Forest Garden Project is a small award winning charity
that packs a big punch in East Brighton.
community gardens are a melting pot of people and our work
targets some of the cities most troubled youngsters. We've
been goingnearly 20 years and have
got an impressive track record. Now we are beginning to
be able to offer pupils the chance to getqualifications, our work
has become even more important.
So we are
asking if you can help make us as sustainable as the fruit
and vegetables we grow.
currently raise £130 a month through our Friends of the Forest Garden fund where people make monthly standing
orders. We wouldlove to get this to £500
you afford £2 or more a month and save us from endless
grant applications so we can get on with the job that we
are good at.
£2 a month will buy all our broad bean seeds for the year £5 a month will buy us a new wheelbarrow and fork £10 a month will buy us all our seed potatoes
for the year
a big charity. None of us are on a big wage. We don't have
an office. Our overheads are low. Our advertising budget
is zero.We rely on goodwill and
freebies and some fantastic volunteers to get by. That's
not to say we aren't professional!
charge schools for our services and self-generate 35% of
become a Friend not only will you get that warm feeling of
making a big difference, but you will be the first to find
outdetails of our events and
get an invite to our Christmas party where it always
We wanted to make the activities fun and
learner led but also constructive with large elements of forest school, bushcraft and cooking.
We started each group with shelter building
and den making, where we could base ourselves from in the woods. We took the
children on interactive nature walks, looking at wildlife in the forest and
notably the badger setts. We also collected the resources we needed for our
For lunch we all made fresh pizza in the
pizza oven, I think the final number over the summer was around 800, not all
for the summer scheme!
As a group we made bracelets and necklaces,
this involved tool work as well as art work to decorate their craft. This all meant
that the children where introduced to the forest in a gentle way whilst making
sure they understood simple things like what they can and cant touch in terms
of plant life and fungi and showing them how to take resources from the woods
We also introduced fire safety and fire
lighting getting the children to make there own fires using cotton wool and
fire strikers to light it. This all went down very well and we finished with
One dreary aspect of the work we
do is spending too much time in front of a computer screen writing grant
applications. Funding is getting harder for all charities although the
applications forms remain as much fun as ever! At the forest garden we dont
want to be totally reliant on funders, so we charge schools for our services and
work with them to find ways to help them pay for our work. 35% of our income is
self generating. But we will always need extra funds to pay for essential core
costs like wages, rent, insurance and other glamorous things to make the garden
We've been going over 20 years
and have got an impressive track record. Now we are beginning to be able to offer pupils the chance to get qualifications, our work has become even more
So this is where you come in. To
save us from endless grant applications and monitoring forms how about becoming
a Friend of the ForestGarden? A standing order each
month, no matter how small, will make a big difference to what we do and let us
get on with working with pupils. We aren't a big charity. None of us are on a
big wage. We don't have an office. Our overheads are low. Our advertising budget
is zero. We rely on goodwill and freebies and some fantastic volunteers to get
by. That's not to say we aren't professional!
If you become a Friend not only
will you get that warm feeling of making a big difference, but you will be the
first to find out details of our events and get an invite to our Christmas party
where it always snows!
If you don't want to make a
standing order, but have some great ideas for fundraising, want to put on a
benefit gig or run the Brighton Marathon for us, then please get in touch. You
can also sponsor Wilf who is riding from London to Brighton on the 8th September for the garden.
How many teenagers would give up their free time to volunteer in the pouring rain? Move a tonne of wood up our steep slope for our shed rebuild? Saw up wood and pot up basil plants? Help us prepare curry for lunch? (one of them even washed up one handed despite injuring his hand!).
10 youngsters came to do a days work as part of the Sussex YMCA National Citizenship Scheme for 16 to 17 year old's to learn new outdoor skills, make new friends and help out their communities.
And what a fantastic crew who got stuck in without complaining despite the torrential rain.
If they knock at your workplace asking for a job or apprenticeship give them a chance!
And if any of them fancy getting some experience to put on your CV they know where the allotment gate is. Cheers!
Archie, Sam, Ross, Chris, April, Becka, Jordan, Liam and Toni (not in that order!)
Our open days are a bit different. Sure we want lots of
people to come and see what we are up, but more importantly it’s a chance for
the pupils we work with to really get involved and cement the feeling of being
part of the team. That sense of belonging and ownership is really important to
what we do.
