Stanmer Park is a hotbed of community activity

Tucked away in a little corner of Stanmer Park, you will find a home for a thriving collection of community projects.  Brighton & Hove Food Partnership have taken on the coordination of Stanmer Wellbeing Gardens, a four-acre site with 12 active community groups. This sits next to Stanmer Organics, a co-op with 15 ecological projects running 17 acres of organically managed land.

This area has been growing food with the community for over 20 years – an astonishing achievement.

Highlights include:

Stanmer EarthshipThis is the site of the first Earthship to be built in the UK. An Earthship is an off-grid building that uses the planet’s natural systems to heat, cool and power the structure. Earthships are made with rammed-earth tyres and other eco-building methods. The Low Carbon Trust offer courses in partnership with Brighton Permaculture Trust on how to build Earthships and other types of green buildings. You can hire out the Earthship to use as a community centre or for private functions. There are regular tours of the Earthship as well. Surrounded by countryside with a nice view of the woods and a couple of compost toilets in the grounds it is a great venue for any occasion.

Fork and Dig It Team

As a Community Supported Agriculture scheme, Fork and Dig It grow tonnes of organic fruit and vegetables. Members pay in advance for a share of their produce and can volunteer on their two-acre site at Stanmer Organics. They provide local, fresh, seasonal food for Brighton and Hove residents. Selling the produce as a share supports their free 12-month traineeship for the public to learn sustainable food production. The project was founded in 2007 against a backdrop of mounting concerns regarding sustainability, food provenance, GM crops and the commercial use of pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilisers.

They have a deep understanding of the importance of promoting soil health as the foundation for basic ecosystem functions that are intrinsic to food production, biodiversity and the natural environment. They continue to advance the project against the mounting pressure of climate change.

I have learnt so much over the past year and by regularly being outdoors, for the first time in my life, begun to understand the seasonal changes and the importance of seasonal eating. Being immersed in the practise of growing food organically, saving seed and caring for the soil I have been encouraged to build on my knowledge and now definitely see growing food as my future career.

Sarah Walker, Trainee at Fork & Dig It

Stanmer Community Garden GroupStanmer Community Garden Group have been meeting up at Stanmer for 8 years. They bring together volunteers and vulnerable adults in a mutually-supportive group, preparing beds, sowing seeds, planting and learning about growing fruit and vegetables. They sell some of their produce to help sustain themselves through A Share of the Crop, and their volunteers can also take home produce grown by the group.

Members of our group come up to Stanmer Park to escape the stresses and strains of modern life, embracing the holistic benefits of gardening – from the ‘green gym’, to eating healthier organic food, and the ‘sense of community’ that working together can provide. We believe that gardening really can make you a happier, and healthier person.

Greg Levitt, Volunteer at Stanmer Community Garden Group

Colin Stanmer Community Garden Group

I’ve been coming to groups at Stanmer park for over 20 years. The Stanmer Community Garden Group started in 2011. Over that time, I’ve gained confidence and experience, made friends and enjoy getting out of the city, growing fruit and vegetables and the fresh air.

Colin Dodd, Volunteer at Stanmer Community Garden Group

Stanmer Wellbeing Gardens SignThere are also many exciting plans afoot at the Stanmer Wellbeing Gardens managed by the Food Partnership. We have several new projects on board, including Wild Bee, a pollinator-friendly edible planting project & Common Place, undertaking sensory experiences to immerse people in nature. We hope to undertake more public events so please watch this space for more information. Possible plans in the pipeline include a forest school kindergarten, developing an eco-building and environmentally-friendly demonstration gardens.

Brighton & Hove City Council have just started a major project to restore the Walled Garden and other areas, which will mean that our site will become publicly accessible. The walled garden will have beautiful ornamental gardens, a café and shop which will all be run by Plumpton College, educating people about horticulture and other land-based occupations. The space next to our plot will be a carpark for the public. If you are interested in finding out about these plans see the Stanmer Park Restoration Project web page.

Stanmer Organics signThere are many other wonderful projects up at Stanmer and plenty of ways to get involved. If you would like to volunteer, check out our directory, or the Stanmer Organics and Stanmer Wellbeing Gardens webpages.

If you have any questions please contact Helen Starr-Keddle, helen@bhfood.org.uk, 07850 002596.

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