Newsletter February 2018

Dear SLI Members,
This is your first Newsletter of the year 2018 with notices, and information about forthcoming events. From now on, all SLI members including the Grow-Our-Own (GO2) Bluebell and Marlpit Community Garden members will receive our newsletter once a month around the third week of each month. For information about training and other social events planned and handy gardening tips, please visit members’ page on our website or contact us at

If you have a plot in GO2 Bluebell and would like to know what seeds and plants are available, please read the message from the GO2 Bluebell Seed and Plant team below.

If you are a Grow-at-Home member or have a plot in Marlpit Community Garden (MCC), please come and see us on Tuesdays from 10 am until 3pm.  Marlpit Community Garden also has a regular volunteering session on every Tuesday from 10 am to 1 pm, followed by home-cooked lunch. All welcome!

We still have plots available on Bluebell as well as on Marlpit sites, so please do tell your friends and families who might like to have a small plot.

Forthcoming events

Sunday 4th March, 2018, 10 am 1 pm. The first volunteering Sunday of this year followed by food-share lunch.
The first volunteering Sunday will be on 4th March, starting at 10am, with a focus on tools and sheds.  Jane’s special sausage rolls available for all volunteers!  Afterwards there will be the usual food-sharing lunch at 1pm.

Saturday 17 March, 2018: Training on all about soil: digging, mulching, composting and more, by Jon Darby and Mahesh Pant at Marlpit Community Garden, from 10 am to 1 pm.
This training is free of charge to SLI member and a fee of £10.0 for non-members. All tools, handouts and refreshments provided. Booking essential. To book you place, please email to, subject – Training.

Sunday 1st April, 2018, 10 am to 1 pm. Spring welcome followed by food share lunch at GO2 Bluebell South Allotments.

All welcome! Please bring plenty of food and drinks, preferably homemade, to share and invite your friends and families.

Tuesday 24th April, 2018, 10 am 1pm. Scything training at Marlpit Community Garden.
This training is only for SLI members; anyone interested, please contact Mahesh (

Thursday 26th April, 2018, 10 am 1 pm. Shiitake mushroom log inoculation workshop,at Marlpit Community Garden.

This workshop is only for SLI members. If interested, please contact Tish Kerkham (


February sun
When the wind drops, the sun comes out and there’s a promise of spring in the air, there are jobs that can be done on your plot.  A few raspberry canes planted now will produce fruit from August this year.  A small crown of rhubarb will take longer, a couple of years before it can be picked, but worth the wait.  Both are available, ready for planting, outside the greenhouse.  There are very few seeds that like being sown in cold ground, the ground won’t be warm enough until mid March or April.  But broad beans seeds can cope and a row sown now will produce pods in May or June.  There are seeds available in the big shed.
Bridget for Seeds and Plants team

June Newsletter

with notices, and information about forthcoming events. For information about what to grow, when and how, please click here.

If you have a plot in Grow-Our-Own (GO2) Bluebell and would like to know what seeds and plants are available, please read the message from the GO2 Bluebell Seed and Plant team below. As this Newsletter comes only once a month, you will find the latest information and updates on the noticeboard on site.

If you are a Grow-at-Home member or have a plot in Marlpit Community Garden (MCC), please come and see us on Tuesdays from 10 am until 3pm.  Marlpit Community Garden also has a regular volunteering session on every Tuesday from 10 am to 1 pm, followed by home-cooked lunch. All welcome!

Forthcoming events

Saturday 24th June, 12 to 4 pm, Marlpit Community Garden Open Day, at Marlpit Community Garden.
Our own honey and home-made gooseberry jam, summer fruit and plants for sale,  a tour of the forest garden and bee-hive viewing,  are some of the attractions.
Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

Sunday  02nd  July,  10 am to 1 pm,  General maintenance tasks  and food-sharing lunch, at GO2  Bluebell South Allotments.
Thanks to all those who helped with improving the path leading to small picnic area. We would like more people to join this time as well.

