News bulletin from Llanfyllin’s Cae Bodfach: The young forest garden well and truly on its way!

Over the summer the Cae Bodfach volunteers scythed and made sure that there was a good mulch to protect the trees from overgrowth and would rot down to feed the young Forest Garden. The young forest garden well and truly on its way

This Wednesday 24th September Dewi Morris: a local freelance environmental educator will be visiting the Land Based Students of Llanfyllin High School and delivering a series of lectures and practical session out in the Forest Garden. Emyr Jones: the course tutor has committed his students to engage with a programme of learning centered on Llanfyllin’s Forest Garden project – Cae Bodfach.
Over the course of the academic year, the land-based students will learn about the principles of perma-culture and community gardening in particular forest gardens. They will then research and design the second phase of the forest garden. The student will have direct access to the funding made available to the project by Llanfyllin’s Town Council and potentially Keep Wales Tidy. They will use these funds to procure the next phase of plans from the Cwm Harry Cultivate Project based in Newtown.
Dewi Morris will then train the students to lead planting sessions in the forest garden over the coming months for themselves, the eco schools committee and fellow High School students. The project also has the support from Llanfyllin’s Green Hub: a project based in the workhouse Llanfyllin, who have a considerable workshop full of tools for the job. High School Students will also organise guided educational visits by the nearby Primary School and for members of the public.
There are ambitions to organise a series of public seasonal events in the Forest garden starting with a Wassail in the New Year.
Watch this space for more news:

Dewi G Morris
Steve Jones Cultivate/ Sector39

Biochar growing experiments


Seed pots with a coir and perlite mix with biochar added at three different concentrations. No plants nutrients have been added yet, so at this stage this is purely a germination test.

We have been experimenting with Biochar as a soil amendment over the last few months and today we have set up a pot trial to test germination rates and growing rates for three different mixes and for three different brassica plants: Kale, Cabbage and Mibuma. 15 seed pots in total

B1 = Mix of coir and perlite with a this topping of vermiculite

B2 = Mix of coir and perlite with approx. 1/3 by volume biochar. We made a batch of biochar on a burn at Pen Dinas in June as part of the PDC course we were running at the time. Also topped with a this layer of vermiculite. 12 pots in total

B3 = We used the same I mix as above but extended the mix with more coir and perlite to make 18 pots in total. Also topped with a this layer of vermiculite.

All the pots have been placed outside and will be treated exactly the same. We are specifically interested in germination success and rare, plant development and plant health. We will add a liquid feed to all the pots when they develop their first true leaf. This will be a nettle and comfrey ‘tea’ mix.

1.2m square bed with 1 wheel barrow of Cwm Harry compost added

1.2m square bed with 1 wheel barrow of Cwm Harry compost added

The other test is a straight growing test in 2 identical raised beds, one with the addition of 1.2 Kg of biochar, both have 1 wheel barrow of Cwm Harry compost added. They have been been planted with 9 Oca plants, at equal spacing.

Oca may not be the best choice of plant to get a clear result, but i chose it as it yields a tuber which is therefore very easy to measure and compare.  Doing some simple growing tests has also taught me that growing test are difficult to do accurately, as there are so potential variables to eliminate.

1.2m square bed with 1.2Kg of biochar and 1 wheel barrow of compost added

1.2m square bed with 1.2Kg of biochar and 1 wheel barrow of compost added

Cae Bodfach – a community orchard for Llanfyllin

text on permaculture and forest gardens

Text from the Village Farm Orchard map for Stockbridge Liverpool

It has been a fantastic week for forest gardening, with the launch of the Village Farm Orchard project in Liverpool, something I have been working on for 2 years now.. and the planing of a forest garden orchard for the community of Llanfyllin. Cae Bodfach is an area next to the Cain river, upstream of Llanfyllin town that is rented by the town council from the Bodfach estate as a community asset. So we have been keen for while now to start something there that the whole community can benefit from. The potential for involvement is wide open, as we don’t intend to stop with the forest garden.. but this was a significant start to the project and I am thrilled by the interest so far. On Friday we were visited by 80 children and staff of the Llanfyllin primary school, who all got involved in planting, digging holes and adding tree guards to the young saplings they were planting.

