Category Archives: News

Forest Harvest 2020

After the last workshop in 2019 to make plastic free seasonal decorations no more workshops were run in the financial year. Due to the Government recommendations to combat the Covid 19 pandemic the courses and the Open Days for 2020 were first delayed and then cancelled. The winter maintenance programme to prepare the site for the new season continued.

To make the start of the Forest Garden walk more appealing for visitors a new bed was designed and planted keeping Robert Hart’s principles in mind; oxeye daisies and verbena bonariensis for the bees and the environment; marbled photinia and cotinus for colour and cut flower foliage; sambucas nigra for pink elderberry champagne and a szechuan pepper which has already yielded a few substitute pepper corns.

The second year of the greenhouse proved fruitful demonstrating the sustainable circular system of scraps from the kitchen and the garden used in the cold and hot composter, and the wormery, which with the water harvested from the roof provides the salads back in the kitchen.

Every opportunity was taken to show individuals the site bringing people closer to nature.

Learning about the birds and the bees.

The last event of the year, five cyclists using Woodmill as a refreshment break on their way to raising £2000 for their charity.

Other activities by the trustees were setting up an online seedbank, providing 200 hours of voluntary work at Dovehouse a local community garden, and supporting the setting up of an aviary at the allotment site in Yoxall by providing some equipment.

The winners at Woodmill this year were definitely the wildlife which thrived.

The Last Year at Forest Harvest

Last year saw more exciting projects and seedling developments @Forestharvest.

Research

At The Mill and this year at our offspring Community garden, Dovehouse, we are continuing to experiment with Perennial edibles and ‘No Dig methods’, fuelled by our visit to Nottingham to hear Charles Dowding and our own research into the work of Anni Kelsey, Alys Fowler and supported by the increasing number of small suppliers of perennial vegetable plants and seeds in the UK. So far our results are interesting and fruitful. You can see some of the results below.

At Sheffield University Helen, trustee, has finished her lab work and is researching an urban anaerobic digestion system which will require charity partnerships.

Continuing Professional Development for trustees

A number of the trustees also attended and visited talks, workshops and networked with other projects to support our work at The Mill and our community work at Dovehouse.

In March we visited a beautiful Permaculture Garden in Leicestershire, with an incredible polytunnel packed with edibles and very healthy looking plants, even in March. Later in the day we attended a talk by the ‘No Dig’ guru Charles Dowling, hosted by Nottingham Organic Gardeners in Nottingham which was also both fascinating and inspiring.

In May we attended ‘Growing edibles with hydroponics’ by Sue Tonks at The Eco Centre in Uttoxeter. A great little venue and good demonstration which inspired Nick to create his ‘Tower of Babel’. A recycled car roof pod collects grey water, timed to feed plants at intervals using gravity and a float valve. It also incorporates a fifty percent transparent solar panel which provides a greenhouse effect for the plants and light to work by.

The ‘Tower’ was demonstrated at The Fuse community festival in Lichfield and at St Michaels Church for the RHS Britain in Bloom judges who gave it a high recommendation.

We also visited other local ventures Woodhouse Farm and Community Supported Agriculture project and a newly planted wood and Community garden in nearby village of Yoxall both valuable networking opportunities.

Work in the Community

Forest Harvest continued to work closely with other projects involved in the RHS scheme Britain in Bloom, resulting in another RHS Gold medal. The development of a two acre natural meadow in The Festival Gardens, Lichfield, without the use of weed killers, was one of the aspects of our consultations.

Around one million viewers, as well as a group of organisers and volunteers, watched the television programme Britain in Bloom, filmed in Lichfield during our bid for Gold in 2018, screened in April 2019. It was great fun to film and watch, surprising amounts of people recognised various trustees who appeared on the screen!

As our projects have become more widely known we have received donations of a polytunnel and greenhouse for use at Dovehouse Community Garden and an octagonal greenhouse and a Hotbin for use at Woodmill.

