Latest News

Free Energy Champions training hits Forres next week!

As winter approaches come and find out more about saving money on your home fuel bills, with a free Energy Champions session put on by the friendly folk at REAP. The session runs in Forres on Tuesday 24th October, 10 am to 1pm, with free lunch and refreshments and travel expenses covered. We’ll be covering topics such as changing fuel supplier and tariffs, simple energy saving measures you can take and other help you can get. You can then spread the good news amongst your neighbours, friends and family. There are further sessions coming up in Buckie (22nd November) and Elgin (5th December). To book or for further information call 07835 068481 or email energychamps@reapscotland.org.uk. Look forward to seeing you there!

REAP seeks Board Members!!

We’re looking for Board members to help oversee REAP’s work and support our staff and volunteers. No previous Board experience is required. The Board meets about 8 times a year, refreshments and travel expenses are provided and as our current Chair Elizabeth says, “You get more out of it than you put in!”

We are looking for reliable people with an interest in any or all aspects of our work:

  • helping people grow their own food, compost more, cut food waste and carbon emissions
  • therapeutic gardening
  • providing free and impartial energy advice to households in Moray
  • administering local community benefit funds
  • Working with community groups, carrying out research, developing our social enterprise and overseeing the business of being a local environmental charity

If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, please get in touch to arrange an informal chat by calling 01542 888070 or emailing info@reapscotland.org.uk You are welcome to come and visit our office, some of the places we work and meet the Board without making any commitment.

Second Grow Elgin blog

As promised, here’s an update on the amazing range of activities that Dorothy has been up to over the first months of this project. Where to start…?

I have had the pleasure of helping Dorothy out the two bimonthly volunteer days at Cooper Park, we’ve hosted so far. People can just pop along and help us maintain the splendid stone edible beds. You can come along and sow some seeds, learn about propagating, planting out, seed saving and, of course, eat and take home the delights on offer. These have included strawberries, blackcurrants, peas and salad leaves so far! A great place to meet others with similar interests. The next one is Saturday 7th October, 10.30am – 12.30pm.

And just last week I joined Dorothy down at the Gardenshare, to lend a wee hand for one session of her popular two-part gardening courses, which was a lot of fun. We learnt all sorts about composting, which included how to make nettle and comfrey liquid feed ‘teas’ – easy-peasy! You can can dilute these in your watering can to give your plants lots of nitrogen (nettle) and potassium (comfrey) as well as other minerals, great for leaf/stem growth and root/fruit growth, respectively.  We propagated herbs from cuttings, saved some seeds, ate some edible flowers, made a fresh rosemary, thyme, calendula and lavender tea (rather zingy!), ate a freshly harvested salad and made some fresh juice using our new cute portable juicer – you can just taste the healthiness..mm. And that was all in one session…Check the website posts and posters for more details of the third round of these, in September – book soon!

I enjoyed covering for Dorothy on her electric bike tours round Elgin (when she recently took a well-earnt holiday), picking up food waste and dropping it off at one of our community composting hot-spots around the city. We’re always looking for more businesses and organisations to donate their fruit and veg peel, tea bags, coffee grounds and shredded paper for us to collect – and all to make lovely compost to then grow food here in Elgin! Contact us if you’re interested.

But that is just the tip of her iceberg, in June Dorothy hosted a wee Eco-Gathering at the Gardenshare where a monster salad was harvested; Elgin’s first Big Lunch with a selection of her home-made soups from locally grown veg; and a stall at Moray Resource Centre with other home-made treats like beetroot hummus and garlic bread, using produce from their beds. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting hungry just writing this!

And she’s been busy raising awareness of the importance of bees, seed saving and composting with the wee ones at West End Primary and heading off with Greenwards Primary into the trees at The Wards, finding food for free and ID’ing trees. What fun we have! 

First blog for Grow Elgin part 3!

Hello there, Barney Thompson here, I’m back in the blog-writing seat, as one of the two Outreach Workers on phase three of this exciting project, aka Grow Elgin and Beyond; the other being the Community Gardening Queen of Moray, nay, Scotland surely (the world even?) – the inimitable Dorothy Allan. It has been a pleasure to get back involved with this particular project, even though I must offer my apologies for the tardy first installment of the blog – what can I say, we have just been so darn busy getting things rolling…

A lot has been going on and in this first blog I’ll report on what I’ve been up to; hot on its heels I’ll post a second blog letting you know all the splendid things that Dorothy’s been doing.

This year we have a focus on therapeutic gardening and a major part of this is developing food growing activities at Maryhill Health Centre. People can get referred by their GP or other health care professional to come join us in building the garden and growing tasty fruit and veg. Us REAP folks are well aware of the many ways in which doing this can be good for the soul – and one’s mental and physical health well-being – and we look forward to others seeing the benefit by joining in. I have been busy preparing a design for the garden, which we recently displayed at the surgery for everyone’s feedback – activities start next week!

