Between April to July, Global Gardens has worked with Shift Bristol to offer an online Permaculture Design Course (PDC).
Originally the course was going to be delivered in person at Oasis Cardiff but unfortunately, due to Covid-19 we had the decision of either postponing or shifting online.
Unclear as to how long the lockdown might last we decided that moving the course online, although different to what was originally envisaged, might be the best idea. As one of the permaculture principles states, "Creatively use and respond to change."
And around 40 people signed up to it!! From Inverness to Liverpool, Somerset to London, Bristol, Bulgaria, Birmingham and South Wales. One of the benefits of going online was the ability for people from around the world to get involved.
From permaculture principles, permaculture design approaches, social permaculture, permaculture economics, water harvesting, sustainable energy and composting, a lot of permaculture ground was covered in the 12-weekly evening sessions.
Alongside the indefatigable Sarah Pugh of Shift Bristol, other tutors included the awesome Mike Feingold who spoke about horticultural techniques and gave us a tour of his allotment site in Bristol, the super knowledgeable Matt Dunwell (Ragman's Lane) who spoke about regenerative agriculture and site design, Lewis from The Orchard Project who spoke about fruit tree cultivation and Michele Fitzsimmons (Edible Landscaping/Growing Street Talk) who gave a session on soil. The sessions were facilitated by Sarah Pugh who also shared on her amazing trip to the US and her lessons there in social permaculture.
We went on virtual tours to a number of sites including Grow Wilder in Bristol, Tony Wrench's low impact roundhouse in West Wales, Steepholding Market Garden, Ragmans Lane in the Forest of Dean and Edventure school for community enterprise in Frome, East Devon Forest Garden. Poppy also gave a virtual tour of Global Gardens in Cardiff.
As part of the PDC, students are tasked with doing their own design. People joined virtual groups - including Martin's Ayurvedic retreat space, Maria's eco retreat space in Spain, Paddy's patch in Liverpool and a group working on health and permaculture.
Here are some reflections from participants of the course...
"The Shift Bristol Online PDC totally surpassed my expectations. The information was really well conveyed through presentations, slide shows, virtual demonstrations and virtual site visits. The difficult sounding topics were demystified and I went from feeling like Permaculture was an impossible to digest concept to understanding the principals and using them to help design my site.
The field trips were full of variety and it gave us a great insight into the multitude of ways that permaculture can be implemented. From small scale gardens and community projects to enormous agro-ecology farms and forest gardens. I felt a good sense of community, despite the online setting - having time for check ins and breakout sessions helped us connect with one another and learn about each other's projects and ideas for the future.
The knowledge I've gained on the course has been critical in the developing vision for our site. Not only have we altered the physical layout of the site - deciding where best to locate each component so they have beneficial impacts on each other, but we have reimagined how we might connect with the community to empower and serve their needs."
Paddy worked with others to create a design for a community-based growing enterprise in Liverpool.
Paddy's permaculture project in Liverpool
"Over the last few years, I have been very concerned about climate change. As a keen gardener I have noticed how the long wet periods followed by drought was affecting my attempt to grow my own food.
I was in despair at the demise of my crops but then realised that I needed to learn and adapt. It was then that I became aware of Permaculture.
The course was a revelation. It was so much more than just gardening. We were introduced to a wide variety of sustainable living techniques covering aspects of our lives in this country and around the World.
It must have been a huge challenge for Sarah at Shift Bristol to adapt the course to be run online but it was extremely successful and I didn’t feel that we missed out on anything. In fact, we had students from many parts of the UK who would not have been able to participate in person.
At the end of the course we were asked to complete a permaculture design project and some of the designs were truly inspiring. It is heart-warming to see that such projects exist in this troubled time and everyone felt a part of something very special.
Permaculture answers so many of the questions troubling us today. Circular, sustainable systems that encompass people, nature and planet should be incorporated into all aspects of our lives.
I could rave about feeding crops with nutrient rich compost to make them strong and healthy thus eliminating the need for insecticides or the value of mycelium networks in forests and orchards or the recipe for Lacto bachillus for use as a compost accelerator and foliar feed or even how to choose the right fruit tree or perennial veg plants.
I am encompassing many of the aspects I have learned into my own project and am looking forward to enjoying more growing success. Above all I have learned a better way of doing things and that hope for the future is possible."
Christine designed a space for her back garden.
Christine's garden transformed in South Wales
"Learning about Permaculture principles, exploring (virtually) the minds and work of experienced tutors at different locations, meeting like minded people of all ages, learning from their strategies to overcome personal, local, comunal obstacles, joining peers to design a plot and our social, physical surrounds by applying all that we learned. This course has provided me a unique opportunity to explore myself, my dreams, my goals and that from my peers. It has done even more. It has transform me, it has brough so much beauty, common sense, renewed hopes,. All in a supportive, dynamic, caring way. I can't wait to start the designed plan. Each person put a bit of their souls on the design so I feel a great sense of responsibility to make it happen. Can't wait!"
Maria worked with others to create a design for her Spanish farmhouse.
Surrounding extremadura and Maria's permaculture design
"This was my first online course in anything, and was so surprised how well it worked, the course was Structured really well and time was given when things got a little confusing. Very welcoming team and learnt a great deal from everyone on the course. Has definitely given me the confidence to start growing."
Martin's site in Carmarthenshire
A massive thanks to Sarah for making the seamless transition online. Although we missed the physical element of learning together, this was a really positive thing to be doing during lockdown.
Also, big thank you to the Coop Foundation for supporting our work at Global Gardens.