A week in VPA land


Ending a week with cake is the VPA way, especially when it’s been a busy one!

This week has been a hectic one for all of us to say the least. Mike and I have started to research and prepare for the revision of The Princes Trust Team marketing materials and have been out and about in doing so. David and Dewi have been speaking to residents in Prestwich and Ramsbottom about effective energy saving techniques. Nathaniel has been busy on his new digital inclusion project, and Emily has been practising her bid writing skills and has successfully written a bid to improve access to the Pennine Bridleway in Littleborough.

Unfortunately for us (Not for Edward), we had to say goodbye to Edward on Thursday as luckily for him he found the perfect job – in the Isle of Wight. This Thursday is also our last day with VPA Coordinator Gemma which will be a sad goodbye, but from all the VPA’s, we wish you the best of luck in your new job!

So as you can see, we definitely needed not just one, but two cupcakes to scoff today to bring a very yummy end to a very stressful week!

Hope you have all had a fantastic week and have a lovely weekend!

Laura X


Andy taught us about photography!


Although we already have an expert in our team – as you can see from the wonderful pictures in the other blog posts – our marketing manager Andy thought it’d be helpful to teach us a bit about photography so we can take some good snaps! We all started to get the hang of it in the end and found out things about our cameras that we never even knew! We also had a laugh when we had our first go at attempting to edit our images!

Cheers Andy, it was a great day and we all definitely benefited from it. However, I don’t think my family and friends appreciate the fact that I now think I’m a professional photographer!

Week 9 on the VPA Programme

It has been a very busy few weeks on the VPA Programme which has not left our volunteers much time to update this blog so here is a long overdue update!

Jenni Byrne, VPA, on developments at Q Gardens Community Food growing project!

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On site we have had a bountiful harvest of the crops planted by the previous team. The plants harvested include: Pumpkins, potatoes, onions, fennel, sunflowers, celery, beet leaf, sweet peas, runner beans, nasturtiums and a variety of salad leaves and herbs.

During September and October we planted up our winter veg including: Pak choi, spinach, radish and spring onions.

Preparing for winter.

Although we can all enjoy the beautiful golden, rich colours and sharp, bright days of autumn, it does signify winter is fast approaching. The garden has transformed from a flurry of vibrant colours and shapes, all fighting for room in the planting beds, to a sea of wilting green plant matter, ready to be dug out for new life to grow next year.

Everyone involved with the site has been busy making sure the garden is prepared to face the months to come. Lots and lots and lots of seeds from the wildflower area have been collected. These seeds will be dried and bagged up, creating Q gardens very own wildflower seed mix. Once we were happy with the amount of seed collected, some of the team took on the mammoth task of clearing the wildflower patch in order to preserve the degraded quality of the soil (wildflowers don’t like the soil to be too high in nutrients unlike most crop plants).    

Members of the team have been tending to the plant beds, including; weeding, turning soil over, sowing green manure and covering beds over to protect them and hopefully minimise weeds. The two beds closest to the doctors surgery have been turned into ‘fruit corner’, with a variety of different berry fruit bushes being planted, as well as, a fantastically sculpted strawberry bed being created.

Other jobs have included the mucky job of reorganising and covering the growing compost heap. We are hoping that by next year we should have the start of some good, rich, own-grown compost to use to help the plants grow. Some people have been getting their construction heads on, creating wooden borders, made out of old pallets, for the potato beds. Others created a portable leaf cage which will be useful for years to come when the big old sycamore, located almost in the middle of the site, tree drops it’s leaves.   

Welcome June VPAs!


A warm welcome to our latest recruits who started on Monday 3rd June! So far our new team have been learning about Groundwork, the important policies and procedures they will need to know, playing team building games including ‘zombie chair game’ and the conservation group even went on a 2 night residential with PPCV – phew! More on this in a post soon to come.
If you check the ‘Current VPA profiles’ tab you can hear from the latest team what they hope to gain from the programme. We will also be tweeting our adventures @GwOR_VPA
Really looking forward to an action packed 12 weeks with you all!


Week 10 Update :D

Crikey its week 10 already, I have no idea where all the time has gone, I suppose that old expression that times flies when you’re busy/having fun holds true. Well hello to all the readers, this week its Dan again, giving you the weekly fill of our work, lots has been happening as our placements and projects are nearing completion.

Work has been cracking on at Irkside Nature Reserve, Steve led a session on Friday where we completed the pruning and cutback of obstructive vegetation and then used this to build a large habitat pile. Aside this he has been busy in the classroom assisting the group in finalising the project work as it nears to an end.

This week Gleice and I have been busy finalising the evaluation report for the ‘Energy Efficiency & Sustainability’ project in Smallbridge. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) received the report last Wednesday and are very pleased with it 😀 The project has been very satisfying and hopefully following this successful pilot, RBH will roll out the initiative on a larger scale. I also undertook some mapping for the National Access Project (NAP) with one of great volunteers; we had a fantastic lunch, which was greatly appreciated after our healthy exercise!

The well deserved benefits of volunteering on the National Access Project.

The well deserved benefits of volunteering on the National Access Project.

Benedict has been busy completing the all-important folder, alongside this he squeezed in a day mapping on the NAP, for which I am very grateful. He has also been busy organising an exciting team building trip for this Friday, Oldham based tasting trip to support of the local economy.

Rhiannon as always has been busy working at Oldham Council. This week she has been engaging residents to set up the herb garden project and has been generating some strong interest. She also did some leafleting at a local fun-day event held in Stoneleigh Park.

Team trip simultaneously building team morale and scoring non-alcoholic beverages and supporting the local economy.

Team trip simultaneously building team morale and scoring non-alcoholic beverages and supporting the local economy.

