Incredible Edible Handbridge CommuniTree

This week marked a special occasion for the Incredible Edible Handbridge community group as they planted their first CommuniTree.

The apple tree is located on the front green outside of Industry, Handbridge, the same location as the group’s initial and most established community growing space.

IEH hope that the tree will thrive there for many years to come, allowing residents to enjoy and share in the fruit.

‘Who are IEH?’

Incredible Edible Handbridge are a growing group who aim to establish community growing in the area.

The group work to initiate growing spaces in areas across Handbridge which deliver and serve for members of the local community.

Such an initiative aims to promote a more local and resilient food network whilst encouraging community, providing outdoor education and increasing green spaces and biodiversity.

It has been great to hear and see so many people actively involving themselves with growing and caring for plants over this lock down period.

From those planting their first seeds, to those with lifetimes of experience, establishing connections with our natural world can bring about many benefits for our mental and physical well-being.

In other news, IEH has introduced a new Share Table situated at Industry. The table allows community members to share surplus produce, seedlings and seeds with others. A big thank you to Industry Handbridge who have continually supported the group’s efforts.

If you’d like to find out more please find us on Facebook.

Virtual Eco Fair

Thursday 4th June

Thursday 4th June 1.00pm
Thursday 4th June 2.00pm
Thursday 4th June 3.00pm
Thursday 4th June 4.00pm
Thursday 4th June 5.00pm
Thursday 4th June 6.00pm
Thursday 4th June 7.00pm
Thursday 4th June 7.30pm

Friday 5th June

Friday 5th June 11.00am
Friday 5th June 12.00pm
Friday 5th June 2.00pm
Friday 5th June – 3.00pm
Friday 5th June 4.00pm
Friday 5th June 5.00pm
Friday 5th June 6.00pm
Friday 5th June 7.00pm

Saturday 6th June

Saturday 6th June 9.00am
Saturday 6th June 10.15am
Saturday 6th June 11.00am
Saturday 6th June 12.00pm
Saturday 6th June 2.00pm
Saturday 6th June 3.00pm
Saturday 6th June 4.00pm
Saturday 6th June 5.00pm

Eco Tips for Lockdown Life

Hannah Swettenham – May 2020

At the moment it can feel more difficult than usual to be ‘Green’. 

All that headspace that used to be taken up remembering your reusable bags, going to different shops to buy plastic free products or researching sustainable brands is taken up with planning a socially distant shop, remembering to wash your hands all the time and disinfecting all your tins.

So it’s not surprising that many of us are finding that we’re not as ‘plastic free’ as usual. What’s worse is that this can often make us feel guilty and stressed, as if we didn’t already have enough to be worried about! 

It’s important to remember that we don’t have to be perfect to be climate activists. So while it’s maybe easy to feel like giving up, why not do what you can to help the planet in this time.

So here are a few quick and easy things we can do to keep helping the environment, without feeling like our heads are going to explode!

Follow Friends of the Earth Chester and District on Twitter and Facebook and share/like our posts. We’re still having regular events and meetings (online of course) so why not join in a quiz or a film night to help pass the time.

Don’t mow your lawn! It’s less work and it means that the wildlife in your garden will flourish. Why not take pictures of any new birds or insects you see?

Keep an eye out for wildlife on your walks – report your hedgehog sightings on Hedgehog Street, or even better, make a hole in your fence as part of the Hedgehog Highway so hedgehogs can travel more easily between gardens.

Try to cook one meat free meal a week – since meat seems to be in short supply at the moment now’s the perfect time to try out some new veggie recipes. These can often be cheap to make and have a low carbon footprint as well. See Meat Free Monday’s

Make a pledge to not buy any new clothes – now we’re all at home there’s less need for a new wardrobe item. Save some money and save a lot of water and resources by not buying that new pair of jeans! 

Support your local businesses – once this is all over we want to make sure we still have all our lovely sustainable businesses which have grown over the last few years. So if you do have some extra money to spend why not spend it with a local small business?

