Soup Dragons

Soup Dragons, sounds interesting – tell me more!

That was my reaction when I heard one of our local parish councils would be starting to run these local community events.  Sounded right up my street and it was!

The very first event was planned for 24th Feb 2022 and I was lucky enough to be chosen to pitch on behalf of The Waterside Food Project. 

This is what we do – https://thewatercressqueen.wordpress.com/2022/02/28/the-waterside-food-project/

The idea is that everyone buys a ticket, gets to listen to 4 pitches and then eat soup. The pitches can be a start up local business, or a community group. Whilst soup is being eaten everyone talks about the pitches and then the votes are cast. £5 from each ticket sale goes towards the prize money and the winning pitch gets the money to help them move forward with their ideas or work. 

As it was the first event we only had 3 of us pitch. Christine Bennett who runs the Healthy Haven garden at the Waterside medical practice. They are creating a beautiful place for people to come and meet outside in the garden. As with any new project they have a long list of things they need help with, if you are able to help them at all contact Christine through the facebook group, they would love to hear from you!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2698592857082670

The room then heard from Ivor, a local resident who writes funny books and paints pictures to sell.  He was hoping to be able to put the prize money into sorting out his garden which has gotten out of hand and is full of brambles. 

And then it was my turn, I am used to public speaking, but this felt really important as I was not doing one of my normal talks, but pitching for the benefit of our community.  

Here is my pitch 

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Hi I am Lucie Mann, known online as The Watercress Queen. 

I run along with my family, New Forest Aquaponics CIC  – a regenerative culture hub challenging the way we impact our biosphere.

I can waffle on about many of our projects for hours, but I only have 4 minutes, and I want to talk about one of the most important parts of our work. 

I was told this presentation should be fun, well I am sorry I don’t think I can find anything funny about food poverty and food waste in the UK.

The Waterside Food project aims to tackle both of these in the local area.  Many people who live on the waterside do not see how much food poverty and inequality we have in the area. Just because it is not seen does not mean it is not there. 

And things are going to get worse. covid , rising cost of living, cost of fuel have all impacted on people’s pockets. Many have to choose between heating and eating. 

The heating is not quite so easy to sort out, but the food we can help with!

What are we doing so far?

At the beginning of 2021 fate brought a small group of local people together, through surplus food collections, and it became an obvious thing to work together to help as many people as possible.   In our core group we have 3 different groups working together, with the waterside food project being one of them.  

One helps a charity and their service users by using unsold flowers to provide learning opportunities and unsold drinks and snacks to raise funds.

The other group works tirelessly and with a dedication second to none  to provide pop up food distribution  across the waterside, connecting with people on a very personal level. Picking up where people may need  financial help, or someone to talk to at a time of need. 

Between us all we identify the best use of the foods, so groups who cook for the homeless, or  other groups who provide food are always offered things they can turn into meals. 

The waterside food project  are at the beginning of setting up community fridges. 

A community fridge is a free and accessible place where the community can access food.  The first one is outside my house, it is a simple box on legs with tins and bread for people to help themselves.  Within a week a friend had set one up in totton, and the really amazing thing is, people are now checking the boxes to see what is there, but also adding food to it to share the food around.  We would like to get more of these up and down the waterside. 

On a slightly larger scale, the next stage will be to get an actual fridge and a freezer in at least one location on the waterside. This will allow foods that need to be chilled or frozen  to be available to prevent waste. At the moment these types of foods are the only ones that we can’t always get out to people. And although we compost them, we really want people fed. 

Food we cannot hand out or simply have far more than we can hand out is  used to feed animals – did you know cows like bread? 

And if it is not suitable for animals then we compost it. over the two weeks of Christmas I composted 100kgs of processed food waste, about 10% of the food collected. This spring the compost  will be used to grow food for the community. 

Where does all this food come from?  All supermarkets have unsold foods, and at the end of the day as a team we take it in turns to go and collect from many of the supermarkets between here and southampton.  If you know of a store that would like to offer us food do get in touch!

Now you may be wondering if we win tonight, what would we spend the money on? 

Well between us we cover a minimum of 168 miles a week , which is around £75 per week providing this service to the local community. 

  Being able to provide fuel cards will make sure we can keep going in these times of rising fuel costs

Next on the list would be Improving and creating more community fridge boxes in the area. 

Our future plans we would like to have access to a kitchen where we can cook and process excess produce – thinking of the 400kgs of carrots and the same of potatoes and brussel sprouts at christmas……….and let’s not mention the 120 fresh turkeys ( thankfully all turkeys were eaten!)  