Jo & Gemma have been busy bee’s inducting new VPA’s and marking our qualification folder work. Wednesday saw them on a photo shoot at the new soon be perma-culture site, from which the next VPA scheme will be based (starting in a few weeks at the start of May). Next week there should be a press release on this so keep a lookout if you’re interested!

Finally we have some sad news regarding our office vegetables…. unfortunately they have outgrown us and gone on to bigger and better things. I heard on the grapevine this was to do with neglect on Benedict’s behalf. They now have a new happy home outside in the big wide world where they can continue growing. We wish them all the best in their future ventures and hope that one day they provide someone lucky people with a tasty and healthy snack!

A friendly canis lupus familiaris of the golden retriver variety that may be found on the waterways.

A friendly canis lupus familiaris of the golden retriver variety that may be found on the waterways.

weeks 8+9

Sorry for the delay on the VPA blog we have been working so hard we haven’t got round to it. You’ll be excited to know that your blogger this week is Ben again (save cheers until the end).
This week Steve was working with the practical countryside skills team, at Irkside, where they have made a great headway into creating a habitat wall. They have also been working on replacing the fence that will protect the completed hedgerow. The team are very close to finishing their portfolios so not much paperwork left for them.
Gleice wrote a report covering the outcome of training on energy efficiency. She also worked on parts of her CVQ portfolio.
Dan (the shoester) has also done part of the report as well as working on the energy efficiency project in Smallbridge. Dan has been catching up with folder work and working on improving Irkside with the countryside skills groups. All this on top of getting older this week, happy birthday Dan!
This week our VPA team leaders Gemma and Jo have been busy marking folders and planning projects for the next VPA team. They have also been setting up a community food growing project with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing called Q Gardens. This project will see the next VPA team delivering workshops and activities to encourage local residents to get growing.
I have had a busy two weeks both office and out of the office.
For the past two Wednesdays I have been with contracts department of groundwork working with the two Mikes. This is has meant getting up in hours I had yet to discoverer in life in order to get in at 8 o’clock (I know it’s an inspiration to all). The first week saw us braving the arctic conditions at Delph primary school moving stone for the renovation of the playground. The rest of that week was a more quiet affair mostly office based writing up notes made from the Boarshaw Clough visit on the Friday before. I also ran a session on pond dipping for the other VPA’s which meant we could find all the beasties that Irkside pond had to offer.

The whole team have been on a team trip to offshoots in Burnley. This trip was useful as it showed us how an area of previously unused land can be transformed into a public friendly area where people can learn to perform sustainable agriculture techniques.
We also had a team meal where everybody brought in a dish to create a buffet. The buffet consisted of wraps (plain and garlic), beetroot, hummus, tomato rice, mustard potato, vegetable chilli, carrot kofta and crisps. I can confirm it was delicious and deny all rumours that it caused any illness!

Finally here’s good news as well as our office vegetables are growing thick and fast although very unlikely we will have a salad soon.

VPA post 05-03-2013


Ok, during last week’s meeting we decided on a rota for the blogs so you no longer have to worry about whether or not you’ll get your weekly fix of VPA wisdom. That’s a relief isn’t it.

Every week there will be a basic update on how everyone’s doing and then a more detailed point of view of a main blogger. Your blogger for today will be Ben.

Kyle has been working on the project in Fullwood making a planting garden for the community there. And on the Wednesday he was in Delph on the outskirts of Oldham where he helped build a safe walkway to improve site access.

Steve worked on the PETRUS project where he gathered a variety of plants to bring back to base. Also working on his main project with the countryside skills level 1 course where this week he saw them get to grips with hedgelaying and increase their knowledge of animal groups and habitats. On top of this he also came out on Wednesday to do waterway mapping training along the Huddersfield canal.

Sairah worked on her main project of working upstairs with the architects on a site survey she has also sadly left the VPA scheme at the end of the week due to finding work.


Rhiannon has had a busy week full of meetings about her main project and has even volunteered for NEON (east Oldham network) designing a newsletter.

Dan has been handing out booklets for warmer home project as well as working with Jo to take Ste and Ben for waterway mapping training. He was also looking forward to hedge laying this week and let’s face it who wouldn’t, although his comment about the sun seemed to jinx the weather.

Gleice has been working with Izzy regarding the Rochdale Borough wide Housing.  This involved updating the timetable to find out how far the project has gone regarding how many houses had been visited and how many appointments were made.

During this week I have been going through my several projects and tasks. On Monday and Tuesday there was a mixture of project work for the Boarshaw Clough WIG and paperwork for CVQ3. On Wednesday there was a change that saw me working with Dene on the countryside skills handouts in the morning. Then on Wednesday afternoon I went out with Ste, Jo and Dan for waterway mapping training which saw the use of tablets and confusion at the many types of path from bound stone to unbound dirt the possibilities are endless. Thursday saw the biggest get together of the current VPA team  since training week as we all gathered for the team meeting and the all important team trip. We were joined by Suzanne and Nabeela and Started off in Alexander park in Oldham for a treasure hunt in the glorious sunshine (for once no sarcasm needed). There was even time for a go on the play area to make sure it was safe for public use because we are so thoughtful. After the morning fun we carried on to Oldham gallery for our lunch and the cake that we had missed out of the meeting. The last part of the trip was spent soaking up the culture in the gallery and badge making. On Friday you’ll be glad to know Dan got his wish of being out on site in Irkside where we were tutored in management techniques by Dene and Suzanne. I think I speak for everyone by saying it was another varied week full of new experiences.


Above: veiw on the waterway mapping training trip

Below: one of  amazing sites in the oldham galley on the day out, both images provided by our photographer of the week Dan Shoesmith.