Bird-box making at the Allotment with Jim from the Monday Group

The Plumpton College Rural Pathways group spent a frosty but beautiful afternoon recently with us at the Lewes Community Allotment making bird boxes with Jim from the Monday Group  The students learnt new skills, about helping wildlife, and we saw some great teamwork on the other tasks too.

Sarah Rideout, Allotment Coordinator, January 2017 

2017 Lewes Community Allotment Planning Meeting

Allotment coordinator Sarah Rideout facilitated a planning meeting last week on a frosty Wednesday morning. We were there to discuss what we wanted to grow at our allotment this year and what extra activities we'd like to do. The St Nicholas Day Centre were kind enough to host the meeting in The Sanctuary, which is well named, and was delightfully cosy, although we were careful not to slip on the ice on our way over to it. dsc_2223

There were seventeen of us in total, including all of the St Nicholas clients who attend, some community allotment members, Flourish sessional worker Felicity Ann and St Nicholas support worker Eleanor.

Sarah mentioned the exercises they'd been doing at the last allotment session to help show how to get the blood moving if people feel cold. Some of the exercises included shaking, rubbing and patting hands. Felicity Ann said she'd done star jumps at the bus stop afterwards!

Sarah talked about how important it is to wear the right clothes at the allotment, particularly at this time of year when it's so muddy and cold. Waterproof coat, old warm things and sensible footwear all help keep people warm and dry.

Then we got down to the business of planning what we wanted to do and grow at the allotment. Sarah had brought lots of books, Felicity Ann had printed off funny pictures of fruit and veg that could be cut out and stuck to planning pages. We had glue, pens and scissors, and people took turns to cut, stick and write.

The most popular choices were strawberries, peas and different kinds of potatoes. Also lettuces, tomatoes, sprouts, parsnips, spinach, beans, leeks, apples, squash, pumpkin and a 'pizza' bed!

There were some interesting and unusual suggestions too, such as water chestnuts, plantain and aubergines. Emma suggested that perhaps, if the conditions at the allotment weren't suitable for all those to grow, we could bring them up in a dish, so people could taste them.

Also on the wall were possible extra activities we might be able to put on at the allotment. Options included:

  • outdoor cooking


  • a visit from Michael Blencowe from Sussex Wildlife
  • hazel weaving
  • poetry and storytelling
  • making bird boxes
  • mosaic stepping stones

People were encouraged to put a sticker on ones they were keen on, and to add more ideas if they thought of any.

Then we stopped for some welcome tea and biscuits.

Finally, whilst some people drew pictures of wildlife you might find at the allotment (such as Hollie's fox), others did pictures showing the sorts of colours of plants they'd like to see in the beds.Some did an activity matching plant drawings against drawings of the sun, soil and water. The point of this was to encourage thinking about what are the best growing conditions.

Also, Felicity Ann worked with members of the group, one at a time, demonstrating how to safely open and close tools - specifically secateurs and folding pruning saws. Some of us found it particularly tricky to keep our fingers away from the saw blade when closing it.

All in all, it was a lovely and very useful morning. Many thanks to everybody for their contributions.

Emma Chaplin

Cutting Willow at Baulcombes Barn

We had a special January session with a group from Bluebell House Recovery Centre, cutting willow from the bed at Baulcombes Barn. The willow has to be cut by March. Here's some more information about growing willow.

The Bluebell House group could stay later than a usual Wednesday morning session, so they brought lunch with them. And secateurs! Owena provided the gloves and we headed out to the willow bed - in wellies - it was very muddy.

DSC_2143.jpgFirst of all, Owena needed to strim back some brambles to make it easier for us to cut the two types of willow growing in the bed, so most of the group left her to it and carried on walking beyond the willow bed in order to go and see the horses and pigs.

We didn't see the hens, because they are are shut in at the moment, because of the risk of them contracting avian flu from wild birds.

Nicola was keen to see Buster, and so we went to the horse field, via the pigs and the yard to fetch a wheelbarrow, so some of us could clear up poo from the field.

DSC_2143 (1).JPG

The younger pony Frankie came up to the wheelbarrow to see what was happening, but then put his ears back. This is probably because he didn't know my face. Horses (and sheep) can recognise human faces.

Oscar was brave enough to approach Buster. Buster is a friendly pony, but this was Oscar's first time touching a horse. Nicola supported and encouraged him and he did really well.

Then we headed back to the willow beds. We laid a tarpaulin on the ground to put the willow once cut, because the ground was so wet. Then some of us cut the willow, others sorted it into piles of thin, medium and thick stems. Some bits were too short and wispy to use, so they will be burned.


dsc_1917After some hard work, the group headed back to the cabin for lunch around the wood burner to warm up.

