Welcome to my news page about REAL FOOD HOLLINGDEAN. 


REAL FOOD HOLLINGDEAN is a community food growing initiative on the Hollingdean estate, in Brighton, which I initiated myself from one of my diploma projects. Initially we were partnered with Brighton Permaculture Trust (BPT) but now the project is run solely by BPT. The aim of Phase 1 of the project was to create a ‘demonstration garden’ in a visible place in a household’s front garden on the 10154983_10152716775066622_3205557690093319390_nHollingdean estate, in order to show local people what food could be grown in this environment in a small space.  

During each step of the creation of the garden we engaged with local volunteers as they attended our garden sessions, and we taught them about permaculture design and food growing techniques (see our news updates below).

The garden is now complete and our householder has been enjoying the harvesting of her own fresh and healthy organic fruit and veg right on her doorstep. We celebrated the completion of the garden with a garden party with tea and cake on Sunday 5th October 2014, where local people came to see the garden and got inspired about what they might be able to do with their own spaces. You can scroll through pictures of this event on our Facebook page here (click on each image to scroll).RFH Zeenat garden celebration

We reached the end of phase 1 of the project in 2014 and I handed over phase 2 to BPT in 2015. In this phase BPT has begun to involve other local households and community groups to create their own food gardens so that the aim of making healthy affordable organic food available to lots of people in need can be achieved. This also helps to further the aims of BPT to create a culture of food growing and sharing in Hollingdean and the wider city of Brighton.

There is a sign by the garden gate of the completed pilot garden, that people can stop and read as they pass by, which explains what the garden is about and displays the permaculture garden design. It is hoped that this will inspire local people to learn more about permaculture and food growing, and also engage with the online group on our Facebook page

If you follow this link here you can watch a little film about the project and it’s early stages.

If you would like to know more about permaculture and how it was used in the design process of this garden, follow this link to another little film here, or follow this link to Brighton Permaculture Trust who provide courses and information about permaculture. I would recommend the ‘Practical Permaculture Gardening’ course and the ‘Forest Gardening’ course to people wanting to learn about how to apply permaculture to their gardens.

Real Food Hollingdean would like to say a special THANK YOU to our funders: Infinity Foods, The Hollingdean Healthy Neighbourhood Fund and the Good Food Grant from Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. 





As part of a satellite event for the International Permaculture Conference in London, our Real Food Garden was visited by a group on a local tour of exciting permaculture projects.



In our Real Food garden at 13 The Crestway, from 11-1pm.

RFH session 18-4-15Volunteers learned more about how to grow unusual perennial edibles and how to manage a forest garden, including pruning raspberries & spreading mulch, as well as how to sow seeds and plant out seedlings for the growing season. Find out more on our Facebook page here.

We are planning to be part of a Permaculture Convergence Edge Event in September, where people will be able to tour Hollingdean, including our first demo garden, so we’re hoping to give them plenty of interesting and beautiful edible plants to look at and talk about!


September 2014:RFH garden celebration We had our GARDEN CELEBRATION, where we invited local groups and Hollingdean residents to visit the garden and celebrate it’s completion with us. We drank tea and showed people around the garden, explaining what edible plants were growing and how the water catchment system fed the pond.


June 2014: We’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all our volunteers who helped create our first ‘Read Food Garden’ at number 13 The Crestway in Hollingdean. Our householder is now reaping the benefits of having fresh organic produce growing right on her doorstep. Today she is harvesting an abundance of spinach and salads for lunches and meals, as well as strawberries, raspberries, red currents and loganberries to add to her breakfasts and puddings.

ZeenatThe perennial beds will produce a larger yield as time goes on, when the apple, pear and plum trees grow bigger, and as the rhubarb, fruit bushes and asparagus come into maturity. Meanwhile the raised beds are stuffed with annual vegetables which will continue to yield fresh healthy food as we sow in succession through each season.

Please take a look at our Facebook page for more pictures of the garden.


June 2014: A BIG THANK YOU to all the volunteers who turned up to the COMMUNITY ORCHARD session on Sunday June 8th. orchard1What a hot sunny day it was! We had to retreat to the shade to eat our lunch together. We managed to get all the job’s done that we’d hoped for including clearing brambles, protecting trees from rabbits and voles with new mesh, and creating new mulch paths. A new exciting development was that we managed to clear an area that in future will become our seating area, and this opens up lots of possibilities for using this space for running sessions and social events too. We hope to hold an ‘apple day’ here for Hollingdean residents to celebrate the harvest this Autumn.

