Thursday, 18 October 2012

Castle Garden Summer 2012

What we got up to in the garden this summer....

In July, we got some Castle staff and garden volunteers involved in creating a cob pizza oven, with the help of Cob in the community. We mixed clay, sand and straw and made the oven over two days.   Barry and Rosa helped with the design and creation of the plinth. Barry spent a few weeks previously doing all the groundwork creating a solid plinth with recycled bricks, bound together with cob, (which he spent a few hours showing us his salsa moves over). He filled the plinth with rubble, sand, and bottles to create a solid heat retaining base.

A few weeks later at the garden party, we fired up the oven and made about 50 pizzas. We finished off with a foccaccia made from the milled wheat we grew in the garden last year.

This summer also, was the first season to see a great abundance of berries from the garden! Strawberries, loganberries, tay berries, raspberries, japanese wineberries & black berries. The kitchen made great use of them in cakes,flapjacks, muffins and jams.

Mid September, the Castle took part in Urban Food Week. All of the vegetables that week used in the cafe food, was either harvested from our garden or bought from Growing Communities new 4 acre farm in Dagenham.

We had the duty managers in the garden for an hour, during their staff training day. They all took part in a garden task that involved a full cycle of what is involved in veg growing. They turned the compost, top dressed some veg beds with new compost, sowed some winter greens seeds, planted out, and did lots of harvesting! including salad for their lunch.

                                           grapes and pears harvested from our garden

During the summer holiday, we held a family/child friendly workday in the garden and invited children from the Castle membership and the local community and held a scarecrow wildlife habitat and recycled sculpture making day.  The local Wildlife Trust at East Reservoir came along with their tools and materials and helped make a new bug habitat and bird boxes, which have added to our wildlife habitats in the garden.  Min and Christina led a scarecrow making. As well as a big scarecrow wearing a Castle hoody, they got the kids to make these mini ones made from recycled wooden cultery from the Castle Garden party!

Min and Christina with the Castle Scarecrow

London Wildlife Trust making a bug house near our pond

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Environmental Report 2011

After many hours spent chasing invoices, looking at spreadsheets and working out emission factors we've finally published our Environmental Report for 2011. I don't know (yet) how to add a document to this blog, so if you'd like a copy sent to you please email me at and I'll be happy to send you a copy. It's important to me that this information is available so that other businesses can learm from our experiences and help reduce their own carbon footprint.

  If you just want a quick summary of the key facts, read on:

- Carbon Footprint for 2011 : 100.17 tonnes CO2e (14.5% reduction from 2010, 27% reduction from when we started reporting in 2008)
- Cafe : we opened our own kitchen to process food grown in our organic garden. In 2011 we were just starting to transition from purchased food to homemade- this is nearing completion in 2012.
- Shop : we continue to increase our range of certified organic cotton clothing and bluesign labelled products. The refurbishment in August/September has made the shop more energy efficient with better lighting and insulation.
- IT : we've redesigned and upgraded network to reduce power consumed onsite.
- Waste : we've significantly reduced our waste to landfill (by 78%). We now send one 240L bin to landfill per week. Not bad for one the country's busiest climbing centres!
- Travel: this is the one area that we've not improved on. Due to the higher number of guest setters travelling to London, we have more carbon emissions than in previous years, but less mileage. Must do better.
- Electricity consumption has gone down quite a bit. We have yet to analyse all of our monitoring data, so we don't yet know what changes are most effective.
- Water consumption has remained constant despite increased demand from our garden because we are using rainwater and greywater to irrigate.
- The garden saw many developments in 2011, most of which are reported by Ida on this blog. Key ones included a greywater filtration system, a wildlife pond and many more plants.
- Our two big events - the annual garden party and xmas party- were very low impact with minimal waste.
- We awarded two Castle eco-grants in 2011 to staff to be able to volunteer their time to environmental charities.
- We continue to offer Bike To Work scheme and eco-days (bonus holidays for sustainable travel) to staff.

We're able to do all this because of the support of our shareholders, our Board of Directors and the continued commitment of all of the staff. Thank you!

Audrey Seguy, Managing Director

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The New River and waste

One of our customers, Jo Homan, recently wrote a great piece on the Transition Network website, talking about one of our great local landmarks and what it tells us about our attitude to waste.
It describes how the New River was constructed 400 years ago to deal with a problem that we still haven’t solved today and talks about some of the alternatives.
The only thing I’d like to add (and you’ll have to read Jo’s article to find out why) is that compost toilets don’t take that much room: Probably a space the size of a broom cupboard in the average house.  For a description of how compost toilets work you can see this entry in Wikipedia
And yes, you can expect to see them installed at The Castle sometime in the next two years.  Watch this space……

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Castle Garden Spring 2012

pear blossom
It has been a very eventful Spring in the Castle Garden, started with a hot weather, then news of droughts then very very wet weather for several weeks which washed out some tadpoles out of our pond and more than doubled our snail population!! (and ate many of my seedlings, I wasn't happy, and I won't tell you what I did with them when I caught them in the act). We still battled on in between the wet days and built 4 new raised beds, with sleepers to act as benches at the end of them. Barry carried about 7 of them across the garden on his shoulder (I'm sure they weigh about 100kg). However he did afterwards take a rest on one of the sleepers to test it out.
our pond's  first tadpoles
our pond
strong barry
barefoot gardening
We started to record our harvests this year, and up until end of April, we harvested about 75 kg of produce for the cafe kitchen. We have been self sufficient on green leaf salads, chard and rhubarb so far. Since March, Jack, one of our cooks has been harvesting 2-3kg of rhubarb each week and making crumbles and cakes. We've been forcing rhubarb again, and they come out this beautiful bright pink and yellow colour. Shame the leaves are poisonous!

This year we have Nick regularly working in the garden to create more herb gardens and supply the cafe and kitchen with herbs for teas and culinary herbs for the cooked dishes. He started tea club on Thursdays for anyone who wants to help him and learn. The cafe has been supplied with fresh herbs since the start of Spring, and now he's also busy drying herbs for our winter supply.

Over winter we made some balms with the beeswax made from our hives and other hackney hives, and with herbs from our garden. They sold really well in the Castle shop! We made "extreme lips" and "outdoor hands" with calendula, plantain and comfrey from our garden. All with properties that do wonders for state climbers hands get in!

Jack harvesting rhubarb
rhubarb on menu every week in Spring!

Nick harvesting herbs for the cafe
Caste selling fresh herb teas from our garden; mint, fennel, and lemon balm

 Coming up next in the garden.... Our bees swarmed and this time we will have our top bar hive and warre hive put into place for them to demonstrate natural beekeeping. Plus in July we will be building our cob oven ready for the garden party. Look out later this summer for pizzas!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sustainable City Awards

Following on from Efua’s previous post regarding our award wins, I thought we should provide a bit more information about the work we’ve been doing in the Centre which gave rise to, not only the 2 awards we won but also another 2 we were shortlisted for, for which we received certificates.

On the 1st march 5 staff and volunteers from The Castle Climbing Centre donned their posh threads and attended the Sustainable City Awards. At a packed ceremony at the Lord Mayor of the City of London’s residence, Mansion House, we were delighted to receive not just one award but two!

This seemed even more remarkable when we found out the awards received in excess of 300 applications in its 11th year of running. The awards, one for Sustainable Building and one for Sustainable Procurement, were presented by Raymond Blanc (who champions sustainable fish) and Simon Mills (Head of Sustainability at the City of London Corporation).
In Simon Mills’ opening speech he said “this evening honours the efforts of organisations, both large and small who are at the leading edge of sustainability. Despite the economic challenges the country faces we have received a record number of applications- this is representative of a fundamental truth, that during tough economic times, it is the organisations which focus on resource efficiency, supply chain value and innovation which will best weather the storm. Sustainability is not an optional extra, to be discarded when the chill winds of the recession begin to blow. It is an essential shield which can protect businesses, and give them a spring board for growth as the economy begins to thaw. It is you, Ladies and Gentlemen, not politicians, who lead this country out of recession and I salute you”.
In the last 3 years the Castle Climbing Centre has been working tirelessly in our efforts to become a sustainable business, reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our environmental performance.

The building has undergone numerous environmental refurbishments, which the customers may not see, but include 2 new builds; a training room and offices completed using ecological building methods including insulation, natural ventilation, natural light and low energy heating systems.

Our main investment continues to be in Research and Development with plans to convert our site into a low energy building - looking at how we can further develop our climbing areas whilst making our Victorian building as energy efficient as possible.

Since 2009 we’ve made some substantial changes to our procurement code, prioritising the sourcing of sustainable products in all areas of the business. Purchasing decisions not only affect the performance of the Castle and the staff doing the purchasing, but sends a wider message down our supply chains, influencing their behaviour too. It is a diverse range of goods, works and services which are affected, such as the purchase of climbing holds, shop merchandise, staff uniforms, stationary, garden plants and cafe groceries.

The one area that has most obviously undergone huge change has been the development of the 1 acre of green space at the back of the centre into a market garden which now provides fresh, organic produce, not only for our own cafe but for Hackney’s Growing Communities, local businesses and the local community.
The Castle Climbing Centre continues to work hard to develop the centre as a premier indoor climbing venue, but not at the expense of the environment.

A copy of our new development plans for the Castle can be viewed at Reception.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Sustainable City Awards

We are very proud to have won two awards at the City of London Sustainable City Awards for Sustainable Procurement and Sustainable Building.

See the City of London website for more details of the award and the other winners:
We're excited to be recognised for our efforts and we are well aware just how far we have to go.
I hope this will inspire staff and customers alike to get behind the Castle in becoming a truly sustainable business!