Muddy Fork Newsletters

Statement issued regarding departure of former director 'Dom Schad'


Dom Schad, former director of Muddy Fork issues a statement regarding his departure from the charity.


"It has been my honour to found and build Muddy Fork to where it is today. Together, we have seen it grow from its origins in the Ecominds project to a fully-fledged working charity, dedicated to the needs of the people of Bassetlaw, and beyond. The time is now right for me to take a step back and hand it over to the community; it is in good hands, and is ready for new challenges. I am sure it will do well. I would personally like to thank all those who have supported it and contributed to its growth and success over the years, and I wish Muddy Fork all the very best for the future."


We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Summertime in the Muddy Fork garden

At the time of writing, it really does feel as though maybe summer is here at last, after the long, cold, wet spring we had. The Muddy Fork garden is now fully planted up, the strawberries are producing fruit and everything is growing. Especially the weeds! All we have to do now is carry on watering, weeding and nurturing and await the harvest.

New gates, netting all the beds AND new rabbit-proof fencing (there’s nothing like a belt and braces approach) may help maximise yields, though the little blighters still manage to find their way in somehow. They probably wait for someone to open the gate and then sneak in.

The site is also looking smarter for the work done on the outdoor workshop in order to facilitate the ‘Wellbeing Cycle’ bike project being run in partnership with Retford’s Bike Pedlars. This has now launched and enquiries are welcome.

It was a boost for Muddy Fork to be the recipient of the ‘Charity of the Year’ award from Crags Radio at the end of June. Muddy Fork is a local project for local people and it was good to be nominated and even better to win! It is most gratifying to know that our efforts are known about and appreciated.

For more information about the gardening project or the bike maintenance sessions, or leave a message on 01777 567005. To make a new ‘Gardening for Wellbeing’ referral (including self-referrals), email

The Muddy Fork website has further details, including on what’s currently available from the Muddy Fork pantry, or how to make a donation. 

April 2021 Newsletter

Spring has arrived, and Muddy Fork, is growing in more than one sense of the word! We have welcomed new participants and volunteers, but we still have space for more participants, and would welcome referrals, including self-referrals, for our sessions on Mondays and Fridays. Enquiries about our new Tuesday afternoon bike project, The Wellbeing Cycle, run in partnership with Retford’s Bike Pedlars, are also welcome. Thanks to Cycling UK for helping with this project.

We are now starting to sow our seeds for produce later in the year. I’m sure some of you are aware our polytunnels are on their last legs, they leak, are draughty and have had more repairs than I care to think. Grateful thanks to D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and Ollerton based construction company J Murphy & Son who have awarded us grants which will ensure at least one new polytunnel, if not allow both to be replaced or renewed. In the meantime we have started to sow, sweetcorn, sprouts, tomatoes, peppers, dwarf beans and a variety of herbs.

We have made a new potato bed—which has been very wet and one of our participant has done a splendid job on trenching around it, digging it over and clearing the weeds so that we were able to sow our first variety of potatoes (“Nicola”), they were cossetted in wool from last years fleeces which will keep them warm in the ground. More varieties to be sown over the coming weeks. Red onions are in, hopefully beetroot soon.

We have been experimenting with our home made netting supports and this year we are using willow (which we harvest anyway), its quite successful, however we have had to trim newly growing side shoots so we can get the netting on and off without snagging it!

The rhubarb is coming along and should be due for picking in the next week or so (we forced some and left some to it). The asparagus is just starting to poke its head through the ground, alas the frost got some before it had got high enough to pick!

The tree nursery fencing is complete and some of the oaks were dug up, tap roots shortened and planted in the new area, this will make it easier to lift them for buyers. A big thank you to Councillor Karen Roberts at Southwell town council for their purchase of 5 black poplar trees which were planted in Froggatt’s Field, Southwell - at a community event held on the 3rd of April 2021.

Over winter we had a general tidy up and we laid a new path towards a new area, potentially to move our bees to at some stage. Speaking of bees - we have entered into a new partnership with Welbeck farm shop for them to sell our honey alongside some of the produce we grow. This is a great venture for us. Of course, you can still buy our honey and produce from our pantry on this website. We also had a stall outside the farm shop on Easter Saturday, where we were able to tell everyone about our work at Muddy Fork and sell some of our honey, candles and produce.

The inside of the hub is now almost completed and looking smart, thanks to donations from our local councillors and the Co-op Community Fund. We hope to expand the “hub” area and improve the surrounding ground and we are grateful to Screwfix for a grant to enable us to do this. We are hoping to put new seating and landscape the area a little to provide a lovely, relaxing seating area for participants, volunteers, and visitors.

Another big development will be the installation of a rabbit-proof fence, provided through the earlier Lottery Covid 19 fund grant. This should make a huge difference, though since we still harbour a range of wildlife on our site, it is unlikely to be the end of jokes about the foolhardiness of gardening on a nature reserve! A related improvement will be new, wider, gates, to facilitate access by wheelchair users.

A splendid willow woven stag can now be seen from the Idle Valley car park, which was made this February from some of the willow we harvested. We also have a small selection of bird feeders for sale.

We remain grateful for the ongoing support we receive not only from our volunteers but from the wider community. Our participants benefit greatly from coming to Muddy Fork and we survive because of the generosity of the community and our funders – so  a big “thank you” to all of you reading this.

January 2021 Newsletter


Happy New Year to All!

Well, we opened again at the end of November and lovely to see people back enjoying the garden and catching up—all socially distanced of course. Government guidelines mean Muddy Fork is allowed meet up socially distanced with 15 people per session supported by our volunteers. We have hand sanitiser and face masks and gloves as required when necessary for all to use.


