All posts by Steve Dent

Old North Stables wins Worcestershire wildlife hero award

In January the Old North Stables won a prestigious Worcestershire Wildlife Hero award, which was collected in person by Tony Kennell at an awards ceremony organised by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.

The citation for the award reads as follows:

“Tony and the team of volunteers at the Old North Stables have worked wonders to create a community garden out of a disused space just off Pitchcroft racecourse.

As part of Transition Worcester, they are helping to educate the public about sustainable food production and wildlife-friendly gardening techniques.

Most resources are donated or recycled, and imaginative re-purposing avoids unnecessary waste, with old bathtubs collecting rainwater, plastic piping providing the structure for polytunnels and raised beds made from old water tanks.

The relatively new forest garden has made a good start, an area of bramble and big trees is left wild apart from the bird feeders and nest boxes, the much decayed hard-standing where the stables once stood feature raised beds, poly tunnels and greenhouses.

There is a meadow, lots of fruit and edible trees, no pesticides and a small collection of beehives.

Open most days to welcome the public, Tony speaks enthusiastically and knowledgeably to passers-by about the garden, what grows there and why, as well as encouraging them to have a go themselves.

It’s a haven for local wildlife with hundreds of birds, bees, butterflies and the occasional gang of brawling foxes!”


new tree nursery

At the beginning of February some of our volunteers helped collect young saplings from a private estate in Kempsey and transplant them into a new tree nursery here on the community garden site. All the transplanted trees are doing well in their new surroundings, and in due course will be planted around the city.

dates for your diary

Annual seed swap

Saturday 14 March 2020,
Saturday 11 April 2020
Saturday 9 May 2020
We’ll be holding the seed swap on these three Saturdays between 11am and 2pm at Repair Café, Unity House, Stanley Road, Worcester WR5 1BE. Bring along any seeds that you have saved or would like to swap. If you don’t have seeds to swap you can give a donation instead.

Annual plant swap

Saturday 2 May 2020 11am-2pm

The annual plant swap will again be held at the old north stables community garden, Pitchcroft. An opportunity to swap plants with fellow gardeners.

Apple pruning workshop

Saturday 27 June 10.30am
At the old north stables community garden, Pitchcroft. A great opportunity to learn how to prune your apple trees to help them flourish.

Open air cookery demonstration

Saturday 4 July 12.30pm
At the old north stables, Pitchcroft with Steve Dent, aka the circus gardener. Steve will be cooking with organic seasonal produce grown here at the old north stables, and there will be an opportunity to taste the results!


volunteers needed!

Whether skilled or unskilled, whether you can volunteer for an occasional hour or two, or can make a regular commitment, we always welcome new volunteers on the community garden. As the weather begins to warm up we will have plenty of jobs to do, including weeding, hoeing, mulching, planting and pruning. We are also planning to lay new water pipes to make the job of watering a little easier, to create a new forest garden designed to attract pollinators, build a new pond, rebuild our flood-damaged insect hotel, and build seating areas in our orchard/forest garden area using donated wooden pallets.

If you are interested in becoming involved, either send us an email or drop by and have a chat. We are open between 10am and 2pm every day of the week except for Tuesdays. If the weather is bad, or if you have any questions you are welcome to call Tony on 07532108144.

winter on the Old North Stables

The recent warm weather makes it hard to believe that spring has not yet sprung (officially it doesn’t until the equinox). The hours of daylight are getting noticeably longer, however, and we can all look forward to warmer days and longer evenings.

Down on the Old North Stables there is always plenty to do, whatever the season. Seeds have been collected and stored from last season and whilst there are still a few of last season’s crops like beetroot in the ground, the focus is now very much on the new growing season – preparing our raised beds, planting seeds and nurturing seedlings.

Over the late autumn and early winter Tony planted more trees, including quince, damson, mulberry and a Worcester Black Pear. The black pear variety is believed to be at least six hundred years old and has a long association with the city of Worcester, even appearing on its coat of arms. The black pear can be found in numerous other connections with the city (there is even a Black Pear Joggers club). It seems only right, therefore, that Worcester’s community garden should have its very own black pear tree.

In the greenhouse our succession-sown lettuces continue to flourish and the broad bean seedlings are starting to emerge. Soon these hardy young plants will be settled outside. In and around the hives, the warm weather has stirred the bees into life.

We are delighted to have gained some new regular volunteers recently, but more are always welcome. If you are ever passing the gardens, which nestle on the edge of Pitchcroft, do drop in and have a look round. We’re never too busy to show visitors round.