Last year saw the successful demonstration of Forest Harvest’s home crafted Coracles at the Alrewas Arts Festival. This year the Alrewas Scouts paddled the coracles down the mill stream, quickly honing their paddling skills.

Fundraising

A successful application to the South Staffordshire Community Energy fund resulted in £1000 to further assess and develop alternative technology projects at Forest Harvest, including solar panels, hydroponics and aquaponics.

Lichfield BID contributed £3200 for planters at the many road entrances to Lichfield City and sales of our Woodmill honey, plants and hand produced items continued to be a source of income at festivals and open days.

 

Courses and workshops, a fundamental part of our philosophy, were limited this year due to the exciting, but frustratingly slow, building developments at The Mill.

However, later in the year, the beautiful new space upstairs hosted A Bee Awareness course and subsequently our, now annual, Winter Solstice Wreath making workshop.

Structural Developments

New building developments have created a new large, light- filled upstairs space, suitable for many indoor activities and occasions. Balconies open out at both ends,  which provide viewing platforms enabling observations of the woodland canopy, the glade highway and the forest garden at the other end. Bats, butterflies, dragonflies (one observed catching a white butterfly), Nuthatches, Treecreepers as well as numerous other bird species have all been observed from here so far.

A wind turbine and solar panels have also been added to the buiding supporting our commitment to new technology for sustainable living.

A fantastic new greenhouse is now fully functioning and will provide us with greater potential to extend our growing season.

Future Developments

The field next door has been purchased to create a meadow, a small coppice of fruit and native trees and space to erect a large polytunnel to allow more planting and growing opportunities.

Building work continues to create a fully sealed and functioning kitchen as well as a new, more accessible staircase.

In the forest garden we will continue to develop our perennial planting and watch out for the latest design ideas for the orchard and pond area.

Open Days

2020 will see regular open days. The last Saturday of every month The Mill will welcome visitors to enjoy tours, tea, cakes and short workshops, more details to be announced very soon.

August 2018

Plans have been submitted to the Council to continue Forest Harvest’s work at Woodmill.

It’s hard to imagine the mud and flooded areas in April now, as the clay is rock hard and grass parched.

Fred has joined us on Mondays for his D of E community work. He is going to help build a Yurt and is designing and sourcing it on the site.
In the serendipitous way that things happen at Woodmill, Shake appeared a couple of Mondays ago and is generously sharing his amazing Greenwood knowledge and skills with us.
He has helped us build a Cleaving Brake and Saw Horse from reclaimed timber and has taught us ho to cleave and make fantastic Ash mallets.

Bumble bees moved into one of the bird boxes and as they have finally left we had a look inside!

August Open Day was another lovely day and despite the very dry weather it still looked good.

July 2018

Work was focussed mainly at Dovehouse during July to prepare for ‘Bloom’.
The Horsetail Equisetum arvense had caused the previous allotmenteers to abandon the site but the new residents are made of sterner stuff and we have been demonstrating the beneficial benefits of this ‘living fossil’.
Nick prepared a tea for BBC ‘Britain in Bloom’ presenter Chris Bavin, RHS judges and Rob from South Staffs Water and I used the fronds in a dyebath, revealing the results on camera!

Other areas of the City looked great for ‘Bloom’ too!

Judging day dawned hot and sunny to show all the projects in their best light. The cameras were there to film the actual judging and the judges enjoyed Claire’s Sunflowers and Nick’s Horsetail tea and Fat Hen scones.

Now the long wait until October to find out what colour medal we will have!

June 2018

June was a busy and exciting month for Forest Harvest.
At Woodmill everything was looking beautiful, the pond, only just a year old, thriving and bursting with life, the trees and shrubs looking bountiful and the new framework ready for the next stages of the clay ovens.

Shropshire Organic Gardeners (SOGS) had an enjoyable morning with us, a tour of the woods, a bee talk and a practical introduction to dyeing with plants.

Our Outreach project at Dovehouse Community Garden grew, flourished and was filmed for the next series of the BBC programme ‘Britain in Bloom’, over 4 sessions in June and July, including the RHS judging day.