And how wonderful if we could find a place to teach cooking, to complement teaching growing food, and community composting. 

The very big picture for New Forest Aquaponics is to create a community owned farm which would be able to house all of these elements, you will see information on the tables about this, but until then can you help us? 

I hope you enjoy your evening, I might just have to recommend the watercress soup !

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I am really pleased to say we won! The pot came out at  £185 which will be used to support the fuel costs. We will do this by purchasing fuel cards to share with the group we work with. 

With the rising costs at the fuel pumps this won’t last long so if you would like to help us we would be very grateful.  

And to make sure that the soup dragons effect goes further than just one night, Christine and some of the volunteers are coming to visit New Forest Aquaponics CIC to see our work. We both felt it would be great to see how we can support each other on an ongoing basis. 

Having met Ivor previously I had already seen his garden, and it really does need a sort out. So we are going to put together a team to do a garden makeover Ground Force style for him.  Ivor is very excited about this. If you would like to join us we will be fixing a date and sharing as an event on Facebook very soon. 

A huge thank you to Helen Hythe and Hythe and Dibden parish council for putting on the event, just what the community needs!

The next soup dragon event is 26th March, it will be wonderful to see who pitches next, I hope to see you there!

Sorting Ecobricks

Don’t assume you know how to make them!

It has become time for Ecobricks UK ( at New forest Aquaponics cic ) to sort out the underweight ecobricks we have been sent since 2018. 

It has always been our intention to be able to use these to insulate some of our aquaponic ponds. Sadly we need to reduce the number of them before we can get that far, as we have to find a new site before we can dig any ponds. 

So a dedicated team of passionate ecobrickers came to start the process of sorting and remaking as many as we can so they are usable in modules

We decided to make a video to help you understand why we need you to make really good solid, dense ecobricks that fulfill plastic sequestration principles and earthen ethics, rather than underweight ‘ecobrick’ attempts that can’t be used.

We do understand and appreciate that every underweight ecobrick represents an attempt by someone to express their feelings about plastic, the desire to see change from a plastic dependent society.  It also shows us the dangers of social media, how messages get spread without detail, and how we forget to research for ourselves the information we find on a facebook post. 

Thank you to everyone who cares enough to try, thank you to everyone who has and is reducing the plastic that comes into their lives ……we know it isn’t easy! Regardless of if you make ecobricks or not – just keep working on not consuming the plastic, the earth will thank you for it. 

Here is the transcript for the video. 

It has been put together under the directorship of James who is 10 – and who leads by example and follows the earth’s ethics. 

Ecobricking is a way for anyone anywhere to take personal responsibility for their plastic. Together we can keep it out of the biosphere and out of capital and carbon intensive industrial processing. 

Ecobricking follows the Earth’s example towards cycling and sequestration. Based on indegenous wisdom, extensive evaluation and earthen ethics, ecobricking isn’t just about packing plastic– it’s about petro-capital transition.

This can be quite a lot to take on, but it is so important,

 This short video is about why it is so important to  follow the principles of ecobricking and make really good solid and dense ecobricks. 

Underweight ecobricks cause problems for those who end up looking after them.

Have you ever wondered why?

At ecobricks UK we were caught out when the idea of ecobricks went viral october 2018, we had 1000’s of poorly made ecobricks sent to us. Every underweight ecobrick  is a well meaning  attempt to do something about plastic, but if we do not follow the principles of plastic sequestration we are failing our biosphere. 

We have looked after these ecobricks, but we can’t not use them as they are and still uphold the principles of plastic sequestration. So a team of volunteers came and spent a day with us to start the process of sorting them out. 

We are going to remake as many of the ecobricks  as we can so the plastic is taken care of. This means opening them, and chopping up the plastic.  As we opened the poorly made ecobricks we came across so much that should not be in an ecobrick. 

And some were just too dirty to even think about opening……

We found paper, compostable plastics, metal, full teabags, paper, lots of bits of food and a nappy……..

An underweight ecobrick that contains materials other than plastic can become compromised, we want the ecobricks to last as long as the plastic. Excess air, organic matter and any moisture can cause the ecobrick to become weak which will affect  any structure it might be part of or even burst the top off.

We ask you to wash and dry your plastic for good reason, not only will any  dirt in the ecobrick slowly break down leading to bacteria and fungus to grow and this can lead to methane gas  forming inside your ecobrick.

