"Anyone for a carrot?"

"Anyone for a carrot?’

Re-greening our prisons from the inside out

insidetime.org | Joannah Metcalfe

Greener Growth is delighted to report that recognition of the impact of spending time outside with our unique therapeutic packages seems to be growing as fast as our gardens this year! So far with the prison estates in the East Anglian & Kent regions and progressing with registered interest at HMP Thameside.

We are being asked to attend more and more meetings with both our normal points of contact – therapeutic units (PIPES and TCs) – but also with Prison Governors themselves. Those with a really progressive approach, such as Sonia Walsh at HMP Wayland near Thetford in Norfolk, and previously Will Styles and now Acting Governor Ruth Stevens at HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshirehave been so impressed with the various impacts of the PIPE Gardens, they want us to help “Re-Green” the rest of the prison’s interiors. It has been a pleasure to discuss such real innovations.

We are now happy to report we have 2 projects growing at HMP Wayland with another 3 planned, 2 at HMP Whitemoor with another 3 in development, and 1 at HMP Swaleside with another about to start.

It is so obviously an effective, relatively low cost, high yielding way to change the “abandon hope all ye who enter” atmosphere of some of our prisons, it is not difficult to see why. Making use of the resources already present in our prison estates, i.e. the space, recycling or re-using materials and any resources already on each site, and helping people to help themselves by planting and growing food whilst creating conservation initiatives. Nature does the rest.

We believe that transforming the look and feel of the gardens whilst growing food, creates a more varied range of results than any other initiatives, as there is such a myriad of different benefits from working outside. There are so many reports coming out now regarding the therapeutic benefits of being outside, connecting with the natural rhythms of Nature, the seasons, that the earth itself improves mental health and general wellbeing. Mentally and emotionally grounding, literally, growing food and encouraging Nature back into urban, concrete environments, encourages us to observe that which is “outside of ourselves”, and within these new points of interest comes a calmer capacity to re-engage with the simpler pleasures of life. Growing fresh, seasonal produce, combined with all the benefits of learning how to cook nutritionally-rich meals, how to share again, all these are such valuable life skills. To see more people within the whole prison community getting outside and working, laughing and growing together is such a pleasure. These are exciting times.

It is not difficult to understand how this re-engagement or learning of new skills helps improve mental health issues, general fitness and wellbeing, helps increase employability and hope for the future. Everyone needs something to look forward to. It is vital for us as a society that people leave their sentence in a better state than when they went in – or more unnecessary suffering (and cost) ensues. So much criminality has its roots in mental health issues, if prisons are only about punishment and not about new beginnings, it is a huge failure and missed opportunity for all of us.

For our team, the constant news on what is wrong with the current prison system just emphasises how many opportunities there are to generate innovative new approaches to get things right. Our 8 years work with residents has such a profound impact, we are passionately dedicated to the need to cover more land with “Greener Growth”, and impact more people within our prison communities, both staff, residents and the wider environment alike.

We have finally managed to access some photographs of one of our smaller prison projects to help demonstrate the visual impact of our work. As you take in the transformation of our “Before and After” shots, imagine how it feels to start working outside in a garden like this when you have been inside for most of your adult life, like many of the men we work with in HMP Whitemoor. Feeling the sun on your face, the grass under your feet, to see birds and butterflies close up again. To pop a fresh pea in your mouth, a strawberry, to pull up carrots you sowed from seed. To watch pond skaters on the surface of the wildlife pond, see and hear a dragonfly humming past.

Currently news around prison is all about creating more prison spaces, about locking more people up. With a high re-offending rate, and so many prisons with low staffing levels and men and women in their cells, unable to attend courses and classes that they need to initiate positive changes, our vote would be focusing on a different path.

Our plea to anyone in a position of authority over our prison estates is help us to help residents help themselves. Transformation does not have to cost the earth, literally or metaphorically. Nature is in a constant state of regeneration and renewal. So our prisons could be too – and we believe engaging our low cost, high yielding systems across the wider community and all the land that it encompasses could hold that profound key. Let’s engage with some down to earth, common sense systems that reverse the trends, take back land and people into productive systems for the benefit of all and let’s do it now.