Dewi with kids

Dewi Morris working with some of the local school children in the garden

It was a pleasure to work with freelance park ranger Dewi Morris, who has a fantastic repartee with the children and got them all busy working away and enjoying the fresh spring day down by the river. The design for the garden has been approved by the town council and involves planting a fruit hedge and shelter belt of elder, hazel, blackthorn, damson and brier.. and on the south side of that lines of orchard trees interspersed with herbs, shrubs and flowers that area ll good bee fodder and will help attract beneficial insects and build the fertility of the orchard.

Frog came to visit us planting, to see what all the fuss was about

Frog came to visit us planting, to see what all the fuss was about

Of course it is lots of fun working with young children, as every event is chance for major excitement. Find worms, a frog, bits of all clay pipe or broken plate all constitute major events and a chance for wonder and investigation. Ah the simple pleasures! Really fun to work with them all and a big thanks to the school and teachers for taking part and for their enthusiasm, I will look forward to more sessions in the future. Community Day Apologies for anyone who came later on and missed all the action and to anyone who didn’t know we were planting this weekend.. but there will be other opportunities and this is just the beginning of something we plan to build on.. so there will be other chances! I tried to count how many people came down.. 46 is my guess throughout the day.. and what was especially good we had members from across the local community.. all ages and back grounds from Town Councillors, to residents fro the housing association adjacent, folk from the surrounding hill and villages, past permaculture students,friends and more.. guild Members fro Tan Y Fron housing cooperative in Meifod came along to plant an apple tree guild.. and set of specific support species to help the tree get established. It will be really interesting watching this develop and we are planning some signs to help people interpret what is going on there as well as labeling the key trees in the orchard. Many of the trees have come from local nurseries and are old and interesting varieties. Mainly desert and cider apples, but we also planted cherry, pear, quince and plum and we will be adding roe later as well.. so it will only get more interesting over time hopefully. planted We managed to plant 33 fruit trees, 60 supporting trees in wildlife/ fruiting hedge as well as £100 worth of bee friendly plants donated by the RHS. We will be adding to this over the coming year and are open to suggestions for other elements we can include in the garden. It might be nice to include some veg growing facilities like raised beds etc… but for now we have concentrated on long term perennial plantings that will have a long life span and will also contribute to local food growing, wildlife and habitat provision.

plan of the garden

Plan for the Llanfyllin food forest

community garden planting pic

Tan y Fron Coop and friends, planting an apple tree and guild of supporting plants as part of the Cae Bodfach community garden.

Written evidence on Food Security to the environment and rural affairs committee.

Authors. PJ Griffith BSc. MS, member of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and TSW Jones BA. PGCE, director Sector39 partnership and CwmHarry. Both authors have an extensive knowledge of UK agriculture.


UK arable production is predominantly a monoculture based on cereals and specifically winter wheat. The lack of diversity in arable production places the UK farming sector at high risk to the impact of climate change. The intense weather conditions in 2012 turned the UK from a net exporter to net importer of wheat for the first time in over a decade. The HSBC Agriculture Forward Planning 2013 reveals that few farms would be profitable without the single farm payment. The current CAP reform gives the opportunity to directly fund agroecology systems. The World Bank and the UNCTAD report that agroecology systems are one of the best ways of developing resilience to food production in an increasingly unpredictable climate. Adoption of these practices within the UK with the emphasis on soil biota health and increased biodiversity should be an integral part of the National Adaptation Plan for Agriculture to climate change and food security.

  1. How secure is Britain’s food supply.

1.1.    UK land usage shows only 20% of the land area is attributed to crop production. Half the country is under some form of grass be that pasture or moorland. The percentage of land under urban use is almost the same as under woodland both being around 12% of the total UK land area. Only 1% of the UK is classified as fresh water.

1.2.    Half of the cropped area of the UK is under cereal production and of this wheat represents 60%. Therefore, a third of the UK cropped acreage is in one crop, wheat of which 44% is destined for animal feed.

1.3.    Over the last three years (2011 – 2013) 81% of the arable area of the UK has been in either cereals (66%) or oilseed rape (16%). Horticultural production of fruit and vegetables represents only 2% of arable land and of this 98% is grown outside.

