Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Thursday 6 December 2012

A Hedge for the Jubilee

Our wonderful friends at the Woodland Trust have a great scheme most years, giving out hedge and woodland packs of little tree whips (that's really small saplings) to schools and community groups. This year, they have stepped it up a notch for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, providing more trees and also including a Royal Oak.

We have wanted a hedge alongside the allotment boundary with the carpark for a while, so we jumped at the chance to get this lovely freebie. That meant that today, we needed to plant about 100 trees to make the hedge nice and thick. It will be great for wildlife when it grows.

Robert Shaw pupils get stuck into planting

We knew it was likely to freeze, so we prepared the area for the hedge and mulched it with clippings well ahead of time, so that when the planting came, we just needed to rake the mulch to the side and plant in the protected soil. We were helped in this by Councillor Saghir, who arrived and set to work with a will, which was much appreciated.

Councillor Saghir lends a hand

I've planted six!

These trees aren't very big!

Is there really a mouse living behind the board?

The other year 5 class from Robert Shaw arrived to help us plant the trees, and soon got stuck in. We aimed for the pupils to plant at least 4 trees each and they quickly managed that, some going on to plant far more, and some bulbs as well. The group also found some interesting archaeology - which they took back to school to investigate. We gave out instant hot-packs to help pupils warm up, but also made use of the heat of composting to help thaw everyone's feet. We finished off with a round of warm apple juice with cinnamon to help unfreeze fingers as well.


Thanks to all from Robert Shaw - you did really well in difficult conditions.

Archaeology - part of a glass sweet dish?

More archaelogy, and a mystery root

Composting hedge clippings get nice and warm.
Just the thing for warming cold toes!

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Fabulous Fun at the Festive Fuddle!

Apparently a "fuddle" means a variety of things. For us, it's Nottingham's word for a "pot luck" meal where everyone brings something to share, so if you were confused, hopefully that's clarified things!

Today was our Festive Fuddle, so we fired up the clay oven, invited round a few friends and laid on some fun activities to keep people occupied in between noshing. Actually - Pete and Alex fired the oven, Alex is particularly necessary to the process, because he alone seems to have the knack of moving the fire to the back of the oven without putting it out...

Alex - now known as the "oven whisperer"
We were delighted to be joined by some of our recent visitors from Gateway to Nature, including some of the group that helped us make the clay oven base and roof. A few folk from the wonderful Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens also joined us (including Dan, a much-missed volunteer who is now working there).

Making paper chains
We began with a session making festive paper chain decorations out of colourful off-cuts from out of date magazines, as well as decorating CD's for a bit of bling. Whilst that was going on, a few of us prepared dough to make pizza and rolls. These went into the oven for a quick hot bake, which worked beautifully. The pizza disappeared as fast as it could be cooked, and the rolls were enjoyed with chestnut pate, roasted parsnip pate, and chutneys and jams which we made at other sessions during the year. Gateway to Nature provided veggie burritos and cakes - yum!

Pizza is served!

The food fully enjoyed, we moved on to making willow star wands. We moved this to round the fire outside so folk could warm their feet (it was still rather chilly!).

Now - repeat after me,  "Warm-me upus immediatus!"

Then we moved the magic back inside to create some marigold balm. This is actually really easy, beginning with soaking dried calendula marigolds in warm olive oil then leaving them soaking for a few weeks. Then you simply drain the oil into a pan, add about half as much beeswax as you have oil and melt them together. You could add a drop or two of a suitable essential oil like peppermint, lemon, orange or vanilla, but it's not necessary. Just gently heat the mix until it is all liquid, stir and pour into small pots. Make sure you run a patch test somewhere on the inside of your arm or leg before using it on your lips, just in case you have an allergic reaction.

Pouring out the lip balm
Everyone went away with lots of goodies - the balm, chutney and decorations. The paper chains went to decorate the room for a community group that had no budget for festive finery, so we hope we helped spread a little sustainability message along with the cheer.

Complements of the Season to you all!

Sustainability - Lessons from the Victorians

Let the gnome-hunt begin!

Today, a brave class of Year 5 pupils braved the chill to help us debut a new session aimed at helping them realise that the Victorians new a thing or two about sustainability.

Despite all the water butts being iced over, the intrepid bunch really enjoyed our Gnome Trail. Why gnomes? Well, the Victorians really started the fashion for garden gnomes, when some were imported from Germany. So, we used 10 images of gnomes which had interesting information about Victorians to introduce ideas and facts to the group. They had to walk round the allotment finding them, and try to remember as much of the information at possible. Then, as they finished, they came into the polytunnel to look at some things that were related to what they had learned. 

Mark wonders when the hot bed will start to warm up...

Fresh horse manure was on hand to show how the Victorians had used it to make hot beds (if you rot something down, it will normally heat up at the beginning of the process, and strawy manure does this nicely). Broken tools reminded the group that the Victorians were great menders of tools, with things designed to be mended rather than thrown away when broken. We also got out our push-powered lawn mower, which isn't Victorian, but still shares a lot of the main features of the original pony-powered mower design. Some of our gardening catalogues began in Victorian times when gardening became very fashionable, so we had a few of their modern day descendants on show. We had some bone-meal to remind the group that the Victorians became big fans of the fertilising power of the stuff, even having battlefields and catacombs raided to provide the raw materials! And the biggest hit was the hay box, which was a popular way of keeping food warm and also of slow-cooking in Victorian times. Our version, which you may have already seen, is based on a crisp box rather than a polished wooden chest, but it still does the job nicely, as it was gently cooking the chestnut pate for the Festive Fuddle in the afternoon. 

Ah - warm hands at last!

After that, Tracey demonstrated how a watering device popular in Victorian times worked, using a plastic bottle with holes in the bottom. You simply dip this in water, put your hand or thumb firmly over the top and then use it to water by removing your thumb / palm from the hole. This allows air in to replace the water, so the water then pours out. Very clever!

Hand on top of bottle - no water falls out.

Remove the hand, and, hey presto! It's a watering bottle!

We finished the session by linking up the Victorian tradition of Christmas Tree decorating with a much older tradition of tree dressing that existed in Britain before that. Trees were decorated in various places, using many different methods, but we chose to use cloths, following a tradition that is still alive in Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall. Our pear tree needs a bit of love and attention, as it didn't bear any fruit at all this year, so we asked the group to help us create poems describing the tree. They then wrote these on strips of torn bed-sheet with permanent markers, and tied them to the tree. It looks great and the poems are really good. If you are passing, why not pop in and have a look for yourself?

Thinking of words to describe the tree

The finished "clootie tree"