Offshoots is located in the old walled garden at Towneley park. On the map below it is just left of Towneley hall. If Towneley hall is the crown of Burnley, then Offshoots is certainly the jewel in that crown.
The garden is free and open to the public Monday to Friday 9am-4pm and the first Saturday of each month 10am-4pm. When you see the giant carrot, you know you have found Offshoots.
“Offshoots is a Community Project managed by Groundwork Pennine Lancashire on behalf of the Offshoots Voluntary Project Committee. The Committee is made up of local people who are all actively involved with the Project. Offshoots achieves charitable status through the Permaculture Association.
Offshoots involves people from the whole community, either through visitors to the site, volunteers, or through colleges and schools running training courses – Offshoots is for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.” ref: www.offshoots.org.uk
The Offshoots Permaculture Project started in May 1997. Originally, the garden was planted with the intention that it would be locked up without any maintenance or intervention for a number of years to show how it could maintain itself. This plan was never realised as such, but I like to think that in a way it has been achieved through the efforts of the staff and the volunteers being a part of that self maintaining system. This close relationship between the community and the land is an important part of permaculture, one of the main principles of Offshoots.
The term permaculture derives from permanent agriculture or culture. Permaculture is the use of ecological design to develop sustainable communities and self maintained agriculture modeled on natural eco-systems. The main principles of permaculture are:
- Earth Care – Provision for all life systems, creating stable agricultural processes which do not poison the land and promote biodiversity. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, communities cannot flourish.
- People Care – Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
- Surplus Share – Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. By tempering our own requirements and using stable agriculture, we can have enough to sustain our community and recycle nutrients uncontaminated back to the land.
Offshoots have achieved the aims of permaculture in a number of ways:
Offshoots have used permaculture principles to design and grow the garden. They grow organic crops productively by managing the soil with sheet mulching and using techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. They have built a number of ecological buildings using materials such as straw bail, timber and cob and they host a Walter Segal build. The site has two cob ovens and its own supply of renewable energy from a wind turbine and solar panels. Rain water is harvested to be used in the garden and a charcoal kiln is used to provide a sustainable supply of charcoal. Offshoots also keep bees and are currently running a project called ‘bee’s in the borough’ that aims to educate people about bees to enable them to assist in reintroducing bee colonies in the local area.
The Offshoots tree nursery began in 1998 and was set up in order to grow trees for the Forest of Burnley Arboretum plantings across the Borough. The Forest of Burnley was a Millennium Commission Project that ran for five years during which time, 2700 large specimen arboretum trees were planted in the parks and green spaces in the Borough, and a further 1 million native trees planted in woodlands. The nursery is now set to provide locally, organically grown exotic and native trees into landscaping projects across the region. ref: ref: offshoots projects
The Upland Moorland Restoration project
Offshoots has been commissioned by united utilities to grow 70,000 plugs of cotton grass as part of the watershead landscape project. The project involves schools and volunteers planting cotton grass plugs, to be planted upon Worsthorne Moor. Planting cotton grass helps to reduce patches of eroded and bare peat, which has many benefits. Peat retains carbon and reduces soil erosion. Reducing soil erosion reduces the amount of soil that gets washed into reservoirs thus improving water quality. Reducing eroded peat also improves the habitat for internationally rare ground nesting birds.
The Upland Moorland Restoration programme was spearheaded by the watershead landscape project, which is managed by Pennine Prospects and delivered in partnership with united utilities, Groundwork Pennine Lancashire, Moors for the Future and Yorkshire Water amongst others.
Offshoots provides opportunities for people to volunteer and learn about permaculture, gardening and various crafts. The site receives around 6000 visitors a year. All of the above projects are undertaken with the involvement of the local community.
Offshoots has teamed up with Pennine Lancashire Community Farm, statutory health and social care services and third sector organisations, to create a consortium to deliver a wide range of eco therapy activities to people suffering from mental health issues.
These therapies include:
Grow Your Own
Local Food – cooking, selection and foraging
Rustic Furniture making
Offshoots produces honey, beeswax, fruit, veg, charcoal, cotton grass, trees. Everything grown at offshoots is sold and the surplus is shared with volunteers.
This is just an outline of what goes on at Offshoots, there is always loads of stuff happening and lots of interesting people to meet! I will be adding more blog posts about happenings soon. Find out more about offshoots at there website.