Monday, 31 December 2018


Another year at the garden where we went from a very wet winter to a boiling hot summer. While we can never predict the weather, one thing that is constant is the number of visitors that come and see what we get up too. This year one very welcome development was that more and more potential funders have been coming up – Sussex Community Foundation, Fonthill Foundation, Ernest Kleinwort, Big Lottery, Homity Trust and Peoples Postcode Lottery along with companies who are our near neighbours such as UK Power Networks and Paxtons. Local councillor Tracey Hill also generously awarded part of her ward budget to support our work.

Our workdays continue to bristle with activity fuelled by lunch cooked by Carly and Jo. We encouraged long term volunteer Andrew to start working in The Bevy Pub and he is now the omelette as well as table tennis king – just not at the same time. We continue to work with St. John's and the council to make sure we support any adults with learning disabilities who want to move on to more training and paid work. Once again the weather was kind at our Open Day where volunteers and pupils showed people what we get up too.

We put up a new polytunnel thanks to First Tunnels (where an ash tree branch duly fell through it) which helped, along with the sun and the hotbox at Moulsecoomb Primary to produce our best tomato crop ever – with hardly a blighted leaf in sight. Above the new poly we have been busy working on a new sensory garden that will be somewhere quiet to pot up plants and have your lunch in peace. This is also where we are building Matthew's Corner, a permanent reminder of one of our most loved volunteers who sadly passed away at the beginning of the year.
We welcomed Moulsecoomb Chomp and Concordia while hosting MIND eco-therapy workshops, Woodchips, The Wild Network and some mental health first aid training. Sensing Friends, an organisation for blind and partially sighted youngsters now hold regular activities at the garden. We continue to offer placements to Universities for students as part of their community partnership module and Paige gained work experience with us through her course at the Brighton MET. We have been working with Paige since she was 5 and she now works at Spiral Sussex. Thanks to Peoples Postcode Lottery funding Brighton Energy Co-op put solar panels on our cabin.

Pat and Carly continue to work at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) every week delivering gardening, woodcraft and cooking sessions as well as their pupils coming to the project, all part of the schools alternative provision strategy. We are building up our educational work again thanks to funding from The Fonthill Foundation enabling us to act quickly, rather than a lack of finance being a barrier to pupils accessing our services. Already we have been able to offer a BACA pupil one to one sessions at the Forest Garden, enabling him to pass his OCN Level one in Woodland Skills. We showed the new Head of BACA around the project and he has introduced better systems for pupils to be able to access the type of early intervention we can offer. 
Thanks to The Pebble Trust we ran another summer scheme for Moulsecoomb children to have fun learning about bushcraft, playing games in the woods and of course, make pizzas in our clay oven. However, we do need to change the format for older ones as it's getting harder to compete against computer games! 
Daisy is now working with Warren a day a week at Moulsecoomb Primary to help maintain their award-winning school grounds, helping with the lunch time environment club and working 1:1 with 3 girls who are really benefiting from the extra support. Pupils from the school regularly visit us – planting garlic, camp building, storytelling, hunting for treasure in the woods. A few also helped with a plant sale at the Bevy selling plants grown at the school and at the garden, raising funds for the Friday Friends seniors lunch club. Our runner beans and rhubarb helped feed the seniors club. This year we adopted Moulsecoomb train station as part of the Sussex Community Rail Partnership programme with the school and have started planting up a bee and butterfly bank. 
At our recent strategy meeting Rachel Bicker a biodiversity officer at Gatwick presented her draft wildlife plan. Rachel is responsible for the reptile mats at the garden helping us to increase the number of slow worms, and to make it easier to find and identify them. We are really pleased that Rachel is now one of our trustees. Beth from Team Pollinate at Sussex University has also been busy recording pollinating insects. In fact you could see them both having a Bug Off at our open day. 
We like our volunteers to be fully involved and in the past year we have held two user group meetings where we listen to how we can improve what we do as well as an AGM at The Bevy  which featured light show accounts, curry, karaoke and dinosaurs!
And finally its always nice to be acknowledged for your work and we came first in Brighton and Hove City in Bloom Best Community Charity Garden. So what better way to celebrate the end of the year with over 50 people enjoying what former Mayor Pete West described as 'the best alfresco Christmas dinner in Brighton.' 

