Thursday, 15 December 2011

In an amazing short space of time our temporary shed now has a tin roof! Well half of one. Don't know how much it will protect us from the elements tomorrow at our Christmas party but everyone has been working their butts off to get it sorted. Tomorrow we say thank you to everyone with a three course meal at the garden and plenty of mulled wine. Cheers!

Monday, 12 December 2011


At the end of the winter term we fire up the clay oven and serve up Christmas dinner for pupils that work with us, a few that used to and some of the teachers/teaching assistants. Sticky Fingers Simon with help from some of the pupils dished up chicken, roast potatoes (pink fur apples from the garden – everyone should grow these), kale, parsnips, carrots with a big dollop of gravy. Very quiet round the table as everyone devoured the lot, apart from the bones. Something really satisfying about getting all the pupils from different schools sitting down together. For me, it helps reinforce that sense of being part of something, of belonging, that for whatever reason, most of them just don’t feel at their schools.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Thursday, 1 December 2011


The chalk floor on the temporary structure is finished thanks to hard labour and a pounder. The A frame is being built and the support struts will be up soon. The council are going to put up a new fence at the back and to save the council money we are moving along the back line, bashing out old concrete posts, removing tangled fencing, tree stumps, rubbish, old shoes, glass and cow bones.

The weather continues to be kind to us along with people who have continued to give donations of cooking equipment and cash. Thanks also to East Brighton Trust, Moulsecoomb Primary Parents Action Group for Education and The Migrant English Project for their financial support.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Week two after the Great Fire of Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and the base of the temporary shed is almost ready thanks to hardcore volunteers, school pupils and help last Sunday from Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue .
Thank God or climate change or just sheer luck but the weathers been so mild we're still picking salad and raspberries and working in t-shirts, so we wouldn't have had to hide in our shed yet from the rain, cold and snow. But let's make sure it's up in time for our Christmas Party.
Apart from one or two items, we have now had all our cooking equipment replaced by donations. A load of timber donated (but would still like more) and Father Martin from St. Margarets church in Rottingdean has said they will donate all their Christmas collections so we can buy metal roofing for the temporary shed.
I can't say it enough, but we have been bowled over by the communities support. Thank you.
You will all get an invite to our Christmas Party!

Thursday, 17 November 2011


The clear up is over and people have started work on our temporary structure. We need to put something up quick to have somewhere dry and warm before the weather turns cold. Unfortunately our half built rammed chalk food larder (see top picture) has had to be buried alive while people pick axed and flattened a large area of chalk next to the old shed. We laid down scaff board for supporting walls while we try to even up the ground.

The support we have been receiving has truly been phenomenal. Unable to sustain such back-breaking work without coffee we’ve had to borrow two cafeterias but apart from that we have nearly replaced all the kitchen equipment and have been receiving and chasing up offers of wood. Financial donations and plans for benefit gigs and roast dinners also continue to roll in

The best way you can help us financially is to take out a standing order. We will soon launching the ‘Friends of the Forest Garden’ for those that do just that. Being a ‘Friend’ will entitle you to a yearly special event for your family, VIP treatment at events (probably an extra bit of cheese topping on your outdoor oven baked pizza) and regular mailings of blog updates, reports and other news of interest.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


On a drizzly November day we set about clearing up what was left of our shed. Burnt timber, twisted metal roofing, melted plastic, cracked cups…it had to be sorted to be burnt, recycled, sold to the scrappy and taken to the tip. But what a response! All the pupils and teachers from Springboard , pupils and staff from ACE, regular and new volunteers, pupils from the past, all got stuck in to make light of the work.

Daisy dished up pumpkin soup and the Bridge Community Centre kindly brought up sandwiches and crisps for everyone. We had deliveries of cooking equipment from some BHOGGers and Coachwerks

In the afternoon we sat round the fire and planned a temporary structure to go up as soon as, while the council came and promised a proper fence.

Massive thanks to everyone who helped, has sent us messages of support, cash and equipment.

You always hope that you are making a difference and people care about what you do. The last few days have shown that people really do.

Before long a bigger, better ‘shed’ will rise from the ashes.



To quickly put up a temporary structure we need

Galvanized roof sheeting. We need between 2-3 metre lengths of galvanised metal sheet roofing that when overlapped will span a 6 metres in length and appropriate ridge sections. 200 appropriate fixings approx

Treated timber We need 6x4.2 metre lengths of 4by4inches

10x3 metre lengths of 4by4inches

6x3 metre lengths of 4by2inches

Clay. To help build a new wood burning stove.