However much or little you’re able to do during this time, the important thing is that we keep the planet in mind over the next weeks and months until we can get back out to campaign together in person.

Forage for your supper, tentative steps into wild food.

Simon Eardley, April 2020

Foraging isn’t just about mushrooms in the autumn. Although we are in this strange time of Coronavirus lock down, we are all permitted a period of socially distanced exercise each day.

Is there a woodland or another green space near you? A field, or verge (hopefully not mown down by over-zealous local authorities) or maybe a patch of neglected land that’s looking wild and unloved but perhaps a little ‘overgrown.’ There are natural treasures you can find almost everywhere!

I’m a bit of a novice at this sort of thing but during the course of the last week or so I’ve successfully foraged some wonderful wild produce that is in abundance just now. Here are my top picks:

Ramsoms (Allium ursinum) better known as ‘wild garlic’, they are definitely a rival for bluebells at this time of the year in terms of the beautiful display of white flowers emerging from fabulous green leaves. Give the leaves a rub or better still pick a few and you’ll recognise the familiar smell of garlic. In a week or so the pungent aroma will be unmistakable as the dew falls at evening time.

Culinary uses: delicious and pungent pesto (perfect stirred through pasta or gnocchi) with a wonderful vivid green colour or added to garlic butter in garlic bread. I also have a recipe for wild garlic savoury scones which I hope to try. Sounds perfect with a lovely strong cheese or maybe toasted and buttered.

Wild Garlic

Garlic mustard (Alliara petiolata) or my personal favourite name for it, Jack by the Hedge. Otherwise know as Hedge Garlic, Poor Mans Mustard or Penny Hedge. This plant which grows a couple of feet or so high has lovely broad green leaves and a burst of white flowers at the top.

Rubbing the leaves gives off a gentle scent of garlic but less strong than Ransoms. Again, I’ve made some lovely pesto with this plant (basic recipe I follow is below) and enjoyed it stirred through pasta and baked over John Dory fish (I think any white fish would be great for it).

It took me a few days to use them up when first picked and they also looked fantastic in a vase as an impromptu display of flowers. It appears to be a native plant of Europe and is a little controversial in America where it is considered an invasive weed. It isn’t hard to see why as it produces many seeds which self-pollinate. I also discovered some behind an ancient wall near my family’s farm in Ince which first sparked an interest in it.

Garlic Mustard

Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) my last and most recent pick, better known as the stinging nettle! I gingerly picked a heap of these in the Dukes Drive woodland near Chester recently, although you won’t struggle to find them anywhere at all.

Picking them isn’t an easy task as their furry stems and leaves do leave a tingle and can cause an irritation as everyone will know. There were, fortunately, plenty of dock leaves to hand but I managed to avoid too much stinging with a good pair of secateurs.

They have a bad reputation, perhaps reasonably, but there’s something lovely about their pointed green leaves. I also remember them being a favourite of Miss Eglantine Price, the witch from my favourite childhood film, Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Carrie, Charles and Paul were less keen to have them served up for supper!

Once home I steeped them in some boiling water for a good five minutes to stop the sting and then left them to dry out a little. Again, these nettles found themselves into a lovely pesto sauce which turned out to be the darkest green of all the pesto I’ve made, but with an interesting and punchy flavour.

Other uses could have been tea (with the leaves dried out a little) which would have definitely been interesting and worth a try. There was certainly a lovely pale green colour to the water that drained off when I’d steeped them. I understand they also have some herbal medicinal qualities and whilst I’m definitely not qualified to say either way, something edible, natural and free sounds good to me!

Common Nettle

Our natural world has much to offer us all year round, not just inland but on our beaches too. I’m particularly looking forward to wild damsons and sloes in the autumn both from some secret locations around and about Chester and also from a tree that has been growing at my family’s farm for the best part of a hundred years and is still producing wonderful oval shaped purple fruits which make the best jelly and jam you can imagine (and not to mention flavoured gin too).

