News August 2016

Visiting Edible Gardens

Last minute reminder (Tomorrow): VEG visit on Sat 30th July.
First stop will be Battlesteads Hotel in Wark where Kate Norris grows veg and salads for the award winning restaurant. Then on to Peter Samson's and Mike Gibson's allotment also in the village. Meet at 1.15pm in Sainsbury's Car Park in Haltwhistle.

Sunday 21st August, Orchards and exotic fruit
The first visit of the day is to Jim Dickson's long-established garden beside the Tyne. Nonagenarian Jim now concentrates his expertise and energy on the figs and peaches he grows under glass. We'll eat our packed lunches at Jim's and continue to Wylam community orchard to join an afternoon work party. This inspiring orchard not only provides fruit for local children but is integrated into every aspect of the school curriculum, from mathematics to citizenship.
Meet Sainsbury's car park, Haltwhistle at 10.15am. Bring packed lunch.

V.E.G. events are free and everyone is welcome, just turn up at the meeting point or contact me, Sue 016977 47359, if you want to travel straight to the venue or need a pick-up elsewhere.

On the Verge
Tues 9th Aug, 7pm: Greenhead.
Meet by Greenhead Church.

Please join us for a short verge walk (1.5 miles there and back max) to survey the road verge for plants. Just turn up, no need to book and no experience required. We'll be on tarmac (most of the time) and aim to finish by 9pm. Any queries, please get in touch with Lesley Silvera, 01434 607988.

The Value of Verges
Our open meeting held in Hexham on 20th July was very successful with over 30 people attending. The speakers were John Richards, Newcastle University Emeritus Professor of Botany; Rebecca Barrett, North Pennines AONB biodiversity officer; Gill Thompson, Northumberland National Park ecologist; Steve Lowe of Northumberland Wildlife Trust; and Sam Talbot, green spaces officer for Northumberland County Council.

Speakers reported on the activities of their respective organisations to improve road verge, grassland and hay meadow management, while STS members described their efforts to survey plant diversity on local road verges. Jo Aris reported on STS's meeting with A69 managers, RoadLink, who declined our invitation to speak at this public meeting. RoadLink, Jo said, seemed to justify extensive herbicide use and frequent cutting on grounds of safety, for road users and their staff, ruling out alternative management practices as these would increase costs. However the points we made evidently hit home.
On July 19th STS received an email from RoadLink: 'We have discussed your comments and decided that we will not be carrying out weed spraying along the verges of the A69 next year. This will be on a rolling trial basis until such time that it becomes uneconomical or unsafe to remove weeds / ragwort by other methods. We will continue to target spray filter drains / injurious weeds and other areas deemed necessary for safety reasons.'

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion between the panel of speakers and the audience. All participants agreed on the increasing importance of road verges, not only as a corridor for pollinators and a means of preserving plant diversity, but also as a source of the wildflower seeds crucial for restoring our declining hay meadows.

It was felt that current verge management by local and highway authorities is dominated by a tidiness mindset that needs to be challenged. Despite the National Pollinator Strategy and Buglife's B-Line proposal, neither Highways England nor Northumberland County Council (NCC) appear to have any detailed policies to protect, let alone enhance, verge biodiversity. Indeed, spending cuts seem to be making things worse, making it more difficult to carry out verge cutting at an appropriate time to allow wildflowers to set seed whilst preventing more aggressive species crowding them out. Verge management on the A69 appears to be over-resourced, while a cash-strapped NCC is struggling to manage other road verges in Northumberland.

It was noted that local councils and officials frequently pay far more attention to complaints and pressure for change from individual members of the public than to 'in-house' advisers.

The meeting was a useful first step, providing a valuable exchange of information and a networking opportunity for panel members, members of STS and the public who attended. Suggestions for verge monitoring, seed gathering and verge rewilding activities that could be carried out by members of the public were discussed with enthusiasm. However, it was recognised that further discussion and follow-up action is essential if our aspirations for pollinator-friendly verge management are to become policy, and practice, on road verges in Northumberland and the North Pennines.

Full minutes of this meeting and Jo's report of STS's meeting with RoadLink available on request.

VEG report - GoLocal in Ovingham.

GoLocal is a community led veg growing enterprise in Ovingham, a bold initiative. All members pay a small annual subscription and most also commit to a weekly crop share which they either pay or work for. This project income pays for the rent of a field, the wages of a grower and all the other costs associated with the business. This is obviously a radically different way of running a horticultural enterprise - it's normally the grower, or an individual business owner, who bears the risk, who buys the seed and works without a guarantee of a crop or a sale. With GoLocal it's effectively the consumer (member) who bears the risk, who undertakes to purchase a share without a guarantee of which veggies will be in abundance and which will be a rare treat in any given year.

Another difference is the shopping experience. No prepackaged anonymous veg at GoLocal. Most crop share members weigh out their own share from the picking boxes according to the list chalked on the blackboard in a canvas shelter on site, just yards from where the veg was grown. It's a convivial time with opportunity to swap veg and cooking tips with others, and to cut a few herbs when passing the herb bed on the way home.

GoLocal's crops, in the field and polytunnels, were flourishing when we visited. Chris, the project's grower, is obviously a skilled and experienced veggie man and dedicated to the aims of the enterprise. It was also evident that he's a great problem solver - we saw many examples of innovative use of scrap materials to stretch a limited budget.

I only wish I lived within a few miles of Ovingham as I'd love to support and be a part of this exciting project and share in the harvest of quality, seasonal, fresh veg.

For more about GoLocal
Find out about CSA projects

Wool on the Wall

Greenhead was spinning on Sunday 10th July as hundreds visited and helped celebrate the wool harvest - that sustainable fibre par excellence - produced on just about every farm in the area. The three photos show typical and local breeds in front of paintings of the type of landscape, from moor to meadow, with which they are associated. From the hardy and thrifty hill ewe to the fast growing, early maturing lamb these families illustrate traditional, stratified sheep farming.
Thanks to:
  • Wendy Bond and Alison Raimes of Whistle Art Stop for the paintings and Hadrians Wall Community Champions for financial support.
  • Moss Peteral for all the live exhibits, except the magnificently horned Swaledale tup kindly loaned by Rebecca and Charlie Mearns, White House Farm.
  • Fibre Fridays, Gilsland - and friends - for wool craft demonstrations
  • Tour of British Fleece, a wonderful exhibition.
  • Northumberland National Park & C.O.G.S. for tents
  • Diane, landlady of the Greenhead Hotel, for free use of function room - and hastily re-arranging a double booking!

And finally to The Flying Scotsman - steaming through Greenhead, providing a spectacle to round off the afternoon!



Includes STS trophy for most points
in veg and fruit growing classes.

Download Schedule Here

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