AYP’s freshly planted bed

I’ve been doing sessions with many of the other groups I work with. Two Friday evening sessions at Elgin Youth Cafe as part of their summer programme proved lots of fun. Thanks to the hard work of the young people, there are now four new raised beds in their backyard space, sowed and planted up with french beans, peas, brassicas, pumpkins and various salads, to name but a few. Over at  Aberlour Youth Point, the young people and staff have been really proactive in planning what they’d like in order to reinvigorate their garden – a couple of sessions there have resulted in lots of weeding with a wide variety of brassicas going in – such as purple sprouting broccoli, various kales and Brussel Sprouts – with various faster growing salads sown in between for a quicker harvest without being shaded out. We refreshed ourselves with freshly picked strawberries and blackcurrants – mmm…

And time spent with the mums and much tinier ones at a couple of summer sessions (one of which was put on by our friends at Earthtime) at Step-by-Step’s new home at Winchester House proved equally rewarding. We ate a local lunch of broad bean pate to give us strength to blitz some weeding (my, were they quick…) and planted out and sowed a good variety of veggies. As well as collecting poppies for their seeds, I left the workers armed with various veg and salad seeds for more sowing and am looking forward to going back soon to see progress and to put all the ready compost from their bin (collected by the previous occupants, Action for Children) into one of the beds, ready for sowing – truly closing the loop! Talking of composting, the youngsters at Seafield Primary had a fun afternoon totally revamping their composting system and looking for beasties, along with some tidying and planting, but I suspect their most favourite part was eating the freshly harvested strawberries.

The elder folk of Moray have been involved too – we had a lovely time at Gurness Day Centre doing some indoor planting up of containers and tattie bags, finishing off with a delicious fresh herbal tea tasting session – lavender, calendula, rosemary and sage makes for a tasty blend. I’m looking forward to tasting the rhubarb chutney they made on another occasion…

And I’ve been on the road with colleagues at a couple of summer events, promoting the project, giving away seeds and other freebies and putting on some workshops – lots of fun!

So it really has been a summer of working with people of all ages – fantastic to connect with you all!

New report into Therapeutic Gardening in Moray

REAP have just published a new report into therapeutic gardening in Moray, funded by the Moray Integrated Care Fund Small Grants. Looking at research findings from organisations such as Trellis and others, it collates desk top research on the benefits of this type of growing activity, some of the barriers to expansion, and some suggestions for overcoming them, plus the operating framework in Moray. Primary research is presented from work with local organisations and individuals, and highlights case studies and good practice locally, with suggestions for accessing funding to make ideas a reality. 

“We hope this report will give a good start to the many groups we spoke to who are hoping to expand this type of activity in Moray”, said REAP Manager Ann Davidson. “There is no doubt that this is a growing area (excuse the pun!) with many organisations realising the benefits therapeutic gardening can bring to people they work with, and wanting to expand their services. We hope this report will help that process”.

The report can be accessed here 

Busy Winter with Grow Elgin 2

Community Gardening in Cooper Park

We’ve had two of our bi-monthly community gardening sessions in Cooper Park, at the end of January and end of March. Individuals and families joined us to plant soft fruit bushes in a new bed next to ‘our’ raised beds in the park, as well as weeding the existing areas and harvesting herbs and kale still growing in the beds. These sessions are always great opportunities for volunteers to get involved with REAP’s work and community food growing and harvesting as well as learning new gardening skills and ideas for more sustainable lifestyles.

Work with schools …

Our growing and composting work with schools around Elgin continued through the end of the winter. Classes in New Elgin Primary School and the Eco group in West End Primary school made windowsill planters and newspaper pots from recycled materials so each class could start to grow vegetable seedlings indoors  to be ready for planting out in Spring. A large raised bed in Moriston Road  outside Bishopmill primary school has been adopted by their Eco-group and planted up with herbs and soft fruit bushes (picture below), and next door at Elgin Academy, their Eco-group and a lunchtime youth group have been busy clearing their raised beds for spring, planting more fruit bushes and installing a compost bin (picture below)  to take compostable material from two caddies sited in the school. Seafield Primary School have had a refresher course in composting and have been out sowing veg seed, and Linkwood primary school, Elgin’s newest primary school which consists of one P1 class in temporary  accommodation without permanent garden space have also started growing veg seed in homemade recycled windowsill, as well as outdoors in two whisky barrel planters kindly donated by Speyside Cooperage. St Sylvester’s primary P1s have been busy sowing vegetable seeds in their raised beds and the P4s have taken responsibility for a new wormery to compost  organic waste from the classroom and staff room. And speaking of worms, we arranged a couple of performances of an eco-drama group from Glasgow’s play ‘The Worm’ which held youngsters from VIP childcare and a P2 class from New Elgin Primary enthralled with a lively story supported by imaginative props and music and two enthusiastic actors, as well as a chance to get up close to real worms in their wormery at the end (see picture below)

