A pocket full of Rye

Drawing on what we learnt from our ‘gap year’, we returned to Rye to continue our exploration of a new-to-us part of the country.

We stayed at the same lovely b and b where we stayed last year, and visited some of the same places: Dungeness, and a number of the extraordinary number of medieval churches on Romney Marsh.  We wouldn’t have known about them, had not Tomas (one of  the B and B hosts) told us about them; and what a delight they are.

The aptly-named Fairfield Church depicted in window in church in nearby Appledore

There was a very definite church theme to our whole visit.  Not only did we go to most of the Romney Marsh churches, we also visited St Mary’s in Rye (a very large church, with a lovely window by Burne-Jones), and revisited St Thomas’ church in Winchelsea, with its striking series of windows by Dr Strachan.

Detail of window in St Mary’s, Rye, by Edward Burne-Jones

Window in church at Winchelsea

On the way home, to complete the theme, the icing on the cake was a stop at All Saints Church, Tudely – a small, simple church with the most beautiful series of 12 windows by Marc Chagall.  And to complete the loop, there is a Rye connection: the windows were commissioned by the parents of a young woman who drowned in an accident in the sea at Rye.  If you have the chance to visit, I can’t recommend it enough.  Allow time to enjoy looking at the windows – its a treat to be able to see them at such close quarters – and then sit a while drinking in the colours.  I promise you will feel better when you leave than when you arrived.

Photo by Malcolm Dodds


While we were away I was crocheting another cot blanket/knee rug (to sell for the farm).  As I sat on Dungeness Beach, it struck me that the colours of the blanket are also the colours of the beach.  I will call it the Dungeness Blanket.

Back at home I revisited my book about Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness – the inspiration that took us there in the first place, and that continues to draw us back.  Do what you can with what you have – his garden seems to be a true expression of that ethos.

Posted in Craft, Do what you can with what you have, Gap year, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Money matters

Below is a post originally published on the Bath City Farm blog.  I thought you might find it interesting – I’m sure the issues raised apply to all small charities and community groups.  I hope it illustrates our struggles to provide the services we do, let alone continue to develop and innovate (and yet we do….)

I’ve been involved with Bath City Farm for almost three years.  The magic still works on me every time I visit the farm.

Two years ago I became a trustee, and then I became Treasurer.  As you’d expect, I take a keen interest in the money side of things.

We’re so fortunate to have such a large mixed site (37 acres!), with wonderful views and a sense of peace and quiet often hard to find in a city.  All this is nurtured and cared for by our dedicated staff and many hard-working volunteers.

Best of all, anyone can visit the Farm any time and we offer most of our services free.  That’s really important to us.  Bath may seem like a prosperous city, but for many people who live here reality is very different.  Bath is a city of massive inequalities, and we think one of our great strengths is that our site is in the heart of some of the most deprived communities, and we are a vital part of those communities – no-one need feel excluded from Bath City Farm by an inability to pay.

But – as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Everything we do and everything we are costs money: paying our amazing staff; feeding and caring for the animals; looking after the site and keeping it looking beautiful; providing the buildings so that we can run our range of programmes; providing training and meeting rooms.  We have to raise every single penny of the money ourselves – around £250,000 a year just to stand still, and rising as costs increase (animal feed; materials; utilities…).

Staff and trustees work hard to get funding.  This means writing many complex applications to charitable funds.  Grants from charitable funds are, quite rightly, restricted for use for specific purposes, and are also for a fixed time.  For example, for several years we’ve had money from Big Lottery for our volunteering programme for adults with multiple or complex needs and several other projects.  It runs out later this year so we need to find a lot of money to replace it so we can carry on running those programmes.  The same is true of all the charitable funding we get across our range of programmes.

As a charity that’s been going for over 20 years now, we’re used to this.  What has changed more recently is the increasing level of poverty and deprivation as wages and benefits stagnate or fall while prices rise and public services and public funds diminish.  Our services have never been more important, but with increased demand for grants from charitable funds, competition is intense.

We’ve seen this coming, and we’re working hard to raise a larger proportion of the money we need ourselves so we’re less dependent on grants.

