Tag Archives: Andy Hamilton

St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe at Christmas

I took this picture through the stained-glass window of St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe at the weekend.

Bristol is a mega-city but blessed by pockets of seclusion – enchanted sanctuaries such as St Werburgh’s.

This little corner of green near the M32 shields the eco-self-build houses, the Wild Goose space,  the Climbing Wall, the Better Food Company, St Werbugh’s City Farm and Cafe and more, and, as my luck would have it, is a ten-minute walk through the allotments from home.

The icy-cold weather of late has been leavened by such pockets of warmth.

Last night, for instance, we went through powdery snow in the empty allotments to the wildness of a contact dance improvisation jam at the eco-built Wild Goose Space where I lay on the floor watching this compelling film, Baraka, then dropped by afterwards to St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe for the drinks bit of the staff meal.

St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe has Wifi and real coffee, and a splendid selection of heart-warming home-made dishes many made with produce from the adjoining City Farm.

It’s run by Leona Williamson – unassuming, hard-working and friendly. She and her team won the 2008 Observer Food Monthly award for outstanding ethical achievement, calling it the “ultimate green eatery…(using) not food miles but food yards”.

I wrote about the Cafe in 2008, and – see comments – received fierce rebuke for praising the Cafe’s use of animals from the Farm. I am with Simon Fairlie and the Soil Association on the meat issue. Although I passionately believe factory-farmed meat is wrong – over-produced, cruel, unhealthy, unsustainable and unnecessary – a few creatures on a family farm is another matter entirely.

Back to last night: I met Jack, and discovered he is the Ethicurean now running the Walled Garden Cafe at Wrington, Somerset. I remet (I know this sounds like a poncy eco-roll-call but it wasn’t really like that) Andy Hamilton, of the Self-Sufficientish Bible,  who is finishing a book (a brilliant idea and once O.K-ayed it, I will mention here…) (and it is Booze for Free – good innit?), and Jamie Pike from Co-Exist at Hamilton House, currently congregating food people to make creative use of a communal kitchen at Hamilton House in Stokes Croft.

We talked about the recent Tesco planning fiasco and the importance of creating alternatives (as Jamie and co has done at Hamilton House).

As we left, Leona gave us a bottle of refreshing homemade rosemary and apple cordial from (very) local produce.

St Werburgh’s City Farm Cafe is now closed for Christmas until 15 January.

Apparently Baraka (the movie) means: blessings in a multitude of languages, and this is appropriate, as I felt blessed indeed as we walked home through the moonlit snow.

Food for free in Bristol

Dave Hamilton holding greater plantain

There is wild food for free in the city but you have to know what to look for. About 45 of us walked around Bristol’s inner-city St. Werburgh’s with Andy and Dave Hamilton, local eco-authors of The self-sufficientish bible. The “ish” is for people like me who don’t live on a farm.

Someone joked she thought the Food for Free talk would be about shoplifting. “Or stealing produce from someone’s allotment” bantered another.

Random weeds were revealed as herbs with stories, such as the greater plantain, held by Dave (above) and used by suffering soldiers in their shoes for trench foot.

Someone said he used its medicinal juice to help his hay fever. Must try this.

Dave said he has used the plantain’s leaves like spinach in saag aloo. Must try this too. (But crikey, would I be able to identify it from photo above? Supposing I picked a Poisonous Plant by mistake?)

Dave Hamilton and chamomile

Phew, on safer ground – this looks like a daisy. But it is not. It’s chamomile, famous for soothing jangled nerves. I use it in tea bags so it was like spotting an off-duty celebrity.

A propos, the talk was organised by Mark Boyle, founder of freeconomy. When he turned back from walking to India, it was international news. My media-self was impressed.

Mark Boyle

Mark (above) organised this Bristol walk as part of a reskilling programme, so we can learn forgotten traditional crafts, like baking bread or knowing what wild plants to pick without poisoning ourselves.

Watch out for a future Mark (and Claire) project in the autumn – Local Food Week when you pledge to eat local and see how easy – or hard – it is. They will add details in the comments section…


I picked some horsetail (above) and used it to clean the frying pan. A natural scourer, it broke up a bit but seemed to work – could be useful when camping.

Borage growing in inner-city Bristol

Borage, also pictured on our inner-city walk, is another free food to try. You cook it like spinach or use its tiny blue flowers in a salad. Or a Pimms.

Known as borage for courage, it is an anti-depressant (so don’t use if you are on anti-depressants). Fifteen of its leaves make you cheerful. Sounds like my kind of free food.

Thank you Andy, Dave and Mark for an amazing walk-the-talk walk.

And everyone else, such as Eric with fat hen (below) who walked to France with Mark.

Eric with fat hen