Saturday 15th July, 10 am to 1 pm, Practical Gardening Training on pests and diseases, by Jon Darby and Mahesh Pant at Marlpit Community Garden, followed by lunch at the Marlpit Community Centre at 1 pm.
This is a must for all organic growers and it is free for all our members. Please let Mahesh know (   if you would like to attend the training.

Saturday 15th July, 1 pm to 4:30 pm,  Food Production, Forest Garden Workshop by Aaron Wheaton at Marlpit Community Garden.
This workshop will start with lunch at the Marlpit Community Centre  followed by the workshop.  Topics for discussion include:

  • forest gardening as a sustainable food production system.
  • growing more edible perennials.
  • producing food within a self-contained low energy input system.
  • Tips and advice on plants that have more uses than you might think for you to use on your own plots.

Please let Mahesh know (   if you would like to attend the workshop. It is free for all our members.


Seeds and plants Team at GO2 Bluebell
There is still time in June to sow seeds for a crop later in the year.  Beetroot, carrots, dwarf French beans, lettuce, Swiss chard and perpetual spinach seeds are all available in the big shed.   Water the ground before and after you sow and, when they emerge, keep the seedlings well watered.

When clearing broad bean plants, cut the stems to ground level so that the roots are left behind.  The tiny nodules on the roots will add nitrogen to the soil.   It’ll leave the ground a bit rough but, with the addition of compost, it’s an ideal place for planting kohl rabi, kale, purple sprouting broccoli or Brussel sprouts.  These are a limited number of these on the table alongside the greenhouse.  Later, in July, there will be fennel, pak choi and more salad plants.

Bridget for Seeds and Plants team

Welcome to the 2017 growing season!

Let’s hope it is a productive year. Do make the most of the advice and information on offer to ensure that your plot has good yields.

What’s on?

Sunday 5 February – welcome to new members and food-sharing lunch at 1 pm. So the usual – bring a dish to share.

Sunday 5 March – we’ll start the growing season officially and lots of things will happen. Please come to GO2 Bluebell South and:

– help with tools check and tidy-up jobs, starting 10.30 am with refreshments mid morning
– discuss your planting plans and find out what seeds and plants will be available
– meet other growers
– bring a dish (savoury or sweet) to the food-share lunch at 1 pm

From 5 March the Bluebell South GO2 shed will be open again regularly on Sunday and Wednesday mornings. Rita will soon be inviting people to sign up for the rota. If you haven’t done so, do consider doing a stint as it makes it easier to have a strong pool of members to call on, you find out what’s going on and you get to meet other growers and new people. Email if you can help.

Also, at Marlpit Community Centre,  the first of Mahesh’s courses on essential gardening skills on pruning. I cannot recommend this course too highly. Jon Darby from Easton and Otley College is the tutor. Here are the details again –

Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs: a practical training course


Outline of the session

  1. Pruning – why, when and how
  2. Tools required for pruning and the correct use of tools
  3. Practical (participants to work in a group of two)
  4. Lunch and discussion 1.00-1:30

Free to all SLI members, booking essential. Please contact Mahesh at the address below.
Mahesh Pant
Sustainable Living Initiative
Marlpit Community Centre
Hellesdon Road, Norwich NR6 5EG
Tel: 01603 920570; Mob: 07969996646

Sunday 12 March at 11am at GO2 Bluebell South: skill-sharing session with Sophie. A good opportunity for beginners to get help and advice from more experienced growers, along with tea and cake. We’ll be talking about the tasks of the month and practicing soft fruit bushes pruning.

Have you read the SLI 2015/16 annual report: it’s here:

Look forward to seeing you all soon!

Honey Harvest 2016

Honey harvest 2016

Honey harvest 2016

Our honey harvest for 2016 is complete bringing in a grand total of 90lbs of honey.
We extracted the honey from the combs using our new tangential honey extractor.
First the wax cappings were removed from the cells. The frames of honey were put in the extractor and spun round flinging the drops of honey outwards by centrifugal force. The honey ran down the sides of the cylinder and was strained into a bucket.