Exciting and interesting opportunities await!

A final word of warning. I’m very much an amateur forager and only pick those things I am confident about. There are some wonderful wild plants around but many are also toxic and poisonous. Do be careful, arm yourself with some knowledge, perhaps via an app or two but always err on the side of caution if you don’t know what you are picking and eating.

Happy foraging!

Pesto recipe

Here is the basic pesto recipe (which I loosely follow) and have adapted to meet my own tastes. I’ve used good parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil each time I’ve adapted this recipe and I’ve also heard some good reports about other cheeses, particularly blue cheese and replacing the olive oil for natural yoghurt. I’m also usually pretty liberal with the regular garlic cloves and black pepper.

1 cup of leaves (garlic mustard, wild garlic, nettles or anything else suitable)

2 tbsp other fresh herb (optional, a little basil is good though)

1 clove fresh garlic

1/4 Parmesan cheese shredded (other cheeses work well, especially blue)

2 tbsp toasted pine nut seeds (sunflower, walnuts or almonds are great too)

1/2 tsp sea salt

Black pepper to taste

1/2 – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor.

Process until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl if needed.

Check the consistency and add more oil if desired.

Serve over pasta, meat, fish, poultry or vegetables. As a bread dip would be nice too!

Other lovely resources 

Website: (where the above recipe came from).

Book: Milkwood. Real skills for down-to-earth living. Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar.

Book series: River Cottage Handbooks. Mushrooms (No. 1), Edible Seashore (No.5) Hedgerow (No.7) – each by John Wright.

The Lost Words REVIEW by Martin Preston

This is a book that is both large of stature, and slight of words. 

Every one of Robert MacFarlane’s words has been carefully selected, assembled together into verse that captures the very essence and beauty of the wildlife in our gardens, lanes and countryside.   

Here is where this book lives in our house, standing upright and proud in the lounge between an elegant vase and a rather less elegant basket of pine cones.

I couldn’t bring myself to hide it away on a bookshelf to gather dust over the years like just any book. This is not ‘just any book’, this is a book to be seen, to be handled and admired, to be dipped into whenever we want to find wonder and poetry in the natural world. 

How many of these lost words we’re now seeing and using on our once-a day, lockdown exercise walks, dandelion, bramble, heron, bluebell and so many more. 

Why Lost Words? The words beautifully splayed across every page are some of the words that have been culled from the Oxford Junior Dictionary of late to make way for more ‘modern’ words.

Words like broadband and voicemail.  Are these lost words no longer important to our children?   

Thankfully, Robert MacFarlane, together with other authors thought otherwise. 

Robert’s subsequent collaboration with illustrator Jackie Morris culminated in this astonishingly beautiful and thought-provoking book. 

This is, in essence a book for children, children who will delight in searching for words amongst Jackie’s illustrations. 

It’s a book for parents to read and explore with their children. 

It’s a book for all who seek enrichment from the natural world. 

It’s a book for encouraging us to seek out nature, and to find delight in the seemingly mundane aspects of the nature that surrounds us all. 

The last page of the book tells us that some of the royalties from each copy sold of The Lost Words will be donated to Action for Conservation, a charity dedicated to inspiring young people to take action for the natural world, and to the next generation of conservationists.   

What greater reason to buy a book! 

Martin Preston 

Friends of the Earth in 2019

Last night was our final meeting of the year followed by an informal AGM, but we never do anything normal in our group.

We’ve now won awards for our campaigning the last two years, but what will 2020 bring? With a growing group of volunteers and supporters and more and more activities going on than ever before we will never not need more members.

Our evening started with a celebration of all our volunteers throughout 2019, from awards for social media to best fund raiser. We have such a fantastic growing team and try to make everyone welcome.