We all felt it had been a good day. It was lovely to welcome new people as well as those who had come before. People tried things they hadn't done before, such as going right up to a horse.

With the willow cutting and sorting and even navigating muddy slopes and climbing under fences, we worked as a team and got a lot done. The fresh air did us good too, as did the company of the animals.

The willow will be ready for weaving in six weeks.

Emma Chaplin

Plumpton Supported Interns - selling their apple juice at the Christmas Fair

After all their hard work, picking apples at Ringmer Community Orchard in September 2016, juicing, bottling and pasteurising it, designing the labels for the bottles and getting feedback from some professionals - the Plumpton Supported Interns finally got to display and sell their produce at the Plumpton College Christmas Fair. We think they should be very proud of themselves. We very much enjoyed working with them.

Emma Chaplin

Fire and Feast at the Community Allotment. December 2016

We had a lovely time at our Fire and Feast event mid-December. It had been very wet the day before, but we were lucky that it was a sunny and beautiful day for this. The straw bales 'seats' were a little soggy and needed sheeting over them. We had two groups coming along. The St Nicholas Day Centre group in the morning, and Rural Pathways students from Plumpton College in the afternoon.


In the morning, the St Nicholas Day Centre group collected herbs for a bouquet as well as ivy to put on cards. Then we returned to the shelter to admire Sarah's fire, which had been tended by allotment member Maggie.

Once back at the shelter, with the herb bundles were tied and the ivy stuck to the cards, we stopped for refreshments. We drank apple juice pressed from Ringmer Community Orchard. Felicity Ann had brought some superb mince pies she'd made to share, and Sarah had cooked up delicious pumpkin soup for us all from an allotment pumpkin.

Then we toasted marshmallows on sticks on the fire.

Emma gave out allotment keyrings to all of the St Nicholas Day Centre members, because that's what they had asked for at the last Flourish user group meeting as a memento of the Community Allotment. The photos on it were of pumpkins, appropriately enough!


In the afternoon, the Rural Pathways students came along and also enjoyed a feast, inclduing toasting A LOT of marshmallows over the fire.

We all had fun. Many thanks to Sarah and Felicity Ann for all their hard work - and to all our allotment members and service users for their many contributions over the autumn.

Emma Chaplin

Day Two of our Apple Course with Plumpton - pressing the juice

Day two of our apple course with two groups of Plumpton College supported interns follows on, perhaps not surprisingly, from day one!

Both groups came along on consecutive days to the Stanmer Park Fruit Factory in early October. The Fruit Factory is part of Brighton Permaculture Trust (BPT). Stephan Gehrels ran the days for us. The interns brought along the apples they'd picked from Ringmer Community Orchard on Flourish's apple course day one to be pressed, bottled and pasteurised.

Here is a video we made about this process

We had unpredictable weather both days, with some rain, but the interns were well-equipped in terms of raincoats, and the Fruit Factory has a nice indoor area we could use as well. It smelled deliciously of ginger because Stephan was cooking a big pot of it to be blended with some of BPT's juice made from apples from their local orchards.

Stephan welcomed everyone, told us about Brighton Permaculture Trust and talked about the work he does as BPT's Eco Schools Project Manager. He said the favourite part of his job is "working with young people and helping them understand how to protect the planet". The thing he likes least is: "paperwork and heavy rain".

He talked about making apple juice and apple vinegar - and how healthy it is. He covered health and safety issues, such as asking if everyone was feeling well that day, explaining people with long hair had to tie it back (essential in all food prep) and the importance of hand-washing. He told us where the toilets were and suggested we be careful not to trip over things, such as the hose or buckets.

Stephan showed us how to use the water lock on the hose, how to wash the apples and cut them up safely with a sharp knife. We were to discard any rotten bits and put them in particular buckets, which he said go to local pigs as food. Interns split into different groups to do different tasks, and switched around, so everyone got the chance to try activities they were interested in. The chopped apple pieces went into the big yellow mill or macerator, to chop them into bits, ready for juicing. The buckets of this chopped apple were then tipped into the hydro-press until it was full.

Then (for me!) the most exciting part, we got the hydro-press going to squueze all the fresh juice out of the apple pulp. We screwed the metal lid on tightly, then turned the hose (attached to the press) on. The hydro-press uses water pressure via a big rubber balloon in the middle of the pulp to squeeze all the juice out. Gallons of it poured out of the bottom lip into the buckets we put underneath. We had to keep an eye on them and change bucket every time one was nearly full.

Some of the raw juice was bottled and sealed by the students into plastic cartons to take home. It has to be drunk within a couple of days.