Anyone for a carrot?

Working to make housing developments places where wildlife can live too

Working to make housing developments places where wildlife can live too

(Photo above: Craig Lee and Paul Hebditch from Greener Growth check on a wild flower area at Riduna Park business park in Melton Picture: Ross Bentley)

Ross Bentley | East Anglian Times  

An event held in Suffolk this week sought to encourage house builders and construction firms to factor nature into their plans from the start.

Joannah Metcalfe of Greener Growth presenting at Riduna Park Picture: Ross Bentley

For a long time conservationists have pointed to urban sprawl as a key reason why wildlife is in decline.

Often, new housing is built on the edges of towns and villages, destroying valuable fringe habitats, hedges, scrub and copses - replacing it with concrete and tarmac.

And while developers are obliged to conduct ecological surveys and transfer endangered species to other sites, few new developments make any concessions to the insects, birds and reptiles whose space they have taken in terms of leaving green areas or nest boxes for them to use.

But there are signs that politicians and businesses are finally looking at ways to make housing developments more nature friendly.

READ MORE: Using nature's colours to help buildings blend into Suffolk's best landscapes

Wild flower area at Riduna Park in Melton Picture: Ross Bentley

Biodiversity net gain

In March, Chancellor Philip Hammond used his Spring Statement to confirm that government will use the forthcoming Environment Bill to mandate 'biodiversity net gain' - meaning the delivery of much-needed infrastructure and housing should not be at the expense of vital biodiversity.

Expect to hear more of the term 'biodiversity net gain' in future months - a phrase that requires developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced and left in a measurably better state than they were pre-development.

According the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), going forward developers will be required to assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans, and then demonstrate how they are improving biodiversity, such as through the creation of green corridors, planting more trees, or forming local nature spaces.

If this approach is applied with conviction in Suffolk, it could make a big difference.

Wild flower area at Riduna Park in Melton Picture: Ross Bentley

More than 62,000 new homes will be needed in the county in the next 20 years to keep up with demand, according to The State of Suffolk 2019 report produced by public health body Healthy Suffolk earlier this year. And it's not just the houses and apartments that will have an impact - green space will also go under the digger to build the accompanying roads, shops, schools and community buildings required to service this substantial heft of bricks and mortar.

Active conservation

Someone who wants to soften the impact of all this built environment is Joannah Metcalfe, founder of Greener Growth, a community interest company, based near Bury St Edmunds, which uses conservation and gardening projects to teach school children about nature and give prison inmates a sense of purpose and wellbeing.

Latterly, Ms Metcalfe and her team have turned their attention to developers and builders who they want to work with to make housing projects as nature friendly as they can be.

With this in mind, the Greener Growth team hosted an information event at Riduna Park business park in Melton near Woodbridge earlier this week and invited landowners and representatives from councils and construction businesses along to hear their rallying cry and to demonstrate how they can work together to improve conditions for wildlife.

Joannah Metcalfe presenting at Riduna Park Picture: Deborah Watson

"Traditionally wildlife conservation and the construction industries have been typically juxtaposed and disconnected," says Ms Metcalfe.

"If certain forms of wildlife are found on a site, such as great crested newts or species of bat, building can be delayed or halted."

READ MORE: Households who use heating oil should be preparing to transition to biofuel, says industry body


Verbena cluster at Riduna Park

Greener Growth's proposition has a number of strands. One service they are offering is managing land that developers have purchased for housing but that may then sit untouched for years before the heavy plant moves in.

Often, during this time nature takes over but Greener Growth offers to look after this process, so that natural areas have already been designated before building starts.

This, they say, will smooth the planning process.

Ms Metcalfe said much of this cost can be paid for with savings elsewhere. Earth and waste material removal costs - which are not insignificant at £230 per skip - can be much reduced by recycling, using off-cuts of wood and pallets to make bird boxes and bug hotels, and keeping earth on site for nature zones.

Greener Growth also promotes the planting of wild flowers across developments, as seen at Riduna Park where pollinator-friendly verbena and ox-eye daises have been retro-planted in place of architectural grasses "that do virtually nothing for wildlife" said Ms Metcalfe.

