Summer Solstice Festival

Today is Midsummer, the longest day of the year, known and celebrated for generations as Summer Solstice.

This is the peak of the Solar year and the Sun is at the height of its life-giving power. The Earth is awash with fertility and fulfillment and this is a time of joy and celebration, of expansiveness and the celebration of achievements.

So, of course we had a fire festival in our wild forest skills area.

We cooked a vegan feast!

Sarah played her accordion and we sang along!

And Nigel performed some folk dancing for us!

We chatted, laughed and sunbathed around the fire.

We all had a fantastic day in the sun celebrating midsummer. Now back to the hard work! 🙂

Our Bee Mentor

We’re really sorry to say goodbye to our lovely Bee Mentor, Sarah who is moving on for new exciting plans.

Sarah has helped us with our bees and hives for the last two years and facilitated some really interesting group and one-to-one Bee Keeping sessions.

Sarah has also got stuck in with other tasks around the community garden including playing her accordion for us at some of last years fire circles!

So, we shall really miss Sarah.

However, the great news is that we have a new Bee Mentor joining us.

Welcome Annemarie!

AnneMarie checking our hive.

Annemarie is a member of the Cambridge BeeKeeping Association and is an experienced bee keeper. We have already discussed some new ideas and we are planning to introduce a second hive on site.

We’re really looking forward to working with Annemarie. Watch this space for Bee updates!

Celebrating May

Today we have been belatedly celebrating Beltane, the traditional May Day festival in the Wheel of the Year.

Beltane Fire

Usually celebrated from sunset on the 30th April to sunrise on the 1st of May, Beltane represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. It honors life and fertility.

Beltane is a fire festival with lots of traditional activities including jumping the fire, jumping the broomstick, maypole dancing and ‘handfasting.’

So today, Siobhan and Nigel built a flint fire and we cooked up some potatoes and beans which we enjoyed with vegan cheese and hummus.

The Celtic tradition of ‘Handfasting’ originates from the story of the Great Wedding of the Goddess of nature and the God (or ‘Green Man.’) It is a popular time for pagan weddings and so-called Handfastings. So around the fire today, we talked about The Green Man, his traditional position as the ‘protector of the forests’ and his relationship with nature. Some of us made depictions of him in the trees from clay and found objects.

We all had a fantastic Beltane festival today!

… and we are already planning our next Wheel of Year Celebration for Summer Solstice in June. Watch this space! But for now we better get back to the hard work of Spring/ Summer – sowing, planting and plant maintenance.

Amazing Pondlife

Today we have been looking in our wildlife ponds and found lots of surprises!

One of our wildlife ponds

We were lucky enough to spot newts, pond skaters, water snails, frog spawn and tadpoles.

But what surprised us the most was finding caddisfly larvae in their unique protective casing.

Caddisfly (Trichoptera) are moth-like insects that usually fly at night and are attracted to light. They are found near fresh natural sources of water as most species will spend some of their life stages in the water. The adult females lay eggs in fresh, clean water which has a good oxygen level. When the larvae hatch they build protective casings around themselves with plant debris and even sand and small stones.

Sarah took this close up of one of the Caddisfly casings in our pond

The larvae play an important role in the aquatic community, reducing plant growth and disposing of animal and plant debris. Most adult caddisflies are incapable of feeding on solids and instead imbibe nectar from flowers. So, the species are also important natural pollinators.

Adult Caddisfly (image taken from Britannica.com)

We are really happy that our pond has developed into a welcoming habitat for such a wide variety of species. The long grass, log piles, amphibian habitats, bug hotel, native hedging and no chemicals all play their roles in supporting a diverse variety of wildlife which is incredibly important for the wider environmental balance.

National Community Garden Week

This week, 4th til 10th April 2022 is Community Garden Week, which celebrates the amazing community and school gardens across the UK. All community gardens in the UK are different and are run by a variety of different people including children, older people, people of colour, people who have disabilities, women only groups etc.

Jo and Aura sowing seeds together today

Our Community Garden is maintained mostly by members of the local community who are homeless, have previous experience of homelessness or are vulnerable to homelessness due to issues such as mental health.

Nigel has been pruning out the old blackberry growth in our secret walkway today

Some of the benefits from being involved at the community that members mention are: a relief from anxiety and stress from the enjoyment of nature; a sense of community and mutual aid; developing healthy lifestyles through growing, cooking and eating fresh veggie food; a deepening of personal connections with the environment and local wildlife; physical health from general gardening tasks; learning new skills such as bee keeping and forest skills and just having a great time in nature with a trusted bunch of people.

Forest skills; building fires, whittling, cooking and eating together

Today we had a large group of members new and old. As usual there was a sense of collectiveness that manifested in group members helping each other out when needed and we all enjoyed our day.

Chantelle helped Katy to plant some veg in her own small plot today

If you’d like to know more about joining the group or would like to donate to the ongoing maintenance costs of our project please contact Project Manager, Ruth – ruth@cambridgecyrenians.org.uk

Designing, measuring and building the new show garden together

Good Gifts!

Our Community Allotment has been extremely lucky to have been a chosen charity for the Good Gifts Guide for over a decade.

If you’re unaware of it, the Good Gifts Catalogue (https://www.goodgifts.org/) was born nearly 20 years ago, a refreshing alternative to conventional unwanted presents. The organisation led by Dame Hilary Blume, was guided by two commitments: first, that every Good Gift was always wanted. And second, when you buy a Good Gift, your money buys the actual gift.

End Useless Gifts/ Help Others/ Stop Waste

Over the 20 years, those commitments have never wavered. In fact, more and more people choose Good Gifts in order to target their charitable giving with more accuracy and give gifts that won’t add to the burden on recycling and landfill in the UK and around the world.