1.4.    The fact that such a high proportion of the arable area of the UK is in either wheat or oilseed rape is a high risk strategy when it comes to food security.  A large proportion of the arable area is at risk from a breakdown in disease or pest control, either from weather conditions preventing timely applications of pesticides or of resistance developing to available products. Herbicide resistance is becoming a major factor in cereal production in areas where black-grass is endemic. Cereal disease resistance to the fungicides is well documented with the strobilurons no longer effective against Septoria tritici, a major fungal disease of winter wheat and triazoles also showing reduce activity. In the autumn of 2012 the wet conditions were perfect for the build up of slugs in winter crops which became almost impossible to control with existing moluscicides.

1.5.    The weather conditions in 2012 exemplified the vulnerability of UK agriculture with the current dependence on winter crop production. The harvest of 2012 after a dull, wet and cool growing season saw average yields drop from 7.8 tonnes/ hectare to 6.7 t/ha, a drop of 14 percent on the five year average . Yield losses were also attributable to an outbreak of Fusarium ear blight in the UK wheat crop. A report by Fera showed that nationally the non-toxin producing Microdochium species (M. nivale and M. majus) were responsible for the majority of symptoms; with 93% of crops and 35% of ears within a crop infected by these pathogens. High levels of contamination by Microdochium species will cause reductions in grain quality and yield and affect seed germination. Control from fungicides applied was almost non-existent as timely applications were almost impossible to achieve, due to the wet conditions at the time of ear emergence of these crops.

1.6.    The poor harvest was followed by a disastrous autumn sowing campaign. The Farming Online autumn sowing survey showed that across the UK only two thirds of the planned area of wheat was sown. The staggered sowing and unfavourable growing conditions also meant that only half of that sown actually established.  Figures from the NFU showed some 11.6m tonnes of wheat were harvested in 2013, down 10pc on 2012, for although the yields per hectare improved dramatically in 2013 this was not  enough to cover the shortfall in planted area.

1.7.    The net result of this change in climate was that the UK became a net importer of wheat in 2013 for the first time in a decade.

  1. The implications of volatility in global food supply and demand for UK food security;

2.1.    The UK is 80% self-sufficient in indigenous food (Defra Food stats).  But this figure hides the fact that although we have been self-sufficient in cereals and milk and over 80% self-sufficient in poultry we are below 60% self-sufficient in fresh vegetables and 20% of fresh fruit (Defra Food Matters). Fruit and vegetables account for much of the UK’s food trade deficit. In 2007 24 countries supplied the UK with 90% of its fresh fruit and vegetables – the UK supplied 19%.  The majority (36%) of imported vegetables were supplied by countries within the EU.  However, the figures for fresh fruit show we imported from 25 countries with 65% coming from outside the EU.  A recent report by PWC on the implications of Climate Change highlighted the dependence by the UK for imported food. A report by the World Bank also shows that new results on the impact of climate change published since 2007 suggest a rapidly rising risk of crop yield reductions as the world warms. Large negative effects have been observed at high and extreme temperatures in several regions including India, Africa, the United States, and Australia. For example, significant nonlinear effects have been observed in the United States for local daily temperatures increasing to 29°C for corn and 30°C for soybeans. These new results and observations indicate a significant risk of high-temperature thresholds being crossed that could substantially undermine food security globally.

2.2.    The implications of climate change on the production of food sources outside the UK could have an impact on our supply of those food products we import. This is particularly the case for fruit and vegetables sourced from outside the EU.  The countries we currently import from are considered at high risk of disruption to crop production. The risks are from high temperatures and droughts leading to lower yields and poorer quality. This will also result in diminished export opportunities from the countries concerned. The UK animal feed industry’s reliance on imported soya and maize from the South America and the US could see rising prices as shortages of these commodities results due to droughts in these regions.

2.3.    Dr Jason Lowe, Chief Scientist at the met-office speaking at last month’s event on UK climate change policy warned that in the longer term there’s a trend towards warmer wetter winters and hotter drier summers, summer droughts and more extreme weather events.

2.4.    The past three years weather has given us a taster of how climate change can impact on UK agriculture. The increasing unpredictability of the climate and more frequent intense weather events will test the resilience of any farming practice in play.

