growing food in a changing climate: a forest garden view

The impacts of climate change are becoming ever clearer and more damaging as the years go by. One of the most significant impacts is on the way we grow food. As climate scientists predicted, UK winters are becoming warmer and wetter, and last winter was no exception, resulting in significant crop losses for UK farmers. It also resulted in greater difficulties for local growers in the Eastbourne area, such as smallholders, allotment holders, community gardens, etc, especially as intense rainfall events led to flooding issues on many growing spaces, followed by weeks of very sodden ground that made any work very challenging. The need for growers to adapt to a rapidly changing climate is becoming ever more acute.

in response, the Eastbourne Eco Action Network has begun a collaboration with the Eastbourne Food Partnership, supported by the Blue Heart project, to survey the ways in which local growers are responding to the challenges of growing food despite the impacts of climate change and investigate how such growers can be better supported in their climate adaptation efforts.

One such local growing project is the Pevensey & Westham Community Forest Garden, which has been running for the last 8 years, planting many fruit and nut trees and bushes on land that had fallen out of active management for many years, becoming an unkempt and overgrown scrub and woodland in the process. The volunteers that run the forest garden report that they have not experienced any significant drop in fruit and nut production even during intense heatwaves or periods of intense rainfall, primarily because:

  • the site is very well-drained, being in the Pevensey Levels where the extensive network of deep and wide drainage channels is carefully monitored to ensure water levels in the channels are kept at stable levels with no flooding onto adjacent land (the Langney Sewer runs alongside the forest garden but has never flooded onto it).
  • the site is protected by shading from an extensive tree canopy that keeps the forest garden cool enough during heatwaves, reduces water evaporation from the soil and ground cover, and protects young plants against strong winds during winter storms.
community orchard site next to Pevensey Castle

The forest garden volunteers point out that, by contrast, a community orchard they have been developing in the last few years on an exposed site next to Pevensey Castle, a short distance away from the forest garden, did suffer a big drop in fruit production in 2022 during the intense summer heatwave that resulted in the UK reaching a temperature of 40 degrees C for the first time ever. The relative lack of tree cover for the orchard, compared to the forest garden, meant that the young fruit trees did not have enough shade, putting them under great stress.

rainwater butts at side of forest garden tool shed

However, the main issue for the forest garden is the lack of any mains water on site, which means that in intense heatwaves and periods of prolonged drought there is no supply of water readily available for any watering needs. This has necessitated the volunteers setting up many water butts and rainwater cisterns on site to capture and store as much rainwater as possible. Rainwater conservation is sure to become ever more important for all growers and gardeners as time goes by, especially as fresh water is generally becoming an ever more scare, and more costly, resource in the water-stressed south-east of England.

Forest gardening is therefore one way in which food growing can be adapted to changing climate conditions. But other local food growing enterprises and communities will be visited over the course of the next few months to discover how they try and  cope with the challenges of climate change and what kinds of help they may need to cope better.

Reporting Potholes


The number one current issue for politicians, councils and much of the public is potholes. They are an important issue for drivers but also pedestrians and cyclists. They damage vehicles, cause accidents, and lead to expensive repairs . We must work towards creating safer roads and one solution is for residents to contribute to an online database.

Bespoke and Eco Action Eastbourne are experimenting with ‘Stan the App’. It is easy to use and utilises ‘cutting-edge computer vision technology’ to identify road defects, such as potholes, with remarkable accuracy. Just by driving  you help to build a comprehensive database of road defects, enabling the prioritisation of repairs more effectively.


National Pothole Day revealed 21% of UK cyclists had accidents caused by potholes. This was evident when Bespoke Cycle Group, for their Kidical Mass ride, had to change the route to avoid the worst potholes in town. Many of the faults had been reported to  but there is no way of knowing when the issue will be resolved and sometimes unclear if someone else has already reported it. Or you could use where you can report a range of other issues on roads and cyclepaths. The system will then pass on your report to the relevant council.

With Stan, every pothole ‘reported’  adds to a more detailed picture. The system uses all the reports to show how big the problem is. It empowers residents to become highway surveyors and holds authorities accountable for road repairs.

In neighbouring West Sussex there was a focus on four towns. The worst of them was Worthing, where the comprehensive road map is still shown heavily in ‘red’.

The easiest way to get involved, is simply download the app to your phone and then record a video of your journey. The app will only upload when you use your wifi. A short time later the system , through AI, has worked out the road defects and added them to the UK map. There is an other option of taking photos and this may be more relevant for cyclists. The system knows where you are and once again you just upload when it is convenient.

There are other apps out there, but it will be more effective if everybody uses the same one and Stan is the RAC’s official pothole reporting partner. You can download the application from both App store and Google Play.

Future Action

In a few months time, the idea would be to write a report for councils and politicians to give them the information they need to get crucial repairs done. It may be that East Sussex Highways would then use it as a source of information

If you are interested in getting involved and want further information, videos and case histories go to


This article was submitted to Eastbourne Herald but here is some further content. If your internet connection is slow uploading content can take time. However with reasonable bandwidth unless you have recorded a long trip it should be okay. Generally video the routes you have not recorded before. Still experimenting if H.264 or H.265 is best for the video.