The groups also drank some juice 'raw' - each day we used various types of apple we'd picked (Red Falstaff on Day One, Ashmead's Kernel on Day Two) in different combinations to see if they tasted different. The day two mix including bramley apples, which gave a lovely tartness. the group also tried cider, after Stephan checked that everyone was 18 or over. The comments were:



super, fresh


I will never shop at Tesco again

highly addictive


feels like it's doing you good 

Then Stephan explained about how 'cooking' the juice in sterilised bottles will preserve it for up to a year, although it does change the taste. The groups poured juice from jugs into bottles, which then went (carefully) into the pasteurisers to be heated in hot water to the right temperature. So that's what we did with the rest of the juice.

Everyone worked hard and enjoyed themselves.

Then we broke for lunch, and in the afternoon, Peter May came along to show the groups around the Stanmer orchards.

Next stage: bottle label design and marketing - plus visits to a pub and a cider maker!

Emma Chaplin

Ceramics in Nature at Charleston

This blog post has been written by Lewes Community Allotment member Karine Wright. She and three other Allotment members are taking part in a two-day community involvement project at Charleston Farmhouse. Another member, Clare Rudeback, took the accompanying photographs

We are travelling through beautiful downland scenery on a sunny morning. Destination: Charleston Farmhouse, at the foot of the South Downs, famous home of infinitely creative members of the early/mid-twentieth century Bloomsbury Group. And the work of Quentin Bell, passionate Charleston potter -  among other talents - will be our inspiration for a day of nature-connected pottery.

As members of Lewes Community Allotment we are well aware of the wonderful benefits of working in nature with like-minded people. And Flourish, the umbrella project for the Allotment, has made it possible for us to extend this experience into a two-day course of Ceramics in Nature, facilitated by Lucy Bailey, Community Engagement Coordinator at Charleston Farmhouse, and led by artist and teacher Ruby Taylor (Native Hands).

Ruby, we soon discover, is a great talent in her chosen art, but also in the way she makes us feel comfortable in the group and inspires us to delve into our creativity to transform a natural material into our own work of art.

After briefly introducing ourselves and our expectations of the course, we are invited by Ruby to share a few minutes of meditation, a much-appreciated way to settle into action.

We are sitting around a table in Quentin Bell’s original pottery looking intently at a number of open kiln fired clay objects displayed before us. Our eyes and minds are making an exciting journey from fresh clay to finished shape ready for firing.  And the ball of local clay we hold in our hands is almost set to be sculpted. First it will need to be mixed with grog: pieces of fired clay, which we grind. It’s quite a noisy job and we move our working equipment through the studio doors into the garden to continue the grinding there in the open air. Next stage: grogging and wedging. Ruby guides us through this preparation of the clay, a relaxing, rhythmic movement, gradually incorporating the grog into the fresh clay until evenly mixed and air bubbles removed and the clay has the right consistency. All very important to reduce possible cracking during drying or in the open kiln.

For our finished work we decide on either pinch ball (thumb opening up the ball of clay and fingers of other hand guiding the wall into shape) or slab sculpting (we use a paper pattern on the rolled out clay to cut out components of a flower pot). All aided by a large number of tools offering the imprinting of an astonishing variety of shapes. A number of colours is on offer in the form of slip (liquid clay) for us to add paint effects to our sculpted object. And in Quentin Bell’s pottery there is inspiration of form and colour and design to add to our own creativity if we choose to.

Time to add last touches before we place our work gingerly on a board to dry in time for Day 2. Then we will be spreading further out into nature to forage materials for the group to build the kiln and prepare for the firing of our ceramic pieces. And, of course, our fervent hopes will be for our work to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

It has been an exciting and fulfilling day. So many things to enjoy and learn. The freedom to roam in inspiring and calming surroundings when we felt like it; a delicious lunch and cups of tea and coffee or a glass of water, and much admirable support from Lucy Bailey and her colleagues. To have had the good fortune to work with an outstanding teacher and artist like Ruby Taylor is something to celebrate. Her unique input created a wonderful experience for all of us.

Plumpton supported interns at Ringmer Community Orchard, year 2


The Flourish project began in September 2015, and one of the first things we did was to set up a three-day apple course working with a group of supported interns from Plumpton College. This took place at the beautiful Community Orchard in Ringmer. This is scheduled as an annual course, and we were pleased when Plumpton College said the year one group enjoyed it so much, that this autumn (2016), they wanted us to run the course for both Supported Internship classes.

So on 26 and 27 September, Flourish project manager Emma Chaplin and apple expert Peter May hosted two different groups at the Orchard for a day each of learning about apples; picking, grading, weighing and storing them ready for day two, juicing, of the Flourish apple course, which will take place at Stanmer Park in October hosted by Brighton Permaculture Trust*.

*Brighton Permaculture Trust "work with nature to sustain achieve a sustainable lifestyle". They are extremely knowledgeable about apples, have their own orchards, organise a huge Apple Day event every year and run lots of apple and fruit related courses. They also have apple pressing and pasteurising equipment.