Finally, a date for your diary: our annual seed swap takes place at the Pump House Environment Centre on Saturday 16 March from 11am to 2pm. Bring along any spare seeds you may have and swap them for a new variety or something completely different. It’s also a chance to meet our volunteers and talk about growing your own in 2019.

Autumn on the Old North Stables

Whatever the time of year there is always plenty of work to be done at the Old North Stables.

Being a time of harvest, early autumn is particularly eventful on the site. This year we’ve had an exceptional crop of fruit and vegetables, most of which has now already gone, or is on its way, to local good causes.

The extraordinary run of good weather over the past months means that we still have tomatoes growing and ripening in our big greenhouse and main polytunnel, although no doubt soon we will have to source a good recipe for green tomato chutney.

In the meantime, Tony has been succession sowing winter lettuces and has even found time to prepare some new raised beds so we can grow even more produce next year.

Under the expert watchful eye of Tony Beekeeper our bees continue to thrive, and are currently busy foraging for nectar and pollen for their winter stores.

The Old North Stables keeps us busy all year round, but we are never too busy to welcome visitors, so do drop in and say hello and have a look around whenever you are next passing.

And if you’d like to volunteer, on a regular or ad hoc basis, do get in touch. Whether you are an experienced gardener or would simply like to get involved or develop new skills we’d be delighted to welcome you on board.

summer at the the Old North Stables

It may have been a long while since our last post, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been inactive.

In fact there is always plenty of activity down at the Old North Stables, and especially so during this period of glorious early summer weather.


As this photograph shows, the site has continued to expand and develop organically from where we were when we first started.

Everything we have planted this year is starting to come up. Our tomatoes are thriving in the new big greenhouse, and we are growing melons and vines in our other greenhouses. If we can replicate last year’s bumper melon crop we’ll be very happy.

We also have plenty of outdoor crops on the way, including the beautifully quaint “walking onion”, a plant which grows a perfect set of baby onions at the top of its stem. These eventually fall to the ground, where the individual baby onions take root in the soil and so continue this plant’s extraordinary life cycle.


Tony and his small band of volunteers aren’t the only ones keeping busy down at the Old North Stables. Our honey bee hives are thriving, and their numbers have been swelled recently by the arrival of a new swarm which decided it liked the look of the place and took over one of our empty hives.

Our honey bees, together with local wild bees, have been busy foraging amongst the borage, a great favourite, as well as other flowering plants on and around the site.


We’re intending to post on a more regular basis in future, but in the meantime why not drop in to the Old North Stables and see for yourself what we’re doing here? You will always be warmly welcomed and shown around the site.

We would also be delighted to welcome any new volunteers who are interested in helping out, either on a regular or an occasional basis.

Even if you can only spare an hour or so, there are always jobs that need doing, and we don’t mind whether you have skills to share or would simply like to muck in and learn new skills: no one is ever turned away!

recipe: Steve’s vegetable curry

This is the first in an occasional series of recipes created by Steve Dent, aka the Circus Gardener, based on the lovely, fresh, local, organic produce we grow at the Old North Stables .

Steve produced this curry for our barbecue at the end of July and it went down very well.

Steve's vegetable curry

Steve’s vegetable curry (enough for 4 servings)


2 red chillies, roughly chopped (keep the seeds in)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped,
5 cm piece ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
pinch asafoetida
1 onion, chopped
400 g can chopped tomatoes
500 g potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and cut into chunks
300 g courgette, sliced
100 g green beans, trimmed
1 carrot, sliced
400 g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
50 g frozen or fresh peas
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
250 ml water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped


1. Combine the chillies, ginger, garlic and sea salt into a thick paste using a pestle and mortar or an electric chopper.

2. Heat a heavy bottomed pan over a high heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and stir. After 30 seconds they will start to pop. Now add the asafoetida, stir again and after a further 30 seconds add the onion. Continue to cook, stirring regularly until the onion is soft and translucent. Now add the potatoes, carrot, beans and courgette, the garlic, chilli, and ginger paste, the chopped tomatoes, the turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and the water or stock. Stir to combine.

3. Bring the pan to a simmer and then reduce the heat so as to maintain it at a gentle simmer. Cook at this temperature for 20 minutes, or until the potato is tender, then stir in the peas, chickpeas and fresh coriander. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve with rice and/or Indian flatbread.