Connecting with Community: Looking forward to 2022

I have always loved holidays. From New Year’s celebrations to harvest festivals, holidays are a time for families and communities to come together to take stock of all the wonderful things in our lives.

This holiday-inspired sense of community and cheer has been felt strongly at Ewhurst Park over the past few months. From hosting field trips for local schools to welcoming young environmentalists to Ewhurst, the Park has had many visitors. I’ve been delighted to watch children roam and play in nature while learning about conservation sustainability along the way.

As we continue our efforts at Ewhurst, education and outreach will be at the forefront of our initiatives. We hope that Ewhurst will grow to be a hub for our local community – a welcoming space where people come together to learn more about nature regeneration, connect over good, wholesome food and enjoy the tranquillity of our rewilded space.

Every October, Ramsdell’s residents come together for a local tradition: the village’s annual harvest lunch. Ramsdell Village Hall usually plays host to the festivities organised by members of the community. This year, as the Hall is being rebuilt, I was delighted to welcome my neighbours to Ewhurst instead for a potluck-style lunch to celebrate the harvest.

Ramsdell residents at the Harvest Lunch

The lunch and raffle was an amazing opportunity for the local community to come together and raise funds to rebuild the Village Hall. All in all we raised £5,700 towards the Hall’s reconstruction. It was also a great opportunity for me to meet some of my neighbours. I hope to host many such community events and have more time to connect with Ramsdell’s residents in the coming year.

Ramsdell Village Hall under construction

Later in October, we were also delighted to be able to share wonderful produce from our Market Garden with those supported by the Camrose Centre in Basingstoke. The drop-in centre works to promote fulfilling lifestyles and emotional wellbeing for those experiencing the effects of homelessness, mental and physical ill-health, poverty, substance misuse, domestic violence, unemployment, exploitation and social isolation.

October also saw us receive visits from both Little Tots Nursery and The Priory Primary School. We invited local school children to Ewhurst for a day of fun and learning about nature and sustainable food practices.

For the first half of the day, we hosted nursery children from Little Tots. They spent their morning picking tiny pumpkins from Ewhurst’s pumpkin patch and learning about all the different shapes, colours, and sizes that pumpkins can come in. After all, they are not always large orange circles.

The Priory taking notes on the pumpkins

In the afternoon, we hosted Year 3 students from The Priory. They picked some larger pumpkins in  the patch, and then decorated their pumpkins with their best drawings of Halloween cartoons. The children also explored some of the other gardens at Ewhurst, taking in all the fruit and vegetables that we are able to grow in the Autumn. It was amazing to see children engaging with the land and enjoying learning about growing practices and natural, healthy food.

At the end of the day, I served the toddlers and children my homemade pumpkin soup. Made from scratch, this soup is one of my  autumn favourites. I was pleased that the kids tried and even enjoyed the pumpkin soup.

Mandy serving soup to The Priory students

To end the day, I taught some of the older students the importance of limiting food waste by using every scrap in the meal. As I have explored in previous articles, reducing personal food waste significantly lowers your carbon footprint and encourages finding delicious new ways to prepare food. I shared my favourite ways to cook with pumpkin seeds: roasting them, using them as a crust for various meats, or, as my young audience was delighted to hear, in cookies, tarts, and pies.

We have since hosted The Priory for a separate visit focusing on climate change in Britain. This school trip aimed to educate the children on the scope and scale of climate change, and how it affects their local area and not only far away places like the Arctic or the Amazon. We showed them some of our sustainable land-management practices, including our rewilding programme and our apple orchard initiative. We also brought in James Wallace, a notable environmentalist and the CEO of Beaver Trust, to give a land history tour at Ewhurst as a part of their geography syllabus. I enjoyed learning more from James about the history of the land along with The Priory students. 

The Priory with James Wallace