Permaculture Community Projects

Laura Rickards
Monday, 16th November 2015

The mainstream blog, Green Fingers, have researched into UK community projects, and amongst the 11 selected are four permaculture based projects: Brighton Permaculture Trust, Sector 39, Spiralseed and London Permablitz.

Gardening blog, Green Fingers have produced an interactive piece about the importance of community Gardening – of which Permaculture plays a pivotal role.

Eleven projects were selected in total after conducting research around community gardens and the influence community gardening can have in the UK.

Not surprisingly four of the eleven projects highlighted are permaculture focused – Brighton Permaculture, Sector 39, Spiralseed and Permablitz London.

Permaculture and community gardens go hand-in-hand – the knowledge and strength of sustainability-minded gardeners are more than the sum of their parts.

With this in mind, Green Fingers editor, Laura Rickards talks about why these three projects were selected and what they are doing to enrich their communities, with practical skills, education and creating a network of like-minded growers.

Brighton Permaculture Trust

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Since 2000, Brighton Permaculture Trust (BPT), run by an experienced group of volunteers and permaculturists, has built up an enviable roster of courses, events and projects to educate every level of gardener in sustainability. It was granted charitable status in 2013.

BPT's apple orchards have been recognised as a National Collection by Plant Heritage – a huge accolade in itself. The Trust acts as a 'caretaker' for rare varieties local to Sussex, saving them from extinction.

Volunteers also planted more than 3,700 trees during the 2014-15 winter in schools and community orchards in the county, allowing children and neighbourhoods to develop their custodian roles to preserve trees that will be passed on to the next generation.

The orchards are a unique way of promoting permaculture and sustainability by bringing people together to pick and process fruit and pass on knowledge and expertise.

Self-financing courses promote greener lifestyles and regenerative/sustainable development through design, from gardening to eco-building. There's a sliding fee scale, so courses are accessible to all.

More unusually, BPT promotes greener buildings and lower-impact ways of living in them by running eco-build courses with the Low Carbon Trust and co-hosting Green Architecture Day.

https://brightonpermaculture.org.uk/

Sector 39

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Running since 1995, Sector 39 is a team of designers, gardeners and teachers, working towards a sustainable future, based in Powys, Wales.

Led by Steve Jones, there's a range of community courses, such as forest gardening, that educate and further the sustainability cause, led by permaculture tutors, practitioners, artisans and growers.

The focus is not just on growing. The permaculture ethos involves utilising as much as possible from the environment in a positive way, so Sector 39 offers residential courses to teach skills long lost to most town dwellers. There's a fortnight-long course which offers practical sessions on building with natural materials like straw bales; green woodwork; food preserving and fermenting; textile crafts, spinning and weaving; charcoal and biochar making.

Sector 39 works with schools, colleges, new businesses and individuals to ensure its aim of working towards a sustainable future is promoted across different areas of the community.

www.sector39.co.uk

Spiralseed

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The Railway Gardening Project began when pub manager Dave Dulake was eager to see members of the local community using the pub garden as an area to congregate and socialise by gardening. From this, a raised bed garden was built for members of the community to plant and grow organic herbs and vegetables. Now, the garden is up and running, helping to improve cooking skills and positive involvement and participation within the community. Graham Burnett, permaculture teacher, and author, founded Spiralseed in 2001 and has since worked on a number of projects including this one.

This project focuses on creating a good community environment whereby members are involved through paricipating in the production of organic food. This project truly looks at taking care of people and the earth.

In 2013 the project begun by building raised beds from recycled wooden pallets and soil paid for by a fund-raising gig. Since then members of the community come together to plant and grow fresh, organic herbs and vegetables for other members of the community, and to make sure nothing goes to waste, any surplus produce is given to a local homeless charity.

You can learn more about The Railway Gardening project in PM78.

http://spiralseed.co.uk/

Permablitz London

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Permablitz London is one of the most informal ways to learn about sustainability and permaculture. A group of like-minded gardeners meet up with a facilitator and aim to transform a garden or plot, according to permaculture design – people can commit as little or as much time as they can afford to.

Since it launched at the 2013 London Permaculture Festival, many sites in the capital have benefited from the group's efforts.

A permablitz involves creating or developing a community or household edible, wildlife-friendly garden, or sustainable non-food growing projects, such as making compost toilets, growing fibre for clothes or planting for fuel.

Permablitz events build community networks while participants gain skills – and friends. They're organised on a voluntary basis – no one is paid and it's free to come along.

Mini-workshops explain permaculture design, such as the benefits of raised beds, why to use a no-dig system, traditional edible plants that grow naturally, composting, the soil-food-web, forest gardens and what to consider when mulching.

In a city like London, where many people have no links to their neighbourhood, Permablitz offers a way to become part of the community and do something positive for the urban environment.

You can read more about Permablitz London in PM85

www.permablitzlondon.com

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Sometimes, people are put off the concept of community gardening and permaculture, as they assume they don't have the skills, knowledge or time to take part, or that they won't 'fit in'. However, as can be seen by Brighton Permaculture Trust, Sector 39, Spiralseed and Permablitz London, anyone can benefit, gaining fitness, knowledge and produce in return.

Permaculture helps bring the environment back into balance, promoting a sense of worth, value and pride within a community – literally, common ground for its inhabitants.

Laura Rickards is the Digital Content Editor at Green Fingers.

For the full list of selected community projects vist http://greenfingers.buyshedsdirect.co.uk/gardening-project/

Further resources

Community straw bale building

Funding opportunity for community groups

Watch: Community owned renewable energy systems

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