Woody’s Lodge Penlan is a charity and social hub that provides advice and support to veterans, emergency services personnel, reservists, and their families. Their vision is to provide an inviting meeting space for veterans of the Armed Forces, Emergency Services and Reservists to re-engage with life, their families, and their communities, sending out further beneficial ripples to the wider community through their environmental and resilience aims.
Collaborating with their facilitator, Jasmine, and inspired by their mentoring, they are forging ahead with their vision of building physical and environmental resilience through local food production and reduced energy use. Woody’s Lodge Penlan is making remarkable progress, with tree planting events, compost loos, polytunnels, community allotments and an apple juicing enterprise already coming into fruition.
The Penlan site in Ceredigion is one of three Woody’s Lodge sites across Wales, receiving referrals from Mid and South Wales, covering areas such as Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Powys, and Carmarthenshire. The 11-acre smallholding comprises of semi-wild pasture, hedgerows, and copse, and features an extended farmhouse, plus additional cottage currently being renovated to become a new drop-in centre and self-contained three bed studio flat. Externally is a traditional hay barn which is being utilised at present for storage and a large shed/workshop which has the potential for activities and part adaptation to a classroom area.
Woody’s Lodge Penlan contacted Egin to discuss their plans for developing their site in support of their members, the veterans. Ideas included creating community allotments, a food growing project, apple juicing and other potential enterprises. Collaborating with their facilitator, Jasmine, they began translating their vision into an action plan that supports the group and their site. The main aims were to support the veterans whilst making the project more resilient, namely through food growing and reducing their energy use. They hope to manage the land to be more nature-friendly whilst improving the charity’s sustainability and resilience to weather extremes such as flooding, high winds, and hotter summers.
As well as the reduced carbon emissions that come with growing food locally, Woody’s main priority is the wellbeing of their members and to help build confidence, skills, and knowledge, which offers plenty of opportunities to align with practical, positive action for the environment. This approach aims to motivate people to feel ownership and empowered to take more meaningful climate action.
Woody’s Lodge chose two Egin Peer Mentors: Caz Wyatt and Louise Cartwright, for their complementary skills and experience. The Mentors visited the site to survey the land and help to identify some potential sites for allotments; they were able to offer advice about specific apple varieties and to connect the team with Ein Coed, who could make recommendations about which trees would do best on their land.
Caz and Louise helped Woody’s Lodge to develop their idea of creating community allotments, connecting them with a variety of resources to help them bring their vision to life. They helped to connect them with local volunteer organisations and to think about specific things that could help them to recruit enthusiastic growers for their allotments – for example, getting in touch with the local council to see who might already be on the waiting list.
Another suggestion that came out of the mentoring was to visit Clynfyw Care Farm’s apple juicing course, which Richard Rose – one of our main contacts at Woody’s – has now completed and has helped Woody’s Lodge to see how they might make their own orchard a small enterprise. It became clear to them that there is a demand for local apple juice, which would help to save the energy used in transporting and packaging juice from elsewhere and to boost local food resilience, and they were inspired by attending the course – as well as making new connections.
Since the mentoring that the group received in March 2023, Richard has organised his first tree planting event to build interest in the initiatives with a high turnout of 25 people (pictures below)! Woody’s Lodge have been very busy since then – mobile compost loos are in the pipeline, as well as a polytunnel with beds. Woody’s have linked up with local projects, such as Field of Beans and Cilgerran Fruit and Nut Club. They hope to visit the veteran project, Dig4 Victory, soon.
“The mentors were informative and positive and gave us plenty of valuable feedback and leads to keep us inspired. In many ways it is helped keep our focus and during times of uncertainty Jasmine and the Egin team have been accessible and supportive,” said Richard.
Find out more about Woody’s Lodge Penlan here: Woody’s Lodge (woodyslodge.org)