Sunday, 22 December 2013


Every year we say thank you to all volunteers with a Christmas Party.
Digging up the spuds ready for roasting

Firing up the oven 8.30am ready to roast the veg

Carly puts in the organic meat in the portable oven over the fire-pit

Phil cutting the meat while Adam looks hungrily on
Teresa ready to tuck in
Mark looking pleased with himself
Luc having an after dinner drink or two
Its late, its pitch black...
Time to turn off the lights.

Thursday, 31 October 2013


Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project is a small award winning charity that packs a big punch in East Brighton.

Our community gardens are a melting pot of people and our work targets some of the cities most troubled youngsters. We've been going nearly 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 important. 

So we are asking if you can help make us as sustainable as the fruit and vegetables we grow.

We currently raise £130 a month through our Friends of the Forest Garden fund where people make monthly standing orders. We would love to get this to £500 before Christmas.

So could 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

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!

We do charge schools for our services and self-generate 35% of our funds.

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!

Monday, 2 September 2013


Thanks to a grant from The Pebble Trust the garden provided a free play scheme for 80 Moulsecoomb children over the summer holidays.

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 craft projects.

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 sustainably.

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 marsh mellows! 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


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 don’t 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 tick.

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 important.
So this is where you come in. To save us from endless grant applications and monitoring forms how about becoming a Friend of the Forest Garden? 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.  

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


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!)

Sunday, 14 July 2013


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 up.
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. 

On the smoothie bike

Making pizzas - all day!

Picking fruit 



Sunday, 7 July 2013


In November 2011 the building we used as an outdoor classroom was burnt to the ground
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 tiles.
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 

* Do you like what we are doing and can help us financially? Why not become a Friend of the Forest Garden or sponsor a straw bale for 10 pounds a bale?

* Have you got any of these building materials lying round that we could have?!

·        3 tonnes of building sand
·         2 tonnes of clay
·         A pair of hard wood external doors and frame
·         A single wood external door and frame
·         80m2 of breathable roofing membrane
·         40m2 of solid wooden flooring or the equivalent amount of old scaffold planks
·         Large plastic trugs for mixing clay.
·         Large ground sheets.
·         Sheets of UV resistant Perspex
·         Hardwood window  frames
·         160m of 50mm batons
·         3m lengths of 2by4 between 20-30
·         12 m2 of hardwood decking
·         44 roofing timbers 5m long 50mm by 120mm

·         Any lengths of timber that either treated or hardwood for general building

Monday, 4 March 2013


The past year has brought significant developments in our compost-making activities at the Forest Garden.
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 our caps.

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, Hanover Community Garden, 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. Moulsecoomb Primary 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 in Hanover 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 the gate. 

         John getting excited about worms

Monday, 11 February 2013


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 Brighton Aldridge Community Academy 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.
So thank you Brighton Permaculture Trust.
Next up St Andrews Church

Warren Carter

 Tree planting in the rain

Before pruning first some theory