* Support what we do? Then why not become a Friend of the Forest Garden with a monthly standing order. We'll make sure you get extra toppings on your pizza and an invite to our Christmas Party

Wednesday, 25 July 2018


Any trustee worth their runner beans should always ask the question 'why are we doing this?' And so Forest Garden secretary and regular volunteer Duncan quite rightly asked – what is it we want from our annual open day?
It's not to make money, if it wasn't for the generous grant from Homity Trust it would cost us to put on the event but we do hope new visitors will see the value in our work and support us financially.
It's not just about numbers, although 150 came through the gates and about the same number of pizzas flew out of our clay oven.
For those with learning disabilities that volunteer regularly it is a chance to show their friends and families what they get up too. For some it is tinged with sadness. The Cheesman family have always been massive supporters of the project and Matthew Cheesman was a much loved regular volunteer who died suddenly a few months back. It affected everyone at the garden and we are busy working on 'Matthew's Corner' to remember him.
Another volunteer brought up his family. Since working with us, he's lost weight, been able to cut down on his medication and most importantly make new friends.
We also had seven students from Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) who come to the project on Thursdays while Pat and Carly work with them and other pupils at BACA other days of the week. They showed off the skills they had learnt, some put on the bee suits and checked out the hives, and of all of them made pizzas – and while people hunted for wildlife one used his camouflage skills to hide in a big apple tree and dangle a giant rubber beetle down to startled passers by! A group of adults who were failing to light a fire using natural techniques were shown how too by a Year 7 pupil in one strike. These pupils struggle at school and yet are thriving in an outdoor classroom environment. One lad in particular has benefited from funding we have received from the Fonthill Foundation which has enabled us to offer 1-1 booster sessions. Working a couple of hours extra with Pat each week has enabled him to pass his level one in Woodland Skills. We also had lots of families with younger children at Moulsecoomb Primary, familiar with us from our work at the school and the visits to the garden. 

Another former pupil is now working for Spiral Sussex. We have been working with her family for years at Moulsecoomb Primary and BACA and she has helped Carly cooking crew food at festivals but it has been her work at the garden where she realised she has real rapport working with adults with learning disabilities which has led her to paid work.
We also had our first Bug Off with Rachel Bicker, the biodiversity consultant at Gatwick and Beth Nicholls from Team Pollinate a Sussex University project collecting data on pollinators in the city. They worked with visitors and scoured the garden and ponds finding 96 different species all entered into iRecord website. Both Rachel and Beth are regular visitors to the project and have tapped into our volunteers passion for wildlife. We will be using their expertise to see how we can increase wildlife habitats including a new bee and butterfly bank we will create with Moulsecoomb Primary school as part of our partnership with Moulsecoomb train station. 

While Carly's pizzas are always popular Jo's cafe was doing a roaring trade of home made sweet and savoury snacks made and served by our volunteers. We also held our first raffle thanks to support from The Grand, Brighton Open Air Theatre, Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, M&S, a nail manicure, an amazing home-made vegetable themed cake and Brighton and Hove Buses, with access officer Victoria Garcia and instructor Kim popping up to the garden.


So what is the open day for? Well it's not just a window into our work but an opportunity for the wide variety of people who come to the garden to feel part of a community and proud of the work they do.

* Why not become a Friend of the Forest Garden and make a regular monthly donation ? 

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


Matthew Cheesman 1968-2018 

We are sorry to announce the passing of Matthew Cheesman. 

Matthew had been coming to the garden every Friday for seven years. With his big smile and cheerful disposition, Matthew was a joy to have around. He was a very good gardener and he loved to cook – as was also partial to the odd biscuit that we have with our endless cups of tea,
Rushing excitedly up the hill asking what jobs we had to do today he was also very canny. The other month he said he wasn't feeling very well – this of course had nothing to do with the massive pile of woodchips that had just been delivered, ready to be pushed up the hill! 
We like to socialise at the garden and Matthew was really content when after an event we would all sit round the fire with a beer or when we all went to the Bevy Pub for a pint. Him and Pat once got a sharing platter at the Bevy, unfortunately for Pat the only thing Matthew wanted to share was one onion ring. He also had grand plans for turning our cabin into a bachelor pad, with a comfy sofa, stereo and TV. 
Matthew loved to cook with Carly and Jo but could come back with some interesting cooking impliments. One time when he was asked to go and get a bowl but he came back half hour later with a golf club ! 
He got on really well with people, and was a great ambassador for the project often helping show visitors around. 
Everyone at the garden has been saying that its not the same without him so later this year we will be creating 'Matthews corner' with his own bench and a fruit tree. We are working on finding a chocolate biscuit bush to grow next to it 
So thank you Matthew for everything you brought to the garden – it just isn't the same without you.