Rather than give money to a restaurant or pub chain I decided I would make food. My food is usually based around what I have and my latest Riverford food box contained a huge squash and loads of carrots amongst other things, Vegan Thai Squash Curry it was.

I really should write down recipes as everyone said they liked it and seconds and thirds were gobbled up by many.

The tinned goods came from what was our food club but now they deliver direct. Then my dry ingredients came from Just Footprints of course.

I do quite like cooking but I have been pushed out a bit at home by my son, who now cooks mostly for hubby and himself, saving them from my veggie cooking. I think years of grating and hiding vegetables in every meal has come back to bite me…

So what about the more formal part? I get to stay on as Coordinator, which is great, I love organising things so it suits me to the ground.

I’m so so pleased Hannah has taken Treasurer duties off me, It doesn’t matter what organisation you go into, one constant seems to be that nobody ever wants to be treasurer.Hannah and I are in the minority with a love of numbers.

Sadly Pete has stepped down from his committee role after an amazing 11 year stint, thanks Pete for all your tireless work across various positions across the committee and thanks to Martin for kindly taking over, stepping into the fold straight away and taking the minutes last night, you’ve got big shoes to fill Martin.

So, new committee, two campaign groups – Nature and Climate Change will be the key projects over 2020. We’ll hold the big brain storming session in the new year as part of our January event (which we will advertise once we agree on a new home).

The team also had updates on our (countless) spin off projects, Eco Communities, Plastic Free Pioneers and 10xGreenerCH1.

Donate – 10xGreener

THEN LASTLY, let’s all do what we can this festive season, reduce food waste, reduce gift and wrapping waste, buy local and sustainable — for more see our brochure.

Merry Christmas and an Eco New Year

Thanks, Helen- Chester FoE Group Coordinator, Plastic Free Pioneer, Director Eco Eco Communities and Carbon Literacy Trainer…

Iceland is buzzing

Employees at Iceland head office had quite the shock when their day was interrupted by the buzz of one of our very own Chester Friends of the Earth bees.

Chester FoE Co-ordinator Helen made the trip to the Iceland Head Office in Deeside last week to represent Friends of the Earth Chester & District and to show support to the ‘Back Yard Nature’ campaign.

Backyard Nature is a campaign to help children (and parents) to make a major, concerted difference to the planet by helping to provide them with all the tools they need to help nurture their own personal patches of nature.

The campaign was set up after a group of young Liverpool based environmentalists (The Eco Emeralds) approached Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker to share their ideas about protecting nature where they live and to ask for his help.

After this encounter Richard would contact grassroots charity Semble and a variety of charitable partners who would team up with Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation to help make the ideas come to fruition

“There is a nature crisis in the UK. Plants and wildlife in our own backyards are under serious threat. At the same time, children are spending less time enjoying nature, meaning they are less likely to care about and protect it.

Our goal is to get all children to spend more time enjoying and protecting nature where they live.”

During the day at head office, Helen (with fantastic assistance from Iceland’s own James) handed out flyers and seed packets for employees to take home and plant in their own gardens.

Planting bee friendly plants and wildflowers is so important, without the bees Iceland wouldn’t have the ingredients to stock all of their stores. No bees means no tomatoes, no tomatoes means no tomato based products (pizzas, ketchup, tomato soup etc.).

Imagine British summer without strawberries and cream, no fruit in your Pimms, no salad at your barbecues.

Looks like Bees love strawberries

Who will save the bees and sign up to become a backyard gardener.

And where oh where will our roaming bees settle next….

The Sustainable Chester Fair and the UN Sustainable Development goals 

Since we initially decided to do the Sustainable Chester Fair we have been inundated with various messages so we thought that this would be the ideal platform to give some answers ahead of the fair on Saturday.  


Why have you organised the Fair?  

Friends of the Earth have actively been campaigning in the region for many years. From door step recycling, to climate action, to protecting our bees, the last couple of years we have been really focusing on Straw Free and Plastic Free Chester along with Refill. 