Then it was poured into jars and labelled.
Next came the sticky job of clearing up. honey_label
The empty frames were returned to the bees to clean and add the remaining honey to their winter stores.
The honey is delicious! We are selling it for £5.50 a jar to members or £6 to non members with 50p deposit included on the jar.


Click any of the photos below to see them in as slides. Click here to see what happened after the bees had cleaned-up – they went looking for the missing honey! (Jim)

1. Capped honey ready waiting to be extracted

1. Capped honey ready waiting to be extracted

2. Capped honey in comb

2. Capped honey in comb

3. Uncapped honey in comb

3. Uncapped honey in comb

4. Honey frames in extractor

4. Honey frames in extractor

5. Extracting the honey

5. Extracting the honey

6. Draining the extractor

6. Draining the extractor

7. Straining the honey

7. Straining the honey

8. Honey in bucket

8. Honey in bucket

Honey harvest 2016

Honey harvest 2016

We’re in Citizen – Autumn 2016

Sustainable Living Initiative in "Norwich Citizen" - Autumn 2016

Sustainable Living Initiative in “Norwich Citizen” – Autumn 2016

SLI was featured in the latest edition of The Citizen, Norwich City Council’s quarterly magazine.

“The Sustainable Living Initiative hosted successful networking events over the past two summers for those involved in looking after their local open spaces, woods and parks …”
the article said.

“Held at Marlpit Community Garden – a really special site which has allotments, bees, wildflowers, fruit trees, sheep and more – it provided a chance for people to meet over refreshments”, it continued.

Sustainable Living Initiative in "Norwich Citizen" - Autumn 2016

Photo of MCG in “Norwich Citizen” – Autumn 2016



The Citizen is delivered to households across Norwich.


See our publicity pages for earlier “mentions”.

Bees in August

Vespa crabro, European Hornet on a hive

This is NOT a hornet – it is Volucella zonaria, a hoverfly. Hornets get a bad press once again.

August is the time when our gentle honey bees become more defensive. They are still out foraging for nectar to convert to honey and store for the winter but others have designs on their honey – wasps, hornets, badgers, bears (well, maybe not in Norfolk) and people. Our bees are ready to defend their stores with their lives if necessary – a bee dies after stinging someone.

Tsveta_and_Lily_holding_smokerThe change of mood was evident when Lily and her mum, Tsveta, inspected one of our hives with me on 16th August. Lily was excited to see inside a hive, but when the bees showed signs of being disturbed we decided to withdraw.

Several members at MCG have taken advantage of our spare protective clothing to view life in a hive this year. Others who would like to watch honey bees at work or help with looking after our colonies should get in touch with me in the spring.


More bee stories…

Early Years at MCG

Marlpit Community Garden was a lively place to be on Tuesday.
Regular volunteers were joined by children from the Earlham Early Years Children’s Centre and their parents. Some of the parents spent time weeding the garden as well as helping their children to plant and water flowers and herbs in a special plot. They will be coming along for four Tuesdays during August.
2016-07-21 10.51.43Two older girls took a break from working their after-school and holiday plot to don protective suits and join a group that Tish took up to the bee sanctuary to view inside one of our hives.

A substantial lunch cooked by Amy and Mahesh was much appreciated by visitors and volunteers.


Birds of Marlpit Community Garden August 2016

Swifts and a microlite

Swifts and a microlite

Groups of swifts have been flying over the Garden lately. These birds are the most aerial of all our birds, never intentionally alighting on the ground, feeding on flying insects, they do nearly everything on the wing, even mating! They sleep on the wing, circling higher and higher into the sky in the evening and dozing for a few seconds at a time as they glide along through the night.

The only thing they cannot do on the wing is Continue reading

A Swarm at Marlpit Community Garden.

