The bees in the woodland hives were very busy in August but the very mixed weather and cold nights has made it a less than average year for honey.
The 2017 swarm was too busy growing to give any spare honey but the two year old swarm from the Market Square provided around 20 lbs of woodland honey. The Lichfield urban hive provided the same; not much in total but enough to replace the stock sold to the kind members of the Coven WI who bought in July and to raise some money for the charity.
The Open Day on August 20th saw numbers grow to 30, with locals enjoying seeing how the bees live and to see the forest harvest. There were apples, plums, pears, damsons in the orchard, plenty of beans, squashes, sweetcorn and potatoes in the raised beds, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, hazel nuts, walnuts, meddlers and quinces in the forest garden.
Of course humans weren’t the only visitors to the Mill in August, swallows and swifts during the day enjoyed a feast from the wildlife pond, the bats enjoying the same food source at night.
Lovely dragon flies and damselflies also flourished.
August was a good month to end Forest Harvest’s year, and first year as a charity.
It was felt by the trustees and the regular volunteers that everyone’s expectations had been met and targets reached.
The Charity has already reached out to other organisations and communities but the focus in 2018 will be to further develop these links and grow new ones.
Talking about future projects, the first Dovehouse Fields meeting is on 1st September to decide if it will be possible to help develop a community garden here in Lichfield, where some old allotments had been abandoned?
Planting continued at the Mill during July, with marginals around the pond to encourage wildlife dye plants in the raised beds and plants in forest garden to show visitors how growing can produce useful products sustainably, while improving the environment and reducing the use of chemicals.
We made contact on 7th July with a group called Low Carbon Lichfield (loCal) who have many aims in common with Forest Harvest. We therefore hope that some joint projects can be started in 2018. A film night organised by loCal to see “Demain” was inspirational, showing how positive change can be brought about by groups in education, agriculture, finance and industry.
Thank you loCal.
In July, Forest Harvest demonstrated at the “Fuse Festival”, organised by Lichfield Arts in Beacon Park. With thousands of visitors it was possible to meet people from all over the Midlands to spread the word of sustainability, raise some finance by selling some jars of honey, fill some places on our educational courses and enjoy the music.
Everyone is looking forward to next year.
A highlight in July was a beautiful evening at Greensforge Sailing Club, giving the scouts from the Cannock 1st Blackford Sea Scouts sailing training.
Left the coracles behind but lots of fun.
The first Eco Printing course on Monday 17th went well at the Mill with lots of interesting fabrics and colours produced.
Being one of the first full courses run at Woodmill, rather than the Oaks, it highlighted
improvements needed to further the enjoyment of visitors. A chimney for the stove is a must during the Autumn, to improve the efficiency of the stoves during the dyeing process and to direct the smoke away from the building.
An Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar was a very welcome visitor during July.
Is she pretending to be a broad bean?
Also new in July was involvement in the Lichfield in Bloom Competition.
There are three judging categories; horticulture, the environment and community.
With some funding from the Blooming Lichfield Group we were able to build 3 Hugelkultur beds at the entrances to the City.
This made a contribution to all of the categories, involving growing flowers for their colour and longevity, choosing plants that are insect friendly in a bed using natural sustainable waste. The beds were built by volunteers from the community and as such are educational.
Fingers crossed for RHS results in September
On the 11th June volunteers from Forest Harvest helped out at the Curborough Community Garden, digging in compost and planting out small seedlings. These were from a stock of plants sown by schools and groups using the Centre. Kim, the manager from Curborough, was very pleased with the help and knows it will encourage others.
At the Mill it was late but the Elderflowers lingered enough to make some Elderflower lemonade and champagne.
There was a summer buzz in the air, not only from the bees enjoying the buttercup field opposite but from all the life in the wood.
Lots of nesting birds; ducks making the most of the water in the new Woodmill pond, Wren and Robin enjoying the semi wild areas, Flycatcher in the Forest Garden, Dunnocks and Blackbirds everywhere.
On Friday 16th June it was another volunteer day, preparing for the Open Day on 17th. Enjoyable time for all, with leisurely tea breaks and time at lunch to chat. Tables were prepared for activities, and books spread out for visitors to browse. Strimming of paths trying to avoid the small young trees was quite a challenge but rewarding when the result brings the Mill together.
The Open Day couldn’t have been better; beautifully sunny and over 25 visitors.
