News Jan 03
- Dear Friend,
Thanks for the interest you have shown in the work of Plants for a
Future. Below you'll find the latest news from the project and an update
on activities on the year to come which mainly focus around preparing
the site for a new round of planning applications.
2002 News Round Up
The last year has been dedicated to running a series of events and
courses at our Education Centre at Blagdon Cross in North Devon. A large
number gatherings, tours and courses were organized and over 200 people
visited the site.
Shaping the Future of Plants For A Future - April 6th/7th
The year kicked off with this event designed to bring everyone
interested in helping us in the future together. It was a great success
and attracted 45 people from around the region. It featured a site tour
with a wheelbarrow picnic. A number of trees were donated and planted,
including; Walnut, Fig, Dogwood and Plum. A large stretch of long
overdue fencing maintenance was carried out - just a few miles to go.
Volunteers also helped reclaim a kitchen garden and built a rustic
retreat shower facility. Quite a few new faces with ideas and enthusiasm
are becoming involved with the project including Mat who's especially
interested in researching medicinal plants.
Buddhafield Mens Retreat - May 31st - June 8th
An event hosted in collaboration with the Buddhafield group. This was a
meditation and working retreat which had a strong plant nature based
South West Permaculture Convergence - June 29 - 30th
This attracted people from all round the region many of whom also have
their own interesting projects and a lot of time was spent exchanging
experiences over cups of tea. Sunday morning saw the arrival of three
special visitors: three cows from a neighbouring field. A few of us then
had the task of herding the cows away from all the delicious plants in
the demonstration gardens and back to their own field of grass, luckily
the cows seemed to know the way home. One major achievement was that we
managed to obtain water self sufficiency for the Convergence: all the
water used at the convergence was collected from the roof of a mobile
home, filtered through a British Berkfield ceramic water filter (give us
a ring if your interested in getting one) and stored. We managed to
filter and store enough water to last the whole gathering.
Autumn equinox Gathering - Sept 20th - 23rd
This attracted 30 people from around the country and included a full
tour of the demonstration gardens and the whole site; a fence
maintenance work party which help to seal off the holes in the dear and
rabbit fences; constructing the display tables for the plant sales area
and lots of networking and discussions on plants and sustainable living.
Woodland Gardening Courses - Oct 5th/6th and Oct 26th/27th
The first two weekends in this series of courses, held in October, were
a great success. The idea behind the courses is to go through the whole
design and implementation process. The courses focus around an existing
1-Acre patch of existing woodland: "The Garden of Love" which is
dedicated to the memory of Robert Hart (the pioneer off temperate
'forest gardening'). The courses are being led by Stephen Nutt an
excellent tutor with input from plants for a future on interesting
plants to uses. The first weekend looked at surveying techniques and
mapping out the site including the use of hand made surveying equipment
including bunyip's and A-frames. The second weekend looked at more
detailed design on chosen areas within the site and selecting plant
guilds for these areas. Future courses will include implementation of
these areas and further surveying and design work.
Green Woodworking - Oct 15th/16th
A windy weekend was spent creating various small and not so small items.
The tutor, Anthony Walters, brought along a pole lathe, a couple of
shaving horses and a wide selection of woodworking tools. Everyone on
the course had a go creating something, from spoons and bowls to tables
and a cloche frame. We also looked at an area of woodland and harvested
the materials required for the course.
Woodland Working Weekends - Nov 30th/Dec 1st and Dec 14th/15th
These two weekends were held in December and featured a number of
activities, including tree felling, construction of a crooked woodshed
and weaving the sides of our treebog.
We also had a visit from the Devon Wildlife Trust (15/9/02) with much
discussion about the Culm Grassland on site, which is an important
wildlife habitat. The Bristol Permaculture Groups (31/3/02) and a
permaculture course from Exeter (7/3/02), also came along for site
All visitors to site have been given welcome packs, including visitors
record sheets and the Plants For A Future Quiz. The quiz was designed to
help people learn about useful plants. Visitors they could use all the
information in the visitors centre to help them find the answers to some
of the tricky questions. The visitors centre is packed with information
including all 40 PFAF leaflets and a well stocked library. We've been
busy creating new leaflets including the PFAF Virtual Catalogue - with
concise information on 200 of our favourite plants and a new leaflet by
Ken on Plants for a Woodland Edge.
We have now completed our Fey Fund grant period and have had over 200
people visit in the last year. We received a grant from the Devon and
West Somerset Key Fund for £25,000 in October 2001; this was towards
capital costs at our Blagdon site and the setting up of a
training/volunteer program. This grant enabled us to buy lots of tools
and safety equipment for volunteers that were a major contribution to
making the years events a success. It also paid for the construction of
our new site entrance and the purchase of a 12-ton digger necessary for
the construction of our car park and lake.
Work is now focussing on preparing our revised planning application due
for renewal in June 2003 when our temporary planning permission expires.