One building firm that has already linked up with Greener Growth is Mixbrow Construction from Needham Market. Operations director Stuart Leech said he hoped to " set the company apart" from other building firms by offering a greener proposition when it comes to tendering for contracts.

Stuart Leech of Mixbrow Construction at Riduna Park Picture: Ross Bentley

But, he added: "To really have an impact, we need to get in early with the architects and designers, [who design developments] as getting anything changed after planning permission has been given can be an issue."


Riduna Park Press Release

Riduna Park Press Release

Above: Riduna Park director Katie Emmerson and founder/director of Green Growth Jo Metcalfe

For immediate release 18 July 2019


 Business leaders in construction and land development have been urged to embrace their important role in conservation across Suffolk.

 Landowners, council representatives and housing businesses were among those who attended a special event at Riduna Park, in Melton, to hear a rallying call from CIC Greener Growth.

The event saw Greener Growth’s founder, Joannah Metcalfe, emphasise the need for more knowledge, responsibility and active conservation practices among those developing homes and building projects across Suffolk.

She highlighted the challenges faced by the natural environment throughout the county, and urged company owners to make it part of their project delivery to consider the impact of their work on wildlife in particular.

Greener Growth, which focuses on taking neglected areas and making them both food producing and biodiversity-enhancing, is already working with the owners of Riduna Park, to ensure that birds, bats, insects and woodland areas are preserved through a number of considerate wildlife activities.

Welcoming nearly 30 business representatives to the event, staged in East Suffolk Council’s headquarters, Jo said: “It was our great pleasure to hold this event at Riduna Park in recognition of their commitment to this innovative new type of partnership.

“Traditionally wildlife conservation and the construction industries have been typically juxtaposed and disconnected. If certain forms of wildlife are found on a site, building can be delayed or halted.

“Collaborating with Greener Growth with a series of different initiatives, these industries can turbo-charge their green credentials by honouring the wider environment and work with nature rather than against it. We would like to thank East Suffolk Council for their kind support and enthusiasm for our objectives.”

Those attending the event were encouraged to witness a number of the activities already in place at Riduna Park, and took a tour of the business park to see the stationed bird boxes, insect hotels and bat hides which have been put in place in recent weeks.

Katie Emerson, Project Manager for Riduna Holdings, which owns the park, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with Greener Growth, not only because of their community interest ethos, but because of the fascinating education and understanding which the team are able to bring to our business residents around what they can do to help Suffolk’s conservation situation.

“Already, we’ve had a number of companies on the site say that they want to sponsor boxes or other water and wildlife based features which will be springing up across Riduna Park this summer.

“It’s a great collaboration for us, and one which we wanted more construction and development companies to be able to benefit from in a similar way.”

Among those businesses and organisations attending the event were Brightwell Ventures, Suffolk Community Foundation, Mixbrow Construction, Savills, Rose Construction, Norse, Weston Homes, Harrowden Turf, Suffolk County Council, East Suffolk Council and Andrew Thompson & Associates, Eco Frenzy, Jordan+Bateman Architects

For more information about the Park and its offering, contact Katie on

01394 799 089 or email [email protected] or [email protected].



Press Contact:

For more details and further interview opportunity, please contact Deborah Watson via email on [email protected] or call 07974 359001.


Images were taken by Riduna Holdings and are the property of Riduna Holdings and are made available for media use by the company for single use.

 About Riduna:

Already home to the headquarters of East Suffolk District Council, several innovative independent businesses, and the artisan coffee house Honey + Harvey, the site has attracted huge interest from companies keen to base themselves in a modern development which has easy access points by rail and road.

Phase Two, which consists of nine offices varying in size from 1,250 sq ft to 7,500 sq ft two-storey options, is now ready for occupation.

The new stage of the business park has been completed with wooden flooring, intuitive heating and air conditioning, shower rooms, and also includes plenty of car parking for staff and visitors.

Data Regulations:
You are receiving this press release as your contact details and publication are featured on freely available media database software, utilised by this agency. Should you not wish to receive communications from us, please contact Deborah Watson on the contact details above.