Allotment For The Homeless

Our listing in the online catalogue can be found if you search for ‘allotment for the homeless’ and then follow the instructions to make the donation. All the donations are then processed by the GGG and sent to us in an annual cheque. The donation funds our general running of our community allotment, especially for tools and equipment.

https://www.goodgifts.org/allotment-for-the-homeless

Our Individual Tool Sets

Thanks to the GGG donations, we have been able to provide designated tool sets as part of our Covid safety practices. This has been really popular with group members as they now have ownership of their own tools.

Thanks to Dame Hilary Blume for your continued support.

If you would like to help us with a GGG donation we would be extremely grateful – https://www.goodgifts.org/allotment-for-the-homeless

There’s a Storm Coming!

In East Anglia we’ve had an Amber Warning for Extremely Strong Winds as Storm Eunice moves across the area tomorrow. It’s reported that this could cause serious damage and even injury/ death so we’ve spent the day doing important safety checks and weather proofing the site.

Richie has been checking the shed roofs and guttering to make sure they’re all secure and won’t be blown off in the winds.

Luke cleared any loose garden furniture and other items from the area around our bee keeping plot and Paul carefully added some more bricks and patio slabs on top of the hive to weigh it down. So, hopefully there won’t be any danger of heavy items being blown into the hive and knocking it over.

Katy has secured the new bench in the Winter Garden to the foundation railway sleepers with metal brackets.

Sam, Nigel and Luke have cleared all loose items including containers, chairs and ornaments away from the sides of the sheds and polytunnel. We have temporarily stored everything inside the barn and the bike shed. This will prevent items being blown around and damaging the polytunnel.

Paul and I pegged down the spring cabbage frame and Luke helped us to put the other brassica frame away under cover to prevent them from ending up on the other side of the allotment site.

We secured and closed up our storage cages where we keep loose netting, chicken wire, tree protectors and plastic pots to prevent any loose items going flying!

So, now it’s time to put tools down, lock up the sheds and stay out of the storm! Fingers crossed we’ve done enough to prevent any damage or injury. We hope all the bees and local wildlife get snuggled away from the storm and stay safe too.

Imbolc

Today we have been celebrating Imbolc together. In the traditional Celtic calendar, Imbolc signals the beginning of Spring and the promise of the rebirth of nature after a long Winter.

Imbolc is traditionally a festival for honouring Brigid, a pagan Goddess. She brings fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. Brigid is a goddess of the sun and fire.

So, we had a fire together and talked about the wheel of the year as it turns from Winter to the long awaited Spring.

Nigel collected Winter seed heads and dried stems and used a steel to spark the fire.

Luke and Chantelle maintained the fire and made tea for the group

We talked about traditional lifestyles and how the people of Britain, before the industrial revolution, used to live closer to the land and follow the seasons more than we do now.

We were also joined by Matt from local radio station, Cambridge 105 who has a show about food around the City. He talked to group members about what we do throughout the seasons, what we grow and eat at the community allotment. Matt also spoke to our bee keeping mentor, Sarah about our bee hives and their honey.

We look forward to hearing Matt’s show all about us!

Our Imbolc celebrations have made us think to the future and look forward to a new season of growing together! Watch this space for more seasonal activities.

Xmas Celebrations

Every winter we have a group celebration after all the hard work throughout the year. We usually have a ‘Xmas Curry!’ But this year we voted to have a more traditional Xmas meal. So, we booked a table at The Fort St George on Midsummer Common, in Cambridge.

And we weren’t disappointed! The group members chose from traditional meat, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free options which were all amazing, plus a variety of rich puddings. We were all really impressed with our meals.

We all enjoyed pulling crackers…

And Luke beat the cracker jokes with some of his own cheesy jokes! Groan…..

We all had a fantastic evening and it was a lovely way to round off a very successful year.

Here’s to another great year at Our Community Allotment in 2022!

Nature Therapy

Today, we visited Milton Country Park in North Cambridge. Created from old gravel pits the park offers a varied natural habitat with woodland, lakes, and attractive pathways.

Milton Country Park

As part of our therapeutic community we like to visit natural spaces, especially woodland. There is plenty of evidence of the great physical and mental health benefits from spending time in trees and with wildlife. And our group members definitely agree.

“It’s so peaceful!”

Siobhan brought us some swan and duck food and the group members all enjoyed feeding the waterfowl. We identified and chatted about the different species including Ducks, Coots, Little Grebe, Moorhens, Cormorants, Swans, Gulls.

As we walked around the lakes we identified the tree species and discussed some of the woodland management techniques used in Milton, including coppicing and hedge laying.

Whilst we walked around the beautiful surroundings we spotted some great features to add to our community garden and forest skills spaces, including this amazing sundial and compass.

We’re definitely going to build a human sundial on our site. Watch this space!

We believe that having fun together and play (yes, even adults need to play!) also has great benefits for physical and mental health.

PLAY – spotted in the woods

So, we also collected items whilst we walked so we could play Animal, Vegetable, Mineral when we sat down to have a coffee and cake. The game is another fun way to encourage discussion and learning about the environment, what occurs in nature and what is synthetic or ‘manmade.’ Each person takes it in turns to be questioned about their secret found object and can only answer yes or no. The group have to guess what the secret item is. Out of all the natural and un-natural items we found including feathers, berries, seed heads, buttons, beads, the weirdest must have been a potato masher found by Siobhan!!!

We had a fantastic therapeutic day in the woods with the trees, lakes, waterfowl, squirrels, birds and lovely people.

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