News June 2016

Visiting Edible Gardens
The first wet evening for a month may have been rain that gardeners were delighted to see but it wasn't what we wanted for the first of our VEG events! However Andrew had a blazing fire in the middle of the lawn and a supply of umbrellas for us. And afterwards we retired to his kitchen for a welcome warming cuppa - with scones - and a free ranging exchange of ideas. It was a fascinating evening and rather than tell us the 'right' way to do things Andrew's enthusiasm for experimentation and the fun of trying things out, working out what works best in individual situations, was the learning and inspiration I took away.

There’s straw and hops (from a local brewery) on the beds and woodchip and straw on paths. Cloches have been made by an ingenious method (twenty years ago he was an engineer) using the metal rod mesh that reinforces concrete as the beginnings of a structure, which then hold canes. More canes carry green mesh, which is pegged down at each side, but easy to lift. There’s a wormery in a stack of old tyres, and strawberries growing in a stack of three milk crates bound with black cling film, capillary matting between each. Squash, courgettes etc have been planted into straw bales that were first soaked in an old paddling pool filled with water, manure, compost, fish blood and bone - again wrapped in black plastic, both to absorb solar gain, and hold in heat and moisture. These are watered through upturned water bottles with bases removed, and held in place by metal rods (same material as cloches). And this metal is used again for a leaf mould bin, this time covered in chicken wire, and holding on top quite shallow trays for growing salads. This is in a shady area under a tree, so a tripling up of space, and molluscs can’t or don’t climb wire.

The long narrow beds have been raised by digging out a spit of earth from the paths between, and piling this on top - so no wooden sides which will rot and harbour slugs and snails. The depression left is then filled with straw, and this kept topped up. As it rots it feeds the root run of the plants.

The whole garden has in fact been claimed from lawn by covering it in a thick layer, six to eight inches, of straw. This not only killed the grass in about three months, but also perennial weeds: as well as dandelions and dock, he’s had success with couch grass and ground elder. The straw used is barley: wheat is sometimes sprayed with a desiccant, so would not be appealing in an organic system.
Anyway, under all these mulches and treatments - or treats - everything looked deliciously lush.

Andrew is also an exponent of the Quick Return (QR) composting system pioneered by Maye E. Bruce.
And for details of his garden and plants for sale see

We are still planning the Harvest Celebration in Haltwhistle on September 17th and if you would like to sell/swap/give away/demonstrate anything harvest related, please get in touch!

On the Verge 2016

Please join us for one or all 3 of our short verge walks
(1.5miles there and back max)
to survey road verges for plants near Haltwhistle.

Tues 7th June: Near Allensgreen.
7pm - Meet at Ridley Hall entrance, next to Lodge.
We'll drive to the start. Grid ref:796644

Tues 12th July: Thorngrafton Common.
7pm - Meet at road/ lane junction
at western end of Haresby Lonnen. Grid ref: 790661

Tues 9th August: Greenhead.
7pm - Greenhead Village, beside church.
Grid ref: 660654

Just turn up, no need to book. We'll be on tarmac (most of the time) and
aim to finish by 9pm. Any queries, please get in touch with Lesley Silvera, 01434607988.

The Value of Verges
Public meeting with road verge mangers and project officers from conservation organisations.
A sereis of short presentations followed by Q&A/panel discussion.
7.30pm on Weds, July 20th, The Community Centre, Gilesgate, Hexham. Full details next month.

We are working with both Haltwhistle Town Council and to the County on verge management. We had a site meeting with two councillors from Halti Grounds Maintenance group on the verge of Avenue St Meen and, after an initial cut to the rank vegetation, the contractors will be asked to reduce the regularly mown area to a 2m strip beside the road and a path, farther back, for horse riders. We will be supplying County Council officers with data from our verge survey walks which may lead to changes in management, once they are aware of the species present.
Other authorities have taken a much more proactive approach;
Linconshire's 'Life on the Verge' project aims to survey over 1500 miles of verge and their work to date has resulted in the designation of 146 local nature reserves.
Cumbria has a similar initiative, working with the county wildlife trust and volunteer surveyors, and uses the strapline, 'Not so tidy, but full of life'.
Meanwhile Aberdeen is using hot water to kill weeds and Bristol is experimenting with vinegar - locals are complaining that the city reeks like a chip shop!