Emma welcomed the groups at the Orchard on both days and talked a little about Flourish being a Lottery-funded project, managed by Common Cause Co-op. Everyone was shown where the toilets were and asked to wear a name label. Emma then said one thing she felt about apples (that she likes crumble!) and invited the group to introduce themselves one at a time with something they like or dislike about apples. On the first day, quite a few interns said they weren't keen on apples. On the second, most of the group liked both apples and apple juice - with several saying they particularly like cider!

Then Peter addressed the interns, explaining that the Orchard growing season has been different from last year, and the apples are two weeks behind in terms of ripening.

The interns asked if each group could pick different varieties, so that they could compare the taste of each once they are juiced at Stanmer Park in October. Peter said that would be fine - the first day would be picking Ashmead's Kernel, the second, Red Falstaff.

Peter gave a tour of the apple store and the Orchard. He said the Orchard has rich soil from when horses grazed here in the past. He explained the differences between a tree nursery and an orchard. An orchard will feature lots of apple varieties which are grown to last for years.

dsc_1656When the Orchard was being planned, he explained, each bush apple tree was planted 5m apart, with 7m between rows, to allow the trees room to grow. They allowed 10m for larger varieties.As we walked round, he pointed out several trees that are leaning, and said that is partly because they grew so vigorously and strongly the roots couldn't keep up - plus the added factor of the wind. He also mentioned that the Orchard also has some pear trees as well as a new quince and some plum trees.

"You have to think about thirty years' time when you're planning an orchard"

He then talked about his career, and how interesting an apprenticeship was - trying various jobs in different departments, learning new skills, getting a sense of what worked for him. He explained that working for a commercial orchard might include working with equipment or in glass houses or polytunnel indoors.

"What employers are looking for", he explained, "is enthusiasm and lots of energy and for people who are prepared to work outdoors in all weathers"

Peter said that pesticides and chemicals are not used on the trees in the Orchard so many of the apples are lumpy and bumpy - unlike fruit you get from commercial orchards.

Some interesting apple facts that Peter pointed out:

  • This is a post that Peter wrote last autumn about the different varieties of apples at the Orchard. Ones we looked at include: Newton Wonder, Edward VII, Lord Lambourne, Scrumptious, Ashmead's Kernel, Red Falstaff and Salt Cote Pippin.
  • There are 10,000 apple varieties in the world
  • There are 2,500 varieties in the UK alone
  • A number of varieties are named after places and people
  • Apples originate from Kazakhstan
  • New varieties are always being developed - designed to be disease-resistant etc
  • Apples probably arrived in the UK when the Romans invaded
  • Some varieties ripen early, some late
  • Some have a lot of apples every year, others alternate years
  • The texture and taste of all the varieties varies. Some are sweet, some sharp. Some are eaters, some are good for cooking
  • It varies as to how well they store



He offered members of the group different vintages of juice, from various varieties of apples picked in previous years. One intern said it was "Like drinking liquid sunshine".


Then the group were shown safe lifting and handling techniques, and they began work - with one group picking apples, one group grading them, with others taking them to the apple store in the wheelbarrow.

After lunch, the groups made up several 'orders' of apples, as if for a shop, using weighing scales.

Peter then showed the group how to hang small cement weights on the ends of the boughs of some young apple trees, a technique which bends the branch down and encourages the tree to produce more fruit.


Peter finished the afternoon off by demonstrating how to graft a new apple tree.


Next stop, Brighton Permaculture Trust to juice, bottle and pasteurise the apples - and taste the juice of course.

Emma Chaplin, Sept 2016

Willow Weaving Workshop at Baulcombes

Flourish sometimes invite specialist trainers to work with our groups, as a way for them to learn new skills and for us to use our natural resources - in this case Owena's willow.

Owena Lewis tells us about an excellent willow weaving session run by Sarah Lawrence at Baulcombes Barn

On Wednesday 28th September, four members of Bluebell House attended a willow weaving workshop run by Sarah Lawrence at Baulcombes Barn, Hamsey.

Sarah taught the group how to weave a Catalan tray. She introduced everyone to the willow baskets she had made and the Catalan trays. She spoke about the history of these willows, which she planted at Hamsey. One of the participants had actually cut the willows in February 2015, since when they had been stored in the stable.

I had soaked them in a water tank for ten days before the workshop. On the morning they were taken out of their ‘bath’ and laid out under a tarpaulin to stop them drying out.

As Sarah had prepared hoops for each person, they could start weaving immediately.

Starting was a little tricky as the willow struts across the hoops were hard to keep in place. When the participants had got the struts in place they were then able to weave their platter.