We felt Chester has been doing some great work through various community and campaign groups and we wanted an opportunity to celebrate everything Chester & Cheshire West has been doing to make the area more sustainable. 


What projects are you working on now? 

We have an Incredible Edible project at Industry in Handbridge that needs help and we are going to be starting a 10xGreenerCH1 project any day, on Saturday we’ll have a stall to raise awareness so have a chat with them 

Although Cheshire West and Cheshire Council have issued a Climate Emergency, they have a long way to go to put any actions into practice, so lots of work for groups is needed to support any initiatives in the region. We still have the threat of Fracking in our region (speak to Frack Free Everywhere if you need to know more about this).

We have achieved Plastic Free Chester status with Surfers Against Sewage, with around 40 businesses signed up to the campaign and many schools looking to achieve Plastic Free School status.

Despite our recent success, we completely understand we still need to do more. We are now completing regular litter picks in the region and have just completed our first outside the area, at Talacre Beach with Chester Zoo Volunteers.  

We now have ambitions to work with the whole region so watch out Ellesmere Port/Frodsham/Helsby, we want to work and support community projects and push to get these regions to Plastic Free status.

If you live in any these areas and are interested let us know, we are looking for project leaders.  


What does it mean to be Sustainable? 

The Sustainable Development Goals are the United Nations blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.  

They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.  

The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it’s important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030. 

We want to make people think more about these goals. We are constantly being bombarded by various campaigns on plastics, climate change, food waste etc…. We wanted to show everyone how we can do something and which businesses we need to lobby to support the goals. We can’t change the world in one day, but hopefully everyone will go away with some practical ideas of what they can do.  

We have tried to fit the event around some of these goals, although I did find we have some overlap.  


Climate Action Zone 

Climate change is caused by human activities and is threatening the way we live and the future of our planet. By addressing climate change we can build a sustainable world for everyone. But we need to act now. You can get tips and ideas from the following stalls at our fair.  


Life on Land 

Forests cover nearly 31 per cent of our planet’s land area. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat, forests sustain us.  

Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood.  

Almost 75% of the world’s poor are affected directly by land degradation. Forests are home to more than 80 per cent of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects?  

And of the 8,300 animal breeds known, 8% are extinct and 22% are at risk of extinction.  

Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it underpins can also be the basis for climate change. 

Friends of the Earth are calling for the UK to double its free cover and we need your support for our campaign. Tell your MP you need the Government to act.  

Trees should be our natural defence against climate changeabsorbing carbon emissions, as well as providing a home for wildlife. The UK has some of the lowest levels of woodland in Europe. It’s time to ask for #MoreTreesPlease


Life Below Water 

Over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood 

Oceans provide key natural resources including food, medicines, biofuels and other products. They help with the breakdown and removal of waste and pollution, and their coastal ecosystems act as buffers to reduce damage from storms, maintaining healthy oceans supports climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. 

We have all been taken aback by the Blue Planet Effect. Since the show aired we’ve had huge support around our plastic free campaigning and spoken to some wonderful children in schools around the region. I wish we could bottle the enthusiasm of our youth and give it to all of us grown ups….


We must stop the amount of plastic going into our oceans. On our recent letter pick to Talacre Beach we found lots of plastic forks and polystyrene cones from the local chip shop, lolly or cotton bud sticks, straws and loads of balloons. 

We have some fantastic groups coming along to the fair supporting this goal from trees to parks to wildlife.  


Responsible Production and Consumption 

If we don’t act to change our consumption and production patterns, we will cause irreversible damage to our environment. 

We no longer have the 3 r’s but 4 

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. 

Where you canrefuse single use plastic, say no to a straw and take your reusable containers with you. Go into our own Zero Waste Shop, Just Footprints and come away without any plastic packaging. 

Reduce the amount of stuff you buy. Can you lend that electrical item from a friend for that one job. Could your broken item be fixed. Could you buy in bulk to reduce packaging. 

