Men in Sheds and Community growing @ Breightmet Hub Dec 2016

A rather damp and dull start to a grey and sluggish morning, but we don’t care about that, its our weekly Men in Sheds and Community growing workshop at Breightmet Hub and we wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Our work on the site today has centred around two things really, firstly the painting up and trial of our locally made woodburning stove acquired by Landrover Dave and clearing more raised beds and making them cat poo proof by covering them with wooden pallets over the winter.

So yes there was much excitement and anticipation of getting woodburner burning and to add to the good vibe Tony Cottam turned up with some tools that a very kind retired local engineer has donated to the project, a big thank you to this big hearted fella from all the Lads!

Over the course of the morning the lads sanded, grinded and painted the woodburning stove and by lunch time it was ready for ignition.

The stove lit easily and soon dried the heat dispersant pain whilst providing some much needed heat in this cold December Morn. Again another great session today, some great ideas from the lads about hooking up the Men in Sheds project with Red lane community allotments just round the corner from the site. And before I go and have my tea I would like to say a big thank you to Welder Joe from Hindley for making our woodburning stove with great skill and at a very reasonable price, onwards and upwards!














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How our work has helped to bring about well being

It is now being acknowledged that gardening is therapeutic for those engaging in it, this is something that we have been aware for quite some time, both on a personal level and in our interactions with community members who take the trowel and grow some of their own food. There is now increasingly more evidence coming from diverse strands of the academic community relating to gardening’s effectiveness in helping to bring about well being

The main objective of our work in Bolton has been to try and help people to grow food in their gardens and yards, but what also comes from this action is the sense of well being generated by this activity, here are some of the projects that we have delivered that have had a direct effect on the well being of participants.

Sow and Grow Project

The sow and Grow project came about when National criminal justice charity NACRO contacted us in the early spring of 2012. We delivered a growing project underpinned by permaculture ethics and principles to around a dozen hard core ex-offenders housed in an East Manchester hostel. After only two weeks of the project, the residents began to talk about it being great working outdoors and how it gave them something to get up for in the morning, they also began waiting in the classroom long before I arrived to deliver the sessions. One of the lads who attended the sessions became a volunteer on a local gardening project something he never thought he’d do. Throughout the project the men grew fruit and vegetables in the hostel garden, learned how to cook and made Rocket stoves to cook their produce on. Towards the end of the session one of the men said ‘All I’ve ever made in my life is a mess, now i can grow food and bake bread’ Another man said ‘When I eventually get my own place i am gonna grow stuff, it don’t half chill you out’

Gardening & well being @ the Courtyard

The gardening and well being project was delivered at the HQ of local mental health charity Bolton Steps, this project ran throughout the spring and summer of 2014 to people suffering with mental ill health. Similarly we saw a great level of keenness, and one thing that is always a good measure of delivery is when people start to turn up half an hour before the sessions begin, which like the Sow and Grow project discussed above was also the case here. One woman who attended said ‘I have never worked outside, its such a good feeling’ One of the men attending took some seeds home and began growing on his windowsill. By the end of the project there was a good level of confidence amongst the growers who had been initially shy and nervous at the beginning.

Cawdor street Growers

In 2015 we worked with a group of Women from the once troubled Cawdor Estate in Farnworth in Bolton. We provided the women with gardening resources and horticultural support. One of the growers wa brave enough to do a video with us about how gardening had had a positive effect on her well being

Beechcroft community allotments

For the last three years we have provided some support to the growers on the Beechcroft community allotment site in Darcy Lever, In a similar way to the Cawdor growers one of the growers on the Beechcroft site allowed us to make a short video personal video about gardening and the beneficial effects it has had on life and his general well being.





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Men in Sheds and Community growing @ Breightmet Hub 30th Nov

What a cold start to the Morning! Usually, shortly after arriving at the Breightmet Community food growing Hub I walk up to the UCAN centre for water for brews. not this morning, as soon as I hit the site I fired up the rocket stove to try and add a little warmth to the proceedings.

One by one the lads turned up to the session, as usual due to their keenness they all arrived at least half an hour before the session started, which again from our point of view is great to see. Today on site the lads continued making internal shelving for the sheds and moving large volumes of timber from one shed to another, I helped them out a little and also went round the site and had a clean up rubbish that had been thrown over the fence, and bits and pieces of old gardening kit from the summers growing.

