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Farm Newsletter - January 2017

Welcome to your monthly update from the Farm. Despite the weather being colder and wetter, snow drops are emerging around the site, promising Spring is on it's way!

We've planned an exciting line up for the February half term with a range of cooking, animal care and bushcraft activities available for families and 8-13 year olds. Full details and booking available through our website: 


We were pleased to welcome our boar 'Disco Dylan' back from his stay with Stepney Farm's sows and introduce him to his new home! The pig house has windows enabling visitors to view into the housing and has access for our animal care students to go inside safely.

In December DEFRA announced Avian Influenza Prevention Zones to help protect poultry from a highly pathogenic strain of avian flu present across Europe. The prevention zone means the Farm has to reduce the risk of poultry coming into contact with wild birds which might carry the virus. We've been keeping our poultry safe with the chickens and turkeys in the barns; while the geese and ducks are sharing the pond that we've covered with mesh. There's no risk for visitors and you can help by not feeding the ducks when you come, as this attracts the wild birds!

While it's been colder and wetter, we've been exercising the donkeys, and Keira our pony, in the top of the yard and have made enrichment areas indoors to entertain our ferrets!

The vet came to give the donkeys their annual boosters and even a bit of donkey-dentistry by filing their back teeth.

We had our sheep and goats scanned during the Christmas period and have been advised they are all pregnant and many are expecting twins. Lambs will be born in March with the goat kids due in April. It's going to be a busy couple of months!

Training Projects

We deliver training projects for adult students with learning disabilities. Students develop skills in a range of areas including horticulture, retail, cooking, crafts, animal care and basic maintenance.

Cow Pat
The group have been getting back into the swing of things in the New Year, reviewing their learning objectives and making new plans.
Paul has mastered cleaning out the duck house. Moishe enjoys working with the sheep but is helpful wherever needed. Rachel and Harry love working with the rabbits and guinea pigs, but have progressed to working with larger more challenging animals too, especially Keira, our adorable miniature shetland pony.  As Rachel says "She's a feisty one!"
It was Moishe's bithday recently and he brought in delicous pastries for us all to celebrate with him. Happy Birthday Moishe and thanks for the treats!

Plot to Shop
The team have been working hard keeping warm outside. They spent a whole session tackling a huge pile of wood chip that had been donated from Southwark Council. Wheelbarrows were taken to spread between the youth and community allotments to keep the weeds down; while the rest of the pile was steadily pushed back into the Orchard and off the path.


New Leaf
This months news comes straight from the students:
Michael: "I sorted out my weeds on the farm. I will be doing the other weeds the other side of my bed tomorrow."
Louis: "I did today work on the river bed and check up broad beans and peas."
Louise: "I cut out pictures of vegetables I've chosen to grow this year: peppers, pumpkin, carrots, cucumber, cucamelons, sweetcorn, parsnips, tomatoes, radish, leeks. Today I've been planting tomato seedlings into bigger pots."
Meanwhile Tony has been very industrious sieving wood chip in the polytunnel and planting beans into pots this afternoon.


Farm Produce
Harry and Monica have been exploring the ancient art of marbling, creating colouful patterns by sprinkling and brushing coloured inks on water, then transferring this pattern to paper. Harry continued this theme by baking a chocolate and vanilla marble cake and Paul made a savory rosemary flatbread. Paul, Monica and Harry have made some lovely moulded beeswax candles and a selection of hand decorate lanterns and storage jars. The students have also been processing hot red chillies to use in future projects.


Moo Crew
Cold start to the New Year, but this hasn't dampened Moo Crew's spirits. Kieron has now been crowned Donkey Champion, clearing out the stables, freshening bedding and water all independently. Well done Kieron!
Our New recruits Tevin and Toby have been getting to know our animals, last week working with the sheep.
Louise has decided she would like to learn about other animals having mastered donkey work last year. She has been switching between sheep and goats and enjoys working with both.
Jordan continues to keep us all up to date with football scores while working with volunteer Matt, who after being off ill in December is back in the swing of things. Welcome back Matt!


Green Grow Cook and Go!

Drop-in Farm gardening. Saturdays 10.00 - 13.00:
This month the gardeners have been hard at work through the cold sowing and planting out winter lettuces, constructing a wire cover for their raised bed, mulching the Permaculture garden, sowing radishes, re-potting and propagating houseplants, succession sowing winter lettuces, removing dead hops from the fencing, filling the biodigester and making popcorn on the stove! 