When ecobricks are used to  make home furniture you  want to avoid unsightly ecobricks or bloated bottles. It has been known for dirty wet plastic to cause the lids to pop off. 

Logged ecobricks are the best  reassurance that the ecobricks can be used in many different projects throughout its lifetime.

One of the reasons we advise anyone running a project to only accept ecobricks that have been logged and authenticated on gobrik is to stop underweight ecobricks being given to the project. 

For more information www.ecobricks.org/how

I hope you like James video, and I hope this will help you understand that a good well made solid, dense ecobrick is a building block, a poorly made one is no good to anyone. 

If you would like to book a starter workshop for your community, join our ecobrick trainer network or have any other questions pop me an email watercressqueen1@watercressqueen1

Where will we work?

To create a regenerative aquaponics farm in the way we would like, one that will serve all of the other parts of the plan, one that is there for the community and helps real depth of change, we need security.

We need to know that our work will survive far beyond us, will be there for the peoples that come after us, that the community will be there for the peoples to come.

 The last page is about being able to buy some land to put into trust to keep safe. So the trees we plant will provide oxygen, shade, food, and grow to reach their full potential. 

The aim is to do this as a community benefit society, offering a democratic share offer – one member, one vote.  There will be a management committee, to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. And as we aim to provide space for children, we will also run a children’s management committee so the children can be heard. 

We would welcome ideas and conversations about land / farms that are available. We would love to stay in the Forest, our friends are here, and there isn’t anything else similar for a long way. But land is very expensive here,  if we have to move we are open to it, but then the locals here would miss out again.

I really hope you are inspired to join us, if you haven’t already please fill in our survey, if you want to hear more, especially when we launch the share offer do fill in your email. 

 We need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

This picture is the last two  pages of our working ethos, where?  – you can read the rest on our website ( open source development of the website brings community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic  (one member one vote) share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Who do we serve?

Who are the people?

Well you if you want!

What do you need from us? What do you want from us? What can you share with us?

Could you be part of our community? 

Although we have target groups we would like to invite to work with us, to create a community we need all sorts of people, from all backgrounds, of all ages and abilities. 

You will be welcome to be part of the journey if that’s what you want or need.

The world and all in it needs healing more than ever right now, we can’t heal everyone or everything, but we can create a place where healing can start. 

Of course the biosphere has to be the starting point, as without it we don’t have a home, but the work to heal our home will heal us as well. Getting your hands dirty in the soil, harvesting food you have grown, learning a new skill, and most importantly making friends, all helps heal. 

And what if you  don’t need help? Then you are also very, very welcome, come and bring your self, your skills and your time and help others and the biosphere. 

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

This picture is the eleventh  page of our working ethos, who?  – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic  (one member one vote) share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Life Skills

One of the things I hear so often is – that ‘it’ should be taught in schools, doesn’t matter what the ‘it’  is, that’s the line that everyone comes out with. 

But sadly that’s not what happens, when I was at school, we did learn some of the skills I have needed in my adult life, but not in depth enough, and I can assure you I have forgotten a lot of it since then!

I have gone out and re learnt to help me remember, and taken it upon myself to gain many more skills. Not everyone is able to do that, there are many barriers to access hands on skills, not all of them are obvious as barriers. 

We want to listen to people, find out what they would like to learn to help them, and find out what skills they can bring to share with the community. What’s your skill?

The list we have made as part of our working ethos is only a fraction of what we could do. And who knows what the long term benefits will be as our society changes, and we head towards a more regenerative way of living in our modern world. 

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

This picture is the tenth page of our working ethos, life skills  – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic  (one member one vote) share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Compost

Composting – nature’s way of keeping the planet healthy. 

Just imagine if nothing ever broke down? We would be in a real mess…….

Our biosphere works in such amazing ways with processes to keep itself and us healthy and clean.  It does this by breaking down all natural materials, and reusing them in an endless cycle. 

When us humans get involved it becomes composting – and although it is super simple, if it is organic it will break down to feed the earth – we like to make it complicated!

Composting gets forgotten as something we should do ourselves. We chop down the growth in our gardens, pay for it to be taken away, and then spend more money buying compost wrapped in plastic…….

Although it is very simple to create your own composting, because of the way we live, we need to look at all the different techniques, so we use the best for our homes or communities. And composting can help rebuild our soils and space for other species to live, however small. 

As part of our regenerative work we will be running community composting, teaching how to compost, how to use different methods depending on the situation, combining methods, and using the compost to grow good food (we use decoupled aquaponics as well) and build soil health. 