Just before lunchtime Men in Sheds tutor Landrover Dave cracked open a few boxes of cream cakes which he had picked up for the lads as a way of saying thank you for their input into the project.

The plan for next week which everyone on site is excited about is the painting and installation of the woodburning stove. Judging by the size of said stove it looks like it is capable of throwing out a lot of heat, which after the cold of this morning is a great thing.  All in all a good mornings work from the lads.


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Men in Sheds and Community growing @ Breightmet Hub 9th Nov

And so most of the leaves have left the trees, autumns mildness and golden sun dimmed for another season as the year pulls up its blankets and settles in for a sleep.The Hub site in Breightmet on the other hand is still working away, whilst the Men in Sheds continued shelf building and moving timber from one shipping container to another.

I weeded the raised beds by hand and covered them with pallets to keep the local cats from using them as feline conveniences.

At the end of the session myself and Landrover Dave did a little planning and calculations about how we can ramp up capacity to almost double what it has now in terms of growing space, and this is something we will be working towards in order to grow a lot more food on the site in 2017.


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Men in Sheds and Community Growing@ Breightmet Hub in Pictures


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Say hello and watch the walls fall down

Amidst the smokescreen of antagonisms manufactured or otherwise that exist between some of the many diverse communities in Britain, there is a huge swathe of people from all of these different communities who have never actually met the people with whom they have issues with and instead have chosen to believe the here-say and tittle tattle that exists within their communities, or that which is manufactured in the popular press. Here lies the problem, we don’t even know each other and yet we make these huge presumptions about each other without ever having met.

As one of the many solutions that are available as possible mechanisms and strategies to bring us closer together and stop the ongoing antagonisms between different communities, I propose a very basic tried and tested human approach, it doesn’t always work, but does in the majority of case, allow me explain: I live in a part of Bolton that is very mixed in terms of different communities that make its population up, indeed in the small Avenue where I live the countries of origin include Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Poland and Africa. Including ourselves there are two British Families living on the avenue, there were two other British families who suffered deaths in their close families and moved away from the avenue.

Shortly after moving into this area I noticed that their were antagonisms and a lack of interaction between different people living here, this wasn’t something I wanted to be part of so I took a very human approach that started with saying good Morning and Hello to my neighbours whenever we met in the street whilst going about our respective business.

Over the years that we have lived here we have received Iftar food from our neighbours at the end of Ramadan, one Muslim family bought us a box of chocolates to say sorry after one of their lads kicked his football against our van, we receive Christmas cards every year without fail from our Muslim Neighbours, the African guy that lives two doors away from us has given us pizzas from the unit where he works and I have shared and seeds and plants with two of our neighbours, and it all started by saying hello!

Don’t get me wrong, there are still issues that pop up from time to time but because there is a dialogue in place and some sense of trust and understanding, these issues never degenerate into silly ongoing feuds. In other avenues and streets on the estate there seems to be less communication going on between the different folk who live there.

I can remember the surprise looks on some of my neighbours faces when I smiled and first said hello to them, all responded with a smile and a return hello, and this is what its about, being human and treating others as human beings instead of judging them on their theological or national badge. I also remember thinking ‘what if I say hello or good morning and they don’t say it back’, but that’s the chance you take and in most cases people will say hello back, if they don’t then at least you made the effort in making the first move, which is a brave thing to do in itself.


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Men in Sheds, Community Growing, Beechcroft Community allotment

A busy old day today as we roll into the thick of autumn, first port of call this morning was the UCAN centre for water for brews and to collect some strawberry trailers from the centres back yard, then back down to the Hub for the Men in Sheds and community growing session.

The Lads of the Shed are really excited today as they have a new shipping container which was donated to them by another project free of charge, so they spent today’s session building some shelving inside the container and straightening the container up on the blocks it is mounted on.

Whilst the lads worked away with their new Shed I created a new Strawberry bed using the trailers I had harvested from the UCAN centre, then I planted on two fruit bushes into a larger double bed and continued uprooting this years spent plants being careful to leave them inside the beds from where they were pulled to act as a deterrent for estate cats wishing to use the beds as a convenience.

After the Hub session was over Landrover Dave gave me a lift over to Beechcroft community allotment site where I did a double session clearing, weeding and hoeing two large raised beds. Once the beds they cleared of roots and weeds they were planted with  three different varieties of soft neck garlic. I left the site just after six and walked the mile and half home witnessing a breath taking fiery golden autumn sunset as whilst blankets of red and brown autumn leaves crunched underfoot, a great day!


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