Summer is sadly officially over and we're into Autumn. Sigh. The garden might be starting to look a little worse for wear and the trees are starting to change colour...
Which means our littlest friends will be starting to think where to overwinter. This is where you come in, yay! You can help build the perfect little warm hiding spots with all the rubbish that has mysteriously appeared in the garden shed. A broken plant pot, a few split bamboo canes, a bucket of leftover gravel, the tile that fell off the roof. It's all good.
First up, think of size and location. If you're going big, it's probably best to build your hotel in position. Where you build is pretty much up to you, someone is bound to move in eventually. If you are hoping to attract a certain species do your research, as different creatures like different conditions.
Start your creation with a sturdy base, old pallets are great for big structures. If you're saving space, maybe try a disused bird box or wooden crate. Now simply get filling. Aim to make as many nooks and crannies as possible. Think of them like hotel rooms... the more rooms you've got, the more guests you can have. Go mad, dead wood, sticks, stones, straw, tiles, corrugated card... The only thing holding you back is your imagination. Once you're happy, pop on a roof. We wouldn't want any guests getting cold now would we?
Maybe your little ones will end up looking like this:
Or if you're going big maybe you would like to take some inspiration from Abbotswood and Wapley Bushes. Hotel Abbotswood is a rather rustic affair, blending into the wider landscape. Whereas a local Brownie group took the themed approach, Wapley Bushes even has a coffee bar and rooftop garden...
Don't forget, when working in hospitality you can never really be sure who your next guest will be. The right venue could attract more than just insects... Done well you could have the cast of the Wind In The Willows coming to stay!
We had fun last Friday. A few of our chirpy volunteers spent a little time outside Wellesley and Abbotswood Primary schools talking to locals for our yearly community consultation.
This year we may have added a cheeky little incentive, free food! Barbara had been out foraging Abbotswood apples and Nessa had been busy making mini jars of jam from local fruits. The jam went down a treat and we managed to convince a few people to try apple foraging for themselves. So we'll help you out...
Here's the apples...
And here's the jam...
Nessa's Yate Bramble Jam: Nessa used local foraged blackberries and apples for her recipe. Knowing that we were doing a giveaway we bought the jam jars, but there is nothing stopping you recycling the jars you've already got at home. If you do that then all you have to buy is the sugar! Hooray! Nessa used 2 bags of sugar, which made about 5 pounds of jam. By using foraged fruits, and reusing jars that's 5 pounds of jam for a teeny tiny £1.28. What more could you ask for?
Jam can be a great introduction to home preserving as you can tweak this basic recipe to your heart's content...
1 lb granulated sugar
1 lb fruit
Step one: Place the fruit and sugar into a large pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.
Step two: Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, the jam should start to thicken.
Step three: Remove the jam from the heat. Spoon some of the mixture onto a cold plate. Leave for a few minutes and then push the mixture with a spoon handle or your finger (clean hands please!). If the jam wrinkles, you're good to go. If not, put the jam back on the heat for a minute or two before trying again.
Step four: While the jam is still hot, pour into sterilised jars. Do up the lid while the jam is still hot, the jam will thicken in the jar and the lid should start to create a dip as it cools. This means you can keep it safely in your cupboard for up to 6 months. It could stay there longer but might start to lose flavour. If you don't see the dip in the lid, keep the jam in the fridge and use within a few weeks. What a hardship that would be right?
Anyone hungry? Because it's recipe time!
Apples and blackberries have been particularly abundant in and around Abbotswood this year, so we've been out foraging and made a batch of wild fruit scones to have on Wednesday's Wild Owl TV Garden talk. They were the favourite from the refreshment table with none leftover, so we thought we'd share with you.
The original recipe came from the National Trust Book of Scones, but as recipes so often are, it's been tweaked here and there.
You will need:
Step one: Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. The amount of cinnamon can be pretty flexible depending on your taste, but a teaspoon or two is probably a good place to start. Add the butter and rub in to create the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Step two: Peel and dice the apples, add them to the mix and give a quick stir.
Step three: Stir the milk and egg together, before gradually adding to the dry ingredients. Add a little at a time. The mixture should come together to a slightly damp but not sloppy dough. Add a little extra milk if required.
Step four: Add the blackberries and mix until they are evenly spread throughout.
Step five: Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 3cm thick. Stamp out the mixture. A 7cm cutter will give you about 10 scones. You can use whatever size cutter you like, just remember this will affect cooking times.