We also still need catering sized pans and saucepans (with lids if possible), cafeteria, kettle for the fire, storage tins for biscuits, tea, coffee and sugar, metal potato mashers and ladles.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Thanks to all the messages of support; moral, financial and physical.

Here’s a list of some of the things that we need replacing.

Plates, knifes, forks, spoons, bowls, mugs, big pans, frying pans, cast iron pans, tins for storing tea, coffee, sugar and biscuits, cafeteria, teapot, baking trays, serving spoons and ladle, cheese grater, colander, measuring jugs, potato masher.

Kettle for fire, wood burning stove, mirror.

Friday, 4 November 2011


On Thursday night our allotment shed was burnt to the ground. The fire was so fierce that neighbours called the fire brigade who had to stumble through woodland to put out the blaze and stop our Saxon roundhouse from also catching fire.

You might get the wrong impression, when you think of a garden shed storing a few tools and a couple of old flowerpots.

This was a lot more than a shed, it was what some youngsters called our tree shed. An outdoor classroom built over a 5 years with pupils on work experience, helping them gain valuable knowledge of carpentry and construction. With its wood burning stove it was a warm, dry space for volunteers to escape the rain. A place for pupils to carry on work such as carving and woodwork out of the cold. It was used for courses, talks and slideshows at our events. It was also where we stored all our food and cooking equipment used for making lunch for everyone on workdays and cups of tea throughout the day.

It was small things that you can’t put a price on that have been lost, like the two benches being built by pupils as Christmas presents for their mums.

So what now?

Before we even start to think about building another shed, we face the mammoth task of clearing up the site, rebuilding the fences, taking out some of the large damaged trees and replacing the tree nursery.

But we don’t know with what money and resources we have spare to build a new one. We are insured, but however much we get, it’s not going to be able to replace our project’s centre-piece anytime soon. We are only a small charity with one member of staff that relies on small grants, income from schools and a lot of goodwill from volunteers and supporters to survive. So we will have to look at budgets, beg, borrow and coppice from the woods and make plans for a new shed.

In the meantime we will have to quickly build a warm, dry structure to see us through the winter and dig into funds to buy new kettle, pans, plates….the list goes on.

So if you’ve got something lying around that you think we might need please get in touch or turn up this Tuesday 8th November and help with the clean up. Or think about making a small monthly standing order to support us.

Sunday, 9 October 2011


People from the Migrant English Project visited the garden during the last hot day of the year and cooked various bread, soup and enjoyed the sunshine.

Monday, 19 September 2011


Polish community workers. Chinese teachers. Volunteers from

Brazil to Taiwan, South Korea to Central Europe. The forest garden is a United Nations melting pot.

For the past three years Concordia have been working with us and Moulsecoomb Primary School. Francesca Corney explained: “Concordia is a charity committed to international volunteering as a means to promoting intercultural understanding and peace. For nearly 70 years we have provided volunteering and work opportunities overseas and here in the UK. Every year we run over 20 projects including conservation work, supporting children’s play schemes and summer camps, helping to run festivals and working with adults with learning difficulties. This July nine international volunteers helped at both Moulsecoomb Primary school and Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project for two weeks. The volunteers came from Turkey, Germany, France, Argentina, and the Czech Republic.”

Its great having a group of dedicated motivated volunteers around for a couple of weeks to really get stuck into jobs. In those 3 years Concordia volunteers have cleared and flattened an area in the woods that became home to our bee hive; built a bee garden and this year weeded the bee area, raspberry garden and started laying a path.

Staying at Moulsecoomb Primary they also helped maintain the extensive school grounds and do the odd jobs, but also have the opportunity to be in lessons and help the teachers. One of their first tasks is getting up in the school assembly and saying where they are from and a bit about their country. Guess what the Argentinean got the children excited about?

At the end of the session the international volunteers fed back with comments like “I learnt a lot from all of the young people from different cultures in Europe and their needs and aspirations. I learnt many things about gardening and many more about the social and economical situations of places like Moulsecoomb” and “Rewarding experience, a good way to learn how to be more open minded”