A lot of major construction work is needed and the site needs a major
spring clean and tidy up. We will need lots of letters supporting the
project if you interested please complete the coupon overleaf. We will
also need a lot of help in doing all the work necessary for getting the
site in shape. We are planning a moth long site spring clean in
April/May and need all the help we can get on site so that the it will
look really good and show the benefits of woodland gardening and
Shows and exhibitions
Celebration of Cornish Gardening - May 1st - 4th
We attended this show at Trelissick Gardens near Truro. Our portable
potted garden of unusual edible plants was displayed as well as our full
set of leaflets and display board with photos and details of 50 plants.
Halwil Junction Mind Body and Spirit Fair - May 24th/25th
Another stall held 5 miles from the Blagdon site. This help greatly in
building local relations. This also was the appearance of Ann who has
help greatly with the demonstration beds.
We also had stalls at Wadebridge Green Fair - April 13th Falmouth Green
Fair - July 6th The Natural Heath and Healing Show, RHS Rosemore.
Henry Doubleday Research Association - AGM - Nov 22nd
Ken was invited to join the panel in an Organic Gardeners Question Time
event at their AGM and we also held a stall there. At first the
questions centred around normal organic growing, but towards the end of
the session the questions turned more towards permaculture and
alternative plants and Ken was in full form giving details of
alternative root crops. After the talk demand for our publications was
so great that we nearly ran out of all our stock. This was probably our
most successful stall of the year.
The Field in Cornwall
A Benassi Horizontal Sythe mower was bought for the Field. We think this
is a lot more friendly to little critters than rotary mowers as the
horizontal action makes a clean cut and allows the creatures to jump
free rather than being spun about inside a rotary mower. Its also a much
better tool for cutting through long undergrowth and can easily cut
through anything up to waist height, the only time it has failed was on
a large patch of brambles. On the first day we managed to clear all the
very overgrown paths on site using the mower at walking pace. The only
thing to watch is that all the nuts are good and tight, trying to find a
lost nut in a 20 acre site is not an activity to be recommended!
Maintenance is essential: as we recently got the mower serviced and a
full of grass was removed.
We are sorry to see the departure of Frank. Frank spent a year and a
half at the Field in Cornwall and had been a great help in maintaining
that site and added a lot of good energy. Frank is a shining example of
living in the Plants For A Future way, with a varied diet of many of the
plant that we advocate, and he thrived on the products from the field
even in the lean winter months (see our winter salad leaflet for detail
of this). He is a great plant enthusiast and experimented with growing
many interesting plants in a woodland gardening situation. Frank is now
planning to set up his own project on Portugal where Holm oaks grow,
(their acorns contain very little tannin and make an excellent
substitute for wheat flour). We hope that we will be able to collaborate
in the future and wish him all the best in the future.
Other News The first round of loanstock also became due this year. We
have been amazed by the generosity of many of our loanstock holders,
many of whom extended their loans or converted them to donations. This
took much of the financial pressure off the charity and the future of
Blagdon now looks financially more secure. It has also allowed us to buy
a much need nature friendly grass cutter for the Field in Cornwall.
Work is now progressing on the PFAF CD-ROM which will contain an easy to
use version of the database and over 1,000 pictures. We recently got a
slide scanner in the January sales and the pictures are being scanned at
a cracking pace.
As ever the website attracts a lot of interest with 30,000 hits a week
and 7,000 unique hosts a week. New additions include a photo album, and
a ten page report about PFAF which formed part of an MSc dissertation in
Holistic agriculture. See
New Trustees needed
Two of our trustees recently resigned and we now need to recruit some
more. If you interested in shaping the future of the charity and willing
to take on the responsibility then please get in touch.
New Plants For A Future Newsletter now out
The latest Plants For Newsletter is now out. This 28 page newsletter has
a variety of articles including: Plants for the Woodland Garden Edge by
Ken Fern, The PFAF Quiz to test your plant knowledge, Tree Bog rules for
appropriate sphincter control during the use of Tree Bogs and the latest
news and plans for both sites.
The newsletter should have been sent to all existing members of Friends
of Plants For A Future. If you would like to join please see
If you are an existing Friend and have not received the newsletter
then please get in touch.
The immediate focus is in getting the site prepare for planning
permission. We are planning a month long spring clean event in
April/May. Once this has been achieve we can begin looking at hosting
other events which may include: Wetland Ecosystems design and
implementation, Woodland Gardening, Green Woodworking, Clay Oven course,
Yurt or geodesic dome course.
The above may seem that everything is rosy down at Plants For A Future.
However we are just keeping our heads above water and run by a skeleton
staff. We are greatly in need of help financially (some stamps to help
towards the cost of this mailout would be great).
We hope to see you down this neck of the woods sometime!
All at PFAF
Plants for a Future: 7000 useful plants
Web: http://www.pfaf.org/ := http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/pfaf/
Snail: Blagdon Cross, Ashwater, Beaworthy, Devon, EX21 5DF
Tel: 01208 872 963 / 0845 458 4719
PFAF electronic mailing list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pfaf