    

… and in the community

At the Elgin Youth Cafe we started to re-establish a food growing garden outside their new kitchen extension, by building and planting up a herb spiral with the help of some enthusiastic youngsters, as well as installing some large and decorative plant pots with vegetable seedlings. And on a  beautifully sunny Saturday morning we planted 18 soft fruit bushes (red and black currants and gooseberries) with local residents in the South Lesmurdie area of Elgin. The bushes will nicely occupy the small round vacant spaces left in some decorative cobbled banks, and provide a healthy snack for any passing residents come the summer and autumn.

Food garden at Arrows

Arrows is the Drug and Alcohol support service  of the Quarriers charity in Elgin, and during a very busy and physical day REAP staff and volunteers, assisted by Arrows service users, turned an garden area overgrown with heather and pampas grass around the back of the Arrows offices into four 2m2 raised beds planted with herbs and vegetable seeds, as well as a rhubarb plant and soft fruit area with currant bushes and raspberry canes. Not only will this new garden produce healthy local food, it will also be a great resource for Arrows service users to benefit from the therapeutic effects of gardening and learning new skills. One of REAP’s volunteers will continue to work with Arrows to keep the garden there going too.

Composting with individuals

As well as working with schools, charities and community groups we have also been supporting individuals to reduce their CO2 emissions by, for example making their own compost. As part of our work with primary schools we offered families a free compost bin and kitchen caddy. When we delivered the compost bins to these families we installed the bin in their garden and gave them a little workshop about composting, why it’s a good idea for the planet, and how it will benefit them, as well as the basic ins-and outs of composting such as what can and cannot be composted and how to keep the composting process in the bin active and thriving. We’ve now installed 20 compost bins in private gardens.

Learning new skills

As well as up-skilling people in all the above activities we also ran two more specialised introductory workshops. Nine participants learned all about apple tree pruning under the experienced and expert guidance of Chris and Vicky from Woodland Wanderer. Amongst a lovely small orchard of venerable old apple trees on a small farm just outside Elgin we learned about the theory and what specialist tool to use, and practiced and discussed pruning first hand on apple tree branches pruned from the orchard’s trees.

We ran an Introduction to Permaculture workshop for 11 participants ranging from novice  to experienced gardeners. As well as discussing the basic principles of Permaculture, participants learned about forest gardening, a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems. Tutor, Jonny Barton spoke from personal experience of building a straw bale house. In the afternoon we visited the Gardenshare community garden to look at community food growing and composting locally, and how Gardenshare ideas and practices related to Permaculture ideas.

New local community benefit fund launches!

Edintore Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund has launched! Applications are invited from groups, organisations and social enterprises for local projects with social or environmental benefits. To be eligible, groups must have a constitution (governing document) and a bank account in the group’s name with at least 2 unrelated signatories.

Priority will be given to applications that benefit people living within a 5 mile radius of Edintore Wind Farm (see map below). For more information, application forms and guidance notes are available on the Edintore page of the REAP website or from the REAP office. Forms can be emailed or posted out on request. 

The closing date for applications is 31st March 2017

Applications can be submitted to REAP at any time up to the deadline. At present it is expected that there will be 2 rounds of funding each year, in spring and autumn, but this may be subject to change.

If you’re not sure if your group or your idea is eligible, please get in touch via info@reapscotland.org.uk or by phoning 01542 888070. You are also welcome to come by the REAP office at 177 Mid Street in Keith, although it’s a good idea to phone ahead to ensure staff are there who can help you with your enquiry.

Primary Area of Benefit Map (click to view a larger image).

edintore-community-benefit-fund-area-of-benefit-map

Fruitful End to 2016 – December ’16 blog

sam_1416Fruit seems to be the main theme of the last few weeks of Grow Elgin’s work. We continued to supply and help plant fruit trees, a variety of apples, pears and plums,  and establish little orchards around Elgin. New Elgin Primary school planted half a dozen fruit trees in their school grounds, along with a similar number of currant and gooseberry fruit bushes. On the day we were due to plant the top layer of ground was frozen solid, yet when we postponed planting to the following day the temperature had risen by around 10 degrees and we could plant without a hitch! Moray Resource Centre also planted an apple and a pear tree, along with four fruit bushes within reach of paved paths so that they can be accessible to people with mobility problems. And in Cooper Park we had another community planting morning to add fruit trees to the orchard REAP and volunteers started last spring. A few days later youngsters from Earthtime’s outdoor nursery came along to plant a couple more trees there.  