Last Friday morning Tish discovered that one of the hives was preparing to swarm. Honeybees were leaving and gathered in a nearby Blackthorn bush in the hedge by the Forest Garden.
Tish rang Mahesh, who called in Jim, and together he and Tish managed to capture the swarm.

Tish took these photos – click to enlarge –

1 - Old home - these bees stayed putOld home – these bees stayed put

2 - Swarming beesSwarming bees

3 - Swarm landed

Swarm landed

4 - Where is the swarm?Where is the swarm?

5 - Temporary accommodationTemporary accommodation

6 - Evening outside their new homeEvening outside their new home

7 - The new tenants at number 4The new tenants at number 4 8 - The bees safely housed - time for home after a long daySafely housed – time for home after a long day

Jim’s Bee Movie” on Youtube or Click here to see these photos by Jim (in OneDrive).

PS Yesterday (21 July) we acquired a new hive generously donated by Gareth, who has recently had to stop keeping bees.

2016-07-21 10.51.39

Saturday 16th July 2016: Gardening Training at Marlpit Community Garden

1. “All about pests and diseases“, with Jon Darby and Mahesh Pant, from 10 am to 1 pm
2. “MORE FLOWERS – Lavender, Chamomile, Calendula, Meadowsweet, Mullein, St Johns Wort“, with Alex Hobbs, from 1 pm to 4 pm

Remember, there are two free spaces each for Bluebell and Marlpit Team Leaders/Regular Volunteers!
For further information and to book your place, please contacts us at the address below.

Sustainable Living Initiative
Marlpit Community Centre
Hellesdon Road
Norwich NR6 5EG.
Tel: 01603 920570; Mob: 07969996646

P1220940Marlpit Community Garden Open Day 2016

Our third Open Day on 25th June was a relaxed occasion attended by a steady stream of visitors.

The three sheep and their ‘furry friends’ were a big draw. Local children and their parents headed straight for the animals where they had the opportunity to touch a snake as well as stroking the sheep, rabbits and a guinea pig. They participated in activities provided by ‘Angelica’s Rainbow’ before heading up to the gazebo for refreshments.

Excellent homemade cakes were provided by Mahesh and Kathy, and Tish brought along elderflower cordial made from Marlpit flowers. Honey from our own bees was offered for sale, but the limited supplies sold out fast.

As well as chatting and having their questions answered in the gazebo visitors were shown round the garden by Mahesh.

We were lucky with the weather for most of the event, but finished early due to heavy rain.
To see Jim’s photos click here.


Birds of Marlpit Community Garden July 2016

A number of species of the crow family (Corvidae) have been prominent in the Garden recently.

Flocks of rooks fly over, and carrion crows and jackdaws have been feeding in the grassy areas near the lake.

crows_or_rooks_flyingRooks are difficult to distinguish from carrion crows, both being black birds of around the same size (about 45 cm) but if you get a good enough view you should be able to see the pale, bare skin on the front of the face of the rook. You will also see it’s ‘baggy trousers’, with the plumage looser where the legs join the body. One thing to beware of is juvenile rooks, who lack the pale skin on the face. The voice (kaaa) is slightly higher pitched and less guttural than the carrion crow (kraa) .

Rooks feed mainly on earthworms and insect larvae, but like most crows will take a wide variety of foods, including cereal grains, fruit, acorns, small mammals and birds and carrion. They can frequently be seen on motorways feasting on road kill.

One of the main characteristics of rooks is their sociability. They stick together in flocks, and breed together in tree top colonies known as rookeries. They are not always faithful partners in these communal nesting areas. Polygamy occurs, with older males mating with the females of younger males who are less able to defend them. Despite this, rooks usually pair for life, and pairs spend a lot of time together, vocalising, preening one another and even feeding one another.crows_feeding

Rooks are typically birds of arable farmland, and the population has increased slightly in the past few decades, indicating that it has adapted better to changing agricultural practices than other farmland birds, such as the linnet, yellowhammer, grey partridge and lapwing, whose populations have fallen dramatically. There are now about 1.1 million pairs of rooks in the UK.

crows_or_jackdaws_in_treeCarrion crows are less sociable than rooks, though the old adage that ‘a rook on its own is a crow’ is not entirely true, since non-breeding birds will form small flocks. However, crows always nest singly, building nests out of sticks, usually in trees, but sometimes on buildings, cliff ledges or pylons.