In the week leading up to the open day all pupils were asked
to chip in to make the place presentable – cutting back overgrown paths, moving
piles of manure, chopping wood for the pizza oven etc.
The reason we decided to move our open days to a Friday is
so more pupils can attend – a chance to show off what they do and be proud of their
achievements and if their parents and carers come, a chance for us to big them
One of our lads showed off his bushcraft knowledge to a
couple of volunteers from Neo who told us ‘M spoke really intelligently about
woodwork and survival skills – he was very engaging, patient and encouraging.’
Others did tours, helped on the gate, with the smoothie bike and pizza making.
So was it a success? In terms of pupils helping and
parents/carers coming along it beat the rest hands down with former pupils
adding to the numbers and making it a memorable day for everyone.
For the past 17 months we have been busy working on a new timber framed building using locally coppiced wood and the frame is now up! We have used sweet chestnut for the majority of the frame. This is abundant in Sussex and has excellent durability and strength with hand made oak pegs to hold it together.
The walls will be built using a variety of mediums
including cord wood, wattle and daub, but mainly straw bales which
will be rendered with a clay, sand mixture using a lime wash externally. The
roof will be pitched; sealed with breathable membrane and tiled with recycled
We have no power at our site so all excavation and landscaping
has been done by hand. We have no vehicular access to the top of the steep hill
so all materials have been moved by armies of people.
Having no power means all carpentry work has been carried
out in traditional fashion with the aid of a battery powered drill. All other
work has been done using chisels, handsaws, rasps and so on. Because there has been no plant machinery or power tools we
have produced almost no noise pollution, being model neighbours!
The rebuild has also give us the chance to offer work experience and training to a large number of school pupils and volunteers getting them involved in all aspects of the rebuild. We have also been able to take on a former unemployed volunteer as an apprentice carpenter.
When finished our new eco-shed will be the projects flagship building, helping us expand our work with pupils, run courses and events at the project as well as having somewhere warm and dry in the winter for volunteers.
A massive thank you to Comic Relief for funding this project
The past year has brought significant
developments in our compost-making activities at the ForestGarden.
Because we are endeavouring to grow food
crops organically on a particularly challenging soil, with a very thin layer of
earthy material above solid chalk, we have a very pressing need for getting as
much organic matter into our growing areas as we can.
Back in 2010, we became a recognised
Community Composting location as part of a city-wide initiative promoted by Brighton and Hove Food Partnership. Local residents and
organisations are encouraged to bring their compostable discards to the Project
if they are not in a position to make their own, and that is now quite a
well-established arrangement. We have regular contributors, usually bringing
stuff to us during our open hours, but sometimes leaving boxes or bags mostly
of kitchen and catering residues at the gate. So far, the arrangement has
worked quite well, and has not faced us with any significant issues or
challenges (apart from when we get too many stinky brassica plants).
In March last year, the CommunityComposting Network (CCN), which is the national organisation for England for
community composting groups, and the Food Partnership organised a seminar at
the Earthship in Stanmer Park for local food-growing groups in the Brighton
area. The CCN had obtained major funding from the Big Lottery under their
‘Making Local Food Work’ programme, with a proposal to set up between 12 and 15
‘Training Hubs’ throughout the country, and ‘expressions of interest’ were
invited from groups which might participate. In May we were notified that we had been selected to become the training hub for the area, with Compost John
the designated trainer, which gave rise to a certain amount of banter and mirth,
as we should expect. Nonetheless, it was an accolade for John and the Project to be selected, and another little feather in
The legendary Compost John
John was despatched to Sheffield
for three days of orientation and training with the eleven other selected
groups from around the country, most of which are ‘up North’. We are the
smallest project by far to have been selected, the others including such
luminaries as Garden Organic at Coventry
(the old Henry Doubleday Research Association).
During the summer, we were given generous
funding by the Prince’s Trust for materials and tools to engage selected
school-age young people in the construction of new composting facilities at the
Garden, and now at last, after what seems almost an eternity, we are starting
to see our new mega compost bins come into being and we have started to make
use of them.
