Manchester Drive Forest Garden Project

The purpose of this blog is to document the development of the forest garden project that I have been setting up at Manchester Drive allotment site in Leigh on Sea, Essex, as well as any other random permacultural (or not) rambling thoughts that might happen to stray from my brain. I hope you enjoy it or better still, feel inspired to start your own edible food forest!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I Love Peckham

Combining elements of both the Guerrilla gardening and benches as public art mentioned in previous postings, I came across this today, linked via Richard's Guerrilla Gardening website and featuring the work of direct activist and street artist/sculptor/wood carver 'VIRUS', who repairs and improves vandalised benches around the SE13 borough. I particularly like the Holly project. You can also get 'Peckham Rock' from the website if you buy a 'I Love Peckham' teeshirt...

Maybe its not exactly forest gardening, but as far as I'm concerned its just another inspiring example of how ordinary people can take control of and improve the urban environment without waiting for 'permssion' from those in authority...

Conference pear

In my last entry I noted that I picked up a Sunset apple from Homebase for a tenner, I've done even better this week by spotting a Conference Pear in Wilkinsons for a fiver! they had lots of other trees as well, including Jonnagold apple, but being limited to a bicycle for transport I could only carry the one, what is more I don't think I've actually got alot more room on the plot for any more trees, even though it does seem a shame to let such a bargain go...

I got down to the plot yesterday morning to plant the pear, it had rained all night, hence hacking out a planting hole in the clay soil with the mattock was like trying to carve into toffee. I also planted a couple of lemon balm plants and some bluebell bulbs that Ron had left out for me, plus cut some willow stems and attempted to replant the willow dome by pushing these straight into the ground. Even if they don't survive it would still be nice to buld some kind of 'twigloo' to either sit in or just to look visually interesting...

By now it was very cold and wet so I came home again. I had the intention of starting to give my 'zone 1' back garden a good post-winter tidy up but it was too miserable. Hopefully the weekend will be a bit better, as I've still hardly had a chance to get down to my 'zone 2/3' 'staples and maincrops' allotment this year...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Impulse buying

Confessions of a consumer junky... Went into town today today to buy some printer ink plus paint for the kids bedroom, and ended up making 3 'impulse' purchases. Am I the ideal happy shopper or what?

Anyway, what i bought was,

1) Picked up an Acoustic Ladyland CD half price in the MVC closing down sale. Despite the very dodgy cover which looks more like it belongs on some late 70s/early 80s rock/new wave album like The Cars or The Knack or something, its on the esteemed Babel Label (who often package their releases with artwork by the brilliant Gee Vaucher, whose been turning in some of her best stuff since those classic CRASS covers and posters). I also saw Acoustic ladyland on the Jools Holland show and was well impressed, and have also seen Seb Rochford play at the local Jazz Club and been knocked out not just by his mad hair but also his stunning drumming. I've only played a bit of the CD, but it sounded like a nice blend of punk and jazz energies...

2) a fab little multitool from QD's that cost me £1.50. Its got a saw, a blade, a bottle opener, plyers, wire cutters, a 'lanyard' (whatever that is...), a great little torch and a 'Philips' screwdriver, but is only about 2 inches long when folded up. It also has its own little cool black pouch and fits unobtrusively into your trouser or jacket pocket without any trouble. I must say that most of my practical needs are met by my ever present 'Camper' Swiss Army Knife, but this seemd like a real bargain and a miracle of modern engineering, even if it is no doubt the product of some Taiwanese sweat shop... I'm afraid I can't resist a multitool, one of my guilty pleasures is having the odd peek at the Victoronix website to see which Swiss Army Knives I totally can't do without. The 'Swiss Memory' with its built in USB data storage utility seems particularly cool, but I know I'll never do anything about actually buying one...

3) (Actually relevant to this Blog!) Went into Homebase to buy the paint and ended up purchasing a Sunset apple tree for a tenner.