In July Brighton University organised a visit by Chinese trainee teachers to the forest garden. After visiting one of the Chinese students wrote to us “What an unforgettable day in my short term training course in Brighton University. Because today I experienced something really inspiring - Forest Garden. Warren gave us a detailed introduction about the project, but also brought in a lot of vivid teaching sources. His patience with the students impressed me a lot. Above all, the philosophy behind the project is magnificent. It will benefit a lot of students like Dan, who came and talked to us at the end of the activity. Allow me to show my great respect to all the people involved. Best wishes!” 15 Chinese students then visited Moulsecoomb Primary during the schools Heritage and Environment Festival. They were also suitably impressed. Li said “I am lucky to have the opportunity to visit Moulsecoomb Primary school during the 3-day festival. It's a new kind education for me. In China, we pay more attention to knowledge and examination, so mostly the students have to listen to the teacher and try to remember and understand in class. But here the students have more chance to experience, learning by doing it. I think that's interesting and effective. On the other hand, many teachers, helpers and volunteers organized various activities to attract the students, that's not only interesting but be helpful to their studies in class. So I think they are responsible and creative to come up with so many good ideas. I admire and respect them. Thank you for giving us such an opportunity.”

For the pupils these are priceless lessons and opportunities to meet people from across the world. For people from other countries it gives opportunities to meet people off the tourist trail and take back ideas to their where they live. But best of all these international exchanges; meeting people, working together, are the most effective way to break down barriers and challenge prejudices.

Thursday, 25 August 2011



After last year’s success we decided to run two summer holiday schemes for Moulsecoomb kids. A chance for them to make camps, carve wood, try out some bushcraft, cook over fires, stuff their faces with marshmallows and generally just enjoy being outside. But we haven’t yet bitten the bullet and let people camp overnight!

Recently I did a bit of that overnight camping where all the children were having a brilliant, pretty much unsupervised, time outdoors - just like the ‘Good Old Days.’ Someone there offered a two hour bushcraft experience for twenty quid a pop. That’s 20 quid for each kid as well as adults. Er, thanks but no thanks. I know people need to earn a living but this is just the sort of thing that once again means that those who have everything have even more opportunities and, for those on the breadline, well tough.

Thanks to funding from the Pebble Trust our event was free and included lunch, snacks and drink.

This time we decided to divide the ages and the first week we had 12 eight year olds all from Moulsecoomb Primary school, 10 of whom were girls. Now thanks to our work at the school we already knew all the children, they had all visited the project before and some had taken part in our after school gardening club. They are also immersed in the schools outdoor learning environment from the moment they start at nursery.

We split into three groups (the Woodland Girls, the Hornets and the Wolf Cubs) and headed to the woods to look for materials to make the camps. Nestled at the boundaries of the South Downs National Park, this would be their base for the two days: to build, make fires, cook marshmallows and play games. And they just loved it. Watching them stare into the fire you can see how children succumb to the flickering images of TV and computers. Only one didn’t come back the next day and she’s my next door neighbour who ends up at the project on a regular basis!

The garden wasn’t ignored. We all came back to cook over the fire – sausages from the local butchers, chips from the garden spuds, trying to tempt them with fried shallots, salad and parsley. Watching them hoovering up the raspberries, blackberries and whitecurrants, sitting in the trees, balancing on the little house roof. Getting dirty. Just being kids.

The second week was for older children plus a gaggle of very young ones acting out endless superhero scenarios.

There was more camp building, but more of an emphasis on carving, wooden spoon making, a bit more gardening from some and a request from everyone to fire up the clay oven for pizzas.

It is essential for all children to get these opportunities. For the majority of those that came along they won’t be getting a holiday –certainly not David Cameron’s five holidays – and it’s also a chance for the parents to get a break.

The majority of children love being outside and even those who are a little nervous at first; well you can see by the second day how they really start to relax into their surroundings and enjoy it. It’s even more important for those not academically minded, that struggle in the classroom but can turn themselves to practical skills.

Money permitting we want to continue to roll these schemes out and make sure that you’ll find none of the children from Moulsecoomb suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Spending a penny at the Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Projects is a lot more pleasant thanks to a brand new compost toilet.

The toilet was built by pupils on work experience, overseen by project workers and funded by the Princes Trust and Sussex Community Foundation. Three of the pupils, Daniel Morton and Reece Daly from the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and Karl Williams from Bowden House School received awards from the Princes Trust because of their work.

Team Leader Reece Daly said “I hated school and couldn't wait to leave, but really enjoyed my work at the forest garden. Building the toilet I learnt new skills and it’s something I’m really proud of.” Reece is now working full time.

Wilf Nicholls from the Prince’s Trust said “The Prince’s Trust is all about supporting disadvantaged young people and this is the type of project that we like to support, it’s fantastic for the participants and the wider community that use the garden”

Mary Carruthers from the Sussex Community Foundation said “The forest garden is a fantastic project encouraging local residents to grow and eat their own food and to learn about their natural environment. They have become so popular they needed a new loo and we were very happy to support them with a grant from American Express.”