New year at Pen Dinas

Drainage trench across main growing field

Drainage trench across main growing field

We have had regualr problems with our drains at Pen Dinas so the time to replace the existing pipe has come around and it is very interesting to see a proper soil profile across the field. Makes us think we should have done this at the beginning, not only is there only about 2 or 3 inches of topsoil but there is also a huge amount of rubble, bricks etc under the turf of the field. Our choice to build up raised beds and hugl kultur type growing strategies turns out to be a good call as these thin soils would otherwise never produce any decent vegetables.

tweetWe kicked off the year with a trip to Jesus College Oxford for the Real Farmers conference, the parallel event that runs along side the mainstream farmers conference for smaller scale growers, organic and more community and environment orientated initiatives. There was lively debate across many topics and if you would like to pick up on any of the threads of discussion there was a lively conference presence on twitter. They also launched a manifesto for new agriculture.

Pic below taken at Pen Dinas in December is of a head of broccoli, and anyone who has studies permaculture or environmental design will recognise the Fibonacci patterns, I found myself gazing into this shape for ages.. fractal mathematics in nature.


Romanesque broccoli growing at Pen Dinas

training-day Finally I should mention the fantastic trainers and practitioners day we had on Dec 16th which brought together 25 local people from the Mid Wales region who are potentially interested in working with us on developing skills and training provision. An important new venture for Cwm Harry is to be the delivery courses and learning opportunities across the broad range of topic areas we are interested in, from waste management to organic growing, permaculture to green wood craft. There will be lots more on this soon as we are busy working on an extended courses programme for the coming year.

Here is a fundraiser visit from School Farm CSA in Devon, freinds of ours, who we bumped into the Real Farmers Conference who are running a really ambitious Community Supported Agriculture Project near Totnes.

Here is an impassioned speech on the potentials and importance of small scale farming and a relocalised and vibrabt local food economy and culture.

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,

Busy week for community growing

NBGW (Col Logo)We finished our free 20 week course: Understanding natural systems and preparing for growing with willow weaving and food harvesting & preserving sessions in the final weeks. The whole course has been a fantastic experience and we are very grateful to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales for funding it.

Here is some feedback from one of the participants

Thank you for organising and running the 20 week gardening course (‘Understanding Natural Systems’), which finished on Tuesday. It was fantastic, very wide-ranging, and of a consistently high quality. I really enjoyed all of it and would recommend your courses to anyone. Good luck for the future!

Weaving a willow arch as part of our preparing for growing course

Weaving a willow arch as part of our ‘understanding natural systems preparing for growing course’

weaving willow hurdles

Weaving willow hurdles in the sunshine

Emma has started work clearing the new community growing site in Llanidloes and had an excellent turn out of helpers for the first of a series of regular Thursday afternoon sessions. Anyone interested in joining in should turn up at the Great Oak Cafe in Llanidloes from 2 – 4.30

The site will form a community food growing garden and is a perfect compliment to the courtyard and wildlife gardens already established as part of the Llanidloes co-operative.

Garden clearing team, Llanidloes

Garden clearing team, Llanidloes

The Cwm Harry food company is in the process of developing a local food hub is now well established in the shed at Get-Growing and the their veg box scheme is now operating out of the barn behind Pen Dinas on the Get-Growing site in Newtown.

Full permaculture design course, September

Full permaculture design course, September

Skills and Training

Cwm Harry Skills and Training is a new enterprise, part of the Cwm Harry group led by Steve and Jodie who are busy preparing for the next courses including permaculture design and community garden design. They have been to visit the stunning location for the September course, based on a 40 acre small holding in Mid Wales.

We are on a mission to being permaculture design into the mainstream and to offer a range of courses in different locations that make it as accessible as possible for everyone to get involved.”

Steve Jones founded Sector39 back in 2005 as a collective of permaculture teachers, artisans and event crew to stage permaculture design courses and to design and build gardens and edible landscapes. In April this year they formally merged with Cwm Harry to enable us to delve in the vast expertise of the Cwm Harry organisation to enable us to develop a comprehensive range of courses in developing a cyclical economy. We are currently developing courses on arange of subjects including: waste minimisation, composting, community growing, anaerobic digestion, housing co-operatives and affordable housing, water treatment with algae and more.