For more pictures of the orchard please see our Facebook page.



May 2014: Our GARDENING SESSION went very well. In true Sunday style we sat and drank tea in the sunshine on the new benches, while Kelly taught us all about sowing seeds in modules, pricking out seedlings and potting them on. Apparently, it’s all about the power of the pencil (a very useful tool it seems for easing out seedlings and picking up tiny seeds like lettuce quickly). Kelly has had years of experience while working for a local organic farm, so it was really great to learn the tricks of the trade!

We were very lucky to have been given a whole load of plug plants from Hankham Organics (a big thank you to Peter) so we planted these out into the new raised veg bed. We had various types of lettuce, celery, spinach, and spring onion.

P1010165All our attendees went home with their own module tray, sown with mixed lettuce, beetroot, chard, and parsley, which they’d sown themselves. There were also a few free plants to take home too from Hankham Organics.




P1000519March 2014: Our gardening session in early March was ‘Water Day’. A big thank you for all your help; we installed 3 water butts with overflow to a new pond. The rains came and filled up the water butts nicely, which are now overflowing into each other and down a long pipe into the pond, keeping the water fresh. We hope to grow water cress in this pond!
February 2014: Our gardening session on Wed 19th Feb was a great success.

P1000393 A big thank you to all who came along and helped create the raised beds, and a big thank you to our funders (Infinity Foods, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, and Hollingdean Healthy Neighbourhood Fund) for giving us the funds to buy good quality materials. 

As you can see in the photos, we spent the day creating some raised beds in the upper part of the garden which will soon be planted with annual veg and some herbs too. It was half term so we had a few kids helping and we all worked together well despite the small space. For more photos do check out our Facebook page.









On Saturday 1st Feb, Real Food Hollingdean ran the first garden sessions, where volunteers turned up to create Hollingdean’s first ‘Real Food garden‘, in the front garden of  13 The Crestway. We had a lot to get done in one day, but with the input from our keen helpers we managed to complete the first part of the permaculture design; a perennial ‘food forest’.
First we removed plants that we wanted to replant later, and then dug holes and planted 3 fruit trees; Apple, Pear and Green-Gage.
Next we forked the ground to introduce drainage and air into the ‘no-dig’ bed, then mulched the whole area with cardboard, and added a thick layer of compost on top. In this layer we planted soft fruits (red and black currants, gooseberry, raspberry, loganberry, Tayberry, Wineberry, strawberry) and even rhubarb and asparagus too. We created a woven heel edge to this bed to keep the soil in, and a wood chip path along the hedge. We added stepping stones to the bed so that we could reach the whole bed without stepping on the soil. By the end of the day we had a big smile on our faces, despite the rain and hail in the afternoon!”
“While we worked, we chatted to curious passers by who seemed very interested in the idea of growing more food in front gardens and green spaces throughout Hollingdean.”
We’ll soon be announcing our next sessions.
You can also keep up to date with our news (and see more photos of the garden) by visiting our Facebook page.





January 2014: Our evening launch event on January 23rd went really well, so I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all who came along to support the event. For those who couldn’t make it, I did a presentation of the history of the project, starting from how the concept was born during my permaculture diploma; back in 2011 I noticed how many people were feeling the squeeze of the welfare cuts along with rising food and fuel prices and I saw the potential for using Hollingdean’s large front gardens and communal spaces for growing food, in order to increase access to affordable healthy food. Our co-ordinator, Stephan Gehrels talked about the basics of permaculture and how we’ll be applying those principles to our first garden. We looked at the design together, and discussed which parts will be implemented during our first sessions:

Our first sessions will be running on SATURDAY 1ST FEBRUARY 10-1pm and 2-5pm. You are welcome to come for the whole day, or just one session on that day. Please bring lunch to share if you plan to stay the whole day, or if you aren’t comfortable sharing food then bring your own sandwiches (1-2pm at the Hollingdean community centre). Please meet outside number 13 The Crestway, Hollingdean at 10am and 2pm to start each session where you will receive instruction from our co-ordinator, Stephan.

Here is a picture of the garden design to refresh your memories. On the first day we will be preparing the ground by removing an unwanted elder tree, and then planting fruit trees and perennials such as fruit bushes and climbers, constructing a wood chip path with woven hazel border, and creating a no-dig sheet mulch bed. It will be an exciting event where you will learn many specialised permaculture gardening techniques, meet new people, get some fresh air, and we’ll even be giving away free plants to take home with you for your own garden or balcony.