There will be six bins in all, arranged
along the eastern hedgerow alongside the footpath between us and Moulsecoomb
railway station. John reckons that each one will hold about 2 tonnes of lovely
rich stuff. One bin is intended to be used for the storage and maturation of
the farmyard manure which we buy in periodically; another is for the autumn
leaves which we gather each year to make leaf-mould and the other four are for
the progressive decomposition of all our garden and kitchen leavings. The first
couple of bins are now in regular use and the results so far have been
encouraging: our bins heat up very readily (they become ‘thermophilic’ in
John’s jargon) and spontaneously become home to impressive numbers, i.e.
thousands and thousands, of brandling worms and other earthworm species, all of
which seem to co-exist very harmoniously. With a bit more patience and luck,
the whole edifice should be complete and operational by Easter. Soon, our
ramshackle old bins will be swept away, and the whole area will look much more
business-like. We’ll see.
The first three day community composting
course was held on three successive Saturdays in November, and was attended by
delegates from Common Cause in Lewes, Forest Row Conservation Society, HanoverCommunityGarden,
Fork and Dig It community supported agriculture scheme at Stanmer and Nancy,
Adam Beer and Russ Kingston who volunteered to help John with the delivery of
the training. MoulsecoombPrimary School very
kindly and generously allowed us to use the school premises for the course,
because we don’t yet have our own classroom and we need an electricity supply
to run computers and PowerPoint presentations. Carly provided lunches and
refreshments for everyone. The course material had all been prepared in
considerable detail by the staff of the CCN, yes, all three of them; a big
chunk of authoritative research and training material. Fortunately, John was
only required to deliver it. The course seemed to be very well received by the
participants who evidently enjoyed themselves, and feedback from them was very
encouraging. In all, eight participants will receive awards from the Chartered
Institute of Waste Management, which is the accreditation body for this
training, as it counts as ‘continuing professional development’.
Part of our role as a training hub will be
to provide continuing support, encouragement and equipment loan facilities to
groups which have participated, and the next training course is being planned
by the CCN and the participating hubs for May-June this year, once the lessons
learned from the first iteration have been incorporated into the course
structure and content.
Community composting has been really taking
off in Brighton thanks to initiatives from the Food Partnership and
neighbourhood groups such as the Beaufort Terrace Community Composting scheme
which was set up and is looked after by our old friend and colleague Simon
Parker, very successfully. John goes round
sticking in his six-penn’orth whether wanted or not, as usual. All in all, it’s
great for the project to be so involved in such a significant sustainability
effort, and best of all, it provides us with a little bit of additional income,
and loads of compost for our crops.
Sometimes people ask whether we will be
producing compost for sale locally. The answer is that we are trying to achieve
the standards for our product which would make it just as good as any that is
commercially available, and to make our own seed and potting media, but until
such time as we have surplus to our own requirements, it won’t be going out of
This is always a busy time of year from BrightonPermaculture Trust (BPT) when plans for orchard planting come to fruition. This year
they have been particularly busy in Moulsecoomb. First it was The Keep where the
local vicar came up with the great idea that what would really compliment the new
historical records building would be an orchard of old fashioned Sussex fruit
trees. A year later children from Moulsecoomb Primary and BrightonAldridgeCommunityAcademy
were braving the freezing weather to plant trees and drink hot apple juice they had made.
Next up was the Bevendean Pub which local residents
are trying to re-open it as the first co-operative pub on a housing estate in the UK. But it will
be so much more than just a pub; for starters it will have an edible pubgarden! So four apple and two plums were planted as part of the plans.
Yesterday it was Moulsecoomb Primary School turn. In the pouring rain people planted fruit trees to add to the award
winning school grounds. This kicked off the schools science week where a
nuttery will be planted next to the World War II garden and 10 fan trained
fruit trees in the new community garden.
In between tree planting Stephan from BPT ran a fruit
pruning training session at the Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project for our volunteers. Thanks to the training, these volunteers felt confident enough the following
week to carry on pruning.
With support from Harvest, BPT are helping to
transform Moulsecoomb back to its original vision of being a garden estate. As
someone who has been at all these sessions, I have been really impressed with
their ability to be professional but accessible; able to reach and teach all
levels of ability and engage all ages and make everyone feel part of the event.
This is not easy to do, when you also have to get a job done.