News September 2016

Visiting Edible Gardens

The last event in our VEG season is promoted in the poster below. If you're able to help running this, please come along to our final planning meeting on Monday 12th. Sept. at 6pm. in Kasteale, Haltwhistle, otherwise we look forward to seeing you, with or without produce to swap, share or sell, in the Market Place on Sat. Sept. 17th.

VEG visit reports
Two great visits to report on in August. We've been a bit disappointed in the turnout for these visits, whilst the people who did come have said that they thought they were super events. We'll soon be deciding whether to run a similar program next year so any comments on the venues and visit timings would be appreciated and may help us to run a more popular schedule next year.

Battlesteads Hotel & allotment growing in Wark.
At the end of July we visited the gardens at Battlesteads Hotel in Wark and Chis and Peter's allotments nearby.

Kate's growing at Battlesteads shows real attention to detail and makes the most of all resources:

  • waste coffee grounds and veg peelings in compost making
  • heat from the biomass boiler used for hydroponic growing of mini salads
  • serried rows of cut-away 5l plastic bottles fixed to a south facing wall brimming with strawberries - harvested without the need to bend down!

Regular, bulky vegetables are not really grown as Kate concentrates on producing those little extras that are not easily available and need to be sent to the chef really fresh; courgette varieties, for example, are chosen for flower production rather than quality of fruit. The productive gardens make a real contribution to the attractive environment, menu and eco-credentials of the award winning hotel.

Chris and Peter had the campfire kettle on in their allotment and shared their enthusiasm and evident enjoyment for their co-operative gardening over a welcome cup of tea. Fruit, veg and even dye plants were in abundance. Self-sown veg were encouraged to flourish where they appeared and weeds tolerated if the crop wasn't threatened. Peter accepts that some fruit is lost to birds and other pests, 'we couldn't eat it all anyway'. The gardeners don't put themselves under pressure to make the place look perfect but they still provide themselves with a great variety and quantity of fresh produce, and most importantly, they have fun doing it.

Exotic fruit in Hexham and Wylam's community orchards.
Jim Dixon built and laid out his walled fruit garden in the late 1970's as the A69 was constructed just yards away. STS member, Jo Aris, who in recent years has harvested the apples for Jim showed us the fruit, we sampled large, juicy peaches and sublime figs, and then Jim, 97, told us how he developed it and learnt about growing fruit. Now, forty years on, the apples and pears are still cropping heavily whilst the figs and peaches in glasshouses are in chaotic abundance - better than ever Jim thinks, as a result of the water and silt deposited nearby in last winters floods. Home grown peaches and figs in rural Northumberland - truly amazing.

Wylam's community orchard is a much younger project, the first trees on a sloping, south-facing field in the grounds of the first school were planted just seven years ago. Some varieties are already cropping well, others not so. "They'll be removed, if they aren't productive in a couple of years" Tom Martin, the orchard's warden, explained, "it's a learning process. We started with varieties recommended for the north, but if this site doesn't suit them we'll replace them with something that gives us a good harvest." This community initiative has a wide compass, obviously the first aim is to produce fruit, but in doing so the team also want to improve the environment by increasing biodiversity which will, in turn, ensure pollination of the trees and assist in pest control. To achieve this they are creating hay meadows around the trees by mowing and raking off the grass to impoverish the soil. Wildflowers and appropriate grasses are sown or planted into the grass sward. Patches of brambles, soft fruit bushes and piles of prunings all add to the habitat diversity and knowledgeable volunteers record bee, butterfly and other insect populations. The orchard is a fantastic resource for the school and is used as a teaching aid across the curriculum. Tom Martin has documented the processes such a community project needs to consider and can be contacted for info:

If you missed the VEG outing to Wylam community orchard there's a second chance to hear about this inspiring project at their 'Squeezing Day'.

Just as a little aside, I was brought up close to an enlightened sustainable development orchard project from the mid nineteenth century. The high Chiltern village of Stoke Row boasts a spectacular Maharaja's Well surrounded by cherry trees. The story behind it is that the local squire, Edward Reade, spent many years in colonial India and became friendly with the Maharaja of Benares with whom he shared stories of water shortages as villagers from his chalkland home, just like the villagers in Benares, had to trek miles to fetch water during rain-free periods. As a retirement present for Reade, the Maharaja financed the digging of a 368-foot deep well in Stoke Row complete with a decorative canopy, a cottage for the well-keeper and cherry trees to provide an income to pay for the upkeep of the well and the keeper's wages. The Well opened in 1864 and provided water for the villagers until the 1930s. It's worth a visit if you're ever in the area.

Green Build Festival in Cumbria
The Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) annual Green Build festival, September 19th. - 25th., provides a superb opportunity for anyone considering how to improve the sustainability of their houses, businesses or any other buildings. The festival includes visits to places where a variety of sustainability measures have been implemented to enable you to judge the results for yourselves and also discuss the lessons learned from the practitioners themselves. Events include a Lake District eco bus tour, a visit to a Passivhaus factory, a wind farm tour, eco-building workshops and courses and a dozen or so eco homes to explore. Seeing is believing! To find out more about all the events and to book, visit the CAfS events page.

South Tyne Wildlife Group
Comrades Club, 7.30pm. on Tues. Sept. 13th. Duncan Hutt from Northumberland Wildlife Trust will talk about The Hauxley Reserve, with particular reference to the nearly completed eco visitor centre.
All welcome £2.00 on the door.

That vote - a silver lining?
Green energy could flourish in post-Brexit Britain, says long-time community energy campaigner and co-founder of Sharenergy, Jon Halle. For full report see:

Money talks
Journalist and environmental campaigner George Mombiot says that climate change is upon us and it's already too late to keep the global temperature rise within the agreed target of 1.5C. He lays a good part of the blame at the feet of the media where the need to please those that hold the purse strings trumps the need to tell it like it is. Full story:

Money must talk differently
Positive Money has launched a new campaign to call on the Chancellor to abandon Quantitative Easing and allow the Bank of England to create money for people, not financial markets. If the Bank of England would put 'new' money into the real economy instead, it would be much more effective at boosting jobs and incomes.

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


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