Hire the apple press

It’s apple time again!  Have you got apples to press?  Hire the apple press from just £10 and make delicious cider and juice.  Or course you don’t need to just press apples, the press can be used for all kinds of fruit.  contact helen@whistlewoodcommon.org photo 2 to enquire about the dates you need.  For more details see http://www.melbournetransition.org/hire-the-community-apple-press/

Donate to MAT’s school food forest via Localgiving.com


Please support the food forest we are creating at Melbourne Infant and Junior Schools by donating money on localgiving.comassembly 25jan2013 – if you donate via this method we will also be able to claim Giftaid if you are a UK taxpayer.

Land on Melbourne Common

IMG_0396Melbourne Village Voice have featured our quest to buy land on Melbourne Common, and the fact that the group has been offered a generous grant from the National Forest Company to purchase the ten acre plot. We now have a dedicated website for the project which can be found at www.whistlewoodcommon.org  – where you can find out more about what’s happening and how to get involved.

Meeting Wed 17th April 2013

We have an exciting opportunity to purchase 10 acres of land on Melbourne Common, with assistance from a grant from the National Forest.  The meeting this week will discuss the way forward and how we can make this project a reality.  7.45pm church house.IMG_0259

Highfield Happy Hens talk

Melbourne Area Transition group Meeting Wednesday April 11th 2012

Speaker Roger Hoskins of Highfields Happy Hens at Etwall

What do you say to an angry teenager who has just thrown a stack of loaded egg trays at you?  Roger Hosking’s reply was, “Why did you do that?” and this low key response led to a positive exchange about the youngster’s problems, illustrating the exceptional nature of Roger who with his wife Beryl has been helping teenagers excluded from school or in danger of being excluded since 1984.

Roger’s observation that angry hands can become gentle hands through collecting and sorting eggs and angry minds can become receptive minds through counting eggs and record keeping, served with massive helpings of love and patience, and, I imagine humour if his talk was anything to go by, are at the heart of the Highfield Happy Hens project.

Roger spoke briefly about his younger self, how he came to realise that young people need love and the opportunity to experience success.  He went to work on his father’s farm in Etwall and met his future wife at the local church.  The couple took in homeless men but soon realised that a place to sleep was much less important than occupation for idle hands.  Helping a neighbour to build a chicken house sowed the seeds for the future venture.  The focus switched from homeless adults to difficult teenagers, up to thirty in a week drawn from all around the midlands.  The young people work on a one to one basis with an adult.  They learn to respect themselves and others and in time to go back to school and stay out of trouble.

Roger told us with obvious regret that his work these days mostly involves pen pushing, meetings and fund raising.  He admitted that his honest and open approach, telling ministers, at a meeting in Westminster, that the vital ingredient in the success of the project is love was not the way to earn massive funding.  However his work has been recognised and in 2011 Roger was awarded an MBE for his work with young people.  There are now more than 180 farms involved in the National Care Farming Initiative.

Roger’s commitment to green issues is both idealogical and practical.  The hens are free range and no artificial fertilisers are used.  The latest project of which Highfields Farm is very proud is the 50 Kilowatt wind turbine.  We were quoted daily output figures which on many days exceeded the 300 kwh which the enterprise uses.

Contrast the achievements of this good man with the anonymous writer of a letter vilifying him for both the wind turbine and for bringing difficult youngsters to the farm.  His response was to issue an invitation to the writer, via his village newspaper, to meet and discuss the issues.  He is awaiting a reply.

Highfields farm has diversified to provide other types of work experience.  Roger told us of a youngster who was asked to fill hanging baskets with compost, a task chosen for the fact that it was something at which he couldn’t fail.  The next job was to plant a little fuchsia in the centre of each.  “What’s a ….  fuchsia ?”  Week by week the lad could see his tiny plug plants grow into bushy stems heavy with leaves and flowers,  a modern parable perhaps for the other transformations which occur on this remarkable farm.

Highfields Happy Hens farm, with its farm shop and tea room, is open to the public Monday to Saturday 10-5.   It was a runner up in the National farm attraction of the year award 2011  and a visit will not only be an enjoyable experience but will help to secure the future of this valuable local project.

Thank you to Ros Elliott for this write-up.

Food Forest for Melbourne Junior School

Melbourne Area Transition is working with Melbourne Junior School to plant an edible food forest or forest garden in the grounds of the school. 

We are looking for parents, families and other members of the community to get involved in the planting and maintenance of the food forest.