One of the highlights of my year is always a trip to Ryton to the wonderful Garden Organic HQ. Around 200 of we volunteer Master Composters and Master Gardeners, Seed Guardians, Compost Ambassadors etc etc gathered on Saturday at Ryton to meet up, network, be thanked for our efforts, be inspired and learn something new.
I got up bright and early to catch my lift with a fellow Master Composter, it took us quite a long time to get to Ryton, but we arrived and registered, got coffee and collected our name badges, lanyards and conference pack. Inside the sturdy (compostable strong paper!) bag were samples of Clipper tea, a small but perfectly formed Green and Black chocolate bar ( well, it was until I ate it, that is!), some organic seeds, a delightful notepad and pencil and some useful catalogues. Much more use to we gardeners, and better environmentally, than a plastic wallet with a plastic pen!
Most importantly there was ( as always) a really excellent programme telling us all the good things which were going to happen during the day.
The event was held in a huge marquee, in the wonderful gardens.I met up with other Master Composters from Herefordshire and Worcestershire - 11 of us went altogether from our scheme.
We were welcomed by Myles Bremner, the Chief Executive of Garden Organic, who thanked us for "doing what we do" - it is always nice to be told your efforts are appreciated, even though we know Garden Organic do appreciate us and look after us very well.
Linking all the speakers for the day, as well as speaking herself, was Dr Margi Lennartsson, Head of Programmes at Garden Organic. She had a key role in developing the Master Composter and Master Gardener programmes and is always worth listening to! She kept everyone "on time" as well - which was impressive.
We then had a fascinating presentation based on research, done by Coventry University, on the impact of the Master Gardener scheme over the first 2 years. This looked at responses from both the volunteer Master Gardeners and the households involved. The research work really showed up just what a huge positive benefit it is to people when they start to garden/grow their own food. The research showed huge (measurable against "official" standards) increases in self esteem, and increased general "feel good" factor - not surprising, maybe, but I really hope we see this research given a very high profile in the media, in due course.
Then it was time for coffee and our choice of morning workshop - there were 9 choices and I went to "Waste Not Want Not" which was given by Rosy Grant. Rosy was involved in setting up the "Food for Life Partnership - a network of schools and communities commited to transforming school food culture. The workshop was very informative and good fun - on how to waste less food, store it wisely and get more value from what we buy to eat . It linked in very well with the "Love Food, Hate Waste" training I did a couple of years ago.
Lunch was delicious vegetarian food, wonderfully presented, the food is always wonderful at Ryton. This year it was provided by ChangeKitchen, which is a social enterprise, registered as a community interest company. It was set up by a well-established Birmingham charity, which works alongside those who are socially excluded or disadvantaged, empowering and supporting people to meet their short and long term goals.
I chatted to a few friends I don't see very often and then, as the weather stayed good over lunch, I had a wander around the grounds.
I love love LOVE this flower meadow - every time I go it is wonderful. Want one like it!
Huge plant pot, always makes me smile.
Bulk Composting area and yes I did go in and have a good look around. There is also a new display Garden Composting area with lots of different bins and techniquest on display
This Bee Garden was absolutely "buzzing" with activity and the scent was wonderful.
The allotment garden, I really like the tilt top cold frame.
Such beauty. It was all so interesting - ways to prevent slug damage, how to protect the structure of the soil, companion planting - everything one could possibly want to see, demonstrated in a manner which is doable by "ordinary" gardeners at home.
And not a chemical in sight!
I also went to a lunchtime talk on "Comunity Composting for local food" given by Cath Kibbler of The Community Composting Network (CCN) - this is a two and a half year project funded by the Big Lottery Local Food Programme. CCN are setting up a training and support network with 12-15 training hubs across England with associated trainers who will be delivering a doubly accredited training course to local food growing groups so they too can start community composting.
The talk was thought provoking and interesting and I hope to do a more in depth post about it at a later date - I am a CCN member so went and had a good chat to Cath on the CCN stand later on.
After the lunch break we were treated to a performance of "Compost - the mini musical" from Anneliese Emmans Dean and York Rotters - which was absolutely BRILLIANT. So funny and creative! If you can go and see it I recomend doing so. It is also available to purchase as a teaching tool .
When we had all calmed down a bit from the excitement of "Compost - the mini musical" we had an excellent talk from Chris Collins , the "Blue Peter" gardener - only as his talk demonstated he is SO much more than just that one title! He was excellent - amusing and informative with an infectious passion for what he does.
We then had the Awards and Graduation ceremonies. I was lucky enough to be nominated for the Innovation and Social Media Award in the Master Composter catagory and as you already know - I won. Wiggly Wigglers provided my prize - gift vouchers - which I will enjoy spending . I was, and still am, SO pleased about this award - I have been a finalist in all the catagories in past years but never won, before. It was a good day for the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Master Composters in general as another of our group, Jeremy Thomas, won the Master Composter Achievement award.
I also "graduated" as a Master Gardener - which means I met the requirements to talk to lots of people about my passion for growing veg, mentor a certain number of households in their veg growing and log a threshold number of hours doing so. Not difficult to do and great fun doing it!
After yet more refreshments ( Clipper teas and coffees, very nice!) it was time for the afternoon workshops, again a choice of 10 different workshops were available.
My choice of workshop was held in The Vegetable Kingdom building and was about "Storing and Preserving your Harvest" . Even though I do a fair bit of preserving it was still really interesting and informative and I learnt some new ideas. Andrea Jones, who gave the presentation, is a moderator on the Grow Your Own forum and really knew her stuff. We got "hands on" making some pickled courgette which we got to take home - yum!
We went back to the main Marquee for a wash up session ( literally as it was raining, again!) , the raffle (I didn't win) a final look around the various demonstrations stands and farewells. I had an interesting chat to Johannes Paul from Omlet - he was there with their new wormery the Hungry Bin . which looked really interesting. I was also very impressed by The HotBin composting system - it looked like a good product which could deal with all kitchen waste - including cooked food scraps.
So, that was my day at Ryton. I got back home at 7.30 pm, tired and hot but SO inspired by the day.
We didn't get to make "thank you" speeches at the awards - ( thank goodness ) but I would like to say a few now. Thank you to all the staff at Garden Organic for making it such a wonderful day out and also thank you to all my fellow Master Composters/Gardeners for being such a terrific group of people to work with!
I also want to thank the individual members of the Garden Organic team who are involved with me on a day to day basis - and special thanks must go to my Council Waste Management team for all their support - they manage us on a day to day basis and are wonderful.- thank you all.
And a big thank you to YOU, my readers - it wouldn't be half as interesting on here without you...!