There was opportunity for visitors to see the dye plant bed, the rotation of crops or just
to sit drinking tissanes and eat some cake.
With the new planting and different habitats more wildlife thrives at the mill. Butterflies and moths seem to enjoy the abundance.
Everything growing as if it is May!
Orange tip butterfly enjoying the early nettle growth and forget-me-nots.
Also peacocks and some speckled woodland.
Re-tarring the coracles for the Blackfords Sea Scouts.
And it was a great Sunday on the water, warmer than most summer days!
The hot weather woke the bees up with the Lichfield Market Square swarm roaring away with healthy brood, second super started already.
Gave the curborough swarm a good clear including some brood frames which sadly have to be burnt in case of disease. They seem better for it and have just starting their first super.
Still lots to do for the open days so do come along and help if the mood takes you?
Big news for Forest Harvest in March is being given charitable status.
Demonstrating sustainable living through technology and best practice is
officially for the general good.
The change means we are now recognised as a charity.
It is now all about getting ready for the launch of Forest Harvest in May,
and the open days from June.
Solar light installed at the workshop,
Solar tube fitted for some free solar light to the refreshment area.
And lots of work doing more planting in the forest garden.
Spring is on the way, pollinating the greenhouse apricot again.
Good to watch a nuthatch in the old wood between jobs, no chance of seeing
them when the leaves are on the trees next month.
An owl was looking for a mate too, heard but not seen!
What a beautiful place this is to share.
After a frantic year obtaining planning permission for a National Forest Sign by the road, parking places, track and also wildlife pond, it has been great to get started on the hard landscaping. Thanks go to Tom and Eric from our local farm for getting stuck in making the track, it all looks fantastic.
Typically the warm weather brought out the bees to join in the fun.
The track hive may well have to move in the Spring!
A benefit of all this work, apart from being able to get the car up to the shelter, is fresh banks of soil to plant on. Only got as far as the car park bank with privet, dog wood and hawthorn and a few snowdrops but looking forward to seeing the trackside covered in wild flowers.
Small clumps of snowdrops do occur throughout Woodmill but sometimes find themselves in the wrong place. During and after flowering is a good time to transplant them to new areas.
The highlight of February, a result after 30 years of trying, MISTLETOE on our Bramley!
It has been a busy Autumn turning our 30 year old forest garden at Hadley End into somewhere interesting, practical and fun to visit. Unfortunately it meant a bit of felling and laurel clearing but the resulting light levels and the sense of space has been amazing. A new Mulberry will fill some of it.
Forest Harvest is now a charity with our objects of education and demonstration of Sustainable Living. To this end other plants have been started like Autumn raspberries for food, plants for our bees like winter-flowering pulmonaria, hellebores and a medlar for fruit and history.
Also new raised beds have been made for herbs, another for dye plants and three more to demonstrate crop rotation.
Attention has also been given to clearing out the shelter so there is somewhere for teaching and workshops.
…. And the most satisfying of all our work so far, the living willow outside toilet with a Philadelphus planted for a convenient soap.
The forestharvest adventure continued with a fantastic Summer, working through new courses and welcoming new foresters into the wood.
Clay Oven making was popular, especially Rupert’s Pizza base. Intriguing to dig the clay from the ground & have a communal tread, bit like grape harvest but with a free foot massage thrown in.
Mixing the Clay
Then to eat the pizzas topped with a few edibles from the forest.
Abundant clay under our feet in the wood has led to experimenting with clay tiles; impressions of leaves; intricate patterns using just a sharpened twig; natural dying. With the snags ironed out this will be a staple for next year’s kids parties. “Pizzas & Mud Pies”.
Development of ideas continues, a planning application has gone in to improve the track to get cars off the road in winter when the tracks become muddy, a sign at the entrance to show off our contribution to forest life and our part in the National Forest and a bit of map guidance for travellers on the National Forest Way which passes our entrance.
We also continue with research into the history of the piece of ancient woodland next door (thanks for the book Sue), and trips to see other evangelists like the Welsh Centre of Alternative Technology and Edible Landscapes London which were amazing (thanks Helen for showing us around).
Our little group grows with an anaerobic digester engineer, a natural dying and art teacher, a Forest School Practicioner.
Thanks Judith & Doug for the volunteering days, always fun.
If you would like to join us then get in touch and contact us.