Photos of the day will be uploaded here and on our Facebook page. Find us on Facebook here.



November 2013: We’ve had a little break this Autumn due to our householder and co-ordinator both having some health problems, but fortunately we now are very lucky to have a new co-ordinator called Stephan Gehrels from Brighton Permaculture Trust taking the project forward. Today we met in the garden and with the householder to discuss and refine the design ideas. We resolved ideas around ponds and water butts and where to place them, using the hand rail to grow things up and creating a gap in it to improve access to part of the garden, and talked about perennial plants. We are now ready to start ordering fruit trees and perennial plants. How exciting!

If you are interested in volunteering on this exciting project and learning about permaculture gardening skills along the way then please join us on Facebook and request to join our page: here.



August 2013: Things are gathering pace behind the scenes.

I have just created a Facebook group called ‘Real Food Hollingdean’. It is a community page on which to share news about the project and to share info and ideas about permaculture, organic food growing, and healthy cooking and eating in Hollingdean, Brighton. It is open to all people who join the project in Hollingdean and to all it’s supporters from anywhere. If you would like to contribute to this page and follow the progress of this project then please find us on Facebook here send me a request to join, alternatively you can email me, and I’ll add you to the group:

I’ve also been talking to a local guy who has just moved into a block of flats in Hollingdean, who has lots of growing experience and want’s to start a community garden in the space between the flats. I’m going to visit him next week and we’ll discuss how we might help each other with our shared aims of increasing access to affordable healthy food in Hollingdean.

I’m now starting the process of contacting all the volunteers who have offered to help create our first Real Food garden on The Crestway. How exciting!



June 2013: I have finished the garden design for our first household and we plan to implement this design in September:

This design includes lots of perennials such as Apple and Pear trees, Asparagus, red and white Currant bushes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries, Loganberry, Japanese wineberry, Tayberry and various herbs. Having lots of perennial plants and trees makes the garden lower maintenance while giving the household a larger yield of fruit and herbs as each year passes.

There is also room for annual vegetable growing in a raised bed too, where we plan to grow salads, broccoli, climbing beans, beetroot and courgettes. In the design there’s also an exciting pond system, where we hope to grow watercress.



May 2013: We have been very fortunate to have been successful in all 3 funding applications. I have finished designing the garden for our first household, in which there are some exciting features: a rain harvesting system that overflows into several small ponds and into a soak-away where we’ll plant an apple tree; archways with climbing fruits, asparagus beds with other exciting perennials, raised beds for annuals and a composting area.

Sadly, the lady who lives in our first household has got some serious health problems at the moment, so we have decided to put the garden on hold until she has had her treatment. All being well, we plan to start the garden in the Autumn, so that we have all the hard landscaping done in time for the perennials to settle in for the Winter. We are looking forward to involving the local community in the creation of the garden, teaching permaculture gardening techniques along the way, and running a series of teaching sessions.


March 2013: Things are really hotting up  in terms of the pace of the project, and the weather. Spring is really in the air. We have just received the good news that our first funding application has been successful: Brighton and Hove Food Partnership have awarded us a grant for our core costs for running the project and paying a session worker to run sessions in the garden throughout the year April 2013- March 2014. We now are waiting to hear from the other funding bids, which we hope will cover the costs of constructing the garden and session materials.

We have also been doing some more filming as we approach the Design phase. We’ve looked at the permaculture PRINCIPLES and the permaculture design cycle “SADIM”. We’ve looked at the limiting factors and how we might design to mitigate these.

This is the really exciting phase where we are able to flesh out our creative ideas for maximising the yield from the garden. We are now thinking about what sort of fruiting trees, shrubs and climbers we can squeeze in. I’ve also been toying with the idea of creating an elaborate water harvesting system, in which rain water is stored in butts and overflows into a series of ponds where we could grow water cress…is this too ambitious? Will it work for our household? We are yet to find out…



February 2013: We are now reaching the Design stage at last. We have spent a few sessions having a look at the things we found in the Survey, and Analysing this data using a variety of permaculture tools. We used “+ – Interesting” where we look at the Positive, Negative and Interesting features of the garden, which gave us lots of information about the space, including how the garden slopes away from the house, making the householder feel as though the energy of the house is always flowing away from them making it difficult to hold onto their own resources. We also noticed that being on a chalk slope means that the rainwater flows away and the soil is poor, which means that we need to find a way to catch and store the rainwater and build fertility in the garden.