Background information: Please see the UK State of Nature report which can be found here State of Nature 2016

Maintenance Day At Howards Estate

Maintenance Day At Howards Estate

A few snaps from last May of Muddy Jo and Filthy Fi -- Oops! Flowery Fi -- taking care of the trees at Howards Estate Memorial Orchard.

Jo Metcalfe, of Greener Growth, in praise of our local councillors

Jo Metcalfe, of Greener Growth, in praise of our local councillors

Bury Free Press

(Above) Howard Heritage Memorial Orchard

So this is the week, when we are all voting for our local councillors – those of us that feel so inclined – you might think we would have little to do with politics being an education, conservation and therapeutic horticulture organisation. However, over the last five years we have had an increasing involvement with our local councillors, particularly those in and around Bury St Edmunds.

I must say, in common with many I guess, previous to this I’d never had much regard or paid much attention to this strata of local politics.

Time spent developing local school and community kitchen and wildlife gardens has really changed all that – as many of our local councillors have been involved. I am happy to report myself and the Greener Growth Team count ourselves lucky to know so many we hold in high regard.

We have developed relationships with town, borough and county councillors and, contrary to popular belief, they are a dedicated, committed and caring bunch, often performing a pretty thankless task.

They are the first ‘port of call’ when any of us need help, or something done in our area, whether it be sorting out a pothole, helping their local school, putting a new bin in – or discussing contributory funding for a community kitchen and wildlife garden or the siting of a heritage orchard.

Local councillors know their patch so well, and many of the people in it. They will help direct us if there’s a ‘Green Job’ that needs covering – and often help support the funding of this project through their Locality Budget. For us, that has included a huge range of projects in and around Bury, with a varied range of benefits and impact for the residents in that area and the wildlife we are trying to protect and extend. Examples are far ranging – such as Diane Hind drawing our attention to the wildlife pond that needed renovating at Tollgate Primary School, or the under-utilised area in Horringer Court that we’ve been working with thanks to Richard Rout and the Horringer Court Residents Association. Then there’s Paul Hopfensperger, who introduced us to the Howard Primary School, and the wonderful Ernie Broom and the HEART (Howards Estate Association of Residents and Tenants) team where there is now a heritage orchard (thanks to funds from local funeral business Fulchers) and a conservation and education project in St Olaves woodland.

David Nettleton has helped us begin to grow a kitchen garden on his ward and Robert Everitt has helped our project at Westley School, the list is quite endless. There are many more to name – including Patrick Chung and Anne Williamson helping our work at Riverwalk School – and so many more!

Often our councillors are the first ‘go to’ person when people in their ward are distressed or angry about something – even if it’s outside their jurisdiction or responsibility. We have learnt a great deal from this tenacious bunch – who care deeply about the ward they represent – and the people in it – and are always now our first point of contact when we are asked to help a school or community group with their green space.

This month we are putting together a ‘Diary Of Events’ for small courses at various different sites around Bury, including Horringer Court, The River Linnet, St Olaves Woodland, Jankyns Place (funded by Metropolitan) and various other areas around our increasingly green town. These courses will be centred around food growing, conservation and we hope will help generate more community spirit too.

We will be promoting them in the Bury Free Press over the next few weeks, and we hope you can come along to learn and grow along side our Greener Growth Teams.

You can be sure that your councillors will have had a hand in helping bring these plans to fruition, and will be attending some of the courses alongside those they represent. We take our gardening hats off to you all, and wish you well, with heartfelt thanks for all you do, often quietly in the background, we salute you! Thanks for all your help, knowledge and support over this past year.

Wrongs Covert - Building the Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden

Wrongs Covert - Building the Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden

A big thank you to volunteers Bryn, Huw, Robin, Matt and Jo for making such a difference to the work carried out at Wrongs Covert Woodland Restoration Project on Saturday, Jan. 31st.

Last time we were here a variety of orchard trees were planted and its seems, are still doing very well. This time, with Kathy Harris, owner and guardian of the Wrongs there to greet us, we got to work putting together some hefty planters for the community kitchen & wildlife garden.