2.5.    The main factor that will influence any farms ability to adapt to climate change will be the condition of the soils on that farm. The soils will need to have high organic matter content to prevent erosion and compaction, increase water holding capacity and supply nutrients.  Any adaptation plan to climate change must include soil structural improvement.  A recent study on the soil biota and soil health across Europe identified that many of the soils in UK were at risk, the paper concludes that the high score (i.e., high potential threats) of several areas of United Kingdom and central Europe is determined by the combined effect of a high intensity agriculture, with a relatively high number of invasive species and an increased risk for the soils present there to lose organic carbon (2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Global Change Biology, 19, 1538–1548). The reintroduction of livestock onto arable farms and the use of organic manures are seen as key ways in improving soil health.  One system currently being promoted by two Nuffield scholars is the practice of “mob-grazing”.  Mob grazing is a school of ‘natural farming’ that seeks to mimic the movements of grazing plains animals on a farm scale. The approach is receiving attention around the world, thanks to pioneers who have put remarkable achievements down to mob grazing, and their claims that it can be used to replenish soils exhausted by monocropping or boost the health of pastureland. The Royal Agricultural Society of England is currently organising a series of workshops on this subject.

2.6.    The plan needs to look at water storage through rain water catchment systems and more on farm reservoirs. Flood defences are also paramount and although this is part of the Environment Agency’s National Adaptation Plan, flooding of agricultural land has not received enough attention. The influence of climate change on British agriculture will impact on food security for the UK. The UK Agriculture’s National Adaptation plan needs also to look at the current dependence upon a limited cropping or animal husbandry system which will increase the risk of failure in a climate prone to extreme weather events.

2.7.    The HSBC Forward planning in Agriculture 2014 highlights the importance of the SFP in maintaining farm profitability. The budgets compiled by the HSBC for a series of farm enterprises, arable, livestock and mixed farms identifies that without the current level of support many farms would be unviable.  The current CAP reform offers the perfect opportunity to link support payments to better resilience of farming systems by encouraging more diversity on farms and better soil management.

  1. Agro-ecology – building resilience into farming systems and mitigating against climate change.

3.1.    Agroecology has been defined as the application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agroecosystems.

3.2.    An evolution to agro ecological would provide many advantages, delivering food security and an increased resilience to climate change. Such strategies also offer greatly increased ecosystems services whilst providing a mechanism to sequestrate large amounts of both carbon and water back into the landscape

3.3.    Key Points:

  • Current agricultural practices are not sustainable as they depend heavily on fossil fuel inputs and erode the natural landscape. Top soil loss, depletion of soil carbon and loss of microbial diversity are all significant symptoms of this erosion of the biosphere.
  • A further limitation of agriculture is that it interferes with the hydrological cycle. Deforestation affects evapo-transpiration and therefore dehumidification of the atmosphere whilst ploughing, bare soils and soil compaction greatly affects infiltration of precipitation to recharge groundwater reserves. This is a significant long term impact.
  • Agro ecology and permaculture mimic natural systems, require decreasing inputs and offer a diversity of yields which also include a restored natural ecology
  • These benefits would enhance local social, food and monetary economies and could transform and energise economic activity.
  1. How Farming Can Reverse Global Warming

4.1.    The Green revolution has transformed farming from what it was 60 years ago. Increased field scale, intensification of cultivation, agrichemicals, machinery, seed technology and more has combined to create the present day system. However, there are some fundamental flaws in this approach and recent evidence is showing that a further transformation of farming will be required.

4.2.    Climate change challenges farming models on several levels. Not least the monoculture approaches are extremely vulnerable to variable climatic conditions and potential pest invasions. Agro-chemical inputs are also of course all derived from fossil fuels: fertilizer, pesticides, diesel for water pumping, farm machines and long supply lines are all extremely vulnerable to a rise in price for oil and of course their use also intensifies climate change.

4.3.    Land management patterns, based on the simplification of the natural diversity has also had significant impacts on wildlife and biodiversity which in terms can make crops more susceptible to pest invasion, without the natural self-regulation afforded by a healthy and diverse natural world surrounding our cultivated lands.

4.4.    The key factor to resilience in a natural system is biodiversity. ‘There is no redundancy in natural ecosystems’ In other words loss of any species in a system erodes the resilience of the whole system. Agroecology needs to, therefore , value the contribution of every species and not to concentrate simply the target species for production but to think far widely about cultivated an ecosystem.