Looking at the Resources available and the Limiting Factors gave us a good idea of what sort of things we would need to use in the design in order to mitigate those limiting factors. We also looked at the way in which the household uses the space and how much attention each area is likely to get. Using this data we were able to divide the garden up into different zones so that when we design what goes where, we can put things in the place where they’ll get the most appropriate attention. We also looked at Sectors, which is information about what influences the space from the outside, such as sunshine, wind and other factors such as cats and dogs using it as a toilet, and how it sometimes receives negative attention from passers by.

In our last session we were filmed by Madeleine Cary, and so we have really begun to make our film about permaculture now, which is exciting. Through filming the development of this project, and filming the way I’m teaching our household about permaculture, we are aiming to make a film that tells the story about permaculture while telling the story about how it’s applied in this project. This way we’ll hopefully have a series of You Tube films that can be used as a teaching tool on permaculture courses, and to the general public -so watch this space!


January 2013: We have just met together after the Christmas break and things are moving on, so I thought it was time for another update. By the end of November we had done quite a lot of valuable observation of the space while being filmed by Madeleine, noticing where the sun hits the garden and areas of deep shade, wind direction and frost. We have now created a good base map, recorded what plants are already growing and also got to know each other and the space better. We are ready to start the Analysis stage and we are meeting next week, and this will also be filmed.

I had a closer look at the garden today and took some more pictures. It certainly is a blank canvas! The household has no spare cash to put into this space and it has largely been used to store her old van and found objects ranging from pieces of wood to hardcore and rubble. However, I can see the potential for the space and I am looking forward to seeing it transformed into a productive and beautiful space that this household will be proud to have outside their front door.

I was very encouraged to find that opposite our household’s garden is the Unemployed Centre, a great resource for households on low incomes where they can use a computer and photocopier, buy second hand clothes donated by local people, and, rather excitingly for me, they have a fresh produce section. This is where they can buy fresh food that is coming close to it’s sell by date at a reduced price, donated by Supermarkets through the ‘Fairshare’ charity. It’s a relief to see that there is somewhere on the estate that sells fresh and affordable produce and I am hoping that Real Food Hollingdean will be able to link into this in some way. I spoke to one of the volunteer workers who was happy for Real Food to advertise itself in their window too. What a great resource.


October 2012: An exciting development. I have met Madeleine Cary from the London Road Station Partnership, who happens to have experience in making documentary films. She has expressed a wish to make a video about permaculture in the UK and as we chatted about Real Food Hollingdean, it became clear that this would be an ideal project to film, particularly as it’s in it’s early stages and I am working one to one with our resident, teaching her the basics of permaculture as we go. This also gives Madeleine the perfect opportunity to learn more about permaculture too as she films us on her HD camera, and hopefully this will develop into a helpful and informative film that can be accessed by everyone online. She will therefore be following us around over the coming months and we are hoping we might get some good weather for the first filming session in our resident’s garden soon.


September 2012: We have made our decision, and our first Real Food Garden is going to be with a household living on The Crestway near the row of shops. It’s location means that it will be passed by pedestrians on their way to the local shops and to the bus stop, so it will have plenty of opportunity to be noticed in the neighbourhood. The tenant of this household has a strong desire to learn more about growing food and permaculture growing techniques, and she has friends in the neighbourhood who are also keen to learn more, so we can see how this garden will create a hub from which the project can grow.Following our decision I invited her to come and see my own garden and talk about how the project will proceed.

At our first meeting I taught her about the basics of permaculture design, focussing on the first stage, the Survey. This is the data gathering stage, where we record as many observations as possible about the garden space. We usually start with a base map, a scale plan of the current space, and start recording information such as areas of most sun or deep shade, places that frost stays the longest, where the sun hits in the morning and evening, and where current paths and structures are for example. We also record what resources are available on site, the soil type, wind, and any know problems like an over population of snails, floods and wind damage. I created her a folder with headings and information to get her started.

Our householder will be in the best position to make these observations, due to living so closely with the space and noticing how it changes on a daily basis. She also will get the benefit of gaining permaculture design skills along the way and feel a sense of ownership of the whole process. This is important because it is her space, and so it’s better that the design grows from her own developing awareness, instead of having other people’s ideas imposed upon her.


Summer 2012: We have interviewed two households in Hollingdean, Brighton, who are interested in joining the Real Food Hollingdean project, and are excited about possibly having their front garden become the first ‘Real Food Garden’. We are currently at the survey stage of the design process. Both gardens would make excellent show gardens so we have a difficult decision to make about which one will be first!



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