June Permablitz – Forest garden and soil fertility

Back in June, The Quadrangle Trust teamed up with Natural Flow for our first permablitz. It was a great success with 16 people joining us for the fun.

Enjoyed hands on making compost and hands on digging up microbes, stocking and feeding microbes to tree. Very valuable experiences which I’ll remember for years! – student quote

Enjoying a plate of lunch

Enjoying a plate of lunch

The focus of the day were some of the all important themes of forest gardening, understanding soil and building fertility. People witnessed the ever evolving forest garden, we shared a delicious lunch time spread and rounded off the day with a summer evening dip in the river.

As the designer in residence in the forest garden, Natural Flow will continue to bring more permaculture design thinking to this wonderful ex-working dairy farm only an hour from London while organising future events.


What is a Permablitz?

Permablitz is a coming together of people with a focused intention to get something done using the art and design science that is permaculture. “Blitz” means lightning strike, so yes, we like to make these events:

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  • focused and intensive
  • learn about permaculture through skill sharing and mini workshops
  • a group sharing of ideas, food and FUN


Find out more about the growing movement in London here.

Actions of the Day

Outline of the day's event

Outline of the day’s event

To create an inclusive atmosphere in our workshops we collaborated with our team on the day to co-create the event and intersperse work with learning and some relaxation time too to allow people to get to know each other.– student quote

“Creating the structure of the day at the beginning was great. Moving between activities and ‘learning on the job’ rather than being ‘taught’. Seeing it in all in action, in real life! Oh, and of course the beautiful sunshine helped too.” – student quote

Encouraging observation

Encouraging observation




I encourage people getting stuck in and using their own senses to make observations. Here, one of our French contingent made the observation that “the aroma is exactly like the last pressing of the grape harvest when wine making!” Thus using the sense of smell is an indicator that this congealed mass has a healthy population of friendly microbes present.

Turning compost

Turning compost






Turning compost can be back breaking however many hands make light work and it was a great opportunity to learn about the composition of good compost and make observations about what we can see in the pile.

I enjoyed the ‘re-enlivening’ of the compost heap! It was interesting to learn a bit about the microbes. Overall, the day felt relaxed. – student quote


Competing with grass and developing a fungally dominated soil is an on going process. Here we are feeding our tree with microbes we bred ourselves, clovers to fix nitrogen and cardboard to arrest the growth of the grass.

group effort

group effort


It was a relaxed and easy going atmosphere. Kevin welcomed questions and participation from all of us. I learnt new techniques that I will hope to use for my own garden.– student quote

Finally, after a solid day of getting stuff done, sharing and enjoying good company, we ended the day enjoying the good vibes of The Quadrangle before packing up.


TIme for some relaxation

Time for some relaxation

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Seeds of freedom – a film about the importance of our seeds

A great 30 minute summary of seeds and food security.

Seeds of Freedom charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of traditional, diversity-rich farming systems across the world, to being transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolise the global food system.

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Creating abundance with a forest garden

I came across this film on the Permaculture UK facebook group. Really well shot and very informative. It’s in Portuguese but has English subtitles. Hope you’ll enjoy it too.

Abundância/Abundance from Job Leijh on Vimeo.

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First gathering of the Nature Culture Network England

The following weekend we had a big gathering. The Nature Culture Network (NCN) England – which Al and I are part of, met from Friday to Sunday at the Quadrangle. It consists of (outdoor) educators, forest school teachers, ‘permaculturists’, wilderness guides and people who simply enjoy spending time outside in Nature. The purpose of the gathering was to meet at the beginning of the year to connect to friends and family, spend time outdoors, tending the Forest Garden, reflect on the year past and make plans for the year ahead and enjoy ourselves with potluck and music.

We had over 30 people and children of various ages come together and spend all day Saturday making more compost heaps, planting two types of vine and 4 blackcurrants and clearing the edges of the forest garden from invading black thorn suckers. It is amazing to see how much work can get done in the course of the few hours that we had, when so many people come together and enjoy themselves sweating outside. We left the land with 7 compost heaps, a sucker free space for the nursery of ground cover plants next year and lots of bits of comfrey planted round the fruit trees to help bring up nutrients with their deep roots.

A great start to the year – thank you !

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Introduction to Permaculture


Permaculture Taster Day
Saturday, 9th March 2013
£30 or £20 (concessions for unemployed and senior citizens)

Permaculture Introduction Weekend
27/28th April 2013
Residential rate: £120 or £100 (concession rate)
Non-residential rate: £100 or £80 (concession rate)

Both events are held at The Quadrangle

What is Permaculture?

By observing the natural world we can see a set of principles at work. Permaculture design uses these principles to develop integrated systems that provide for our needs of food, shelter, energy and community in ways that are healthy and efficient. We can use permaculture design methods to improve the quality and productivity of our individual lives, our society and our environment.

Come and learn in a fun and practical way about the many ideas and examples that have been developing in the worldwide Permaculture movement!

Permaculture design is a way of working with nature to make a better world for all. This course will focus on positive and creative responses to climate change and sustainability. Permaculture design uses nature’s principles to develop systems in our homes, gardens and work that provide for our needs in ways that are healthy and efficient.

We can use permaculture design methods to improve the quality and productivity of our individual lives, our society and our environment.
From the introduction weekend you can expect sessions on:

• Ethics and principles

• Design skills applied to food growing

• Examples of permaculture the UK and beyond

• An observation exercise

• Video case studies

• A practical exercise

• An overview of the permaculture network and your local projects.

• Next steps for you to design where you live.

Course will be facilitated by Alastair MacKenzie who has been working with permaculture design for 8 years, in London, Mexico and Devon. Plus a tbc co-facilitator!

If you have any questions or want to book a place, please send an email to alastair.mackenzie@gmail.com.

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Mapping in the long grass…and ants !

Welcome to my office !

With a folding chair and desk I was set to continue recording all the locations being measured onto the base map of the forest garden. Blazing sun and high grass filled the air with warm summery scents and the sound of insects. But the big learning for next time is to map when the grass is still short in the spring – I’m sure there are a few small shrubs I missed in the grassy jungle !

The 50 meter tape measure was essential when trying to triangulate the locations of all the different trees and shrubs. The wet weather does not seem to have harmed the majority of the trees, with soft lighter green shoots showing this years growth.  The wildlife pond, only a few months ago so churned up and muddy is now lined with poppies and the water plants are taking root.

Of the 100 + trees and shrubs we planted now at least half  seems to have their own guardian ant hill, with mounds of crumbly dry earth piled up around the cardboard mulch. A careless step when measuring would quickly result in a swarming of tiny feet over mine and then the biting ! One time I left my crazed ceilidh dance too late and the swarm made it too far up the trousers – and unfortunately Mo was on hand with the camera to record the ensuing strip!


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