A Horse Tool Talk!

On Monday, the VPA team travelled back to Boarshaw Clough for some more path clearance and maintenance. The sun came out for the mini heatwave which hit the British Isles all week, making a nice change from the tail end of Hurricane Katia on our previous visit.

First task, the action packed tool talk, during which the neighbouring horses decided to join in, where everyone was given a tool that would be used and they had to rack their memories on how to handle it.

The team paying full attention to the very important tool talk

After the tool talk it was straight on to widening the path, cutting back the brambles, removing hazards from the path and clearing the access gate. This weeks interesting finds were mainly babies nappies, a whole lot of dog dirt and far too many wasps to keep track of! The highlight of the day for me personally, was the large choice of cakes at dinner time courtesy of Dave with his brownies and flapjacks and Tobias with his muffins!

During the afternoon, the sun was still shining and the path was beginning to take shape around the top access gate with the clearing of a lot of brambles, which would have been made a lot easier if the hedge trimmer had not hit some barbed wire and broke! The mixture of being distracted by feeding the horses and the familiar sight of Colin sat in some bushes meant a good day was had by all.


An Inspirational Day At ‘Offshoots’

On Friday, the VPA team travelled up to Burnley to visit the exciting permaculture project “Offshoots”.

The day began with a brief introduction to Permaculture by Phill Dewhurst. He told us about the three ethics that guide Permaculture:

  • Earth Care – looking after the planet
  • People Care – looking after each other
  • Fair Share – reducing consumption and sharing resources

After a little bit of theory, Phil took the group out to the “Sensory Garden”. In this space, every plant had at least one sensory property. Camomile smelt great! Nasturtiums had peppery leaves, seeds and flowers – like very intense rocket. Sorrell divided the groups taste buds, but was somewhere between a citrus or an apple peel flavour. It was a good way to begin the tour of the site, getting everybody into the flow of picking, smelling and tasting!

We spotted at least 14 types of herbs in the herb spiral, which only measured about a meter and a half wide! Next were raised beds full of beans, artichokes, and apple trees!

Quite inspiring were the cob buildings, which had been hand-built from a mixture of clay and sand. Even cooler was the cob oven, which apparantly makes amazing bread and pizzas!

There are too many awesome things going on to list them all, but a selection includes yurt crafting; green wood working; charcoal making; and living willow structures!

My favourite part was the “forest garden” or “food forest”! A mixture of apples, pears, soft fruit and rhubarb grew together in a fairly small area. It was then our job to harvest the bounty!

All in all, we had a fantastic day at Offshoots! Each of us left with heads brimming full of possibilities and ideas! If you ever get the chance, I would highly reccomend a visit.

A big thankyou to Phil, and all of the volunteers who make Offshoots a massive success!

Recycling: New trends emerge.

16% of the price you pay for a product is for the packaging, which will ultimately end up in the bin?

It requires 70% less energy to make paper from recycled paper than from raw resources.

£36 m of aluminium is thrown away each year?

Pretty horrific huh?

Enter Manchester based organisation EMERGE, and its army of bright eyed and bushy tailed volunteers, who aim to combat this ludicrous situation we find ourselves in. And it sounded so good, the VPA team just had to go along and take a look.

So at 10 am on a cold blustery morning we found ourselves at a whole sale market on the outskirts of Manchester.  We were greeted by the chirpy and endlessly enthusiastic Nicola, who ushered us all in and gave us a good old cuppa before handing out fluorescent jackets and getting our tour underway.

Started in 1996 as a volunteer organisation, The East Manchester Environment and Resources Group – EMERGE – is now collecting recycling from 800 businesses in the Manchester area, and with the help of European Regional Development Fund and CRED Lottery Funding, secured a contract from Trafford Council for the collection of recycling from 7000 homes.

Out from the common room we come across huge containers full of CDs. “Oh we just take those for the plastic or something,” she says casually. “Over here, come look at our WEEE.” Which stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Obviously.  Most of it is taken apart and the various materials separated – selected metal fetching a pretty price per tonne. And they certainly bring in a lot of it.