Tynedale Happy IN Europe is a group of people who live in this area but who have first-hand experience of the workings of the EU or of positive interactions with the rest of Europe.
We aim to make the campaign to remain in the EU positive, cheerful and informed. Like to know more?
Contact Wendy Bond:

Saturday 4th June 2.00pm - 3.30pm,
Queen Elizabeth High School, Whetstone Bridge Rd, Hexham NE46 3JB

For the REMAIN campaign: Jude Kirton-Darling MEP & Guy Opperman MP
For the LEAVE campaign: Jonathan Arnott MEP & Lord Callanan
Chair: George Hepburn

Admission Free - Retiring Collection
Sponsored by Hexham Quaker Meeting

The Divide with guest speaker Richard Wilkinson
Wide Skies Film Festival screening presented by Hexham Debates

11am Sat 18th June, Queen's Hall
Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pritchett's best-selling book 'The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better' highlights the pernicious effects that inequality has on societies. The Divide, a film, is a more personal account of how inequality shapes our societies. From the fast-food employee struggling to earn a living to the Wall Street psychologist who aspires to live the affluent life of the damaged white collar workers he attends to. Personal testimony from those on both ends of the income spectrum helps to successfully articulate how the rising gap between the rich and poor negatively impacts people from the bottom to the top of society.

Also in the Wide Skies Film Festival are two films dealing with the subject of migration:
Dheepan follows the lives of a trio of Sri Lankan refugees, pretending to be a family, in a Parisian housing project. Presented by Hexham Town Twinning Association, 2pm, Sat 18th June, Forum Cinema.
Mediterranea charts the death defying journey of African migrants and their struggle to build a new life in Italy. Presented by Hexham Debates, 5pm, on Sun, 19th June, Forum Cinema.

And it's worth the journey to Tarset on Thurs 16th June (7.30pm, village Hall) to see Wem Wenders The Salt Of The Earth. This biographical film is a testament to the photographic skill and humanity of Sebastiao Salgado who, over several decades, witnessed and recorded human suffering on an incomphresible scale world wide. Wenders and Sebastiao's son, Juliano, powerfully document the proprnsity of the human species to harm and the ability of nature to heal.

Wool on the Wall celebrating the wool harvest at Hadrian's Wall Farmers' Market
Greenhead, Sunday 10th July
- full details next month.

North Yorkshire council have given fracking companies the green light to drill for shale gas - a dirty fossil fuel. It's the first time in five years a council has voted to allow fracking and sets a dangerous precedent for more fracking across the country.
Grassroots campaigners in Rydale have set up a "people's declaration" against fracking.
They're asking people across the UK to stand with them and say fracking is “not in my name". To sign the petition:

EU Neonicotinoid ban enforced.
Apllications for further derogations to allow the use of neonicotinoids on rape crops have been refused this year. Despite the National Farmers' Union prophesying dire consequences when the ban was introduced last year, the national rape harvest of 2015 was 7% greater than in 2014. Buglife's chief executive, Mark Shardlow, commented “ … this is not an 'emergency' [for farmers] the loss of bees and pollinating insects is the emergency. The decision to refuse to allow the continued use of neonicotinoid insecticides on oilseed rape in the UK is great news for the bees and for the hundreds of thousands of British people who have asked the Government to do more to protect our disappearing pollinators.”
Full story:

South Tyne Sustainability aims to reduce the impact of the community of Haltwhistle and surrounding villages on our environment. This will help individuals, families and our community save money and resources and ensure a more sustainable future for us all.

To join STS contact Sue Seymour, 016977 47359