In photo mode try to include something that would give the pothole a scale . So perhaps a car wheel, kerb or road marking. Otherwise hard for the system to assess the pothole size.

West Sussex

Here is an example from Worthing of what is possible when residents are involved – Red is a serious problem and Green is okay.


Here is the starting point with only a few people using the app. Note how around the Golf Course is poor and incomplete. However after a few days it  seems to have filled in the whole route so be patient.

Cycling notes

Trying to record video while cycling, even on an MTB with suspension, may have poorer results. It will not record if going too slow and may struggle with media content that shakes. The system also appears to reject many photos even where there are serious potholes. Overall the effectiveness of uploading data from driving seems higher

Paul Humphreys – EEAN Transport, Bespoke Cycle Group, Cycle East Sussex

supercharging carbon neutrality through symposia


The recent Carbon Neutrality Symposium organised by the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC (EEAN CIC) held at Eastbourne Town Hall on Saturday 20th April 2024 is hopefully the start of a regular series of annual symposia to review and reinvigorate the drive towards a carbon neutral Eastbourne by 2030, as mandated by Eastbourne Borough Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration of July 2019.

The Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) Climate Lead, Councillor James Murray, opened the proceedings and made the point that EBC’s performance on its Climate Emergency Strategy could be usefully compared with other similar councils through the Climate Emergency UK scorecards.

These scorecards, completed for every single UK council, is a mine of useful, granular data about how councils are doing on climate action and a very useful source for EBC to use for its proposed review and refresh of its Climate Emergency Strategy, which will be updated by the end of 2024.

Kate Richardson, Sustainability Lead Officer for EBC, gave a short presentation on where Eastbourne as a borough currently is with regards to carbon neutrality and what the challenges are for the town in reaching that target by 2030. The main challenge is to speed up the borough-wide carbon emissions reduction from its present 6% or 7% reduction per year to more than 12% per year if Eastbourne is to meet its fair share of keeping global carbon reductions to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade as mandated by the UN IPCC COP21 Paris Agreement of 2015.

The keynote speaker for the day was Richard Garland from Gradient Consultants, an Eastbourne-based business. His inspirational speech and slideshow  presentation demonstrated the kind of example on sustainability, climate action, and Net Zero that all Eastbourne businesses could follow, and will need to follow eventually in any case, as more Net Zero legislation is applied to a wider range of businesses in the next few years in order to help meet the UK’s legally binding commitment under the Climate Change Act to achieve Net Zero by 2050. As Richard said, “As a business we are de-risking the need to meet current and future compliance requirements within our industry, and we are acknowledging the opportunities of the low carbon transition- the green economy”.

The results of the Carbon Neutral survey by the EEAN CIC were presented by Jill Shacklock, one of the directors of the EEAN CIC. The survey was very much a pilot study that will help inform a subsequent revised and enlarged survey later on. But the initial data reveals how some early wins can be made in advancing carbon neutrality in Eastbourne right now. For example, many people don’t know what the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating on their property is or how to find out what it is. The government has a website that gives the EPC rating for all UK properties that have one, and each rating includes info about what measures could be taken to improve the EPC rating.

Andrew Durling, a director of the EEAN CIC, gave a very brief introduction to two digital tools that can help local residents and organisations to both discover their carbon footprints and ways to reduce them significantly through simple, practical actions that can be taken right now. The first was Giki Zero and the second was small99. Both tools are free, and were presented as particularly user-friendly and easy to use. Giki Zero allows people to quickly find out their carbon footprint and then select actions which can help reduce it, each selection automatically recalculating the footprint to demonstrate progress towards the 2030 global average target for all citizens.

Small99 is particularly useful for small businesses and organisations of any kind that have little time and resources to devote to in-depth Net Zero action planning. Such planning will need to be demonstrated by all organisations, especially businesses (as Richard Garland’s keynote speech emphasised), over the coming years if they wish to maximise their chances of both complying with Net Zero legislation and in securing more business or funding from other organisations already in compliance with such legislation.

Breakout groups throughout the event allowed for networking and sharing of ideas about how Eastbourne’s carbon neutrality strategy could be improved.

Carbon offsetting is an important aspect of carbon neutrality, and one of Eastbourne’s major carbon offsetting and carbon sequestration schemes was developed by the Eastbourne United Nations Association, which had an information stall during the Symposium. This scheme is entirely administered by volunteers and many local organisations have made donations to it, including EBC.

A full overview of all the actions and initiative currently being undertaken or planned in Eastbourne to further the town’s carbon neutrality strategy can be seen on the One Planet Eastbourne community ecosystem platform developed by the EEAN CIC in collaboration with OnePlanet.

Interestingly, the recent local elections held on May 4th can be seen as a triumph for those candidates that campaigned for cleaner air, better active travel/public transport, and faster climate action. As Chris Skidmore, the UK government’s former Net Zero tsar, said, “These elections have shown pro-environment parties and mayors who made net zero central to their campaigns made significant gains”. The Eastbourne Carbon Neutrality 2030 campaign is unanimously supported by all borough councillors, and has popular support amongst the town’s residents, as the recent well-attended Carbon Neutrality Symposium, and the many other events mounted, or supported by, the Eastbourne Eco Action Network indicates.