This is the first of a series of blog posts about permaculture in our region. My name is Wilf Richards and I am one of the Green Durham directors, a permaculture teacher and part of Abundant Earth.
In this first post I am going to focus on the established registered projects in the region. These are known as Learning and Network Demonstration Centres, or LAND Centres and they are registered with the Permaculture Association.
There are of course many more places in the region to explore permaculture and I hope to explore those locations in future posts. Let me know if you want to get involved in this series of posts.
Permaculture is commonly perceived as a form of gardening or land management focused on working with nature. In truth though this is only one of its many applications. Permaculture is an ethical design system, inspired by our understanding of nature and ecology. It’s approach can offer us solutions to just about any issue we face. As a tutor for the Permaculture Association’s Diploma programme I get to see dozens of designs every year and the range of topics utilising its tools is ever expanding.
Working with the land though, normally through growing food, is a relatively easy way to demonstrate permaculture and get folk involved and inspired.
There are over a hundred registered permaculture LAND centres across Britain. You can see a list and map of them on the Permaculture Association website.
There are four in our region including Abundant Earth, Brunton Banktop, Harehope Quarry and Scotswood Garden. It is also worth mentioning that we have two more excellent centres just outside of our region which are Graham and Nancy’s Garden Cottage in Coldstream and Old Sleningford Farm near Ripon.
- Abundant Earth
- Green Man Enterprises
- Harehope Quarry
- Scotswood Natural Community Garden
- The Red Shed Nursery
- Old Sleningford Farm
There are also many community gardens in the region not registered but still practicing permaculture in many ways such as Gibside Community Farm, The Hop Garden, Down to Earth, Hendon Regenerative Culture Garden, Lanchester Community Orchard, Blackhill Club Community Garden and Meadow Well Community Garden. I am sure there are many more. If you are running a permaculture space in the area then do let us know and ask to be listed on our website.
All of the above have plenty in common such as growing food with and for the local community, awareness of permaculture principles and ethics, the usefulness of design tools and the importance of working the land in a sensitive careful way that considers the needs of all species not just people.
The other key thing these permaculture spaces have in common is an openness to involve and work with the local community, such as working with volunteers or running courses. There is plenty of diversity too. Every site is unique as every location has a diversity as soil, climate, people, skills, cultures and landscape vary so responses change yet the approach will be similar.
Abundant Earth has a diverse smallholding set up just two miles from Durham City including a one acre market garden, pastures for sheep and hens, woodland for craft materials made on site and various products and services all held together by its workers coop structure.
Brunton Banktop, run by Mark Shipperlee, is a micro plot on Hadrian’s Wall full of a variety of veg beds, fruit tree nurseries, wood processing and rainwater harvesting with hens and a connection to a myriad of other entrepreneurial activities.
Harehope Quarry in Weardale is a centre for geology with a Walter Segal classroom / workspace, an amazing renewable energy set up and inspiring eco house.
Scotswood Garden, designed by permaculture teacher Ed Tyler back in the 90s, is now a thriving mix of ponds, meadows and forest gardens in the west end of Newcastle with a strong focus on forest school training.
We encourage you to get to know your local permaculture centres, volunteer if you can and learn what you can from these amazing places.
If you want to connect more broadly with permaculture in the area then join the North East Permaculture Network, a thriving network of over 800 people sharing local relevant news.