June was mostly about clearing fly tipped rubbish, removing illegal drug syringes
and empty alcohol bottles. Rob and I, amongst professionals
completed this and we are, unfortunately, quite used to it now. Until 2015 Brickmakers Wood was unmanaged, being used for illicit activities with decades worth of syringes, human faeces and fly tipped rubbish. This is exactly what our sister site in Sudbury, Suffolk was like before it was transformed into a beautiful and tranquil retreat. We have cleared 90% of the dangerous litter in Brickamakers Wood and 100% in the areas that we currently use for education, care and support.
Monty and the Eden-Rose Coppice gang helped to clear the ivy and non hazardous rubbish of the bank. This wasn't an easy task in the baking heat. Monty was very hands on and really got stuck in with us. We all ended up dripping with sweat and covered head to foot in dirt, clay and ivy.
Haven Power, Ipswich Borough Council and the Papworth Trust clients all helped with parts of the development. Additionally Ridgeons kindly donated all the timber for the raised beds.
Click on the pictures to enlarge:
Monty visited Ipswich twice in June. On the 7th, it was our first filming day and I was very nervous about it. Robdad (my nickname for him - as sometimes calling him dad at work can confuse some of the children that visit our sites,) is quite used to it all and wasn't nervous in the slightest, which is good for me as it calms me down. Monty, albeit a wonderful, gentle and highly intelligent man, was quite disparaging about our project which only made us both more determined to achieve. We knew we were up against odds; being in a shady woodland, on a steep slope, with heavy clay soil, but when Robdad and I work on something together, good things happen.
It was his second visit on the 28th. Seeing all the ground work completed Monty was much more positive about it all. The Maple Building Services lads and Rob dug out more clay and Monty and I set about making our first Gabion. Neither of us knew the correct way to say it, which was hilarious. Was it Gai-be-on or Gab-i-on? Again, neither of us knew how to build the thing so we planned, designed, constructed, chucked away and made it again, together. Amusingly Monty and I acted out an American shopping channel programme advertising our constructed gabion. (Don't think that will have made the cut though). :)
I July was mostly spent digging more compacted heavy clay.
Using Monty's advice we decided to dig out as much clay as we physically could so that we could replace it with a more malleable and nutrient rich soil, given to us by the lovely Phil from UoS. Our boots were constantly covered in hard lumps of clay, making it difficult to walk and numerous times we fell over. We managed to get 2 raised beds completed and filled with soil. We listened to Monty's advice and made sure we didn't stand all over the soil so as not to compact it any further.
Haven Power visited us on the 21st July to help us build a replica gabion, in the same style as the one Monty and I constructed and planted. This was a team building exercise for the employees where they had to learn about plants, planting and raised bed making. Some of them having never planted before learnt a great deal. Click right for more pictures.
RHS Hyde Hall
On the 22nd Robdad and I were allowed out of the wood for a day, which was lovely, but we still spent half the day thinking of jobs that needed doing. Thanks to Matt and Sue for showing us around your wonderful gardens. Matt gave us some top advice.
It was one of the hottest days of the year and as we walked around Matt’s allotment we could see the sunlight hitting almost every part of every plant. This wasn’t what we had to work with sadly. Matt discussed what NOT to plant in our allotment such as pumpkins, peppers and tomatoes for example, pretty much what his allotment was teaming with. (I will still try though, even if I have to move them around in pots to catch every bit of precious sunlight). And as with Monty we discussed the options of herbs and brassicas. Hover and click right for more pics.
On the 7th August Cllr. Mandy Gaylard arrived to hand a donation to the charity. We are so grateful to her as we could now afford the decking, making the site wheelchair and hospital bed friendly. Beardwell construction company donated their time and resources and worked alongside some of our supported volunteers. It was fantastic to see them working with the construction company. They gained work experience and their life skills were definitely enhanced. Haven Power joined us again for another team building day. They made some great pallet planters that were to be on the wall of the building opposite the allotment. By the end of August we had 4 full raised beds. We could really see what the final project was going to look like now.
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Some of Monty's tips
Because of the heavy clay soil and the slope we were working with, Monty strongly suggested that we install a French drain to alleviate the problem.
The shade was a huge factor in determining what we grow. To expand our variety of plants we had create more sunlight.
Red currants and White currents do better in shaded areas.
Slugs and snails will go for unhealthy plants first. Ensure that your soil has the correct nutrients for healthy growth.
Leafy greens such as chard, spinach, kale and cabbages grow well in shade.
Lettuces don't grow well in full sun.
Never stand on your soil as it compacts it down making it harder for your vegetables to grow.
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Matt's Top Tips
Matt was growing and training his currants as cordons. He advised that this would enable the little sunlight we had to reach each currant and enable faster ripening. We are trying this with some of our white and red currants. I’ll let you know how they get on next season.
Matt had a fantastic display of Borage and Comfrey. He advised us to grow both as they will tolerate some shade.
Did you know...
Borage leaves have a mild cucumber flavor and can be eaten as salad leaves or gently steamed as a substitute or addition to spinach. The flowers look incredibly beautiful in frozen in ice cubes to add to drinks.
Borage is a fabulous source of nectar for bees and other insects, and will encourage them into the garden/allotment. This means that whilst they are in your green space the bees may just decide to have a quick feed from your other plants and pollinate those for you too. Pollinators are important and we must protect them.
Click on the link below for more information on this...
It can also be used as a green manure – The plants deep taproot sucks up health giving nutrients. Rather than throwing it on the compost heap, just dig it back into the soil and it will disperse the nutrients into the soil when the plant composts. This means healthier soil, rich in in nutrients and deeply aerated earth.
Comfrey and Dandelion do the same thing.
Marlow and Eric's hints and tips
The following is a list of healthy edible wild plants that Marlow and Eric suggested would grow in most places. Even those with poor soil conditions like Brickmakers Wood. Click on the pictures for a link to Wildfood UK's expert descriptions and uses for.
• Wood Avens
Wood Aven's roots can be used as a substitute for cloves. They can also be used in the same way cloves are used for toothache. So if you'r e in a woodland and you're struck with tooth ache, look for some wood avens and rub the root on your bad tooth.
The leaves don't taste of much but can be used in salads. Alternatively you can deep fry the leaves, which puff up in a fun way. Not very tasty apparently but fun to try.
• Hairy bittercress
Hairy Bittercress is delicious in salads, but can also be used in soups or pesto's. It's so great, in fact, that it is one of Wild Food UK's favourite edibles.
• RoseBay WillowHerb
RoseBay Willowherb leaves are edible when young. The flowers are great in salads but don't taste like much. Also the young shoots can be cooked like asparagus. The leaves edible when they are picked young.
It's quite easy to identify and is hard to confuse with any other plant due to its unique leaf vein pattern. The leif veins do not touching the edges of the leaves.
• Wood Sorrel
There are over 800 varieties of wood sorrel and according to Marlow and Eric 'Deppie' is the most beautiful version.
We picked and tried this on the day and it was very tasty. It has an apple, citrusy flavour and is quite addictive to eat. However, it should not be eaten in large quantities due to it containing oxalic acid.
• Chickweed - Once my nemesis and now my best friend.
In my opinion this is one of the easiest wild edible foods to identify.
It looks a tiny bit like oregano but it has a unique mohikan of hairs running along one side of the stem and it pretends to have 10 petals, but actually has five double petals so is difficult to confuse with any other plant. I love this edible and now let it grow freely.