Sarah advised people to use the thinner pieces of willow as weavers, because they were easier to bend around the small structure.

While people were weaving Sarah told us various stories about willow.

She explained the meaning of ‘Sally Gardens’ being a willow bed.

She also told us about the dance ‘Strip the Willow’.

‘The cut willow rods were stood upright in a stream until their leaves started appearing - then the bark was looser and could be stripped off easily, producing the white willow rods needed for selling dairy produce.’

When the platter was finished, the ends of the willow were trimmed.

Sarah then showed us how to make a hoop by coiling the two willows around. One participant successfully made one in the last ten minutes! These hoops can be used to make more wreaths or Catalan platter.

Participants were introduced to some of the language associated with willow work.

Butt: the thick end of the willow

Tip: the thin end of the willow.

Taking out the Spite: easing the bend in the willow.

At break time there was a reluctance to leave the weaving!

Everyone seemed pleased with their efforts.



Video of Brandon at Ringmer Community Orchard

Common Cause director Louise has made this video at Ringmer Community Orchard with Brandon, a Plumpton College Supported Intern who we worked with last autumn.

Summer Fire & Feast with Sophie Orloff

We combined two events in one on Wednesday 27 July at Lewes Community Allotment. Local chef Sophie Orloff came to show the group how to cook vegetables from the allotment in an outdoor setting. But since this was also the last session before the summer break, we combined this with an end of year 'fire and feast' celebration with all of those who have been coming throughout this first year that our project Flourish has been running.

We'd been having lot of lovely sunny weather, but on this morning, the sun hid from us and it was a bit breezy, with an occasional shower. But Allotment Co-ordinator Sarah had set up the tarpaulin to enable partial shelter, and we got the fire going in the firepit no problem.

The group from St Nicholas Day Centre arrived with their support worker, plus some members came. We were pleased to meet a new person, Mary, who wanted to see what we do.

Common Cause director Topsy fired-up the recently repaired bread oven. As she did this, Sophie sent the group to pick and pod peas, so we could make pea bread (literally, bread dough she had brought mixed with fresh peas! The idea had come  from something Sophie had seen about ancient bread recipes using peas). Allotment member (and bread maker) Susan helped make the rolls.DSC_1498

Some people picked edible flowers with Sarah for the salad, plus some herbs for some potato salad. In the meantime, Sophie showed the group how to make two kinds of fritters  - one from grated courgette, and one from grated carrot and parsnip. In both cases she asked the group to help her mix the veg with flour, eggs and salt and pepper to season.

DSC_1490 - CopyTopsy put the bread rolls into the oven and Sophie started frying the fritters in oil over the open fire. She also made a chard omelette. Emma worked with some of the group to mix fresh herbs and dressing into the potato salad, carrot and parsnip salad and green salad. We added the flowers to that and they looked beautiful.


More visitors arrived. We were delighted to welcome friends and family of the St Nicholas clients, as well as other Allotment Members.

Lots of people brought food to share including a pizza pastry, a tray of wonderful cupcakes and a moist beetroot and chocolate cake.We all enjoyed our delicious shared lunch and the weather even perked up!sophie event

There were about twenty of us in the end. It was a lovely event, and wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves.Thanks to Sophie for an excellent job under challenging circumstances and for some delicious food. Thanks to Topsy for excellent fire-tending, and to Sarah for organising everything. And thanks everyone who came.

Emma Chaplin, Project Manager

Read more about Flourish here

Watercolour workshop with Ruth Baker

IMG_0911Nine regular Lewes Community Allotment clients attended a special plant and wildlife-themed art session that Flourish organised to take place on Wednesday 20 July. This was run by Ruth Baker, a local watercolour artist. The art class was held at the St Nicholas Day Centre instead of our allotment, because of the extremely hot weather. This was useful in terms of spreading out and being able to change water frequently.

art class.JPG

Things we learnt

Some people had tried watercolours before, but not with a trained artist.

Ruth started by explaining about the three primary colours - red, blue and yellow. Participants painted a shape of their choice in each colour, using water to add tone.

We then put dots of two primary colours next to each other and merged them to make secondary colours. All results were different depending on how much water was used, but the lovely thing was that there was no wrong results!

We used a water dropper, and people developed skills and confidence using watercolour paints and brushes.

When people felt a bit more confident about mixing the colours, we went on to paint colour was boxes and flicked red dots onto one, then drew green lines down from the dots to make simple but effective flower pictures. On the other box we painted a darker wash in a hill shape - again, all were different, but all were right, which felt good for all.


This was a very good exercise in building people’s confidence of choice (shapes, amount of colour/water, sizes) and those who were hesitant to start were much happier to put the brush to paper by the end.

People helped each other with changing water, cleaning plates, squeezing paint etc.

We went outside at break and had a look at things that could be painted another time.