Nicola then takes us to look at the cardboard. Sold by the tonne, paper and cardboard are compressed into bales and stored as such. The same goes for cans (which are separated into steel and aluminium), and bottles.


Another initiative is the setting up of Fare Share, in 2004. This organisation takes food that has been thrown away by the supermarkets because it is either out of its sell by date, damaged, or misprinted. All food is then given out to homeless shelters, community centres and soup kitchens. The warehouse it is all kept in is certainly impressive, with a walk in freezer, shelves upon shelves of products ranging from sauce for Shepard’s pie to a whole salmon, and a colossal walk in fridge.

Snooping over, it was time to take our first steps to becoming Zero Waste Champions. The idea is we all monitor our waste by weighing it, examining it, and thinking about how to cut down the amount we send to landfill. She talked us through her own experiences, from the grim (bicarb and salt toothpaste anyone?) to the gleeful, and left us feeling very inspired. After a not so quick team meeting we bundled into the cars (dodging the police at times) and successfully made up for all our green thinking with a buffet lunch in the centre of Manchester. With lots of ice cream.

Boarshaw, Trees and Postman Pat

With the tail end of hurricane Katia snapping at our heels, we set of to Boarshaw Clough. Our task? To survey trees on the site, identifying species and recording their condition. We all had a map of the site, and split into three groups, each with our own section to concentrate on.

 We found Boarshaw Clough to have an impressive array of species, everything from willow, to sycamore, to small fruit trees that had only just been planted. Though not without their problems, there was an impressive range of tree ailments evident in the trees we surveyed.

Our surveyors get to work

In the afternoon, the group set about continuing the work started last week on the path restoration at the far end of Boarshaw Clough. A brief on site tool talk was given before we resumed work; cutting back shrubs to allow for easier access and removing rubbish we found hidden amongst the bushes.


 Before                                                                                    After

 This week’s interesting find was a children’s Postman Pat pop-up tent, which, I think, fails to top the meat slicer that was found last week! Despite the wind the weather held out and a rewarding day was had by all as we slowly but surely make headway on this overgrown stretch of path.

Hot off The Press! Photography & Press Release Training

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 Practicing close-up shots, individual portraits, landscapes, and group portraits.

Title of Story: VPA Get Media Savvy
Publication: VPA Blog
Date: 9/9/11

Who: Andrew Fowler (25) from Oldham, Marketing Officer at Groundwork, led the VPA team and enthusiastic volunteer Carly from the Jubilee project, in learning all about writing press releases and taking great photos to publicise their projects.

What: Leading lines, natural framing, using the golden ratio, and all kinds of digital editing - should in theory be on display in the photos above! Plus, exclusive evidence presented here on how to structure your press release!

When & Where: A lovely sunny/rainy Friday that may or may not be autumn, at the Groundwork Environment Centre, Higginshaw.

Why: So you the public can learn all about our exciting work!

How: Taking advantage of the marvelous local landscape and natural beauty that is Higginshaw, we dilligently went about our task of taking four types of photo, close ups using the macro setting, individual portraits, landscape pictures, and group portraits. Taking between half a dozen and more than 150 pictures, the volunteers developed and demonstrated their natural flair for capturing arresting images.

Then, after a quick team meeting, they worked on their press release writing skills, and more crucially, bad puns. Because the key thing here is surely to keep you, gentle readers, all a-moosed!

An autumnal day at Boarshaw

The monday session at Boarshaw proved to be very autumn like with lots of rain and wind. Nevertheless the team were out working with no amount of rain keeping them from doing their task.

They set to work clearing vegetation along a very overgrown area of path which leads past the horse field. After battling through endless brambles the old edging board to the path was discovered. It was totally obscured buy the encroaching vegetation and it was a suprise to find it. After discovering this the team cleared a stretch of overgrown shrubs and brambles back to the original path edge. Fortunately the only sunshine of the day coincided with lunchtime, the rain emerged once again in the afternoon.

The team continued to make headway on the path which is arguably the most overgrown on site. Some of the team were also able to complete their strimmer training with a member of the contracts staff who came out to join the team for the day. It was a good start to a large job and a good test of the teams waterproof kits.

Pictures to follow…………