The two Mulberry trees gifted by the Conservation Foundation and planted by the Saturday gardeners have now gone online!


If you are interested in gardening and growing food pop along to our free sessions on Saturdays 10am - 1pm. No experience necessary, just a willing attitude! 

GoodGym Southwark 
The enthusiastic GoodGym team worked alongside the Young Farmers in the first week of January to prepare the youth allotment for Spring. By the end of the session the ground beds were weeded, the raised beds topped up, the old compost bin dismantled and the paths swept! We look forward to welcoming the team again on February 11th. 


Workshops at the Farm
The forthcoming herbal workshops have now sold out. Be sure to keep abreast of new workshops by registering at


We are starting to develop a new project for young people with special educational needs. The long term plan is to create flexible courses for learners to develop practical skills as well as self-esteem, independence and respect for others. Activities will include planting, growing, cooking, animal care, crafts etc.

Kirsty has met with educators at both Cherry Gardens Primary School and Spa school and is working with them to develop a programme of weekly half day sessions. She is excited to be running these with students from both schools across the summer term! As well as this she has been looking at ways in which we can improve the Farm's accessibility for self-led visits and visitors with special educational needs.

If you have visited the farm recently with a young person with special educational needs and would like to give feedback about your visit or share your ideas for improvements please get in touch -

Piecing Together Our Past

Our Heritage Lottery Funded project aiming to piece together the full history of the former smallpox and fever Receiving Station on the Farm’s site:
We visited Holy Trinity Church, opposite the Farm, where we compared findings with their historian Ed.  A great find of his was a series of aerial photos of the area from 1952 - these are the most detailed aerial photos we’ve seen of the site, and they give us some clues about that mystery period after the Receiving Station was half-destroyed in the Blitz and while the Fire Service were occupants of the site.
Foreshore searching has been delayed due to a change in the regulations about searching the foreshore.  We have now obtained a special permit from the Port of London Authority, but it requires us to search in supervised groups rather than individually.  We’d welcome any other local people who’d like to get involved and help with this – we plan to arrange a group search once a fortnight or so.  Due to foreshore erosion and movement, many new pieces are being exposed – see photo of this month’s finds; one of them is completely blackened – maybe from the Blitz, or maybe just a kitchen accident?  One volunteer is also starting to research the makers of some of the crockery, which is helping us to date some of the designs.
We’re making good progress at the London Metropolitan Archives, and in February we'll be starting to go through the Metropolitan Asylum’s Board’s handwritten report books. We’d welcome any more volunteers who are good at reading old handwriting - or would simply like to have a go, or help with transcribing. 
We have also started planning a mosaic which is going to be made together with the Young Farmers’ groups, and which will illustrate a scene from the Blitz rescues on the site.  After telling the young people the dramatic stories that we’ve uncovered, each of them drew a design, with great results.  The photo shows just a small selection of nearly 30 ideas and designs. 
Further volunteers are very welcome; as well as the above, we would welcome a few more people to help on Sunday Feb 12 with sorting and reassembling the crockery fragments.

Get in touch to find out more:     
Tel: 07955 089936                 
Or see the webpage:


Youth Clubs

The Farm is a very popular place for young people. We run FREE projects for families and young children, right up to 13 years. From 14 our youth club members graduate to become volunteers.     

Get Farming Club 
The young people have had another action packed month of harvesting, cooking, animal cuddles, trips, crafts and heritage!
The group loved exploring Kew Gardens; spotting giant pine cones, exploring the growing spaces and climbing along the tree walkway. They returned full of inspiration for their own allotment area.
Back at the Farm the young people harvested their Jerusalem artichokes to make a tasty soup and worked with Germander as part of this years heritage project.


Young Farmers Club  
Young Farmers have been working towards their John Muir Award through conservation activities at the Farm and offsite. They went to RSPB Rye Meads to pond dip and spot wetland birds from the hides. They also went to a London Wildlife Trust site to take part in conservation activities - wearing hard hats and using a range of tools proved popular!
The group have helped care for our own wildlife area at the Farm, removing logs from the pond and clearing some of the vegetation.
The Forge
Kevin Boys our resident blacksmith holds classes every Sunday from 10am -12pm
Tel: 07984416269

Piccalilli Caff

Rotherhithe’s award winning café here at the Farm! 
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm for all day breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea
Copyright © 2017 Surrey Docks Farm, All rights reserved.

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