One of the ways we plan to do this is by building a proper café – I expect you’ve read about our ambitious building plan.  But it’s going to be a while before this is up, running and able to make a profit.

Staff and trustees spend a lot of time working on fundraising.  Our aim over the next five years is to significantly alter the balance between money we get from charitable funds (now around 2/3) and money we raise ourselves (around 1/3).   We need your help and support to achieve this.  There are all sorts of ways you can help us.  How?  There are lots of ways.

If you’re financially able to, we’d really appreciate it if you would give us what you can towards our running costs.  There are lots of ways to do this.  You could:

  • donate in the boxes around the site
  • buy food and drink in our kiosk when it’s open
  • buy something from our farm shop.
  • donate to our funds when you come to our events (our brilliant bonfire night is a highlight in the autumn!)
  • raise money yourself by doing something you’re really good at, in a good cause (Bath City Farm, of course!)
  • best of all, if you’re able to commit to regular giving, is to set up a regular monthly payment.

Regular giving is one of the most useful things you can do.  It  helps us know in advance how much money we have to allocate to projects, removing some of the pressure of constantly needing to find new sources of money.

If just 100 people can commit to giving us £5 per month, that’s £6,000 in a year.  If each of those people are tax payers and tick the Gift Aid box, the government will add an extra £1,200 to that, giving us a total of £7,200 a year.  And of course, if some of those people can afford to give us more, the figures become even higher (and if more people commit to regular giving the benefit multiplies…..)

You may think that your £5 per month would be just a drop in the ocean, and I won’t lie – it would take a massive number of supporters to raise the whole of that £250,000 per year.  But all those drops in the ocean add up to a great big sea, and I’m an optimist!

If you’re able to commit to regular giving to the farm, you can easily set this up through our localgiving page, or we can provide you with a Standing Order form.

Of course we know that for lots of people, giving money is not an option.  Even if you can’t afford to donate money, your time and energy are just as important in helping us keep going – carry on visiting us, enjoy yourself, join in with our work days on the farm, and be part of what we are.

Whatever your situation, we love having you involved.  And we love being involved with you.

And in case you’d like a reminder of what we offer, have a browse of our website, and enjoy  scrolling through the photos below (I have fewer than I imagined – but there are lots on the website)

View from the top, just a few short weeks ago

A peaceful corner, two weeks after the snow

Our information stall at last year’s half marathon event (and no, we don’t grow bananas! they were for our band of half marathon runners

Feeding the animals on Boxing Day 2016 – someone had to keep the ponies from stealing all the sheeps’ food, and who better than our Texan visitor?





Posted in Bath, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Local, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We took a charming walk to Charlcombe…”

“…sweetly situated in a little green valley.”

So wrote Jane Austen on 2 June 1799.  One recent Sunday we followed in her footsteps.  It was indeed charming. 

Here’s a flavour of what we saw along the way.  There may have been some hot drinks and snacks consumed along the way.

Lansdown Crescent, Bath. Our favourite…

Creative upcycling (a gate)


Posted in Bath, Do what you can with what you have, Frugal, Inspirations, Local, Seeing differently, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Do what you can with what you have: fermenting well

On my list of things I’d like to do this year I included learning how to ferment (preferably without creating a new range of chemical weapons).  To my surprise, I seem to have done exactly that.

As I looked around my kitchen last week I saw:

  • the latest jars of sauerkraut (a batch made with white cabbage)
  • the jug of sourdough starter I’ve kept going for over 5 years, sitting out ready for me to start a new batch of bread later that day
  • a jar of labneh balls in rapeseed oil I made last year with some surplus yoghurt and ate at lunchtimes last week (and am still eating this week – delicious)

In the fridge are the remains of the jar of red cabbage sauerkraut I made at the start of February, and the rest of a large jar of preserved lemons I made some time last year when we inadvertently acquired twice as many lemons as we needed (this is what happens when two people share the shopping and don’t coordinate well enough!).

I seem to have moved from thinking I couldn’t do it right to doing it regularly and confidently (and deliciously).