4.5.    Agriculture of the type typified by the intensification of land use increases productivity but only in inverse relation to the inputs required to drive the system. At worst agriculture pits us directly against natural principles and creates an ever increasing dependency of external inputs to maintain a productive system and at the expense of ecosystem function. Agriculture is typically a net consumer of energy when all the inputs are factored in.

4.6.    The UNCTAD report, (supported by a great many others) points to the possibilities of agro-ecology, an evolution of our current systems to embrace much of our increased understanding of the function of the natural world. Small scale farms with wildlife zones and interconnected wildlife corridors provide an intensely rich patchwork of ecology, much more akin to the natural world. Water retention habitat creation, humidification, natural pest regulation and a multitude of other ecosystem functions can be integrated in to functional and highly productive landscapes. One of the report’s conclusions was that climate change will drastically impact agriculture, primarily in those developing countries with the highest future population growth, i.e. in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Against this background, the fundamental transformation of agriculture may well turn out to be one of the biggest challenges, including for international security, of the 21st century.

4.7.    Perhaps a key perspective in this discussion is whether agriculture and our whole approach to land management can be evolved to a) sequestrate far more carbon into the ground and, therefore, slowdown the onset of climate change b) to insulate and mitigate the possible impact caused by more extreme and variable weather patterns and c) to guarantee a rich diverse landscape consummate with long term conservation, ecological and ecosystems services considerations.

4.8.    Observations of natural world show that in many ways agriculture pits us directly against the ecology of the system. Nature builds diversity, builds soil and traps more water into a landscape, via increased soil carbon, wet lands and general rising biomass. Agriculture tends to simplify biodiversity, accelerate the passage of water through a landscape and dry out soils and allow more soil carbon to be oxidised and therefore return to the atmosphere.

  1. Potential benefits of Agro-ecology, permaculture and polycropping systems.
  • Decreasing inputs of fossil fuel derived chemicals and energy
  • Increased biodiversity of crops and wildlife, and therefore resilience to external climatic or pest induced stresses
  • Longer harvesting season due to reduced intensification and increased diversity of yields
  • Re stimulation of the rural economy
  • Create opportunities for more urban farming and gardening
  • Public heath benefits from greater social interactions and more exposure and involvement to local food production and recycling
  • Increased food autonomy and food security
  • Use of cover crops and compost to cover bare soils builds soil organic matter with multiple benefits
  • Sequestration of atmospheric carbon
  1. Embracing agro ecology and integrated ecological farming strategies would unleash a new economic wave of opportunity. It would serve to create relocalisation of a significant part of the food supply which would regenerate local trade and related services whilst providing a far greater degree of actual food security of the economically vulnerable sectors of the community.
  2. Perhaps because of the degree of capitalisation of agriculture, with its huge increases in investment in technology, machines and in working at an increasing scale policy makers are tending to look in the wrong places for possible solutions, strategies and ways forward from current challenges. When we evaluate agribusiness through a prism of energy return on investment what is revealed is that it is a net consumer of energy and not a producer at all and at a significant cost of erosion into the biosphere and the ecosystems services of water storage, purification, transpiration and so much more performed by natural wild systems.
  3. In the light of climate change and energy depletion it is likely that agriculture needs to evolve to take on board hard won ecological lessons. It should embrace far more diversity in terms of crops, varieties and wildlife whilst being much more closely integrated into human living recycling and energy systems. The application of a far greater understanding of the role of wildlife and biodiversity in regulating the natural world would serve to greatly reduce agricultural inputs and to enhance resilience and to ameliorate the worst excess of climate change.
  4. Restructuring subsides and incentives to reforest much of our uplands would act as a short term immediate response to the urgency of carbon sequestration, with better understanding it is likely that land management practices might have to prioritise this as the full impacts of climate crises unfolds.
  5. New economic initiatives might be developed that then build productive systems into these reforested area, such as honey production, fruits, poles for timber, biochar, construction, deer and other game. Just a few examples of the potential for going forward.