Buy Reusable, rather than single use. Get a reusable coffee cup, a flannel instead of face wipes, give up cotton wool and kitchen roll. Choose glass, paper, stainless steel, wood, ceramic and bamboo over plastic

Recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse. Pay attention to the entire life cycle of items you bring into your life, from source to manufacturing to distribution to disposal. Don’t forget metal and glass can be recycled forever, plastic can’t and only 7% of total plastic packaging is actually being recycled.  

From our Plastic and Straw Free campaigns to reducing food waste and moving away from fast fashion. You will find out about many of these areas at our fair. Visit our Plastic Free Pioneer stall, stock up on reusable items from many of the Zero Waste businesses. Then visit the Pavilion and ask Meg Pirie about slow fashion and make reusable Wax Wraps with Mary. We also have Mary Hill who can link you back to nature with her Woodland Crowns.


Good Health and Wellbeing 

Spending $1 billion in immunisation coverage can save 1 million children’s lives each year. 

Ensuring healthy lives for all requires a strong commitment, but the benefits outweigh the cost. Healthy people are the foundation for healthy economies.  

Start by looking after your own health and those of your family. Take action through schools, clubs, teams and organisations to promote better health for all. Hold government accountable to their commitments to improve people’s access to health and health care. 

We have lots of stalls offering holistic treatments today or get yourself a healthy juice from Kriss at ExSqueezeMe 


What else is going on…? 

We have Activities for the children throughout the day, speaker sessions, no need to book these.


Kids Activities 


11.30  Hidden Hedgehogs – Hedgehog Stall near Pavilion  

Our Hedgehogs are endangered and it’s very hard to find them these days. Whoever finds the most of our Pine Cone Hedgehogs around the park will win a prize. 


12.30  Picnic Time with your family – in the park (Or Pavilion if the weather stays like it is at the moment)

Bring a Picnic and then make sure all your waste is placed in our special bins so we can sort and recycle as much as possible from the event. 


 1.30  Chill time – see info board at the Pavilion 


 2.15  Story Time – Duffy’s Lucky Escape – Pavilion 

Time for a rest after lunch, come along while Kat the Turtle tells the story of her friend Duffy. 


 3.00  The Bees need Bombs – Pavilion 

Come along and make some seed Bombs for the bees with the Friends of the Earth Bees, perhaps get a waggle on with the waggle dance.  


Creative Zone – The Pavilion  


Mary of Cowslip Studio – Makes Woodland Crowns 

Bookable sessions – 11.15 & 2.15  


Mary Makes Zero Waste – Bees Wax Wrap Making Workshop  

Only £5.00 per wrap, including all the materials and the skills to go away and make your own. 


Macramé Madness – Helen from FoE – one bookable session to make a hanging basket – £10 including material with all proceeds to FoE  




11.30 Rethinking Transport for Vibrant, Livable Streets in Chester – Matt Jones 

In this talk Matt will discuss how the way we travel shapes the city the around us and the need for modal shift away from cars and towards walking, cycling and public transport.  


12.00 Miténgo Coffee  Henry Sidsaph 

Henry will talk about his business, by buying Miténgo Coffee you can make a direct contribution to tree planting and forest conservation in Malawi.  


1.30 The role of craft making communities in creating a sustainable model for development in less developed countries – Matthew Sutton  


2.00 Plastic Free Chester/ Plastic Free Schools – Helen Tandy and Christian Dunn 

What we have been doing with business and schools and how can you help turn CWAC even more plastic free. 


2.30 ForEST the story so far, of Chester’s own ‘Supertrees – Steve Hughes 

Supertrees Steve, will provide an update of the exciting project in Chester.  


3.00 Chester Westlands – Christian Dunn 

In this talk you’ll find out what makes wetlands the superheroes of the natural world, and learn about current plans to build the Chester Wetland Centre in the Countess of Chester Countryside Park.