Step six: Place the scones on a lined baking tray and bake in a 190 degrees C oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Ours took 18 minutes. The cooked scones should be well risen and slightly springy to the touch.
Step seven: Cool slightly, then munch away! Best served warm with lashings of clotted cream... and maybe even a dollop of bramble jam if you fancy.
Chef's top tips...
After several mishaps Alex has learnt a few scone making tricks and she's kindly sharing them with you.
Word of mouth is a wonderful thing.
The simple truth is that people love to talk. We're social, we're passionate and we're excited. So what do we do? We tell our friends what we're doing and then encourage them to take part too. One of the parents from Barnwood Buddies saw that the Abbotswood Action Group office was open, so popped into say hi and ask what we were up to. Alex said a little bit about Sustainable September, Sarah then went straight into her support for the fight against waste plastics and promoted the refill campaign... A few days later Alex was enjoying a laid on breakfast in Bristol attending the presentation of Refill's new pilot scheme.
So what's Refill?
You remember us talking about trading in your plastic bottles for reusables? Well Refill is promoting the same idea on a much bigger scale. World wide in fact. The idea is simple, recycling might not be good enough anymore. If we really want to win the war on plastics we need to go straight to the source and reduce our plastic consumption, not just recycle it. So the Refill team have produced an app that will let you search for places near you that will allow you to refill your reusable bottles with free tap water... And it's working! So it's time for us to get involved. Download the app for yourself, tell your friends and maybe even drop a few hints next at the cafe next time you're out for lunch.
But we can do more than that...
Taking the next steps...
The scheme has been so successful that it's time to expand. Starting with a pilot scheme in Bristol. That means us Abbotswood! Hooray! The new concept is to add more facilities to the app. So instead of pouring your coffee into a throw away cardboard cup, it gets poured into the reusable coffee cup you took with you. Or you fancy a bite to eat, so they'll put that hot cornish pasty straight into your lunchbox, instead of a paper bag. Takeaway salads in a plastic tub anyone? No. Takeaway salads in your lunchbox? Much better idea!
Here's your chance to take part in the pilot. If it's successful the scheme will be rolled out across the nation. You can get involved by downloading the app now. Anyone using it with a Bristol postcode will automatically be enrolled in the pilot. The more we can promote the scheme, the more businesses we can get to sign up as a Refill hotspot the better it is for everyone.
Find out all you need to know here: https://refill.org.uk/
So come on everyone, let's get Refilling!
If you've got children (or pets) we're sure you'll be familiar with this story. You decide to give your little loved ones a treat, something fancy, possibly expensive and...
They ignore it completely and have more fun with the box.
As frustrating as it is they may well be on to something... We're all aware of the importance of recycling, but doing the weekly sort and separate can be pretty dull and just feel like yet another chore to add to the list. Rummage through your rubbish and turn it into something you feel proud of. You can start simple, like we did with our piggy banks, bird feeders and Christmas decorations. When you've got the hang of it you can let your imagination run wild!
Over to you Gainsborough...
Gainsborough Court is an independent living home for people who live with disability. The residents have formed their own art group and proudly took up the sustainability challenge when they heard about our photography competition. For the 'Doing Our Bit' category they gathered their recycling and worked together on their sculpture of the Severn Bridge... And yes, it does stand up, we have photographic proof! Great work everyone!
It seems like child's play...
Wrong. It's not childish, it's called honing your artist talents! Who cares how small you start, one day you could be the talk of the town. What may seem silly now could soon turn into skills you can share with your community. With some practice, teamwork and some inspirational rubbish reuse, you could one day find yourself leading projects like these:
Thank you to LitterArti for helping us with various community projects over the years.
Recycling doesn't have to be boring...
Have fun with it!
It's time for a hot topic, ladies and gentlemen...
It's a hot topic for us anyway. Like many places around the world, Abbotswood is prone to invasion from that mysterious species... the litterbug! Rarely seen, rarely heard but leaves it's tracks all around our public spaces... Boo!!
However Abbotswood is a lucky part of town as we are also home to the even more mysterious... cleaning fairies! Hooray!!
