A very happy birthday to Earthworks!

Earthworks Summer Fair 2014

Earthworks Summer Fair 2014 - Credit: Archant

Tucked away on Hixberry Lane in the pretty Highfield area, surrounded by trees, is a wonderful growing space, Earthworks, an oasis of calm and purpose in our busy city. This year Earthworks celebrates its 20th birthday and it is a perfect opportunity to look back on what they have achieved.

You may know the Earthworks stall from the St Albans farmers’ market usually sited in front of the Town Hall (second Sunday of each month) and the Christmas market. I particularly like the days when you can select your own lettuce leaves from the various boxes to make your own salad mixture. It is usually around half the price you would pay in a supermarket and far fresher. The bug hotels are a must-buy too and make lovely presents.

Did you know you can also buy directly from the site during the week (9.30am-3pm)? Just wander onto the site and head towards the barn. Produce for sale and prices are chalked up on a board and varies with the seasons, of course. At the moment you can buy purple sprouting broccoli, rainbow chard, spinach and cavelo nero. Look out for their own apple juice and chutneys too. You can buy logs in the colder months.

Everything is grown with environmental principles. I would call the produce organic (although they can’t). I remember one volunteer explaining to me that they don’t use pesticides: “We just grow enough for the bugs as well.”

If no-one is in the barn they are busy on the site so just hang around until someone appears or go and find someone.

Earthworks opened when five local ‘institutions’ closed. Although a good thing, it meant that there were not enough opportunities for adults who needed learning support during the day.

Earthworks was set up to give work and training opportunities, and over the years hundreds of trainees and volunteers have worked on the site. The group has welcomed people from all around the area and the new summer club has proved very popular (they are taking direct bookings at the moment), especially when other centres close for a holiday. Local children’s schools work closely with the site too. Dan Augustine has worked on the site for 15 years and told me how much he enjoys working here: “It has a peaceful and fun atmosphere, and the team are friendly, lovely and caring. I know loads of people through here, and through Special Olympics. I would recommend anyone to work here.”

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Ye Olde Fighting Cocks has an allotment on site, and Earthworks grow the vegetables and herbs for use in the pub. As the pub needs to know what is coming to plan the menus, they work closely with Harriet at Earthworks to grow what they need. Landlord Christo loves his involvement too, so it is a win-win situation.

The annual Summer Fair (July 18 11am-4pm) is always lovely and you can explore the growing areas, gardens and craft spaces. There is music and activities on the lawns and plenty to eat and drink.

A children’s treasure hunt is always popular and mine loved looking at the pond and artworks. Parking is limited so perhaps walk from the other side of Highfield Park or cycle there from the Alban Way.

The Summer Fair will have a very special atmosphere this year, as there is much to celebrate. I wish them all a very happy birthday.

Check out the website earthworksstalbans.co.uk for more info on where to find them, volunteering and what is for sale that month.