It was a bitterly cold day and the only way to really keep warm was to keep active! Which means a lot of work was completed. With Robin's super-strong coffee, Jo's tasty home-baked cookies and Kathy's leek & potato soup, we were all suitably fuelled throughout the day. Huw's wife Jo was also eight months pregant but still managed to help out where she could! Impressive!

Then there was Matt who was a human dynamo. As GG co-director Sam Hardy mentions:

"Matt was a great asset, and had really great knowledge on the veggie beds as he has his own burgeoning market garden and tree nursery! I think the award for effort goes to him for cycling an hour in sub-zero temperatures to attend!!"

Volunteer Matt Richards after his bike ride to Wrongs

Thanks go to project manager Craig Lee for driving three hours in poor conditions; having all the right tools in the right place and for fixing the “goose gate” in double quick time.

Everyone put a great shift in today to make some magic happen for Kathy and all her future visitors!"

Below are a selection of photos all of which will eventually be found on the Wrongs Covert website along with a whole lot more. Thanks again to everyone who turned up to help.

A very cold day at the Wrongs kitchen garden before planters are cut and laid. From left: Robin, Jo, Matt, Bryn, Huw, Sam and Craig.
Wood arrives for making planters. They were pretty heavy!
The planters have to be cut to size...
A combination of mitre saw and chain saw to finish off!
Then they have to be measured, placed, screwed together and filled with compost and soil.
Almost all in place. Now they just need screwing and filling with soil and compost
Soil left over from the work carried out on other areas of Wrongs was then "sieved" through a bit of metal mesh to get rid of large stones (nice idea Matt). The soil was then barrowed over to the planters. This was re-using resources on site in keeping with permaculture principles.
All done for the day!
Working at Wrongs Covert wouldn't be complete without visiting "Robert"....

Fedging At The Crown, Hartest

Fedging At The Crown, Hartest

Another rainy morning...This time doing some fine fedging at The Crown, with Fiesty Fi fielding the practiced tutelage of Willow Geoff. As you can see, Sam is hole-poker and Craig is on hand with the willow.

Howard Memorial Orchard - Phase 2

Photo: Bury Free Press

Howard Memorial Orchard - Phase 2

On a very rainy 1st of December last Saturday, the Greener Growth team  and community members gathered at the Howard Estate Memorial Orchard, in Bury St. Edmunds, for phase 2. Suffolk County Councillor Paul Hopfensperger and community leader Ernie Broom attended once again to lend their support. Pastor Benjamin Wontrop kindly blessed the trees as more plaques were introduced in memory of loved ones who had passed on.

It was a moving day and a very successful one - despite the weather!

For phase 1 see:  Memorial Orchard Project to set down roots

More photos at see: Howard Estate Assoc of Residents and Tenants

Horringer Court Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden

Horringer Court Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden

A great day was had at Horringer Court implementing the next phase of their Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden funded by Suffolk County Councillor Richard Rout.

Sam, Fi, Craig, Paul and Jono set about filling the planters with a rich, steamy compost (check out that wheel-barrow below...OOOO-arrrrrr) followed by top-soil.

Various bulbs and herbs were planted thereafter (about 250 in all!)

Craig and Paul also laid some turf and put up about eight or nine bat and bird boxes.

This is Horringer Court, soon to be Community Kitchen & Wildlife Garden...

Paul: "Just look at my shovel action"

Craig: "Check out my turf baby."

Sam: I know, I know, I like treading compost - everyone has their little foibles."

Craig: "Me? Why do I always have to be the one hanging from the tree?"
Paul: "Look, there's a lovely hazel over there - just your size".

Craig: "Are you listening to me?
Paul: "Think of all those little furry bats you're going to help...Bless

Paul: "Heh."

Look at the steam rising...Some good quality compost. New life cometh!

HMP Highpoint Gardens

HMP Highpoint Gardens Blooming

A little glimpse into our gardens at HMP Highpoint Prison at Stradishall, near Haverhill, Suffolk.  They looked so stunning when we were there last week! The chair was made by one of the guys  and Willow Geoff. Very comfortable. Great work!

Jo sitting in Geoff's willow chair