Hello folks, as the nights draw in and Jack Frost starts to come a’ knockin’, our Community Energy Champions team have been getting busy getting out spreading the word of how to save money on your fuel bills and getting to the heart of our project.
Leaflets and freebies galore for the knitters at Elgin Community Centre
We have run two drop-in information and training sessions: in Elgin in September and Forres in October; with Buckie Community Centre (22 November 10am – 1pm, free lunch!) and Elgin Youth Cafe (5 December 3.30 – 5.15 pm) to follow – booking advised. We cover deciphering your fuel bills and switching tariff and supplier, how much different home appliances use, different heating and hot water systems, factors in Moray that contribute to affordability of domestic fuel bills and heat loss in the home, amongst others. It’s a basic overview, nothing too complicated but extremely useful!
As well as our intrepid Community Energy Champions who’ve stayed for a good while – with the allure of a certificate, the lunch (!), goodies, a follow-up bespoke home visit and the feel-good factor of then passing on the knowledge in their community – other folk have dropped in for a wee blether and to grab loads of different handy leaflets and freebies for saving energy. So something for everyone. Want to find out more? Then come on down!
In the coming months we will be visiting organisations such as tenants groups, sheltered housing units, groups supporting the elderly and vulnerable, and community and interest groups such as Men’s Sheds to put on these sessions – do you know a group who would be interested? We are targeting Buckie, Dufftown, Elgin, Forres, Keith and Lossiemouth in the main. Please contact us.
Mini wind farms at Seafield Primary
And we’ve had tremendous fun visiting Seafield and St. Sylvester’s primary schools in Elgin, Anderson’s in Forres and Cluny in Buckie, with more schools across Moray in the pipeline. In highly interactive sessions, the children have been finding out where their energy comes from and how it links to climate change, as well as simple steps they can take to help tackle climate change and save the grown ups who pay the bills at home – and for their school! – money. Lindsey Jackson from The Moray Council and her solar-powered critters and gadgets have gone down a treat!
Just a couple of the twenty-odd Summer Scorcher families at Mortlach Primary
And lastly, while summer can now seem a distant memory, in Elgin, Buckie, Forres and Dufftown, families loved dropping in to make simple solar ovens from pizza boxes in our Summer Scorcher events when we launched the project.
After 3 years of blood, sweat and study followed by fingernail shredding exams, oor Dorothy has achieved her Level 2 Royal Horticultural Society Certificates in Principles of Horticulture and Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance.
She said, “It has been hard work but totally worth it. It has been great to study then go out and deliver my new knowledge to the public at our sessions and workshops. It really reinforced my learning and it was great to pass on information.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Look forward to seeing you there!
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
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 email@example.com You are welcome to come and visit our office, some of the places we work and meet the Board without making any commitment.
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!
A great chance to come along and learn or develop your gardening skills and its FREE!!
2 Part course, Wednesday 20th September & Wednesday 27th September, 12.30pm-2.00pm at Cooper Park, Elgin.
This course has a limited number of places.
To book a place please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office 01542 888070
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!
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”.
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.