The Dig for Plenty Project
The Dig for Plenty project is part of wider initiatives for earthworker progression and personal development. Starting in early 2016, the Dig for Plenty project has provided earthworkers with their own allotment patches in which to grow plants and display crafts. Earthworkers experience individually directed learning with opportunities for creativity and personalised skills development.
The Dig for Plenty project uses goal-based experiential learning to encourage engagement with all aspects of organic growing including garden design, soil preparation, companion planting, pest control and harvesting. The project feeds into wider healthy eating initiatives by providing the opportunity for earthworkers to grow their own vegetables to take home.
The Water Conservancy Project
As rainfall patterns have become increasingly erratic it has proven more and more difficult for us to water our vegetables without using mains water supply (despite the large and numerous water butts located around our site). To remedy this we installed a 10,000 litre water tank beneath our front lawn to harvest rainfall runoff from the roof of The Warren and drainage in the car park.
This practical project has involved many of the earthworkers and volunteers mucking in with construction and landscaping activities whilst installing this huge underground rainwater storage tank. There has been lots of work to do to help the professionals (sustainably focused planning and design company Ecovril: ecovril.com) barrowing, digging, connecting pipe work and mixing cement.
Water can be drawn up from the tank using an old fashioned cast iron hand pump to directly fill our watering cans. In addition to this there is also a more modern and sophisticated pump system in place. This can be connected to a hose and used to re-fill our other water butts in times of high demand.
The project involved a significant excavation, during which we discovered a seam of 'clinker' (burned coke ash) within the heavy clay soil. Trustee, Nadine Brown, looked at historic maps of the area and determined that the Earthworks site sits on what was once filter beds linked to The Hill End Hospital's sewage works! It's highly likely that the clinker (either a product of the nearby railway or the hospital's own boilers) was used here for filtering and drainage. There is no evidence of this land use beyond the 1920's - rest assured that is ample time for any associated pathogens to have perished.
The area will eventually be paved with re-claimed stone to create a lovely and accessible area in front of the Warren building where we can enjoy our tea-breaks al fresco!
Past Project: The Community Conservation Project
This project was aimed at young people aged 12-25 who wanted to gain work experience in conservation work. Some had learning disabilities, mental health problems or were having trouble getting into employment. On the project they learnt new skills whilst increasing their confidence and chances of employment. It gave the young people the chance to see what real employment would be like.
Jonathan Stratton, who was enabled to move onto bigger and better things, said that his favourite job was creating the paths at Monks Walk School in Welwyn Garden City and Cunningham Hill Infants School in St Albans. This involved sinking logs lengthways into the edge of the paths and filling with bark chippings. We created around 200 metres of paths this way! One of the more challenging, but hugely rewarding jobs was at Hatfield House. We were asked to clear a large area around a lake. We chopped down invasive trees such as willow and cut out rhododendron shrubs that covered the ground.
The Community Conservation Project is no longer active but we plan to undertake similar initiatives in the future, subject to funding.