Despite the ongoing Coronavirus lockdown, the Milford Community GreenSpace volunteers have continued to improve the facilities on the site since the last update, often working alone or in small socially distanced groups. The Forest School has continued on the site twice a week throughout the period and in the past week groups of 15 school children have also started using the area again now Milford primary school has re-opened.
At the time of last newsletter the concrete base of the composting toilet had been laid, but a temporary toilet tent had been placed on top. Now this has been replaced with an impressive permanent structure built by parent Howard Morris. Howard first made a solid framework for the toilet with large wooden posts then faced the sides with planks of wood extracted from pallets by the volunteers, and finally topped the structure with clear corrugated plastic, to allow natural light in.
The second major project since the last newsletter has been the construction of raised beds for the children to grow vegetables in.
David obtained 22 x 4’ scaffolding boards and these were carried to the site. Three 4’ (1.23m) x 12’ (3.65m) raised beds were then created by the volunteers from these boards. The site for the raised beds was very steep, and also contained a mound of composted waste and stones against the wall at the top, so before the beds could be created, the mound had to be levelled and the rest of the raised bed site terraced. The soil everywhere was heavily infested with roots, weeds and rocks, all of which had to be carefully sifted out of the soil used to fill the beds.
Peas, climbing French beans, seed potatoes, beetroot, courgettes, pumpkins and onion sets were purchased for the children to plant in the beds later in the spring and already the Forest School children have put the seed potatoes on their windowsills to encourage them to sprout (chit) before they are planted. In addition, envelopes with a sunflower picture on the front, each containing 5 sunflower seeds, have been put together by Jen and handed to every child at the school to plant. They will be encouraged to take photos of the plants as they germinate, grow and flower.
Elsewhere on the site, the remaining deconstructed pallets and scaffolding boards have also been used to good effect by Kate to construct a “kitchen” area for the children to play in and a hand wash area for the users of the composting toilet (picture above). Another 20 bags of chipped bark (from Sheilagh Harnon) were carried to the site then spread round the kitchen area, to enhance the existing chipped bark which had become damp with the winter rain and use by the children. Parent Ben, who has already constructed the impressively sturdy step ladder into the GreenSpace, is in the process of adding shelves to the shed. Already there has been a considerable improvement to its tidiness, as can be seen in the photo.
Belper Town Council (BTC) has been taking a keen interest in the development of the site. After our town councillors John Porter and Carol Angharad were shown round the site earlier in the month they indicated that BTC had funds remaining that we ought to bid for before 31st March, in order to improve the site further.
Three proposals have been put forward and bids are being prepared for each
- Landscapers to be hired to level the ground to the left of the raspberry bed, a fire pit created and bench seating for 30 children placed round the pit. New oak railway sleepers to be installed above and below the pit to stabilise the bank, and steps down to the main path created on either side of the pit. This pit would be a good resource for the whole community as well as the children. The landscapers would also stabilise the land between the three raised beds using more oak sleepers and create paths there. The raised bed paths, the fire pit and steps to it would be laid with chipped bark by the landscapers.
- A row of native bushes that will be of use and interest to the children and wildlife such as elder, buddleia and dogwood, to be planted along the length of the post & wire fence. In addition this will soften the plot and make it more garden-like.
- Although the water feature is extremely popular with the children, it is very muddy and slippery. A storage tank for the water and improvement of the stream bed leading down from the spring by the wall is proposed.
We will keep you informed of the success or otherwise of our bids – fingers crossed!
If the government easing of Covid restrictions goes to plan, we should be able to have more people on the site for work parties after the 29th March. In the meantime individuals or single households are welcome to come to the site and start work on our ever lengthening “to do” list:
- Bring more chipped bark to the site from Sheilagh Harnon’s house and Mark Hudson’s wood, plus extra logs and poles from Mark
- Hack the scrub and brambles down beyond the composting toilet, dig up roots and level to blaze a path through to the steps that breach the boundary wall and climb to the main allotment path from the A6.
- Fabricate strawberry shelves
- Make the chipped bark bins safe
- Complete steps up to newly planted fruit trees
- Weed and mulch raspberry bed
- Weeding of rest of site – ground elder, a pernicious weed, is sprouting all over the site.