It was a busy end of year as staff and volunteers attended various award ceremonies. We were nominated for best Green Project in the Argus Achievement Awards, Small Group – Big Achiever in the Voluntary Sector Star Awards received a commendation from City in Bloom and we won a BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey Community Heroes Award for 'Outstanding Contribution to Education.'
Now the garden is twenty it's funny to think back to a few mates working on a half derelict allotment to a project that now boasts an amazing eco-cabin built almost entirely out of locally sourced wood and recycled materials. A place where over 50 pupils a week visit from seven different schools and which will soon become an outdoor college. We're we've built up great partnerships with Homewood College, Moulsecoomb Primary, Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and the Cedar Centre.
Our work with pupils is highly regarded. Recently a senior social worker was telling someone how helpful our work has been with a pupil we’ve been working with. People don't see all the work that happens behind the scenes; the reports to enable pupils to get their qualifications and all the meetings staff attend with schools and other outside agencies to discuss the progress of the pupils we work with. Our work also gives pupils the space to talk as well as giving them opportunities for work experience and too broaden their horizons taking them to award ceremonies, festivals, camping trips, museums and swimming.
We continue to have a fantastic mix of volunteers with referrals from many different agencies which sometimes brings its own unique problems – including finding enough work for everyone to do in the winter. We have increased the number of students who come as part of their University community module and now have Plumpton College pupils working with us. We particularly liked the Eastbourne physiotherapists, the strongman was especially helpful when we got a massive delivery of compost.
Carly North continues to cook up a storm on a Friday and is now working at Moulsecoomb Primary as well as Brighton Aldridge Community Academy. We received a two year grant to build a new community garden in Moulsecoomb Primary on a disused playground, and to fund Carly’s cooking with parents and pupils.
Our immense compost bins are now producing endless black gold, with more organisations dropping off waste to get the bins all hot and bothered, and our crops are really benefiting from this.
The bees flourished this year thanks to Sonny and his assistant Daisy and we will be improving that area in the future to make build its educational value.
We ran very successful Easter and summer schemes for Moulsecoomb children with about 70 youngsters coming along and 3 very successful team building days with Southern Water, the Carers Centre and Santander.
We now produce a regular (ish) newsletter for our supporters as well as organising local talks, including Brighton Green Drinks and a packed Godless Churchless Church one Sunday morning, who were moved by the short clips of some of our pupils that our on our website. These are always good places to get more people to become Friends of the Forest Garden and increase our monthly standing orders. Susie is one of our trustees who along with Duncan, Julie and Nick worked behind the scenes to make sure the garden can carry out all this work and comply with the all the legal requirements. Email us if you’d like to sign up to the newsletter.
We are developing great links with The Garden House who raised nearly £3,500 for the cabin at their open day. They invited us for tea and cakes recently - and Paul had a fight with a chicken. Thanks Bridgette and Deborah!
We've had to say goodbye to quite a few people. Russell Kingston who turned up unemployed and left as a qualified carpenter. Nancy Walker has now got a job at a city farm in Bristol, while the two Adams – Beer and Keeves are working on organic farms.
Finally our 20th birthday party open day summed up all that is brilliant about the project as 300 people from all over Brighton and beyond came to see our work, and the Argus and Latest TV fought over the best pictures of the cabin.
All in all it’s been a great 20th year for the project, and we’re already working on plans for another great year ahead.
Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for all for your help and support over the years.