Our apple press also had a couple more outings, and at the Elgin Youth Café they even used some of the apple pulp which usually gets composted to make muffins and soup. We’ve tidied up the High Street herb beds and the raised beds in Cooper Park for the winter with the help of a some volunteers who harvested more kale too. Indoors we’ve taken some plant related craft activities to groups at ENABLE and Elgin Youth Café, making festive, decorative and above all aromatic lavender pouches as well as Christmas decorations and birdfeeders from pinecones. 

d-at-stand-farmers-marketAnd finally Dorothy had a successful Grow Elgin stall at Elgin Academy’s Farmers market, ably assisted by Academy pupil volunteers. This was an exciting opportunity to talk to people as well as handing out information in leaflets about the veg and herbs being grown and available for harvest locally. There was selection of pick n mix seed packets to take away as well as decorative seed sticks and seed mats to encouraged people to go and grow their own. We made lots of new contacts of interested people and ran multiple sessions of our ‘Where in the World?’ activity, with both adults and children. This activity makes people aware of the great distances a lot of our food is transported, from far flung corners of the globe to Scotland where we could be growing  some of this ourselves and/or eating more seasonally cutting down on CO2  emissions and combatting climate change in the process.

Branching out this autumn

Grow Elgin November Blog 2016

We’ve worked with a variety of groups on a variety of activities, indoor and out this month, getting outdoors while we still can! We helped Spynie carehome build a herb spiral using recycled bricks in one of their courtyard gardens, where the herbs will not only be easily accessible for picking but the herb spiral can also be seen and appreciated from indoor seating areas. Once the plants have established the care home’s kitchen staff will be able to pop out to harvest fresh organic herbs with zero food miles! One of the carers mentioned she might like to make one in her own garden. Have a look at our website at http://www.reapscotland.org.uk/downloads/?did=116   for instructions to make your own herb spiral.

With young people at Elgin Youth Café we made Christmas crafts with local plant materials including decorative and aromatic lavender pouches and Santa decorations using local pine cones, which they can use to raise funds at  Christmas fairs.

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New Elgin primary school’s edible garden is coming on apace. We’ve now helped them build and  install six metre-square raised beds, planted and sown with  onions, garlic and winter salads like ‘Green in Snow’,  Sessantina and Red Mustard. As well a compost bin for garden waste the P4/5 class now also have some new outdoor pets to look after in their newly installed  wormery! The wormery will be able to process some of the children’s food waste from snack times and from the staff room (which would not go in their compost bin) to make nourishing worm-cast compost for their vegetable beds. The children now know all about what goes in their different composting systems and will be doing their bit to recycle compostable waste on site at their school.

tsi Moray organised an indoor pop-up market for social enterprise groups on the last Saturday of the month. Having our stall there was a good opportunity to spread the word about the Grow Elgin project and REAP’s other projects, our upcoming events and where people can harvest local veg and herbs. We had some hand-crafted stocking fillers and decorations for sale made from local plants, and made Christmas stars from willow withies with passing children. We also ran two herb tours around the nearby High Street herb planters, encouraging people to harvest local food.

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November is also a good time for planting trees  and we’ve been busy adding fruit trees and bushes to the gardens where we’ve helped set up raised beds. At ENABLE we planted an apple and a plum tree, and a couple of currant bushes with staff and service users, and also harvested a couple of turnips for the service users to take home – their lettuces were still going strong too!

At West End Primary School we spent a fruit-themed afternoon with their P6 class planting a small orchard of apple, pear and plum trees interspersed with red and black currant and gooseberry bushes. The pupils got stuck in with all aspects of tree planting, digging the holes as well as fitting tree guards around the trunks and stakes to support the young trees and mulching around the bases. ‘It was a whole new learning curve for me, planting a tree.’ commented James, one of the P6 pupils. The fruit trees planted were all varieties which grow well in the north of Scotland, including an apple variety called ‘Beauty of Moray’.

The pupils also had a chance to press locally grown apples by hand using a traditional apple crusher or ‘scratter’ and press and sample the  delicious freshly pressed apple juice. The children learned that growing and making food locally reduces CO2 emissions, and so the impact of climate change.  ‘I loved planting a tree.  I think more people should start planting things like trees, fruit bushes and food. Let’s save the planet!’ said Hayley, one of the P6 pupils involved.

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REAP at Elgin Academy Farmers Market

REAP’s Grow Elgin project will be having a stall at Elgin Academy’s Farmers Market on Friday 16 December from 10am to 2.30pm, promoting local food growing and with our ‘Where in the world?’ activity about reducing our climate change impact.