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

This pictures is page that explains our working ethos around compost  – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Fish

Ever since humans have watched other species eating fish – birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and microorganisms,  we have got ourselves wet in the process of catching fish.

Then we learned how to trap fish to make it easier to catch them, then we learnt the amazing skills of breeding fish. 

More than any other animal the conditions have to be right for this to be successful. Fish react really badly when the water quality, oxygen and temperature is not right, at best they are sluggish, at worst they  die.   When we are talking fish, they can all die in a couple of hours!

Modern fish farming methods are increasingly becoming high tec, monitors for this and that parameter, all reducing the need for contact with the water and the fish. The skill of being able to use your senses to prevent problems before they affect the fish are being lost, so many young people starting to work with fish who can’t tell through observation that there is an issue. Did you know you can smell if water is good for the fish?

We have the skills and knowledge to share with communities to bring aquaponics into their community food growing projects.  It is really important to us that the right aquatic species are kept in relation to the space available.  We will have different models of different set ups to teach good husbandry  – which will produce good plant foods grown without stress to plants  or fish. 

Of course you do not have to eat the fish, they can just be kept as companions, fish bring healing by their presence. Good water energizes our food, good water keeps the fish healthy and happy.

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about. 

Sharing our working ethos, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

These two pictures are the two pages that explain our working ethos around fish  – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

And our survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code 

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Aquaponics – what’s that then?

Aquaponics – What’s that?

Aquaponics is a food production system that combines aquaculture – raising fish, crayfish prawns etc – with hydroponics – growing plants in water – whereby the nutrient rich aquaculture water is fed to hydroponic grown plants

As existing hydroponic and aquaculture farming techniques form the basis for all aquaponic systems, the size, complexity, and types of foods grown in an aquaponic system is really only limited by imagination. 

Aquaponics is not new, it is one of the oldest farming methods, one practised by indigous cultures around the world for thousands of years. It is another one of those skills that has been forgotten. Our aim is to bring those skills to life in a way that will work to help regenerate communities. 

Imagine your local community farm being able to provide you with fresh and tasty vegetables and fish. 

Imagine your food being produced in a way that puts more back than it takes out. 

Imagine your food being climate positive, local and good for you!

And it goes without saying that our method of aquaponics puts the fish, their health and welfare at the very heart of what we do.  Teaching the skills we have lost and learning new ones along the way.  Our methods are chemical free, growing tasty nutrient dense food, I can’t wait for you to taste it!

To do that we need somewhere to act as a demonstration model of the hows.  

And that is what this series of posts are about.  

Sharing our working ethos, so you can understand the why, to inspire you to be part of that journey. 

These two pictures are the two pages that explain our working ethos around Aquaponics  – you can read the rest on our website ( the open source development of the website is part of bringing community to work together ) www.newforestaquaponics.com 

We also have a survey which we would love to get your opinions on how much support we will have for a democratic share offer to be part of our regenerative farm community. 

Please do fill in the survey – it is really important we can show we have the support to get to the next stage. follow the link or use the QR code 

https://forms.gle/otCaze6JDjL3LzmG6

Washkers the most environmentally way to wash your clothes

Buy Washkers on our store https://store68776081.company.site/products/

Washkers – prepared conkers for you to wash your clothes with

Using conkers or horse chestnuts is a free way for you to make sure your washing chemical free and will do no harm to our world.

I have used them for four years now, and every year I get to have lots of conversations with people helping them start this journey.

The one thing I found was that even when people really loved using them, preparing enough to last a family from session to session was quite hard for many.

Pressures of modern life, working, parenting, or not having anywhere close to collect conkers, and for many not having the physical ability to chop and dry was the biggest barrier to having enough for a whole year.

So WASHKERS was born.

I will always provide the instructions and help people prepare their own, but for those that can’t I hope that by offering washkers for sale I can help them on the journey of regenerative modern living.

Here is my post on how to make your own – and how the journey started

https://thewatercressqueen.wordpress.com/2021/07/12/conkers-for-clothes-washing/

When someone buys washkers from me, they are directly supporting a UK based, non profit that works towards putting more back than it takes from the biosphere.

Every year we plant a minimum of 30 horse chestnut trees, more if we can plus other spices of trees.

Our packaging is upcycled 100% cotton material so it can be composted when you have finished using it – although they make great produce bags, or storage bags. You can even post back to us to refill if you wish, all before it heads to the compost pile.

