat ie the right width. In terms of length, Owena pointed out you can make one long weave to make a cushion, or several smaller ones, which you can then join together.
The group began to weave their own cushion, with Owena's supervision.
Update - early November
Everyone that wanted to (including volunteers, staff, allotment members and project users) has contributed to increasing the length of the peg-loom cushion over the intervening weeks, so it's a lovely patchwork of all our efforts. Owena returned to work with the St Nicholas Day Centre group in order to show them how to finish off the cushion, ready to go on the bench. So now we have the finished product, and it's comfy, warm and lovely. Thanks everyone, wonderful joint effort.
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.
Robert Robertson has been taking photos at Baulcombes Barn for a while now. He kindly sent us some, so we thought we'd put up a gallery
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.
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.
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
We held a special event at the Community Allotment monthly Saturday session in July (2-4pm, last Saturday of the month, May-November). We had invited apple expert Peter May to talk to us about how to prune fruit trees, and several regular Allotment members as well as some visitors came along to learn from him. One had a dog with her.
Peter said that fruit trees need pruning twice a year, in summer and winter. He then demonstrated how to summer-prune some of our cherry trees and apple trees in a way which allows the fruit to grow most successfully and gives the overall tree a good shape as it grows.
When it started to pour with rain, we went under the shelter where Peter showed us how to take apart and clean secateurs, and sharpen pruning knives. He demonstrated wetstone sharpening with carburundem. We all had a go, but felt we probably wouldn't be brave enough to take our own secateurs apart without fear we'd never put them back together correctly afterwards!
After a hot drink and a biscuit, we braved the rain and took a tarpaulin out to stand under whilst looking at the pear tree. It has been blown into a rakish angle - and Peter advised how to train it as a cordon.
Human Animal Bond – HAB
At Baulcombes Barn, Owena Lewis offers farm therapy to a variety of clients. We thought it might be interesting to say a bit more about what that is.
Farm therapy is where you work with a therapist as well as animals, and this process provides opportunities for the bond between animals and people to develop. This can be very therapeutic in the following ways:
- Multi–sensory, stroking, petting and touching animals, research has shown that stroking a pet is beneficial in bringing one’s heart rate down.
- Unconditional judgement, animals will respond to everyone and they will accept you as you are.
- Spontaneity, animals can bring up many feelings in us, like pleasure, when they do something surprising which makes us laugh, or warmth when they are together.
- Quick to build relationships, animals are ‘right there’ when you first meet them, they don’t stand on formalities.
- Here and Now, or Mindfulness, being with the animals is all-encompassing, and will help your concentration.
- Chosen, sometimes an animal comes up to you and this may make you feel chosen which can be a nice experience.
- Honest congruent, animals don’t lie to you, equally they don’t stand for any ‘bullshit’.
- Trust animals will usually trust you from the start, treat them well and the trust will develop into recognition and friendship.
- Confidante, you might be drawn to one animal in particular and feel that you can trust it with your inner most thoughts and feelings.
For more information about Farm Therapies, see here
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.
Project Manager Emma Chaplin was invited to attend the opening of the new Walk Wood sculpture trail at the National Trust-owned Sheffield Park Gardens near Haywards Heath. The sculpture trail has been created by Sussex artist and wood engraver Keith Pettit, who likes to work with natural materials.
Andy, the head gardener at Sheffield Park Gardens, has regularly worked with the Nature Corridors for All group from the St Nicholas Day Centre, some members of which also come to our Community Allotment. John Parry, founder of the Linklater Centre in Lewes, was in attendance. They have worked with the Nature Corridors group for a long while now.
We were invited to walk around the new woodland area with one of a number of knowledgeable guides.
We saw that Keith has created portals that lead into and out of the area, as well as other sculptures that you come across as you walk along the pathways. These are sympathetically built in or around trees, such as 'cycles' made of beech and yew, mostly using materials sourced from the area. Some you have to look hard to spot! Other sculptures include a striking woven spiral and two web-like sculptures.
Our guide explained that a particular kind of hedging has been created around the new walk area as a barrier to protect the woodland. It has green waste between two lots of wire, which allows small mammals to move through it and also forms a habitat for insects. The pathway are made of chipped wood that's been cut down, and there is temporary 'dead hedging' made of twigs to keep visitors on the pathways.