A shirt for ‘Bloom’

May 2018

Finally Spring has arrived in a huge rush, the pond is buzzing, literally, the bees love the shallow clay edges for drinking and we have masses of tadpoles too. The woods are full of Forget me nots, Campion and Hawthorn, which looks stunning, as do the trees of course, especially the walnuts and the birches.

Our Monday workdays in May are going to be spent building our new clay ovens. New ovens on this site but using the materials from the previous site which we dismantled to use here. The only new materials are railway sleepers to build the framework.

April 2018

On the 6th April Dovehouse Community Garden was opened officially by the Mayor of Lichfield, who planted an Almond tree sponsored by Forest Harvest.

A lovely warm day by recent weather standards, fizz, homemade wine and beautiful cake was enjoyed too.

tree

12th of April Nick led a new local walk he has devised from Woodmill to Hoar Cross and back via lunch at The Foresters, 10 walkers enjoyed the day.

At the woods the Pulmonaria, planted last year, is stunning, providing plenty of nectar for our bees and the bumbles too.

pulmonaria
The end of the building has been tidied up and planted to give a better first impression to visitors and the willows around the potting table have been woven and trained to create some visual and structural interest in that area.
Before
After

For the Plant supports workshop on the 14th, we experimented with a variety of materials that we harvested from the woods including willow, bamboo and brambles, which we have in abundance, so we were delighted that they worked so successfully.


Continuous rain throughout April has caused floods in all the workshop areas and the roof is even leaking too.


By the end of the month the woods is finally starting to show it’s beautiful spring colour, it has been so painfully late and slow this year due to the cold but is now even more gratefully received.

Tulips rescued from last year’s council planting schemes are stunning and the newly installed green roofs look great in situ.


The Ice House is on our list of projects for the coming year and we are beginning to collect materials for this too.

We have wild garlic emerging and we are just finishing the apples stored at the Mill all winter.

March 2018

The work at Dovehouse continued into March with marking out the small allotment beds and preparing for the Grand Opening on the 6th April by the Mayor. The area looks very different from the scrubland when work started in December.
dovehouse
A course on fruit tree grafting run by the WFEG at Whittington was very useful in learning how to propagate and plant rare local varieties such as Whittington Hero and Roland Smith at the Mill, both Staffordshire apples.
grafting
At Woodmill the greenhouse was finished ready for the spring seed trays.
greenhouse
Also it was warm enough some days for the bees to come out for a wee and collect some food.
Not only the bees surfaced but so did a few hardy folk for our open day on the 25th March.
open day
Slices of tree were oiled to produce fabulous coasters ready for feasts later in the year.
coasters
Thanks Rob & Rhys

Talking of visitors looking forward to welcoming 35 visitors from the Shropshire Organic Gardeners to Woodmill in June. More coasters required!

February 2018

Work projects continued in February, including the retrieval of materials from a local building site to finish the greenhouse. We fixed the fence wall to shelter the wood-burner, which became a necessity for the site to work in winter. We celebrated the new stove by baking bananas and drinking a new batch of Tepache.
tepache
There were gaps in the snow to give the wildlife a chance.
snow
With the decision to help the Dovehouse Community Gardens in Lichfield, parties of volunteers were organised for the 14th and 25th of February. A large tarpaulin was put down to warm the ground and to weaken the Horsetail, these areas will later form part of the communal bed. Pallets, kindly provided by Tippers, were positioned to create compost beds.
dovehouse

January 2018

The new year heralded  new signposts at Forest Harvest and some new projects.

We erected the sign in on a glorious day , spring -like, even with a rainbow to  finish the day gloriously.

We started to create a much needed inglenook around the fireplace; a few logs were needed to be moved but will provide a good supply of firewood and warmth sometime. {logs}

What created these fascinating patterns under the bark, that  we   only noticed when we moved the logs?

Who says theres not much to see in Winter?