Everyday loaves

What kicked off the transformation was listening to an episode of the excellent R4 Food Programme featuring the inspirational Ellis Sandor Katz basically saying just give it a go, and explaining how to do so in the most low tech of ways.  I did as he said, gave it a go, and I’ve been eating it ever since.

Straining yoghurt to make labneh

I didn’t need to buy anything other than the raw food ingredients.  I already had enough of the clip-top Le Parfait jars that seem to me to be perfect for fermenting vegetables.  I also had Ellis Sandor Katz’s very clear and beautifully illustrated book (a requested Christmas present over a year ago).  I have hands to massage and press down the vegetables and salt.   I didn’t have any weights to put on top of the fermenting cabbage, but I had a glass milk-save.r that I bought years ago for yoghurt-making that was just the right size.  Nothing more was needed

I also have a very large made-for-the-purpose fermenting crock I acquired on Freegle, but I think this is too large for my purposes, at least for now.  So last week I bought two large  clip-top jars to start ferments in.  When it’s ready to eat, I decant it into smaller more convenient jars.  I look around charity shops for these, and often find them far cheaper than buying new.  It’s easy to get hold of new rubber seals, and after a good wash they’re ready to go.

So many good things still to try!

Unlike oldest son, I haven’t yet tried my hand at wine making.  Maybe that will come later this year, in the autumn?

Oldest son’s experimental blackberry wine, with full notes for future reference

Do what you can with what you have.

Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Food, Frugal, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Five (good) things on Friday

I seem to have entered a new (and most welcome) phase of having more energy.  Maybe co-inciding with longer daylight hours.  Roll on the clocks changing later this month….  Here are this week’s Five:

  1.  Not applying to do a course.  Huh?  how does not applying get to be a ‘good thing’ I (don’t) hear you ask.  Well it’s like this.  I found out about a really interesting summer school at Copenhagen University, on Urbanisation and Health.  Two topics close to my heart, in a lovely and inspiring city – what’s not to like?  “Write about your motivation for applying for this course” said the instruction on the application form – up to 5000 words.  I put plenty of time thought and energy into drafting something, as well as spending time talking with others to help me refine my ideas.  Then I had a morning working on the allotment, and I realised that the course would be great, absolutely fascinating, and the place would be amazing – but not right for me this year.  Maybe I’ll look at it again next year, maybe not.  The important thing for me is that the time and effort I spent really reflecting on my motivation for applying was time and effort well spent, because it helped me see what I really want to spend my time on.  And this year, it’s just not this course.
  2. Asking for and getting.  I’m going to be a bit mysterious about this one, for now at least.  Suffice it to say that I had an idea about how someone quite well known could really help with a project but I put off getting in touch with them to ask if they’d be willing, being too nervous to do it.  Then for no reason at all this morning I asked myself a question I always find useful – “what’s the worst that could happen?”.  To which of course the answer was they could say no or just ignore me, in which case we’d be no worse off than if I hadn’t asked.  So I plucked up my courage and wrote that email and hit the send button.  10 seconds later – literally 10 seconds!’ – I had a yes! reply.  We’re meeting next week to discuss.
  3. Re-doing some watery stuff in the hens’ pen.  Last year I fixed up a new water butt in the hens’ pen, and Malcolm put up new guttering on their house to collect the rainwater more efficiently.  It worked fine, but after a while I realised that I should have raised the butt up much higher off the ground, to allow space to get a watering can under the tap.  I put it off and put it off because the butt was full and far too heavy to shift.  This week I figured it out – I decanted as much water as I could into other containers I had lying around, then moved the water butt, then rebuilt the support (from slabs and bricks I also had lying around), then managed to hoist the butt back into place.  Now I can collect water from the butt into a watering can, which will make it easier to keep the corn and squash plants well watered this summer.  Along the way, I also finally figured out how to use a galvanised water container for hens that someone mysteriously left on my plot many years ago.  Took me about a decade to figure it out.  Once I had, it took the hens about 10 minutes to figure out their part in the exercise.
  4. Running.  Again I only managed to get one run in this week, but it was a good one.  Just over 3 miles (so just another 10 miles or so to add…).  I loved it, and came back feeling exhilarated.  A feeling to bottle and relive.
  5. Planning some trips.  We’ve got some lovely trips coming up over the next few months, including a revisit to Rye, a London visit, and this year’s long walk – the Great Glen Way, in Scotland.  So exciting!

