About Mudchute

Mudchute Park & Farm. One of the largest city farms in London with 32 acres of countryside in the middle of the Isle of Dogs.

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It has become a tradition at Mudchute to have a Halloween celebration. Either in the courtyard or the barn, we have gathered together, surrounded by the autumnal beauty and serenity to share a bit of a raucous family time.

Extraordinary outfits have been paraded around and extravagant pumpkins have been carved and presented for awards. It has always been a time when our community is at its craziest and most friendly.

But this year we can’t all meet together. So we have been exploring new ways to celebrate new and old traditions that surround All Hallows’ Eve.

Firstly of course, we still want to see your incredible pumpkins and outrageous costumes. Please send us your photographs and we will share them on this blog.

In my memory this time of year was exciting as a child, because I didn’t often go out in the dark. Maybe that’s not quite right. Maybe I didn’t often go out to enjoy the dark, to celebrate the night time. Halloween if a time to allow ourselves a little shudder of fear, a half caught glimpse of something that we don’t understand.

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I have friends who grew up in other parts of the UK who tell stories about ‘mischief night’ which falls at about this time of year, when the children would play practical jokes on the grown ups. This is because it was thought, many years ago, that cheeky spirits, like imps and fairies would be up to all sorts of tricks on Halloween night, and the children thought that they could lay the blame for their pranks on these supernatural creatures. Perhaps that is where Trick or Treat comes from, the idea that children will play a joke on you if you don’t bribe them to go away with sweets!

Right now it feels important that we let our children have as many amazing memories of this year as we can. So we come up with a couple of Halloween ideas for you.

Trick or Treating isn’t really possible this year. So in my street, where we all made friends playing during lockdown, we are going to decorate our front doors. After all, Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, so we should make as much of it as we can.

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Here is a very easy and cheap idea. Satsumas, or Clementines or Tangerines or Oranges and all really delicious at this time of year. (Did you know that all of them taste very different to each other? Try a taste challenge to discover just how different they are.) You can decorate them as little pumpkins using a permanent marker pen. Children are great at doing their once they have got the visual joke. It is a lovely little gift for a child to make for an adult or a friend as well as being an inexpensive way to have a lot of pumpkin faces around the place.

Another idea is to warm some apple juice in a saucepan and add cinnamon, cloves, a little nutmeg and other spices that you may use in mulled wine. Let it simmer for a little while to let the flavours brew and serve it warm, not hot. It makes a really lovely wintery drink for children and can become a seasonal family tradition.

Finally there is a nationwide pumpkins trail being organised. If you remember how we put rainbows or teddy bears in our windows at the start of lockdown in March, you will get the idea. It is designed to be a memory marker for children who can’t Trick or Treat, but who instead can go on a pumpkin spotting tour of their neighbourhood.

There are lots of fun Halloween based art activities, spooky food ideas and games and you can share pictures of your Halloween stuff there as well as sending them to farm_office@mudchute.org

You can find out more about this trail on Facebook. Search for ‘The Big Neighbourhood Pumpkin Trail!’ or visit www.artadventures.co.UK/the-big-neighbourhood-pumpkin-trail.

Remember please that our children need as many good memories of this year as they can possibly get.
Let’s make it wonderful for them.

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From Playworker Penny Wilson

For thousands of years human beings have been planting seeds and taking care of them while they grew into food to eat.

They grew as much as they possibly could in the summer so that they had enough to eat all through the year.

Perhaps the most important crops that they grew were grains, things like barley and rye, spelt, wheat and corn. These crops look a little like very tall grasses. The tall stems and leaves and other plants that grow alongside them in the fields are really important too. This is the hay and straw which is used to feed and make bedding for animals.

The grains cluster at the top of the stalks and have to be picked off, have their tough little coats-the husks- taken off, dried and eventually ground down and made into flour and then turned into breads as such.

The autumn time was and still is, the season when many crops and gathered and put safely into storage for the winter.

The lives of people revolved around the success of the crops and they made up stories which they shared at each different landmark of the farming year. These stories were partly to try and understand the wonder and power of nature. They were also to remind people what they need to do to keep on taking care of the plants and their harvest.

In England, and many other places in the world, there was a story about the spirit of the corn, who had lived and thrived in the field. When the time for harvest came, she became worried that she would have no home left and would die over the wintertime. Of course the farm people didn’t want her to die and so they made a promise to the spirit of corn. Every year they would take the very last sheaf (or bundle) of corn and treat it with enormous respect as ritual.

The women would take the sheaf of corn and fold and twist and plot it into wonderful shapes and patterns. These were beautiful objects that were given to different people to look after, and take care of until the spring. Then the ‘Corn Dollies’ would be taken out into the ploughed fields and the grains and stalks of corn that were the very last to be taken from the earlier the previous year, would be the first seeds to be returned to the soil ready for the year to come. The spirit of the corn was returned safe and sound to her cozy home.

When I was a child in the 1960s it was still the custom of the farmers near our home to save the last sheaf of corn and give it to the church as the centre piece of the Harvest Festival service which is a celebration of the wonder and power of our world.

Here are some instructions to show you how to make dolls from straws using some of the basic skills that the women used all those hundreds of centuries ago. Who knows, perhaps you will enjoy it and look on line to find some more intricate designs to try out.

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I remember as a child feeling curiously excited when I caught the first smell of autumn in the air. It may be something to do with having an autumn birthday, or fireworks night, or Halloween, or simply wrapping up warm and eating comforting food.

Children are discovering the world around them for the first time and each autumn is a fresh surprise of chilly days, earthy smells, berries mushrooms and nuts, some you can eat and some you most definitely cannot. And the trees! It’s wonderful to see their leaves turn colour.

A tree you never noticed before suddenly turns the most magical, fairy tale, brilliant yellow and its leaves fall like drips of gold into the grass below.

A bit over overgrown brick wall surprisingly and briefly becomes a blazing crimson tapestry.

These miracles last for the shortest of times, they are come and gone in an instant and are all the more precious for the fact that their time is so brief.

Every year I gather a few leaves, usually wet with soft rain when I pick them up so that they gleam with intense colour. Then, in a few hours, they crisp and fade and become ordinary and get thrown away because they are making a mess.

I have looked for ways to preserve them for a little bit longer.

I have pressed them between the pages of heavy books and left them for a week or so. I have used a flower press. Both of these methods preserve something of the glorious moments of autumn, even if the leaves fragile delicate when you take them from the press or book.

This year I have picked up some leaves on my little trips out into the world. It is such a strange year, that I feel that I need to savour every wonderful moment of it.

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So here is a method of preserving leaves that I am trying out for the first time.

I don’t know if it will work yet, but fingers crossed.

Enjoy every moment of this beautiful season.

1/2 cup of glycerine mixed well with 1 cup of water.

On each of your beautiful leaves, make a cut in the stem so that it can absorb the mixture more easily. Put them in a sealable plastic bag, nice and flat and add the glycerine water. Seal up the bag and lay it flat for about three days. The leaves are supposed to come out supple, with their colours well preserved.

You can buy glycerine from your chemist for under three pounds for 200ml