An estimate of potential threats levels to soil biodiversity in EU: Global Change Biology (2013) 19, 1538–1548, doi: 10.1111/gcb.12159

International Threats and Opportunities of Climate Change to the UK- PWC

UK Food Security Assessment: Detailed Analysis. Defra January 2010


Food Matters Towards a Strategy for the 21st Century The Strategy Unit July 2008


Farming statistics provisional crop areas, yields and livestock populations at June 2013, United Kingdom – Defra


UNCTAD – Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate September 2013


Permaculture design, training for a sustainable world


Understanding compost is an essential skill in building sustainable alternative to the current way of doing things.


View over the community micro allotment plots at the Pen Dinas garden in Newtown. Home to the Get-Growing project and deliberately set up to demonstrate the key principles of organic horticulture and community growing

Understanding how the natural world works and building an economic system that understands and respects those processes is at the heart of what permaculture design is about.

As global leaders wrestle with Climate Change policy, resource depletion and the like what is perhaps being overlooked is the potential of working with the wider community to incorporate a much wider and more fundamental way in which we do things to reflect these changing priorities.


Inspecting a batch of compost from food waste. Between 30 and 50% of food produced is wasted, turning this into a stable organic compound, i.e. compost means it is no longer wasted can help build soils and food security going forward

So part of our work towards a secure food system, and finding ways to contribute to the global change to sustainability we have developed a series of courses and projects that communicate the ideas of sustainability in a clear and meaningful way.


Compost worm, or brandling worm: a key alley in turning food waste back into useful soil

The core ideas behind the Get-Growing project has always been to demonstrate the potentials and techniques necessary to start a local food revolution. It is our contention that we will never have food security until at least a third of what we consume is being generated from local resources and from with the community. The idea that we have food banks here in the UK in 21st century seems untenable  and also should be sending signals and making alarm bells ringing, something about the current system is obvious not working.

Cwm Harry as an organisation made its name from food waste composting.. but really this is only the first step in  a series of things that needs to happen to make food security real on a local level. Towns and suburbs are full of unused spaces, verges, lawns, dead spaces between things.. all of these could be bought into useful production and could contribute to developing a vibrant local food economy.
img_6918 Of course gardens produce a lot more than food plants and there is another whole new area of opportunity around growing and working with natural materials, such as willow, rushes, wool and the like. Good management of soil can also sequestrate carbon dioxide, locking it up in the soil in the form of humus. No one is pretending that such measures are going to be some magic bullet to our Climate Change problems.. but if people across the world were to switch to these kind of measures then the impact would start to accumulate. It is this kind of thinking that is going to be required.img_6920
Permaculture is a design system that has triggered a grass roots movement around the world. It is the application of the principles of ecology to design systems that also have the properties of natural systems. Self regulating, made of local and natural resources. The more we can learn to work within the principles of nature the more we can create resilient and abundant systems.

Our energy hungry world is ripping its way through the carbon fossil reserve at an alarming rate, and the onset of Climate Change is sounding alarm bells around the World.

img_6923 To my mind this also heralds a new way of thinking, of planning and of using resources. Permaculture gives us that framework to begin to frame the kind of responses that are going to be required for society to respond to the on going challenges it is facing. Rather than seeing this as a whole lot of doom and gloom, the fact is we are entering a new paradigm, and with that will come a whole new range of opportunities.

Relocalised food supply, working much more with local and natural resources, moving away from making everything out of plastic

img_6935 and instead moving away from the consumerist throw away society will create numerous new opportunities.


Craft barn above Llanidloes, where the June PDC will be held next year

Up until this point agriculture has been geared up to produce large quantities of cheap food as an over riding objective. This whilst beeing successful has come about at a significant cost to the environment, in terms of habitat loss and more. Furthermore, it has underpinned our whole food production system with the need for endless supplies of cheap oil, diesel and petrochemicals to power it. The green revolution has essentially been a system for turning petroleum into food, and for turning biodiverse landscapes into rapidly growing populations and a consumer economy.

There is a huge journey of exploration before us as we are compelled firstly to wean our-self off this oil addiction and secondly to find ways of farming that restore habitats and biodiversity.

