lewes community allotment

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

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.

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

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