All posts by f0r3stadm

June 2017

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.

May 2017

The weather was perfect for the launch lunch on the 7th.
Thanks to Helen for the fabulous cake and Judith for the edible flowers.

Guests were shown round the different areas of the wood to introduce them to the idea of Permaculture and demonstrate the biodiverse habitats in the Forest garden.
Great ideas were generated for our first official open day on Saturday 17rd June.

The first swarm of the year arrived on a small hawthorn between the orchard and Tom’s Pumpkins on 12th May.
Seen walking in an orderly fashion into their new nucleus home.

A request came in April about any spare beeswax to make food wraps.
It was great to be able to help out with a really rewarding few hours cutting small squares, painting on the wax/oil mix and drying the fabric.

Having practiced a few recipes, times and temperatures got some final success; ready for a mini course in the Spring next year when we will be harvesting more wax.
The wraps actually work, and came in useful making snacks for the local circular walks organised by the National Forest Company.

Richard gave us an evening treat on the the 16th showing us some 500 year old trees at Brankley Pastures. A glimpse into what the original Needwood forest looked like?

Thanks to Jane too for the Jackson Bank walk on the 19th, some evidence still of the “Doris Day” gale.

Lots to do, so if you can spare an hour or so, guides and tea makers always wanted or if you want to find out about one of our many other projects, please get in touch.
We are taking part in a Citizen Science from soil to soil project organised by the University of Dundee

April 2017

Everything growing as if it is May!

Orange tip butterfly enjoying the early nettle growth and forget-me-nots.

Orange tip butterfly

Also peacocks and some speckled woodland.

Re-tarring the coracles for the Blackfords Sea Scouts.

Re-tarring the coracles

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?

March 2017

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.

February 2017

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!

January 2017

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.

Summer 2016

The forestharvest adventure continued with a fantastic Summer, working through new courses and welcoming new foresters into the wood.

Egg Blowing
Egg blowing.

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.
Treading the Clay
Mixing the Clay

Then to eat the pizzas topped with a few edibles from the  forest.

Enjoying the pizzas

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”.

Firing the clay tiles

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.

Winter 2015-2016

Winter 2015 – 2016

2015 was a great year for Forest Harvest to celebrate, with lots of highlights.

A perfect evening in August was amazing testing the coracles out at Barton:

Coracles at Barton

Another was learning all about pole lathes from a hugely knowledgeable Peter Wood (looking forward to the new Pole Lathe Course on 27th August 2016).

Most enjoyment came from just relaxing and chatting with so many kindred spirits.

Successes in 2015 have to include growing some 30 pumpkins for the Halloween Carving despite the weather, and thanks to a mild autumn bucket loads of raspberries will keep us in jams and jellies for years.

I hope the squirrels enjoyed the best sweet corn ever grown because we didn’t get much of it.

At the end of 2016 Forest Harvest will be moving into the woodland Workshop at Woodmill. As the name suggests, for hundreds of years it has been a place of timber work.

Research at the very helpful Lichfield Records Office revealed Tithe Maps that show Woodmill Hadley End at the centre of the Needwood Forest.

Tithe map

The 1749 Bowen’s map shows Needwood Forest stretching from Alrewas in the South to Uttoxeter in the North so it was a large expanse of woodland with many traditional industries. It also shows place names such as Brickly Lane which in conjunction with other names such as Brick Kiln Wood indicates brick & tile manufacture was one of those crafts.

The raw material of clay next to the timber fuel for the ovens made it an ideal site. Further evidence is the numerous little ponds in the area where clay has been dug leaving clay lined pits that hold the water.

In the Summer it is planned to use this as an inspiration for a number of practical Forest Harvest workshops.

Thanks to everyone who has been on our courses in 2015, wishing you all the best in 2016.

Happy Crafting.

Summer 2015

Summer 2015

Part of the basic bee keeping course was spotting other types of bee and the results were interesting. There were plenty of white tailed and red tailed and garden bumbles in the phacelia, but a tree bumble bee was also happy feeding along with the others. It only arrived in the UK in 2001. It makes doing the nesting boxes worthwhile; more for next year.

Types of bee in the Phacelia

There was ample theory on the beekeeping course but the practical work of assembling and fixing bee frames was most successful. Considering this a couple of new courses will be running in the autumn making straw skeps (used since the Middle Ages for keeping bees) and another making the more traditional ornamental hives looking from the outside like a William Broughton Carr. Although ornamental, both hives are bait hives and may well get a swarm in the Spring which can be sold back to beekeepers who will be only too pleased to collect them.

They will not only be good for the environment but may also yield some pocket money.

Forest Harvest will be glad to buy back a swarm or two.


The Willow Weaving courses were fun, everyone surprised by the amount of art and ornaments they could do in the first day; beautiful baskets on the second.

In future the weaving will be run as independent days as you don’t need the skills from one to do the other. A new marquee will ensure there is enough room to expand the courses for next year. Each weaver needs plenty of room.

Basket weaving Summer 2015

Another development is that Forest Harvest is joining the Family that is the National Forest.

It is hoped that our forest gardens can become points of interest in the increasingly popular activities of the forest.

Advertising has started for our first National Apple Day event on the 21st October 2015. This will involve the free use of the Forest Harvest Apple Masher and the Juice Press for visitors who want to come along. (Scrumped apples are welcome ….. with owners permission!)

pulper & press

One advantage of keeping bees is a knowledge of what plants flower when. On the 13th September it is an opportunity for couples getting married next September 2016 to see what blooms in September. This course is especially for couples thinking of doing their own flowers. The workshop will demonstrate how to make table decorations and button holes, and how to grow them.

flowers in the garden

Tweets suggest that more and more people are enjoying getting back to the outdoors,

Happy Gardening,

Nick Bee