Our walk guide, who has worked at Sheffield Park for a very long time, described what they learnt after the Great Storm of 1987 when many trees were lost. He told us about the history of the woodland walk area, how 'commercial' trees had been planted when it was private, which weren't particularly sympathetic to the history of the land. He said it will take a very long time (beyond his working life) to fully restore the woodland area with indigenous species of trees, and described the process of trying to restore it sympathetically and mindfully as 'historic gardening', rather than commercial gardening.
All the different groups ended up back where we started. It's a lovely place to visit. We enjoyed some refreshments and a piece of a truly splendid 'woodland wildlife' themed cake.
Keith Pettit has had an interesting and varied journey, workwise, and Emma has invited him to come and talk to the Rural Pathways group next year about how he came to make a career working with his hands: as a wood engraver, sign-writer and sculptor, sometimes outdoors, often using materials he finds. Every year, he makes extraordinary, dramatic wooden sculptures that go up in flames at East Hoathly Bonfire!
We had a special session at Baulcombes Barn in early June, run by Jim from the Monday Group. Everyone made a lovely wooden bird box.
Here are some photos of the proud makers!
Flourish have faced challengingly cold weather before, but we haven't had a day that was quite so scorchingly hot as the June day we went to The Secret Campsite.
We'd arranged a visit to meet Tim Bullen, the owner and manager of The Secret Campsite, which is based 'somewhere' in Barcombe. We'd thought about doing this because they do a great deal to encourage wildlife at the site, and are even about to hold their annual Wildlife Festival with our friend from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, Michael Blencowe.
Sarah and (me) Emma arrived first, met Tim and had a quick look around. We really liked how it feels like you are miles from anywhere, and seeing all the trees that have been planted. We enjoyed looking at the tree house tent.
Then the group arrived from St Nicks, and we had a chat with Eleanor about how hot it was and how careful we all thought we needed to be about making sure that nobody got overheated.
Tim began by giving everyone some water to drink, then explained that the campsite is based on what used to be Chubbs Nursery, where they grew and sold plants. The campsite is a very friendly spot for wildlife, he said, and designed as a quiet place for humans to escape to as well. He told us that he did a landscape management course in order to learn how to manage the land and the wildlife where they have created the campsite.
Visitors who come to camp unload their cars and wheel their tents etc in wheelbarrows to the large meadow where the tent pitches are, rather than driving to them, to keep the place peaceful.
In terms of wildlife, Tim said they get a lot of slow worms, snakes (including adders), bats, butterflies, moths, birds including birds of prey such as red kites, tiny beautiful goldfinches (which love thistle seeds) and nightingales, which have an incredible song.
They sometimes set footprint traps to see what animals have visited overnight.
Sometimes you can see great crested newts and purple emperor butterflies, he told us. The butterflies like all the flowers that grow around the campsite and in the meadow. They have a regular hedgehog visitor, and Tim told us that hedgehogs need holes in hedges to get around.
Tim showed us one of their ponds, which was lovely, but then we decided it really was too hot to do any more walking. But Tim said we'd be welcome to come back in the autumn, when there will be lots of apples and other fruits ripe! Thanks Tim, it was really interesting to find out where the 'Secret' Campsite is :)
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.
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.
Have a look through our slideshow of St Nicholas Day Centre members' recent visit to the farm
It was lovely to welcome the new St Nicholas Day Centre allotment group to Baulcombes Barn for a visit. It was a sunny morning. The Bluebell group were there to meet them, and had brought cakes. I brought apple juice from Ringmer Community Orchard, made by another Flourish group. Owena had cooked food to try, including pieces of her own chorizo sausage, pork sausage and pieces of hogget (one year old lamb), plus some goats’ cheese made by a friend of Owena. So after introducing ourselves, we started off with a delicious mini-feast.
Owena explained the safety rules of the farm, such as not eating or taking human food near the animals, washing hands after touching animals, closing gates, being quiet around the animals so as not to scare them, not going behind horses (in case they kick) and being careful of slipping on poo or uneven ground.