Alas toilet facilities at the Idle Valley nature reserve remain closed, which has curtailed the length of our sessions at Muddy Fork. We are now operating 3 mornings per week, Monday, and Friday 9:45am - 12:45pm and 11am-2pm on a Wednesday.

We are continuing to take new referrals including self-referral.


We have been very busy behind the scenes and upgraded our website; the navigation is much better, and you can see what we have in our pantry for sale and order online. Also check out our Facebook page and Instagram.

Since the last newsletter, our former chair of Trustees Chris Locke has stood down and we thank him for all his hard work. Rachel Orgill- Jones is now our new Chairperson, Mike Bennett remains our Trustee in charge of finances and we also welcomed Darren Read and Jenny Bailey to the board of Trustees.


In December, we attended an outdoor socially distanced Christmas market, organised by the Chequers Inn at Ranby. We sold hampers containing handmade chocolates, honey and preserves all made by the Muddy Fork team and we also sold lots of our herb bushes. Rachel, our chair of Trustees and Heather were vey busy that day making wreaths for Christmas, making some on the spot to order. These sold well alongside our willow Christmas stars. We also donated Christmas hampers to St. Saviours and to the hospice.


Over winter our worms were moved in to the polytunnels to keep snug, the bees are also hunkered down for the winter and have been treated to protect them from varroa mite. We face regular battles with the bunnies who seem to be excellent escapologists, either escaping out of our garden (good) or tunnelling in to help themselves to our produce(bad).

We had a socially distanced day of willow harvesting, which is now drying  and hopefully we will have another day in February.


We have created a second tree nursery to uproot and move established oak trees into this after removing the prime root and letting superficial ones grow…..this stops the oaks getting so embedded that we cant dig them out for sale.

We have  lovingly cared and nurtured our rare black poplar trees and now have sold 60 to the Trent Rivers Trust, and they are going to be planted along the river Trent, with another batch ordered for next year. The black poplar is rare and one of Britain’s native trees which is in decline, so we are delighted to help repopulate our landscape with them. 

We still have lots more black poplars, oaks, and elms for sale- see our pantry for more details.


Now it is winter, before we start sowing next year’s crops, we have been undertaking maintenance. Our hub has been painted twice and now has guttering- we await the inside to be completed once funds allow. We acquired an extra shed to keep bee equipment in and that also has been painted as have 2 planters which we will add to our existing beds.

Garden Lockdown Bulletin - September 2020


So here we are, half a year gone and still no signs of a return to group activity. 


Our team of intrepid volunteers continues to work hard in the garden, which is easily manageable in the space available. The garden and the bees continue to be well looked after, and produce is being sold to friends and neighbours of volunteers, including in the form of ‘single person veg box’ offerings, which offer us flexibility and can make effective use of the produce available.


The ‘Three Sisters’, with the odds permanently stacked against them, were commended by the judges of the competition for being good sports, but not surprisingly were unplaced. The sweetcorn was however delicious! Full marks to Pippa for taking the initiative on this one and seeing it through.


Slug-hunting and rabbit-hole fixing remain high on the agenda and we continue to reap the benefits of these efforts. We still have tomatoes (mainly outdoors), cucumbers and courgettes remain productive, kale and chard are keeping going, and the first of the leeks have been lifted. Meanwhile the beautiful pumpkins are a wonder to behold and the squashes are coming along.


As the growing season progressed we have also had time to turn our attention to our tree nursery, with work going on with oak seedlings and black poplars. Not all have survived the hardships of the summer but we still have a good number to work on.


And so, as we move into the next six months, when little may change in the way of restrictions, it remains to be seen where we go next over the autumn and winter.

Covid-19 Update: Sessions Still Suspended but..


Lockdown, mental wellbeing and the natural world.
The impact of the current lockdown on mental wellbeing is well documented. People are social animals and lack of contact with family and friends is taking its toll on many. Those with pre-existing mental health conditions have often been particularly hard-hit and the impact on mental health services is already being felt.
At the same time, lockdown has offered many people time to re-engage with the natural world. Everyday life for most of us has become quieter and slower. Those with gardens have grasped the opportunity to be out of doors. Sales of seeds, grow-bags and garden tools have rocketed and home-schooled children have been watching their beans and sunflowers grow. Even those without gardens have found themselves observing the trees coming into leaf and the birds becoming bolder.

Government-sanctioned exercise provides updates on the progression of the spring flowers, or even, in cities, the weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement which are now being labelled by guerrilla gardeners!
The benefits of spending time in green spaces are now widely recognised. Both mental and physical wellbeing are enhanced by contact with the natural world. Personal accounts of such experiences continue to be published, academic work provides clear evidence. Hospital patients are discharged sooner if they can see trees through the window rather than a brick wall. For many people, nature will have been a life-saver during the dark days of lockdown.

Muddy Fork, Retford’s ‘gardening for wellbeing’ project based at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve, is of course currently unable to provide a service. Groups are suspended and the worker furloughed. The garden however is being maintained by volunteers in the expectation that work will resume in due course and will be needed more than ever.
Muddy Fork participants whose mental health has been adversely affected by lockdown conditions will be glad to return, get to work, and meet up with others. New referrals can be expected given the downturn in wellbeing felt by many. The project also hopes that its corporate wellbeing days will be increasingly used by businesses whose employees have appreciated access to nature during the lockdown period. All this however is dependent on the project’s financial survival. Fundraising possibilities are currently limited: many grant-giving bodies are not accepting applications, and the small donations from groups, clubs and individuals which have helped sustain the project have largely dried up.

Muddy Fork trustees are monitoring developments closely and providing updates on the website 

They will be pleased to hear from supporters, donors and referrers, though referrals cannot actually be progressed at the moment. To get in touch, contact