Ruth spoke about her painting, how long it takes, how she sells work, showed examples and postcards, to give an insight into life as a painter.

People showed a lot of interest and asked lots of questions. Everyone enjoyed the session.

Words and photos by Sarah Rideout, Lewes Community Allotment Coordinator

Bug hunting with Michael Blencowe

pooter lWed 29 June 2016

We had a special event for our Wednesday allotment morning group (which includes clients from the St Nicholas Day Centre in Lewes, as well as other allotment members). There were fifteen of us in total.

Community Wildlife Officer for Sussex Wildlife  Michael Blencowe came along with a bag of tricks to help us hunt for and identify bugs on the allotment. He also did a walking tour looking for signs of summer, and told us a bit about his job.

bug talk june 2016.jpgMichael's Talk

First, Michael told the group about the history of the landscape around us, how the South Downs came to be as we know them now, with the variety of wildlife that we now have. Grazing sheep have played a part in it - but millions of years ago, Lewes was under the sea. The chalk under our feet is made up of the crushed bones of long-dead animals - including dinosaurs. He showed us pictures to help us understand.

Bug Hunting

Because this was a summer visit to our allotment, Michael said he had hoped to show us butterflies and hoverflies - but the cold, breezy weather meant there weren't many to be seen.

Michael gave out plastic tubs and spoons to everyone to pick up insects. He also showed us about his new toy, a glass tube or 'pooter' he had brought along for sucking up bugs for us to examine. We all felt a bit horrified at the idea of sucking up a bug and swallowing it, but he said that didn't happen :).

He talked about different habitats for insects - there are lot of insects in long grass, and in the nettles. He had a net he wafted in the long grass to collect insects.

pooter 3

These he tipped into a white tray on the table in the shelter, and everyone picked the bugs he'd caught with their spoons and put them in their tubs. Michael then sucked them up in his pooter so we could identify them. We saw a hopper (Michael explained how amazingly far they hop - if we could do the same, we could hop from the allotment to Lewes!), wood lice, flies and a brown-lipped snail.

MB net lca

Rather to our surprise, Michael leapt onto the compost heap and wafted his net in the nettle bush behind. The bugs he caught, he then tipped into a tray in the shelter. Everyone scooped them into their tubs and he sucked them up again in the pooter. We saw an ant, flies, and more snails.

Michael showed us what he explained was another new toy - a fold-out 'beating net' - which looked like a big, square umbrella.We pretended it WAS an umbrella for this photo:beating net

The beating net is for finding insects who live on leaves in the trees. He held it up under a tree, banged the branches, and various insects fell into the net.

He then tipped these into the tray for identification as before. We spotted a young harlequin ladybird and a pupating ladybird, some beetles, plus some flies.

Michael answered questions anyone in the group had.

We then released all the bugs we'd caught.

Signs of Summer

LCA june 2016.jpg

Then we did a walk around the allotment to look for signs of summer. Michael admired our new lovely new shed.

shed mb.jpg

The signs of summer that we all spotted and recorded on our walk were:

  • Lots of flowers blooming, including marigolds, poppies, lavender, fox gloves and ox-eye daisies. Allotment members Felicity Ann and Susannah helped us identify some of those
  • We saw some bees buzzing around the flowers, and Michael told us that bees waggle their bums to keep warm when it's cold
  • We saw and identified different fruit that is not yet ripe - including apples, gooseberries, redcurrants, raspberries and strawberries
  • We saw and identified shallots, peas and broad beans
  • We saw and heard some birds and Michael talked about how some birds come from below the equator in the summer in search of a warmer climate with insects to eat. They fly thousands of miles.
  • We saw an ants nest - yellow meadow ants - and Michael told us that ants move their eggs into the sun to keep them warm - when there IS sun

MB allotment

Being a Community Wildlife Officer

Then we went back to the covered shelter for a drink.

Michael talked a little about his job and what he likes about it. He said:

"To do my job I need to be able to engage with different sorts of people, children and adults. As a little boy, I spent lots of time in the wild. You have to like working outdoors - there is a lot of walking - which keeps you fit - but you have to like that."

Michael said he doesn't work alone, he sometimes works with Park Rangers and National Park Rangers, which he enjoys.

What We Learnt

At the end of the morning, we asked people what they had learnt:
We learnt about daisies Michael told us about bugs Micheal told us about wildlife We saw that you can bang on trees to get bugs
We thanked Michael for coming and for a lovely morning, even if it hadn't really been a very summery day!
Emma Chaplin

Apple blossom time at Ringmer Community Orchard

Peter May dropped into the Flourish office to discuss our annual three-day apple-based training course with Plumpton College interns at Ringmer Community Orchard. This takes place around apple-picking time in the autumn.