So what are you waiting for ? why not try some today, see if you like them before conkers session gets here – October – and then you can either make your own or keep supporting New Forest Aquaponics cic with our regenerative work supporting our local community.

Until I work out how to add a shopping cart please could you use this link to purchase the washkers.

https://donorbox.org/washkers-natural-clothes-washing-with-conkers

Please note to reduce our impact, as we have to travel by car to visit a post office we post all orders once a week.

Happy washing 🙂

Coding and Film making for home ed children

28 August 2019|community, Our amazing youth, Social

Coding and Film making for home educated children with  Lights, Camera, Code 

Hosted by New Forest Aquaponics cic.

Kevin teaching coding.

One of the things we are passionate about is learning , and learning takes form in many different ways.  Sometimes that’s school sometimes that’s at home. But learning in groups is always fun. We help support an informal group of home educated children within our local areas of SO45 and SO40 by providing the space for group learning. If we have spaces we then offer these out to other groups in Hampshire and Dorset. Everyone is always welcome, no matter where you live, but places are always open to the local community first, as we believe in helping the children make long lasting friendships that will carry them on through to adulthood.

Friendships happen when we interact with each other in a safe and welcoming environment, where “doing” as a team and adding our own contribution helps us find our place. 

For 5 weeks during June and July 2019 the first test of  getting a group together took place in Blackfield.  We asked the talented Kevin from Lights, Camera, Code in to deliver one of the coding courses he runs.  It was amazing!  The starting point was to see how coding is fun, and is a useful tool to be able to help others. Kevin’s courses all incorporate a social or environmental message along side skills, in this first course we learnt how to code a doorbell for a deaf person. It was wonderful to see the children come to understand why this would be needed, and how they could solve a problem for someone else. Here Kevin takes up the story…..

When we first discussed the idea of putting workshops on for children during the holidays, my business partner and I were both full time primary school teachers with hectic schedules. We were also computing lead teachers for Islington (a north London borough with an excellent record of supporting schools in implementing the computing curriculum) and had seen a real need for children to be allowed to explore coding at length and not as a ‘one hour a week’ stand alone lesson. We wanted children to be completely immersed in coding for a longer period of time. In the same way we learn to read and write (by practising daily and making it a part of everything we do) we knew children needed more exposure to coding and its many different languages in order to be able to do it competently. 

As teachers with over 15 years experience between us, we are adept at creating engaging and fun lesson plans with a purpose. It was important to us that children did not just randomly place blocks of code together and hope for the best. They needed a sense of purpose if they were going to become better coders who could potentially end up saving the world – we really do think that big. We want them to be able to collaborate, problem-solve and create. Hence why our workshops are based around in-depth projects and will have themes ranging from social awareness to Minecraft. 

So with Kevin’s guidance so many other skills were introduced, coding (obviously), typing, reading and following instructions, planning, designing, turning a design from paper to the physical, communicating via coding, working together, how computing can be useful, how games are made, how coding doesn’t have to be done via a computer, and how to have fun and learn together!

I am happy to say that all the children managed to make their door bells, and are excitedly  awaiting the next course.  I am even more happy to say that providing a small group for the children helped one overcome a fear of failing due to not being confident with reading, one learn they had skills to share, one to see friends are out there for them, and one can see that they could still learn even though they are suffering from severe school trauma.

Our plans are for this coming year to run as many courses as finances allow, we can only do this with support. The plan is to run 3 sets of 5 week courses during autumn and winter 2019. Each course has a maximum of ten children, This would give 30 learning opportunities, although I suspect it may well be the same ten children each time as they were all so keen! This will cost £1000 to hold the three courses. We would ask parents to cover some of the cost according to their financial ability, many home ed families are on a reduced income (due to not having education choices suitable for their children), I hope between the families we can cover at least half of each course, enabling us to run at least four courses and with help we could run so many more.  I truly hope we will be able to carry on offering these in the long term,  Lights, Camera, Coding have many many lesson plans they can offer.  Including film making courses, which we would run from our aquaponics farm in Cadham.  With the right backing we could also be able to offer these courses to disengaged teenagers, and groups from further afield get into coding and filmaking……..How can you help us?

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2021 update.

We ran two courses, and then had a break whilst we tried to get funding. We had chosen to wait for funding to come through before starting up again, that took us into 2020 and covid. The funding sources we had hoped for were diverted to school children, and we now cannot use the hall space we had. Many of our families income has been affected, so we are not sure when we will be able to run coding and film making again. But we keep trying to provide this for the children.

Could you help us do that? either with funds or a space to run from.