They take a wide variety of food, not just carrion, but also insects, worms, seeds, fruit and scraps. They will also harass birds of prey and even foxes to drive them from their kills.
Crows are amongst the most intelligent of all animals and in Japan they will drop nuts in the traffic at pedestrian crossings, wait for passing cars to crack them open, then go and retrieve them when the lights turn red.

Jackdaws are the smallest member of the crow family in Britain, and like rooks are very sociable. They nest in colonies and stick together in flocks, often feeding alongside rooks on arable land. They eat grains, seeds, berries, insects and other invertebrates, and eggs and young birds.

Like rooks, jackdaws pair for life. However, unlike rooks and crows, they nest in holes, such as chimneys or holes in trees.

Their scientific name, Corvus monedula, comes from the Latin for money ‘moneta’, referring to the jackdaw’s habit of picking up shiny objects such as coins and jewellery.

Even if you can’t judge the size, they are easily distinguished from rooks and crows, even though all three are black, by the grey nape of the neck. There calls are also distinctive, a high pitched ‘jack’, which some people suggest is the origin of the name, although ‘jack’ is also an old English word for small.

The population in the UK is 1.4 million pairs. It rose in the 20th century and continues to rise.

Chris Keene

OPEN DAY at Marlpit Community Garden

honey label - shadowThis summer’s honey from Marlpit Community Garden honey bees will be on sale at this year’s event which is from 12 am to 4 pm
MCG-open_day-25-june-2016Marlpit Community Garden’s annual event, the Open Day, is on Saturday 25th of June from 12-4 pm. I would like to ask our members from Marlpit as well as from Bluebell and our volunteers to come and make the day a real success. We need help from 10am, setting up the stall, making cakes, organising refreshments, talking to would-be members about the scheme and showing them around, and finally in packing up after the event finishes at 4pm. Please let me know if you can help.


We will be celebrating the progress made in Marlpit Community Garden in the past three years.
Please contact us.

Click image for poster

Outdoor Project Network Event

Here is an excerpt from the invitation sent out to projects by Louise Curtis, Community enabling officer – West, Local Neighbourhood Services, Norwich City Council

cat-image001 Hello,
We would like to invite you to the third Outdoor Project Network Event which is being hosted by the Sustainable Living Initiative on Tuesday 12th July 6.30 – 8.30pm at Marlpit Community Garden on Marlpit Lane, Norwich, NR5 8XN.
I hope you are able to join us, it will be an opportunity to visit and learn about the Community Garden, which has allotments, bees, wildflowers, fruit trees, sheep and more (including the cat), and a chance for people to chat over refreshments and share ideas and experiences in a lovely setting.
Please let me know by Friday 1st July if you would like to attend so we know how many people to cater for, I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind Regards

Angelica‘s Rainbow writes …

Angelica‘Now the flock are truly settled into the community, we have begun clicker training them. This is a form of Positive Reinforcement Training, commonly used on pets. It is also a widely used method in Zoos and across many species. The clicker training is all in preparation for letting the sheep out of the pen, on halters, to mow the grass. All this does however take its time, especially with Angelica’s enthusiasm for attention and treats. Alongside this, we are teaching them a few little tricks which you may have seen us practicing.’
You can meet Angelica, Audrey and Urban and watch a sheep training demo at the Marlpit Community Garden Open Day tomorrow.

Herb Training – Midsummer Flowers

Alembic still with calamine and rosa  rugosa petalsMidsummer flowers was the topic for herb training at Marlpit Community Centre on Saturday, 18th June. It was a shame it wasn’t better attended as it was a fascinating session.
Click photo to read more.

