When 2020 arrived, little did we know what challenges lay ahead. But, in spite of all, a lot has been going on at Redacre.
Though it wouldn’t have happened without the commitment and hard work of you, our members. It was lovely to see things getting done on the site, even without the usual support of our community days.
We have had an unexpected plus side from the Covid crisis. Our membership numbers have swollen considerably. It was rewarding to see Redacre recognised a valuable resource to help keep us healthy and happy in the time of Covid. I would like to welcome all our new members.
Redacre started 2020 with money in the pot, and a vision for 21 recycled plastic raised beds. These were to replace the original raised beds that had become so degraded that they were no longer fit for use.
We also envisaged creating 4 new mini plots, specifically for raised bed gardening. And we reallocated those plots on site that had fallen out of use. This big reshuffle meant that most of those who had been waiting for ages for a plot, now have a space, just when it is most needed.
We still have do have a waiting list, mainly composed of our newer members, but it is easy for everyone to get involved in Redacre life. We have several new projects that are ideal for those without a plot of their own.
Ian MacPhail, our newest director, has taken on the Betty’s tree project. He has purchased a large number of native “treelets” to plant around the site. These will grow into goose proof hedges and coppice tree areas.
Also on the tree theme, I am heading a group to prune and feed our orchard and soft fruit bushes. Everyone is welcome to help with these projects, so you have good reason to come and enjoy Redacre in the early spring.
The Covid restrictions have been a challenge to our communications. Fortunately, early in April, Martyna set up a Redacre member’s Facebook group. This was good timing, as it has helped to keep the community together.
We now have nearly 70 members. People have used it for seed and seedling swaps, getting out information, sharing stories and posting pictures. Leon has kept us all informed with monthly newsletters. Also we now have a message board on site for those who prefer to keep away from IT in any form.
Covid dominated 2020 but the year began with another significant event, another flood – that the part finished flood defences managed to actually worsen. However this dried up pretty quickly and then we headed into one of the warmest springs on record. I remember having to water in April.
The dry spring was perfect for our raised bed project. We decided to go ahead with this in spite of lockdown. We had a great response from members. People came along and dismantled the old raised beds. You might remember the massive pile of rotten wood. We were able to reuse this in the bottom of the beds.
This is an adaption of the hugelkultur gardening system which uses rotting wood at the base of a bed to act as a water sink, water supply, nutrient and microorganism supply. An added benefit is that it means less soil needs to be hauled in.
Just as we (and the spring blossoms) were relaxing into the unseasonable spring heat, late on into May we had frosts, which is probably why our orchard crops were so poor (again!). Lots of us lost early seedlings as well.
On the plus side, the dry weather was perfect for the raised bed project. Dry earth is much easier to handle. We hired a digger and Warren did an amazing job levelling the site ready for the new beds.
Once the space was flattened, Leon and Mo marked up the area so it was clear where each bed went and drew up instructions for how to build them. It was encouraging to see how quickly they went up. Most of them were ready to use by midsummer and have subsequently grown spectacular crops in spite of this late start.
I particularly want to thank those who volunteered to put up beds for those who were unable to do so themselves. And huge thanks to Meg, who not only raised the money for the project but whose passion and drive delivered it in spite of all obstacles.
Of course the dryness didn’t last, plenty of rain arrived – as the school holidays started. But we did have fine weather for our only socially distanced Community day. We had a fantastic turnout. Lots got done, the compost bins were sorted. Paths to the new raised beds were flattened. Encroaching brambles cut back and flowerbeds weeded. Leon fired up the pizza oven and we enjoyed our BYO pizzas cooked in a proper pizza oven. They taste so much better that way.
Other things happened over the summer which you might not be aware of. Leon and Mo set about creating our third generation ecotoilet. It is not in action yet, because of Covid restrictions but it planned to be ready for when things ease up.
Also our Redacre wildlife expert, Natalie, and Ben did a beautiful job creating a wildflower garden by the polytunnels as well as a whole “bug city”. Natalie also organised a wonderful bat and bug evening which I hope will happen again this summer.
Behind the scenes, we have been working to bring our membership processing into the IT age. We have developed a new on-line contract and reviewed our membership list. Kath Baker has launched her medicinal herb project and work has started on raised beds for the new plantings. This is another project you can get involved with.
Autumn was a lovely season with plants growing on well into the latter days. Our resident boater Tom Hefner left for pastures new and we gained a new resident, Toby Spiller, with his boat Crusader. We welcome him to Redacre.
As autumn turned into winter, Ian took the lead another tree project on Redacre. He organised crown lifts on two of our biggest trees which has opened up the north side of the site to more light.
You will notice piles of logs, set up by Jez. These we plan to leave to dry out and then cut and sell as firewood. This will recoup some of the significant cost of hiring the tree surgeon. There is also a pile of wood chips by the gate left by his team. They are for everyone to use and they are happy to drop off more, so please help yourselves.
Now we are heading towards another spring. Let’s hope we soon shall be able to meet face to face and work and play together on this beautiful site. I am looking forward to the social side of Redacre flourishing again and to 2021 bringing a new crop of wonderful experiences to Redacre.
Helen Dziemidko February 4th 2021