It's not pleasant and we think it's time to do something about it. Here in Abbotswood we regularly hold clean up days where anyone can join us and make our community that little bit tidier. It's taken a while, but we're getting there. We're starting to receive comments about how much better the area is looking. So if we can do it, so can you! It only takes a few seconds to pick up one piece of rubbish and pop it in the bin. Even the children can get involved with our Litter Pickers Scavenger Hunt! Click HERE for your own copy. We're using a points system and offer out stickers to all our litter picking superstars but you can choose any reward you like.
Today's sustainability tip is easy...
Be a cleaning fairy instead!
Can we get a round of applause for free food? Hooray!! Who would say no to filling your plate for nothing...
Food waste is all over the media at the moment. You know what we're talking about: People throwing away their hard earned cash by not making the most of leftovers and the scraps at the back of the fridge. Supermarkets turning away fruit and vegetables because it's not quite perfect. Produce being left to rot in farmers fields because it's too expensive and time-consuming to harvest everything.
Well, we would like to add wild grown food to that list. Why are we over-spending on produce that we may not even eat, when there is so much sitting in nature's larder just waiting to be utilised. It's free and it's rewarding. Just think about a leisurely ramble in the great outdoors, then coming home and cooking up a fresh, hot apple and blackberry crumble... Yum! You might not even have to go that far, you'll be amazed how much you can find just outside your doorstep. Are you into gardening? Then you'll be familiar with that evil villain the dandelion... Get revenge by tossing it in your lunch time salad...
Come on folks, grab your friends, grab your family and let's get foraging!!!
So that's it, you're ready to go!
And now we need your help! We are aiming to produce a local map to help others like yourself join the forager's lifestyle. Once you've been out exploring and found an abundance of edible treats, tell us so we can spread the word.
Happy foraging everyone!
For those of you who don't know, we were joined last week by a fantastic group of volunteers from Mercer Financial Planning, so we just wanted to take a moment to say thanks on behalf of Abbotswood.
We were initially approached a few months ago by the lovely Helen, asking if there was any possibility of having a volunteer work day in the area. The poor woman had been asking around several groups before us who were all more than willing to help, on the condition that Mercer pay for the privilege. We don't know about you, but charging people for volunteering was news to us! Anyway, being the heroic obliging group that we are, we happily welcomed them on board.
What started as a few emails between Helen and Alex, very quickly developed into a cuppa while taking a stroll around Abbotswood with Ruth. This gave us a few ideas of some areas that could use a little TLC. We asked around the local community groups to see if there were any jobs that could be added to the day's itinerary, and all of a sudden Mercer were the exciting new toy in town! People came out of the woodwork with suggestions from the Abbotswood Action Group committee, St. Nicholas Family Centre, Dodington Parish Council and Mercer themselves. Even Barnwood Buddies threw a surprise task in at the last minute...
Tidying The Flower Beds
Removing Graffiti From The Underpass
Washing Down The Public Staircases
Replacing Ceiling Tiles In The Family Centre
AND AS A BONUS:
Saving All The Toys From The High Ledges In The Sports Hall!!!
We think the children from Barnwood particularly enjoyed supervising that last one... Mercer must have saved at least 20 lost toys that day. Who knew ceiling turtles were a thing? The various teams outside did a fantastic job with the other tasks. It's been a long time since we've seen the staircases looking so pristine! We also owe a thank you to Kemp's Garden Centre, who kindly donated some plants to give Abbotswood a fresh look, when they were approached by Mercer. It looks brilliant out there, beautifully bright and vibrant!
We were kindly joined by Dodington Parish Council in the afternoon, to help guide the volunteers around the area for a good litter picking session. OK, so there may have been a few grumbles to start with when the litter picking equipment (borrowed from South Glos. Council) made an appearance... But, in the end, we lost a large group of the volunteers. It seems that a gentle stroll with friends, having a gossip, while doing something good for the community is actually quite a nice way to spend an afternoon. We suspect they may have deviated from the map and just kept walking, so if parts of Yate are suddenly much tidier than they were a few days ago, thank Mercer! Eventually they reappeared after one of the rubbish bags starting smelling particularly, umm, ripe...
WELL DONE TEAM!!
We hope you enjoyed the well earned trip to the pub, and that you weren't too stiff and sore the next day. If all goes to plan, see you again next year... We're already in cahoots, aren't we Helen?
Thank you to everyone who made the day a success, you have all been fabulous!
Photographs supplied by Mercer Financial Planning.
We have lots of things to talk about at Abbotswood Action Group. We're sure you do too, get in touch if you would like to be a guest blogger...