Peter gave us an update on orchard news.

  • There are 24 types of apples varieties growing at the orchard, plus five pear and four plum.
  • Planting cherry trees has been discussed with the members, but decided against, because the birds would get most of the fruit. Having apricots and peach trees has also been discussed - some growers have planted these on the High Weald, but it's felt that the community orchard is not the right place for them.
  • Nearer the carpark, apple trees have been planted whose rootstock is better suited to the damper conditions there.
  • A new quince tree has been planted this year.

Becoming a member of Ringmer Community Orchard


 Volunteer Orchard co-ordinator Katharine Finnigan tells us a bit about the orchard:
"We've been running since 2005 at Broyle Place Farm, on land kindly donated by Anthony Tasker. We manage the orchard organically, encouraging wildflowers and native grasses.
We offer free training to members on how to look after the trees to increase people's skills which will protect the orchard longer term.

There are currently about 30 members, with more joining every year. We always welcome more people and their families.

Membership costs £25 per annum if people put in six  hours work at the orchard per year, or £30 to adopt a tree - with no requirement to help out.

Members get a share of the apples, pears and plums and are encouraged to enjoy the lovely space at the Orchard with friends and families or on one of the organised group activity dates.
Most of the apples picked by members on harvesting day are taken to Ringden Farm near Flimwell to be pressed, bottled and pasteurised. Members can then buy the bottles for £2 each. Juice is also sold to the wider public for £3 a bottle to generate income.
The orchard produced about 400 bottles of apple juice last year. Fresh apple juice is produced by hand press on Harvest Day. It's is not the most efficient way of juicing, but it is great fun, and makes for a nice harvesting day."
More information here. And if you'd like to become a member, email Katharine,


Baulcombes Barn update

Things that were learnt with the Bluebell House group at Flourish sessions at Baulcombes Barn

February – May 2016

Flourish run three lots of nine sessions at Owena's smallholding in Hamsey near Lewes called Baulcombes Barn, working with the animals and learning about what running a smallholding means.

This is what our regular group from Bluebell House Recovery Centre have just been learning about:


The grass growth always slows down during winter, but this year was particularly tricky because of the extreme wet weather.

The pasture became damaged by the animals, the ground becomes, ‘poached’, this meant our horses Foxy and Tallulah spent most of the winter in the stables.

During the winter we feed hay and haylage (a mix of hay and silage) to the sheep and ponies because there is not enough grass.


Advice was given to not to go near ewes and lambs if pregnant because of risk of Toxoplasmosis. This is caused by a single celled organism, the life cycle of Toxoplasmosis involves several stages.

ewe and lamb baulcombes


The sheep were scanned 90 days into their pregnancy, the results were:-

32 expecting sheep twins

1 sheep expecting triplets

4 sheep expecting singles

Six weeks before lambing the sheep have ewe nuts to give them extra protein and vitamins.

Signs of lambing:

We did not see any!  But we talked about the them.

  • The ewe is restless, and takes herself away from flock.
  • She may push and strain, stand up and sit down, paw the ground to get comfortable.


  • The waters break, lambing usually occurs soon after, but can be longer.
  • If she is pushing and straining for an hour and no lamb appears, check the ewe to see that the lamb is presented correctly.


  • Allow the ewe to thoroughly lick the lamb dry.
  • Move ewe and lambs to a pen to ‘mother up’.
  • Iodine the navel to stop infection.
  • Check the lambs have had some milk.
  • Keep handling of new lambs to a minimum to avoid putting your scent on the lamb.
  • When moving lambs hold them by front their feet.

After 24 hours. *Rubber-ring any boy lambs so their testicles will drop off.

Lambs and ewe should be ready to go outside providing the weather is warm.
*We rubber-ring the boy lambs before they are seven days old, and it is done to manage the lambs. Boy lambs can be sexually mature by 4 – 5 months old, which is before they are ready for slaughter, this means they could fight each other and/or mate with their siblings or their mothers. We place a rubber ring around the testicles which stops the blood supply causing the testicles to drop off. This has to be done before they are seven days old so as to not cause pain.



The hens live outdoors and forage, they spend most of the day pecking the ground to find insects.

They also spend time preening and cleaning off bugs.

We top up their diet with layers pellets which provide an added source of protein and vitamins.

When holding a hen, hold her firmly and keep the wings pinned close to her body to avoid her flapping in panic.

Hens start to lay eggs around 4 – 5 months old. They can lay an egg every other day, but most of our hens are older and they will lay for several months daily eggs and then have a month or two break.

Hens usually live for 4 – 5 years, but we have recently had a hen live for 9 years.

Broody hens

Once a hen goes broody it is nearly impossible to stop her wanting to sit on a clutch of eggs.