Oh my, that’s 5 things already.  Sorry no relevant pics, but instead here are a few slightly random ones, all taken this week.  Enjoy!

Poster at Bristol Temple Meads Station

Picton St wall art, Bristol

Rosa Parks Lane, St Pauls, Bristol. Celebrating resistance and a strong Black woman

If you provide safe, pleasant cycle and walking routes, people will use them (Two Tunnels path, Bath, this week)

Posted in Allotment, Do what you can with what you have, Five (good) things on Friday, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Five (good) things on Friday

OK I know it’s Saturday now not Friday, but I have a fix for that: Six on Saturday.  Which as it happens works perfectly, because I couldn’t post this week without mentioning no.6.

  1. Practicing optimism: two people I care a lot about have had troubled times in their working lives over the past year.  Both have now managed to regain their health and control over their lives, and have found positive ways to either exit a damaging situation, or transform it into something less toxic.  No easy task, and I admire them both for hanging on through very tough times and seeing light at the end of very dark tunnels.  Both are now optimistic about being able to craft a better future.

    Poem by Salena Godden, outside Arnolfini in Bristol

  2. Another beautiful circuit walking around Bristol Docks, this time with three added pleasures: a visit to St Mary Redcliffe and admiring the 1960s stained glass windows designed by Harry Stammers; flurries of snow interspersed with clear blue sky; a poem about pessimism and optimisim on the outside of the Arnolfini – see above (thank you, Salena Godden)


3. Practicing ‘pressing the pause button’.  Recently I’ve been involved in helping respond to a difficult situation arising from some tricky emotional stuff (other people’s not mine).  I’ve been practicing resisting the urge to respond immediately, and instead taken some time to reflect.  I’ve found that as a result, on the whole, my interventions have been more measured and more helpful.  Also helps with yarny projects – sometimes putting it down and coming back later works a treat!

Second attempt at Baby Surprise Jacket – happy with it now!

4. Adding a new goal for this year.  Wanting to transform that stack of lanolin wool that’s been sitting in storage for decades (truly, no exaggeration here!) into funds for Bath City Farm cafe project, I’ve been mulling over what to knit with it.  I’ve got a few ideas for simple (inexpensive) things I think new parents might find useful, so I’m having a go at some prototypes and may even test them out on our grandchild before long.  If (or when??) we get planning permission for the cafe and launch our funding appeal, I’ll start to put things for sale on a page of this blog and see what happens.  At the worst, nothing will sell and I’ll be no worse off (and my hands will be beautifully soft from knitting with all that lanolin wool).  If it sells, every penny received will be donated to the cafe building fund.  Another ‘watch this space’ good thing.

5. People power – as in many places right now, there’s been a long-running fight here in Bath to stop the housing association that runs the council’s social housing stock (Curo) from demolishing a perfectly good estate to rebuild more densely and more expensively under the guise of regeneration.  This would have resulted in a net loss of over 200 social housing units – in a city where even so-called affordable rents are way beyond the means of most, and there are over 6,000 applicants on the council’s housing waiting list (and I assume that 6,000 applicants means an awful lot more people, as most of those eligible to be on the list will have families).  Thanks to the hard work and persistence of the residents association the scheme has been halted – they succeeded in getting leave to apply for judicial review (JR) of the council’s decision to grant planning permission.   The court found in their favour on all four of heads of the application for leave.  It’s not over yet because the planning permission remains in place and that will only go if the council stop opposing the JR application, opening the way for the court to quash the planning consent.  Here’s hoping that good sense will prevail, and the council won’t waste still more money throwing good money after bad.  In the meantime, perhaps others will take hope from this success story.

6. SNOW!!!!  I know that other people in other places have this every year and handle it well.  But here in the UK (or at any rate where I live in the SW) it’s relatively rare, and so there’s little in place to deal with it.  Yesterday everything motorised stopped (apart from a few emergency and 4×4 vehicles).  Silence reigned, children and adults alike came out to play in the streets and parks.  There were many stories of kindness of strangers (especially providing shelter food and clothing for the increasing numbers of rough sleepers on our streets).  It was wonderful!

