Sunday, 25 October 2009

10 Reasons To Save Windmill Hill City Farm


1. When the shop's functioning it sells the best pork in the West (sorry Rosie).
2. The farm nursery has apple trees in the garden, chickens for neighbours and a playground in a wood.
3. More than a hundred people with mental health problems volunteer at the farm or use it as a place of refuge.
4. Many others learn ICT skills at the farm's Computing Centre.

5. Local children know more than most about the realities of food production. They know who lays the eggs and where the sausages come from.
6. Where else can you have a sandwich and a cup of tea and watch ducks waddling about a farmyard?
7. Getting pecked by a chicken is surely a vital rite of passage for any toddler.

8. Everyone is welcome.
9. The adventure playground gives older children a chance to let off steam. And there's always a sympathetic adult to talk to.
10. Don't forget the farm's services for older people, adult education classes, the much sought-after allotments, Rosie the pig, a second chance for numerous people who had a rough childhood, the collective memory of every child raised in south Bristol...

Right now the farm is in a bit of a pickle, finance-wise. If you want to help, pledge £25 here before 31 October. More info on the farm itself here.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ravilious at St Bride


If you're interested in the work of Eric Ravilious, you may want to come along to this evening of illustrated talks at the St Bride Library in London, on 2 December. Four of us are speaking, each with a very different approach. I'll be looking in-depth at half a dozen watercolours painted by the artist around the Sussex Downs, exploring stories and characters behind the scenes. It should be a great evening.

Apple Day 2009 - Days Cottage


Sunday was Apple Day at Days Cottage, the Gloucestershire orchard I featured in Man-made Eden. Dave Kaspar and Helen Brent-Smith sell apple juice, cider and fruit at the Bristol and Stroud farmers' markets, and also run an excellent Orchard Skills Centre. As Dave puts it,

My aim is to demystify the processes of pruning, grafting and budding, and to give people hands on practice. The pruning courses teach people to create productive and beautiful trees - whether its one small tree in a garden, or an orchard of old trees. Grafting and Budding are methods of propagating fruit trees.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will feature Days Cottage in a River Cottage feature about perry, to be shown on Channel 4 on 12 November.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Forgotten City


For a while it looked like every forgotten corner of Bristol was going to have apartment buildings and office blocks built on it. After the failure of a low-key campaign to save this overgrown orchard its disappearance under the developer's bulldozer seemed inevitable. Then the recession took hold and the developer's urgent need for land evaporated.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city... I go past this corner most days. Who wouldn't? There is no dog. A giant alsatian guards the back of the ice cream place up the road but there's nothing within these walls of corrugated iron except a thriving population of buddleia. With a facade like that, who needs a dog?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Paul Nash: how to write a guidebook



They don't write them like this any more. In 1935 Paul Nash edited the Shell Guide to Dorset under the general editorship of John Betjeman. His erudite, informative and opinionated essay on the county focuses on the primeval and picturesque, and he has this to say about Maiden Castle:

It is a phenomenon which must be seen to be believed if you consider that it was constructed throughout a series of occupations, the earliest of which can be ascribed to a period approaching 2000BC. Its presence today, after the immense passage of time, is miraculously undisturbed; the huge contours strike into even the most vulgar mind; the impervious nitwits who climbed on to the megaliths of Stonehenge to be photographed slink out of the shadow of the Maiden uneasily.

Perhaps he had been given some style pointers by Betjeman.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thoreau's apples


"It is remarkable how closely the history of the Apple-tree is connected with that of man."


Henry David Thoreau was not a big fan of the fat, red, commercially-grown apple. He liked instead to harvest apples as he roved around the countryside, and made his own list of fruit to rival any pomona or nurseryman's catalogue:

There is, first of all, the Wood-Apple (Malus sylvatica); the Blue-Jay Apple; the Apple which grows in Dells in the Woods (sylvestrivallis), also in Hollows in Pastures (campestrivallis); the Apple that grows in an old Cellar-Hole (Malus cellaris); the Meadow-Apple; the Partridge-Apple; the Truant's Apple (Cessatoris), which no boy will ever go by without knocking off some, however late it may be; the Saunterer's Apple - you must lose yourself before you can find the way to that; the Beauty of the Air (Decks Aeris); December-Eating; the Frozen-Thawed (gelato-soluta), good only in that state; the Concord Apple, possibly the same with the Musketa-quidensis; the Assabet Apple; the Brindled Apple; Wine of New England; the Chickaree Apple; the Green Apple (Malus viridis) - this has many synonyms; in an imperfect state, it is the Cholera morbifera aut dysenterifera, puerulis dilectissima; [Footnote:The apple that brings the disease of cholera and of dysen-tery, the fruit that small boys like best.] - the Apple which Atalanta stopped to pick up; the Hedge-Apple (Malus Sepium); the Slug-Apple (limacea); the Railroad-Apple, which perhaps came from a core thrown out of the cars; the Apple whose Fruit we tasted in our Youth; our Particular Apple, not to be found in any catalogue, Pedestrium Solatium [The tramp's comfort.] also the Apple where hangs the Forgotten Scythe; Iduna's Apples, and the Apples which Loki found in the Wood; and a great many more I have on my list, too numerous to mention - all of them good.

Most of these, he goes on to say, need to be enjoyed where they are found. Indoors they lose their magic and their taste.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs


'Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs' should be out next month, and the cover will look something like this. In December I'm giving a talk based around watercolours in the book at the St Brides Library in London, as part of a Ravilious evening, and other launch events are being planned.