Experience Education Employment Environment by Morag Warrack (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Keith Colin at Sompting

Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of being shown around two of the four sites managed by Keith and Liane who, along with a great team of trustees run the charity Sustainable Sussex.

Volunteer Fiona, who lives in a flat 20 minute’s bike ride away, told me, “I’ve been helping for two years now.  It was a real lifesaver during lockdown!”

The small area (it’s less than one acre) is rich in birdsong – all the more noticeable as there is little or no traffic noise.  The scent of elderflower blossoms fills the air as swallows swoop low over the small fields.

The project originated around Worthing Leisure Centre where Keith developed a garden, in part to help himself with incurable chronic pain as a young man. ”I was faced with deciding how I was going to spend my days”, he says.

Liane and Keith lived in a tepee for a year having shared their vision with many local landowners who might support their dream of growing community and health though natural ways of living and working. The Tristram family who owns the Sompting Estate came up trumps.

Making a nature trail, restoring a brook as flood mitigation-cum-wetland habitat, using a small flock of sheep instead of mowing machines, teaching shingle making, carpentry and chicken care, using polytunnels for growing fruit and veg, weeding and watering- there are so many different ways of nurturing the community.

The pair are developing a fantastic blend of ancient and modern ways of working sustainably with nature in ways beneficial to plants, humans, animals and council budgets!

They now have a friendly network of people to call on including Lancing College Farm manager… “Help!  What do we do about our sheep?”

The charity has been running for eight years now and pre-lockdown was opening Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for diverse groups including jobseekers, adults with learning disabilities or college students studying permaculture or design of community projects.

Keith and Liane are delighted to have recently received almost £10,000 of National Lottery funding to continue plans for Sompting Community Farm and nature Trails; future plans include planting soft fruit hedges and establishing a donated Mongolian yurt with its own sanctuary garden.

“We are constantly learning as we go.  We share strong vision, values and a huge sense of purpose for our work.”

Thanks to Tristram Plants’ sharing, I left the 8 acre Community Farm with a car boot full of primroses (which have now been planted in my local community park) and a head full of ideas to bring back to Horsham!

To support Sussex Green Living, you can buy a lottery ticket from:

Sompting Community Farm  http://sustainablesussex.org/project/sompting/

Sussex Community Foundation  https://sussexgiving.org.uk/