View across to Bathwick – those dots on the hillside are people sledding

First time in 25 years living here I’ve seen children playing (sledding) in the road

Our local park

First day of snow, looking across Bath City Farm

Posted in Bath, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Five (good) things on Friday, Inspirations, Local, Poetry party, Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

(Another) five (good) things – on Friday

And this time, it actually is Friday!

(So.  Now I’m trying to keep up by getting ahead of myself.  Which means starting to write a post on Wednesday at the latest so I can hit the publish button late Friday, or at least early Saturday.  Let’s see how that works out).

1.  Snowdrops.  Oh how I am loving them this year.  I’ve never before realised the vast diversity there is in this one tiny flower.  This year I’m really looking, properly.  Getting right down under the flower to look inside.  I’m enjoying the delicate range of pale green markings on the inner petals, the difference between the singles and the doubles, the subtle variations, even the leaves are not all the same.  We’ve visited the Rococo Gardens at Painswick for the first time, and what a treat that was.  We’ve seen the snowdrops at Prior Park Gardens.  We made our first visit of the year to Heale Gardens.  I bought 3 small pots of different variety snowdrops, which I shall plant in the lawn in our garden to (I hope) naturalise and spread.

2. Eggs.  After too many weeks of not quite enough eggs (and certainly not enough to be giving them away, as we usually do), the hens have decided the spring has sufficiently sprung, and begun upping their production.  Now we’re getting 2 or 3 eggs most days, and I shall soon be able to offer them to sons, daughters-in-and-out-law, and others.  Back to an egg-based main meal at least once a week.  Unless this new spell of cold weather makes them retreat again.

3.  Sauerkraut.  A few weeks ago, inspired and encouraged by listening to this R4 Food Programme I decided to have another go at making sauerkraut.  My first attempt, last year, was a stinking, massive fail (though it did at least go into my compost bin not the food waste).  This time I used a smaller amount of cabbage (just 1lb, finely shredded) and a small amount of sea salt (only half a tablespoon), as recommended by Sandor Ellis Katz, the inspirational fermenter featured in the radio programme.  As described in the programme, I ‘massaged’ the cabbage and salt by hand for several minutes in a large bowl, then transferred the whole lot into a preserving jar (0.75l size – more than big enough).  I didn’t have a weight to put on top but thought my glass milk saver might fit just right, and it did.  A week later I tasted it and it was delicious.  I’ve been including some every day in my lunchtime salad.  Last week I decanted it to smaller jars and have kept it in the fridge, so now I have a second batch – red cabbage this time – in the larger jar.  Yesterday I made a much larger quantity – 3lb this time, and I’m using the (much too large!) German sauerkraut pot I acquired on Freegle a couple of years ago.  If this batch goes well, I’ll be emboldened to experiment with other vegetables and different flavourings.  Even plain like this, it adds a zing to my salads.

4.  Running.  It feels presumptuous to say this already, because I’ve only been for one very short run since getting my half marathon place, but I really, really enjoyed it.  I’ve got the medical  all-clear to give it a try (taking care that my bad leg/foot don’t start swelling more).  I’ve made a plan to build up slowly over the coming months.  And I’m actually looking forward to my next run – once the muscle aches from the first one subside.  You may want to remind me that I enjoy it, as the weeks go by and the runs get longer….

5. Plans.  You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a great planner.  I enjoy planning out my time, my projects, arranging to see people.  In fact, you might not be too far wrong if you wondered whether sometimes I’m more wedded to the planning than the doing.  Anyhow, this week has been a week when careful planning has enabled me to fit in more than I might have expected, and that can only be a good thing.  Other plans are being considered that may turn into something quite exciting (or not – only time will tell).  Long may it last!

And to finish up, for no reason other than to remind you that spring really is just around the corner, here’s a photo I took this week of a tucked away spot at Bath City Farm.



Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Five (good) things on Friday, Food, Inspirations, Local food, Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments