Category Archives: Case Study

Ian Larkin at Organiclea

I was made redundant in December 2009 after many years of service. My career was put on hold and I was at a crossroad in my life, wondering what to do next.


My redundancy gave me an opportunity to follow a dream but I had neither the skills nor the courage to risk such an adventure. At the end of January 2010 a neighbour advised me that Organiclea welcomed volunteers at their Hawkwood Nursery. I came to an Open Day and saw the activities on offer. It only took a day working at Hawkwood to find myself a vocation, and to come to the decision that growing fruit and vegetables was my future. The day I met Nicole, Clare and Ru was the day my life irrevocably changed!

Being at Hawkwood reminds me of my childhood when there was still so much undeveloped and open land, and as far as the eye could see there were trees, meadows and not a house in sight. I especially like the permaculture principles practiced here namely, people care, earth care and fair share. I appreciate the welcoming and friendly community environment aspect of the site and enjoy the liberating, invigorating enlivening and empowering ambience.

I like being an integral part of a community rather than a cog in a multinational food growing machinery. I feel that everyday at Hawkwood is a bit like Christmas because it is an opportunity to be social and generous and celebrate each others’ company and by working together and by sharing this time here we can become enriched, appreciate life and live all the better.

Volunteer Team at Forest Recycling Project

Towards the end of April 2013, FRP staff and volunteers put in an amazing effort to refurbish the FRP Centre located at 2c Bakers Avenue in Walthamstow.

The Centre was closed for 2 weeks with people helping each day to clear and clean the space (which took a week) and give everything a fresh lick of reclaimed paint (which took another week).

On 14 May, all the hard work was rewarded with a pleasant volunteer get together for tea and one massive chocolate cake. It was also the day of opening the new FRP reclaimed paint shop (located at the Centre) which is run with the help of the volunteers.


The FRP team would like to say a big thank you to the volunteers for your help with the transformation and your continued support!

John Byrne at Hornbeam and FRP

John ByrneAt the start of 2013  The Hornbeam Centre’s loft was almost impassable due to being full of innumerable but potentially useful objects ranging from 2 old leaky water tanks, a tea chest, several desks and chairs, and building materials from the buildings refurbishment 20 years ago. However the chaos me

ant that many items were effectively lost as they sank under the next wave of offerings.

Just before Christmas Forest Recycling Project volunteer John Byrne came to the rescue, offering to put down a proper wooden floor, and install shelving throughout.

No one realised just how big this exercise would be; it ended up taking 2 days a week of his time for 3 months, during which he reused 350 wooden planks from dozens of pallets, laid down 2 layers of flooring, and constructed a huge shelving system. The shelving has created much additional valuable storage space, and Hornbeam users are now able to find what they need quickly. John also panelled 2 walls which had exposed insulation on them, and carefully boxed in ducting and a number of water pipes.

The Hornbeam Centre owes a huge vote of thanks to John, who we reckon has saved it at least £2,500 in labour costs, and well over £1,000 in wood and other materials.

Tess Harris at The Hornbeam Cafe

I started volunteering in the Hornbeam Cafe early in 2013. I just came in as a customer and immediately liked the environment and how I was treated by the staff and volunteers. I felt that it was a friendly and inclusive place, so when I heard there was a chance to volunteer I said – pick me!

I work as a senior volunteer in the cafe two days a week now, serving customers, preparing food and training new volunteers. It’s lovely to get to know the customers and help facilitate the use of the space – for example, I’ve enjoyed working with John Fell to display and promote his reclaimed wood carvings. I like knowing how to make a range of fancy coffees and serve people great local food.

The Hornbeam is a really good environment to be a volunteer. Even when I’m working on my own in the cafe I know that everyone in the rest of the building is friendly and eager to help. I can just stop anyone walking through and they will do what they can to be useful!

I really love that volunteering has allowed me to get to know such a wide range of people. I get to meet others – both volunteers and customers – who are interested in sustainable living, and I don’t think I would have met them if I wasn’t volunteering here.

I enjoy feeling a sense of ownership of the cafe, something that makes a big difference to someone as newly arrived in the country as me. In the future I’d like to explore some other volunteering roles at Hornbeam, and learn more about cooking. And, because I love gardening, I’d also love to visit the nursery at Hawkwood.