Then we put boots on and went out to visit the farm animals that Owena had kindly brought to the area near the hut so that the group could meet them without going through the fields.
Some of the new group were not familiar with touching or feeding farm animals, so it took some courage to come forward and do that. Sue and others from Bluebell were very kind and helpful with the St Nicks group members.
We started off by looking at a swallow’s nest in a stable, then fed the chickens. We saw some of the new lambs and their mums, and fed two of the sheep with pellets. Then we took a wheelbarrow full of nettles to Penny and her two remaining piglets. Finally we went to see the ponies, caught Jerry up in a head collar and member of the St Nicholas Group come and patted him.
We finished by a visit to the wildlife-rich pond for a little sit in the sunshine whilst St Nicks waited for the minibus. Some of the newts had been eaten by a heron that morning unfortunately, but it was a beautiful and peaceful spot for a rest.
Flourish Project Manager
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!
A guest post from Angela, one of the lovely Lady Gardeners from Plot 22, who recently visited Flourish recently
"Seven of us made our way from Hove to Lewes Community Allotment in early April (near the Nevill estate), where the Flourish project run regular sessions. As we were walking along by the other allotments, we were spotted by Emma, Project Manager of Flourish, standing up high, waving at us from Lewes Community Allotment. We could not miss her bright red coat and warm smile. She called us up the verge and we entered the allotment.
We were treated to hot cross buns and refreshing drinks. Sitting there under the large shelter, built from chestnut, we received an informative illustrated talk about the 19 year history of the allotment. Also the current usage of what grows well. Several herbs really like the chalk soil.
The view of the brow of the Downs that sunny glorious day was incredible. We saw a sheepdog herding sheep and a procession of horses riding by the perimeter fence.
Sarah Rideout, the Flourish Allotment Co-ordinator, gave a very interesting and detailed tour of each small area of planting beds, sheds, picket fence story, pizza clay oven refurbishment project, willow fencing made on site...
The blossom was about to burst on the trees. She showed us where the lizards like to stretch out on a disused tyre when it gets very hot.
We were meant to visit in February the same time Storm Doris hit the UK. So after being disappointed, our group re-arranged to come on this day which turned out to be more than perfect! Everyone enjoyed themselves very much!"
Photos by Yvonne
We went along to Baulcombes Barn in the middle of the lambing season (25 had been born so far), to hand out the keyrings we'd made for Bluebell members, using photos of their favourite animals, to remind them of the farm and what they enjoy about being there, when they're away from it.
The sun was shining. We had a look for newts around the pond, which has got rather too much blanketweed in it. Owena told us that well-rotted barley straw will help with that.
All restrictions on chickens had been lifted (except you still need to wear overalls to handle them, which need to be washed after use, which Owena is in the process of purchasing).
We walked around the lambing field to go and groom the horse and ponies (lots of their winter coat came out) and feed the pigs. Tallulah the pony has had a cough, so Owena gave her some medicine. We finished off by clearing some horse poo from the field before heading back.
Chloe Edwards from Seven Sisters Spices joined us for the morning at our Community Allotment for a Fire and Feast event just before Easter. We had our usual Wednesday morning group from the St Nicholas Day Centre, and Chloe showed us all how to chop (the safe 'bridge' method using the whole hand to hold the vegetable, to prevent slipping and injury) and also mashing, to prepare a delicious meal of bean burgers and tasty salads.
We got the fire going early and by the time the food was ready to cook, the fire was down to nice hot embers, perfect for cooking.
With bean burgers sizzling and buns toasting, we made the finishing touches to tzatziki (yoghurt, mint and cucumber), a pickling salad of radish and carrot, tomato salad and just-picked green salad, all with guidance from Chloe.
Then we enjoyed sharing the lovely food and having a chat in the fresh air.
Thanks to Eleanor, Emmanuel, Felicity Ann and Maggie for helping out.
Sarah Rideout, LCA coordinator, April 2017
Have a look through our photos of the event. Some were taken by us, some by Chloe.
What a lovely morning at the Allotment. Here's Andy, planting our new plum tree from Woodruff's
And here's a common lizard sunbathing on a tyre - all pics from allotment coordinator Sarah Rideout