Angelica and Friends



We would like to thank the members for keeping an eye on our sheep.
We are very pleased to hear all your stories about them and it appears they have made many friends. Again we would like to stress that you contact Angelica’s Rainbow if you have any concerns or questions regarding the sheep ( or 07827 921344 or 07473 110903) or if you see any maintenance issues with the gates, fences and shed. Also if you are yet to meet us or our flock, please do come and say hello.

Our two main concerns at present are dogs entering the gardens with members and the gate being left open, allowing scope for dogs to enter from the street. Being low down on the food chain, sheep are naturally alert and nervous animals. If a sheep is worried or stressed, it can lead to shock which ultimately leads to illness and death. So please can we remind everybody that the gardens are a ‘dog free zone

Lora and Krista

Angelica’s Rainbow – see us on Facebook

Half Term Activity at Marlpit Community Garden on Saturday, 4th June 2016

All about Bees
Lilly Beaman (7 years)

What a great day we had! The sun was shining, the flowers were blooming and the bees were buzzing. We played games, drew pictures, learnt interesting things about the bees and even danced like a bee to send messages. Many children came and took part in the activities – even my little sister Daisy picked a flower and looked for pollen, and she is only 18 months!
Tish, the lady that organised it was very good – she showed us tools we use to look after our bees – like the protective costume, smoker and a real bee honeycomb. She was also very kind to us, even when my little brother nearly ate the wax candle.
We had cakes and drinks and I was very happy that everyone liked our cupcakes- me and my mum decorated them with little bees and I cut all the leaves and daisies by myself!
A very great day! Thank you!

Photos by Tsveta
For more photos click here.

Volunteers Day at Marlpit Community Garden

P1220830P1220782On Friday 27th May, we were helped by over 90 volunteers from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), Norwich.
We provided refreshments, prepared tea and coffee and led the volunteers building compost-bins; weeding the herb-path; fencing the grazing area; weeding and repairing guards around orchard trees; fixing anti-bird netting over the soft-fruit area and re-covering the polytunnel with new polythene.
Here are some photos of the event – click for more.P1220818

This is the second time the volunteers from JLL came to our Marlpit Community Garden.
The weather turned out to be perfect and we managed to do so much in a day. I would like to thank the volunteers from JLL, Sue from Employee Volunteering who along with her husband Tony worked so hard to make the day a success, Amy for making delicious refreshments, SLI members George, John, Alex, David, Jim and our regular volunteers for their tireless work.

fencingimproving tree guardsoff to workrelaxingshifting compoststakes for tree guardsweeding soft fruitweeding the herb gardenconstructing the compost bins

Birds of Marlpit Community Garden June 2016

Summer migrants are now with us and members of the warbler family have been singing in the hedges surrounding the garden. Their fate is tied up with global warming. Blackcaps are now commoner in Britain than a few decades ago. Most of the British breeding birds winter in Spain and Portugal and don’t have to make the journey across the Sahara, which is becoming increasingly arid. A small number of Blackcaps from Germany and North East Europe have changed their migration patterns and now fly west south west to winter in Britain instead of going south to the Mediterranean. In winter Blackcaps feed on berries, and many of them rely on people feeding the birds in their gardens. In summer they feed on insects – I saw a female collecting insects for her young a couple of weeks ago at Titchwell in North West Norfolk. Only the males have a black cap, the females having an orange brown one.
Garden warblers are uniform brown birds without any distinguishing features. They winter south of the Sahara and their numbers have been declining, especially in Eastern and Southern England. As global warming increases their migration across the Sahara will become more and more difficult. Their song is very similar to that of the Blackcap, but is more even, subdued and hurried in its delivery – it is bubbling compared to the fluty Blackcaps.

Whitethroats winter in the Sahel on the southern edge of the Sahara and experienced a dramatic decline in numbers in the late 1960s caused by a drought in their wintering quarters linked to global warming. The population has since partially recovered but remains vulnerable.

Chris Keene