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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.

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?

December 2017

The Mill looked beautiful with the early December snow, enough to give the bees an insulated roof, but unfortunately too much weight for the poly-tunnel roof!

collapsed polytunnel

Winter solstice was cloudy, so the dawn chorus was delayed to nearly 8:00am. The Robin was the first voice, as is often the case in winter, followed by the Rooks adding their raucous calling  and cawing! There are interesting changes in the robin’s winter behaviour recently, already paired up, less fighting over territory. A sign of warmer winters, more fodder, or just a better rate of survival?

The Seasonal Decorations workshop was very enjoyable, with lots of experimentation and innovation!

On the 28th December Forest Harvest helped with the Dovehouse Community Gardens workshop, designed to clear the site, in preparation for the new project. It was good fun for all that came along,  lots of mince pies and leftovers but also exceptional apple wine from Jay to keep the cold out.
Anything useful was put on one side and a good fire was made to for the unsalvagable remains.

Some visual highlights in the woods this month, apart from the snow, were the Guelder Rose (Viburnum Opulus) berries,

the sunset, across the new clearing,

 and the low sun on the pond!

Anyone wishing to use Woodmill for a Photography shoot, is is welcome to get in touch. Even with inexpensive phone lenses, the results can be amazing.

The start of a new project for 2018, watch this space!

Happy New Year !

November 2017

Lots of Autumn projects started.

Tom & digger kindly cleared an area big enough to take the 10m x 5m marquee.

The new ‘Clearing’ is now ready to be sown with grass and meadow seed in the Spring.

No one realised the side benefit ; a beautiful view of the sunsets from the workshop.

Also started is work on the natural soil floor for the workshop. Great fun digging the clay from the site, then slipping and sliding around in wellies getting it flat enough for the kitchen. Linseed and possibly a bit of bees wax to seal it later.

Give us an email if you want to do some sliding too info@forestharvest.co.uk but most Mondays there is a group of us at the Mill.

Even started the Dovehouse Community Gardens project in Lichfield by advising on the plans to the new Committee. Tony one of our trustees will be on the committee to feed back any help they may need.

The first picture is of Sarah & Claire ready for action followed by the first bucket of weeds! Great start – long way to go!

£1500 has been kindly promised by Cambridge Water Company to Forest Harvest towards a wildlife friendly water collecting pond at Dovehouse through their Pebble Fund.
Another great start.

Can’t let November go without mentioning the beautiful weather again and the colours of Autumn at the Mill.

The water lily survived until the beginning of the month and also thriving is the  Mistletoe on the Bramley.

If you would like to join us in making some seasonal decorations from the natural resources in the woods,  we are running a half day workshop on Thursday 21st December, 10:00am to 12:30pm, cake and a hot drink provided.

See below some of the beautiful decorations made at a previous workshop.

Lots of decorations to take home, all for a donation to our cause, £15.00 recommended.
Let us know beforehand if you would like a vegan lunch for an extra £10.00?

October 2017

Hornets were about this autumn in abundance but not so many wasps.

Earlier in the year there was plenty of wasp activity; collecting wood-pulp for nests, so where they went is anyones guess.

The hornets didn’t go for the hives either but were busy looking for winter shelter in our polytunnel.

Although not  known to be in Staffordshire yet, watch out for the Asian Hornet. They are generally browner with one stripe and do not fly at dusk or after.
If you see one try to take a photo of it and contact your local bee keeper.

The bees slowed down their activities with the fall in temperature and were put to bed. To restrict access a black plastic size reducer was used for the doors. This reduces the chances of mice or large insects from hibernating in the hive damaging the comb and eating the winter stores. The Lichfield bees didn’t like the black plastic door and kept eating the wood so it was removed. Are the the town bees fatter and overfed compared to their rural counterparts at the Mill!!

The weather was weirdly warm so our bees continued to enjoy nectar and pollen from the ivy flowers.

On the 16th October, stranger still, was a pink sun and sky all day, caused by Saharan dust.  The rooks were preparing to roost in the gloom one minute, only to fly off to feed the next.

On the 28th October we held our Pumkin carving day, which proved to be a productive and fun-filled day, an Autumnal celebration of the very best kind with fabulous Pumpkin Soup, roasted pumpkin seeds, chestnuts and Nick’s fantastic Elderberry wine.

In October, Forest Harvest continued to help set up the Community Garden at Dovehouse with a leaflet drop to neighbouring housing. Householders were invited to an Open Afternoon to see the site and give ideas.
Around 30 visitors arrived with a few signing up for some growing spaces and others making some useful suggestions. It was decided that there was enough interest to set up a committee in November to take the project forward.

October is also a good time to plan for next year, lots of projects in the pipeline.
Contact us at info@forestharvest.co.uk to find out more.

August 2017

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.

Bee Hive

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.
Open day

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.
Wildlife

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?

Dovehouse Fields