Sunset apple is very similar to Cox but much easier to grow. An excellent garden substitute for Cox particularly for regions where Cox can not be grown successfully.
Use: Dessert
Season of Use: Oct-Dec
Colour: Flushed
Flavour: Aromatic
Origin: Kent UK 1918
Pollination Group: C
Self-fertility: Self Fertile

They also had damsons and other apple varieties including 'Discovery' which, I believe, is an old Essex variety, so maybe I'll try and pick up a couple more trees before planting season ends. Not quite in keeping with buying from small and local nurseries I know, but, hey, carriage charges are crippling and at least its 3 or 4 trees taht wouldn't have gotten planted otherwise.

I've got a WLCS committee meeting first thing in the morning (well, 10 o'clock, which to me is 'first thing' when its a sunday...), after that I'll try and get down to manchester Drive and get this apple planted, and maybe even put the mini-multi-tool through its paces and see if it warrants the quid fifty spent on it...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Tree planting session

This afternoon I finally got in the rest of the wild fruit stock that I bought from BTCV before Xmas. The full list is;

4 Sea buckthorne
3 Bullaces (wild plum)
2 Bird Cherry
3 Silver birch
2 Guelder rose
5 hazels
5 Rhamanus rose

So hopefully in a couple of years time there will be plenty of wild fruit available for making into wines, jellys and jams. I'd also love to have a go at making birch sap wine (which is partly why I put in the Silver birches, the other reason being that I just like them...). I guess it will be a few years before they reach anywhewre near a size where it would be OK to tap off some sap, but the forest garden was always going to be a slooooow, long term project... Besides if I'd put in some birch treees ten years ago when I first thought it might be a nice idea to make the wine, I might well actually be tapping it this spring, so in ten years time...

It was a beautiful sunny day down at the plot, with a feeling that spring might well be on the way, although further cold snaps are forecast. guess there will be plenty more of these if the gulf stream keeps on slowing down... Lots more little spears of daffodils starting to poke through, and also lots of bird activity. I saw a number of blue tits flying about, as well as the usual magpies and pigeons, also a fairly large yellow bird broke cover on the plot and flew into the trees, too fast to make out what it was clearly, and doesn't seem to be in my 'Birds in Your garden' booklet that I got free from the RSPB (its well worth sending off for this BTW).

The other day Ron told me that the council are thinking of cutting back all of the self-sewn ash at the north of the allotment site before spring arrives as local kids from the housing estate are using them as cover for their various ne'er do well activities. This will mean lots and lots of really nice straight ash poles being available- I've spoken to Adrian of Wholewoods to see if he fancies collecting some, and also maybe organising a green wooodworking course down in Southend later in the year- he's keen, so watch this space!

PS. I also picked up R J Garner's classic 'Grafters Handbook' for £2.45 in 'QD' this weekend! A bargain for sure but what on earth was it doing in the cheapo books section of the bargain basement version of 'Wilkinsons'????

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Idling benches and the Sheffield Riddle Trail

In today's Grauniard, Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson has a column in which he writes in praise of the public bench;

"Truly, the bench is a boon to idlers. Whoever first came up with the idea is a genius: free public resting places where you can take time out from the bustle and brouhaha of the city, and simply sit and watch and reflect."

He also suggests ways in which public benches could be vehicles for both the expression of artistic creativity and to also promote civic local distinctiveness by commisioning artists and sculptors;

"Each artist would have free rein to play around with the bench, build it from whatever materials he or she likes, engrave it, festoon it with colour, carve it with gargoyles or trees."

This put me in mind of a visit we made to the botanical gardens in Sheffield last summer when we were on holiday as a family camping in the Peak District. We followed the 'Riddle Trail' around the 19 acre site, which featured a series of mosaics, sculptures, carvings and so on placed around the gardens, each of which had an 'nature' theme (dinosaur footprints near the petrified trees, glass tadpoles and frogspawn near the pond, a bronze bear in what was once the old bear-baiting pit, a sunflower mosaic, etc), as well as giving a clue to the location of the next artwork. The works, all made by local artists, were of a very high standard, and the kids really enjoyed the adventure of finding the next section of the 'puzzle'. My personal favourite piece was a bench made of two combined carved trees - as well as being a functional seat made of natural materials that blended into the landscape, it also featured tiny carvings of a host of wild creatures, more and more of which revealed themselves the longer and harder you looked... I've posted up some pictures here to give an idea, but if ever you are in the Sheffield area I'd advise checking this out. Public art at it's best!