She will sit for three weeks, occasionally getting off her nest to have a drink, eat, clean and poo.

The chicks hatch and for the first 24 hours they stay under the mother to keep warm and they eat the left over egg.

At one day old, they will start to copy mother hen, pecking and drinking water.

They will continue to go under her wings to keep warm for the next six weeks, depending somewhat on the weather. They are vulnerable to predators but the mother hen will see off most creatures.




The ponies cannot be brushed when they have wet mud.

The ponies can be groomed when they start to loose their coat, this is good to keep them accustomed to being handled by us.



  • Care has to be taken when feeding the pigs in winter, especially this year because of the mud.
  • The pigs need extra bedding to keep warm.
  • Pigs are in pig for 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days
  • Penny came to the farm in November 2015, she farrowed in 2016, unknown to us she had arrived ‘in pig’.
  • Penny was not separated from the other pig, because we were unaware that she was in pig.
  • New born pigs are at risk of being squashed accidentally by the mother pig. Two piglets were lost this way.
  • This is the first year that the piglets needed iron injections.
  • Normally outdoor reared piglets obtain iron naturally while rooting in the soil.
  • But due to the ground being too wet, they did not venture outdoors.
  • Two piglets were lost because of iron deficiency.

Owena Lewis, farmer and therapist, Baulcombes Barn 


Allotment safety & manual handling training with James

27 April 2016, Lewes Community Allotment

James Aldcroft from Square Lemon Training came to talk to nine of us about how to lift things safely in our work at the allotment and how to take care of ourselves..

What we learnt

If something you’re doing hurts, stop what you’re doing. Talk to your key worker or a member of staff - ask for help and tell someone what happened. DSC_0929



Your lower back is the most vulnerable part of your back – it acts like a lever on a see-saw when you lift something - James showed us this with this rather fine moveable model





It's best to wear sensible shoes or boots to protect toes (from digging your fork in, for example, or dropping something heavy on your foot). Be careful of your fingers. Pay attention to the back of neck, knees and shoulders. What can cause damage is accumulative stress – repetitive movements.


James told us about T.I.L.E.


 T - Task

eg weeding

We discussed that this could involve a lot of repetitive bending – so the best thing to do is to get yourself in a comfy position on the ground. Use a kneeling mat to protect your knees.

Think about what you need to do your task and get all of it ready and near to you - like chefs do. For example, get your fork handy, and if you’ve got a wheelbarrow or bucket for weeds, put it where you are before you kneel.


Don't do lots of repetitive twists because they aren't good for your back.

When you turn when standing, try to turn your whole body with your feet rather than twisting at the waist and stretching your back.

Another Task at the allotment might be planting – and similarly to weeding - gather what you need close to you - fork or trowel, watering can, and the plants themselves.


The height & size of person & their strength, whether they've got an injury or disability, a hernia for example.

If you’re doing a two-person lift, try to pair similar-sized people


Look at your load, ie the thing you’re going to lift before you lift it – assess it. How full it is and what's in it?

Assess the weight before you lift. Get a good grip from the bottom of the object, if there’s no handle. You don't want it to slip.

Lifting safely - bend from your knees not your back, using your thigh muscles.

When you’re lifting - get up close to the object and hold it against your body. Wear old clothes so you don’t mind.

Keep your head straight. Chin down, relax.

A full watering can and a full bucket can be heavy – use a wheelbarrow to move them where you can.

A good wheelbarrow has good hand grips and inflatable tyres

Halve the size of a heavier load.

E - Environment

You’re more likely to hurt yourself when it's cold, icy wet and raining and you hold yourself more tightly.

It's a good idea to do little stretches when you get to allotment. It adds to wellbeing - warming up- awareness of how you feel.

Be aware that things are heavier when wet.

Lighting effects people and how safe they are – when it’s dark or gloomy, you’re more likely to trip and slip.


Key lesson of the session: think in advance what you're about to do – plan it, don’t rush and assess what you’re doing and you’re less likely to hurt yourself

Thank you James!

Emma Chaplin 

Lambing news from Baulcombes Barn


6 April 2016

I dropped into Baulcombes Barn yesterday (Tuesday 5th April) , when it was beautifully sunny and springlike, and had the pleasure of meeting the Grow project group who were there, working with Owena.

Owena kindly said it was fine for me to go and meet the lambs and take some photos. I was very careful to close all of the gates behind me as I went.

There were several different colours of lamb, some brown, some black, some a mixture. Some were absolutely tiny. Their mum was understandably nervous, so I approached very carefully and slowly, talking to her as I went. The little black lamb you can see came right up to me, baa-ing.

So far,  eighteen ewes have lambed so far, giving birth to 34 lambs.There are 19 ewes left still to lamb.

Posted by Emma Chaplin, Project Manager, Flourish