Regenerative Agriculture

This is going to be the main driver going forward. Climate Change is set to prove itself as the overriding issue of all. Unless we can find ways to respond this crisis there wont be a future worth having. As we have just witnessed in the Philippines these highly charged super-storms cause such horrendous amounts of damage that avoiding ever more frequent occurrences of this kinds of thing is going to be an imperative.


Local Grower Emma Maxwell is someone leading the way in re-discovering a locally focused food economy using organic techniques that help build soil

Managing landscapes in a way that captures carbon and stores it as humus becomes the over riding importance in everything we do. We are starting to call this regenerative agriculture and this is gong to be a key theme in our work going forward. Building soils, sequestrating carbon, restoring damaged habitats, reconnecting with local markets and producers and moving away from fossil fuel based agriculture. It is going to be a huge and exciting journey!.

Latest from Newtown community garden

Plenty of activities planned for November in the Newtown community garden. There is now list on the right hand column of the home page with all of our up and coming training events, many which will also get featured in the blog.


We are also planning a full day course: Composting Masterclass which at the moment is planned for March 1 st next year, if you are interested in this then please let us know. This will be based at Treflach farm near Oswestry, which is a 100 acre stock farm who are dedicated to finding organic solutions to their farm waste and input challenges and there will be a chance to find out about farm scale composting processes, the possibilities for heat recovery from compost and much more. Of course compost is subject very close to Cwm Harry’s heart and Richard Northridge will also be contributing to this event, who developed Cwm Harry’s food waste composting systems in our work with Powys County Council.


The Cwm Harry staff outside the Ludlow Anaerobic Plant

It has been an incredibly busy month for the whole Cwm Harry organisation, we managed to have a staff get together to discuss plans and strategies going forward. Since Cwm Harry ceased its food waste collection and composting services for Powys council we have been busy diversifying into other areas. We have launched Cultivate.. the new organisation which will manage the Get-Growing project, plant nursery and veg box business. We are also merging with Sector39, the permaculture training partnership developed by Steve Jones over the last year and are now offering training drawing from right across Cwm Harry’s skills base, food, composting, affordable housing and much more.


Beautifully patterned romanesque broccoli, growing at Pen Dinas in Newtown


Patterning in the roof of the new erected roundhouse in the Newtown garden

The Newtown community garden is developing past and it has been a great to see the roundhouse going back up, which was a focal point in the old garden on the Vastre trading estate. This will serve as a shelter for our community mico plot holders and we are planning a series of courses to complete the sides using a range of traditional techniques such as wattle and daub, rammed earth, hemp and lime and more.


Rhys and Jonno working on the turf roof on the roundhouse


Volunteer Alex with one of his beautiful hand crafted garden gates


Late crop of grapes in the Newtown garden

Designing productive public spaces

Site for the new Llanidloes public growing space, before being cleared by the Get-Growing team and volunteers

Site for the new Llanidloes public growing space, before being cleared by the Get-Growing team and volunteers

Urban areas are full of dead spaces. Disused land, vancant lots, verges ad roadsides and the spaces in between bigger buildings. They either require maintenance, become blighted and neglected or a just a wasted potential. With the prospect of escalating energy and food costs and tightening of government budgets it makes increasing sense to turn these spaces into productive ones that can be maintained and harvested by local residents.

Planning and building public productive gardens still takes some careful planning and consultation and to that end we have developed a 5 day how to design a community garden course. We use this learning process as a design workshop to design a real garden and as a way to train future community garden designers.


Study group working on the Llanidloes community growing space design at the Get-Growing project base in Newtown

We are really pleased with the outcome and the work on the new growing space in Llanidloes has already begun. The process is based on the permaculture design tools part of the permaculture design course, alongside intensive sessions on organic principles, soils and gardening for nature. The course was delivered by Emma Maxwell, Steven Jones and Sue Stickland.

We are currently using he same process to design a community garden on a high rise estate in Liverpool and working with local residents from the Stockbridge estate to design a build a community forest garden on top of what was the footings of where one of the 1960’s high rise blocks had been taken down.


Carole one of the volunteers on the Liverpool project, with some of the produce we grew on an unused space on the Stockbridge estate


The Denecliff high rise overlooks the area where we have been allowed to build our next community growing space.


Our project polytunnel in Liverpool is behind the service area of the local shopping precinct. We have been busy propagating plants for the garden there over the last year,