Midsummer update

Lots of ALFI activity at the moment.

The children’s competition entries are in and being judged this week. Look out for results on our front page.

The plots are all looking good and being most productive. Lettuces, broad beans, radish, rocket, carrots, peas, and bunches of sweet peas have already been harvested. There will soon be potatoes, French beans, beetroot and other crops coming along.

From the new Vicarage plot there have been some strawberries, redcurrants and gooseberries.

Herbs are growing in lots of beds and planters and we hope people will snips bunches for their own use.

Up at the Jubilee field, the apple trees have a promising number of apples coming along, though the plum tree is having a rest this year.

And we have two supporters now looking after the Sensory garden at the Limes, a new venture for us.

The circular concrete planters opposite the Railway Arms are looking both decorative and productive now with a mixture of flowers and vegetables.

Charities Fete at the Allen Gallery

A lovely sunny day in the beautiful Allen Gallery garden brought lots of people to see the stalls set up by a number of charities.

ALFI had a tombola with a lot of garden-linked prizes and a fun activity for children to sow cress seed on an egg shell head, so that when the cress grew they could give it a ‘hair cut’.

Thanks to  all who helped – we raised about £70 to help fund our plots and planters. Visitors were able to admire the ALFI raised beds there, planted with herbs and flowers which attract bees and butterflies.

Courgette Flower and Herb Risotto

Serves 2


1 onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 finely chopped courgette
Good splash of olive oil
150g Risotto rice
Half a litre of vegetable stock (a little more may be needed)
1 wine glass white wine
Handful of chopped herbs (such as thyme, marjoram, parsley) and courgette flowers
Garnish: Courgette Flowers


Fry the onion, garlic and courgette gently in olive oil until softened but not brown. Add Risotto rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, gradually add stock and wine. Return to heat and simmer gently, stirring very frequently, until the stock is absorbed and the rice cooked (add more hot stock if necessary). Add the handful of chopped herbs and flowers and mix well. Serve with the garnish.


Our AGM on July 20th was a lovely gathering of committee, volunteers and supporters.

The formal meeting was quite short, with a most encouraging annual report from our Chair, Clare Allen. This served to remind us all that we have had a busy and successful year in terms of Sowing, Sharing and Supporting local food. We now have 11 different plots and planters around the town, and 3 regular events each year. Our children’s poster competition was the most successful yet, with over 300 entries.

The committee was re-elected as it stands, except for our treasurer Deborah, who is moving away. Clare thanked her and she was presented with a card and present.  Ellis Pritchard was elected treasurer in her place.

After the meeting everyone had a chance to exchange ideas over a drink and refreshments. There were photographs of our plots and events, on a lap top, and some of the winning posters of the competition were on display.

Chive flower butter

If you already have chive plants, once they start to flower you can use some of the flowers to make into a butter to add colour and flavour to dishes such as jacket potatoes, grilled fish, steak, or lightly steamed vegetables, or even added to sandwiches.

Pick flowering stems, and discarding the stems, crumble the florets of the flower into butter at room temperature, mix and return to the fridge to allow the flavour to develop, in the same way as for herb butter.

(Wild ramson flowers can also be treated in the same way, but be wary, it can be very strong!)

Seedling Swap Saturday May 9th

Another successful Seedling Swap in Cross and Pillory Lane as part of the Craft Market.

This annual event has become a favourite with our supporters, many of whom arrived early with the seedlings they had grown for us. Other donations of plants continued to arrive all day, and the team of stall holders were kept busy refilling the tables with new arrivals as fast as other seedlings were taken away. Even a shower in the middle of the day didn’t dampen spirits, as people compared notes on growing the different varieties available.

The donations amounted to over £120, so after expenses we have a healthy balance which will go towards maintaining and developing our many plots and planters around the town.

Thanks to all the helpers, growers and supporters.

Update at the end of April

Our generic signs are now in place at all our plots, planters and orchard, and with the warm weather, these areas are all bursting into life.The fruit trees at Jubilee field are now starting to bloom – so pretty – and we hope the pollinating insects are at work turning flowers into fruit!

Westbrooke plot had a most satisfying working party yesterday, planting seedlings – cabbage plants, lettuces, peas, parsley, sweet peas, marigolds, nasturtiums – and sowing seeds of salad crops, parsnips, beetroot and rocket. And now we have had some rain overnight which is perfect. We have a proper rainwater butt there now, which a neighbour kindly helped me to fill from her tap. In a month’s time the town groundsman will keep it topped up for us.

The station plot continues to collect compliments. There, too, cabbages, beans, leeks etc are all being planted and the pear tree is in blossom.

The Railway barrels and concrete ring planters in Anstey Road, which we have recently taken over, are filling up with a variety of crops and flowering plants which is making this rather bare corner much more attractive.

The Vicarage plot grew a spectacular display of celandines when we weren’t looking, but this has now been covered with layers of cardboard and soil, with gaps for strawberry plants to grow through. We hope this will discourage the celandines, pretty though they are briefly in the spring. The fruit bushes there seem to have settled in well over the winter and are already growing fast.

And the planters in the town are full of herbs which passers-by can snip (but not’pull’ please) for their own use.

Westbrooke Plot

Our first working party on March 6th was on a warm, sunny afternoon, when 5 of us dug the soil out of the small raised bed, removed the many fibrous tree roots which had grown in from a neighbouring tree, and put down a permeable membrane to try to stop it happening again. We sieved the soil back in which was good exercise but hard work!. We also started some tidying up, and planted foxgloves, grape hyacinths and primroses in the shady bank at the top of the plot. Our party included a well-behaved black labrador and a 3 month old baby who slept contentedly for the whole time.

A note had recently been left in the basket where we leave produce.
“ALFI – Thank you for the excellent cabbage last week. Couldn’t find the donation box at the Station but will donate when it reappears”
How heart-warming!

Seedy Saturday

On Saturday February 7th we again had wonderful support for our annual seed swap. A continual stream of people of all ages and interests came into the Methodist Hall and went away with seeds, potatoes, newsletters and renewed enthusiasm for the start of the growing season. There was a buzz of conversation around coffee tables as old friendships were renewed and new ones made. It was particularly good to welcome some enthusiastic new supporters. One of these, Ellis, brought some New Zealand yams (Oxalis tuberosa), tiny tubers with a tangy lemon flavour. He even had some freshly roasted ones for us to sample, and several people took some away to try growing them this year.

Don’t forget when you start germinating your seeds, to keep some spare seedlings for our Seedling Swap on May 9th.

A Week in the Life of ALFI

On Monday the committee had its monthly committee meeting, a relaxed occasion ably chaired by Clare, and on this occasion hosted by Sonia with ample drinks and nibbles to sustain us! We agreed final details for the signs which we are having made for our sites around the town, planned publicity etc for Seedy Saturday and finalised the contents of our next newsletter. We also discussed our theme for next year and still had several items of AOB. Even so, we finished well within the two hours which is our limit.

Fixing Planks in the Vicarage Plot

On Wednesday afternoon 6 of us worked at the Vicarage Plot led by Steve, and with his expertise we fixed the wooden planks in position which are to form the edging to the beds and paths. Ann’s design is looking good and she is almost ready to order the soft fruit, strawberries and lavender plants, and organise a planting working party. Look out for details on the front page if you would like to be involved.

Celebrating at the Railway Arms

And on Thursday evening we held a social evening at the Railway Arms to say thank you to our volunteers who help us look after our plots and planters, and without whom we would cease to function!
Thanks to all of them!