Kelly Whitbread gives a thumbs up whilst Mayor Christine Burgess holds her Outstanding Achievements certificate, and Trevor Johnson also gives thumbs up

Ace Activities Newsletter – April 2024

Christine Burgess and Trevor Johnson present the Outstanding Achievement Award to Kelly Whitbread

Welcome to the spring edition of the ACE Activities Newsletter.  We can’t believe how quickly time has gone, mainly due to how busy we have been!  Every project has had a schedule packed with fun and interesting things to do. 

Winter months can traditionally be a quiet time on the allotment, but not for our ACE Gardeners, who have been building new raised beds – more on that below.

ACE Arts continue to work with John Price from Sunflower Group on the Climate Change project and have managed to work in key dates from the calendar year, including Squirrel Appreciation Day!

The highlight of the last few months has been the ASDAN Award Ceremony, where our hard working members were presented with their certificates. Hosted by Grange Farm, we had their Chair and the Mayor of Epping Town Council presenting the certificates, followed by lunch and cakes. More on this below!

ASDAN Awards Ceremony

Last year we introduced ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) courses for the Art, Cookery and Upcycling projects with help from The Grange Farm Trust. We introduced these courses to add structure to the projects and enhance the learning and personal development for our members. The courses are tailored to the individual’s needs and can include personal goals and aspirations.

All participating members passed their courses with flying colours and special commendations from the ASDAN Awarding body, with Kelly Whitbread winning the ASDAN Outstanding Achievement Award for her hard work on the ‘Cooking with Confidence’ Course.  They were rewarded with a special ASDAN Award Ceremony at Grange Farm on 28th February. The Mayor of Epping Town Council, Christine Burgess, and the Chair of the Grange Farm Trust, Trevor Johnson presented the certificates and Trophy. This was followed by a delicious lunch provided by The Soho Sandwich with cakes by Cooking with Confidence.

A truly uplifting and enjoyable day, and it was lovely to see so many parents and carers in attendance.

See our photos of the event below – click on an image to enlarge it.

ACE Gardening

Over the summer, we decided that we needed to build more raised beds to grow even more prize winning vegetables! We were keen to tap into the natural resources around us – the fields and woodlands as well as local farms and stables – so we started to research our options. We sourced reclaimed wood – from Butlin’s stage no less!  We used a variety of plant friendly wood preservatives and techniques on the different raised beds and will compare the effectiveness of each method in the coming years.

We have also been experimenting with soil enrichment. We collect soil improver from local farms as well as manure from Chigwell Riding Trust just down the road. Our hope is to use their manure to become self-sufficient in creating our own soil improver.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results of our work, and are continuing to experiment in ways that maintain and preserve the natural resources available to us. Soil is key, and we need to treat it well to maintain a sustainable way of growing our food.

See our extended article on the raised beds.

What a warm and wet February we have had, with rainfall reaching record amounts. Leaving gardens, allotments and fields sodden and unusable. Essex soil is typically clay based. One tip is to dig in organic matter as it is beneficial to clay soils as it helps chemically to break up the clay into smaller crumbs.  Adding sand, grit and gravel is seldom effective as it is not often practical to add enough to reduce the overwhelming influence of the clay content.

From Winter into Spring is when things really take off in the allotment. Below is a list of jobs to get cracking on in April.

  • Chit and plant out second early potatoes in the first half of the month, and maincrop potatoes in the second half.
  • Sow seed outdoors for beetroot, carrots, Swiss chard, summer cauliflower, lettuce, leeks, radish, turnip, spring and pickling onions, peas and spinach.

Cooking with Confidence recipes

It’s the time of year when Rhubarb is in season, so here’s a couple of recipes our Cooking team have enjoyed: firstly, and old favourite, and secondly, something new you might like to try.

This is an old favourite but doesn’t disappoint!


50g (2oz) butter
100g (4oz) plain flour
100g (4oz) sugar
450g (1lb) rhubarb (or other fruit)
2 tsp cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C

2. Grease a 1 litre (2 pint) pie dish.

3. Slice the rhubarb.  Place it into the dish.

4. Stir in the cinnamon.

5. Stir in half of the sugar.  Set aside.

6. Rub the butter into the flour.   Stir in the remaining sugar.

7. Spoon the crumble mixture onto the rhubarb in the dish. 

8. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.


You can substitute Stevia for the sugar or half of the sugar, making it suitable for a low sugar diet.

You can mix in the grated rind of an orange into the crumble mixture and the juice of an orange into the rhubarb.

A quick and easy way to make ‘jam’ that’s as good as the traditional jam!


225g (8 ounces) rhubarb cut into half-inch lengths
100ml maple syrup (or more if you prefer it sweeter)
400g (14 ounces) strawberries
1 – 2 tablespoons chia seeds 


1. Chop the rhubarb into small pieces.

2. Hull and chop the strawberries (cut larger ones into 4 and smaller ones in half).

3. Place the rhubarb and maple syrup in a saucepan.  Put onto a medium heat.  Bring to a simmer. 

4. Turn the heat down and simmer gently until the rhubarb is tender and breaking down (about 5 minutes).  Stir occasionally.

5. Stir in the strawberries.  Simmer until the ‘jam’ is reduced by about a third (10 – 15 minutes).  The strawberries will be very soft and starting to fall apart.

6. Stir in the chia seeds.  Cook for 1 minute more.

7. Remove from the heat.  Spoon the ‘jam’ into jars.  Chill for a few hours until set.

It will keep in the fridge for several weeks or you can freeze it for a few months.  Use as ‘jam’ for spreading onto toast, stirring into yoghurt, topping your breakfast cereal, adding to pancakes etc.


  • You can make this with frozen fruit.  
  • You can swap the berries for other berries , such as raspberries, tayberries, blackberries, blueberries, or any others. 
  • You can omit the rhubarb. Instead, you can use 3 cups hulled and quartered strawberries, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and juice from 1/2 a medium lemon.   In a large saucepan, bring to a simmer. Then lower the heat and simmer until the juices bubble thickly and are reduced by about half.  This will take about 10-15 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons chia seeds.  Cook for 1 more minute.  Now, remove from the heat.  Mash the berries.

What are Chia seeds?

Chia seeds, from supermarkets and health-food shops are tiny, extremely nutritious seeds.  They have the ability to absorb 10 times their own weight when added to liquid. This makes them more gel-like.  They can be used to make ‘jam’ in this way.

They help…

  • to support cancer prevention
  • to lower blood pressure
  • to improve digestion and weight loss
  • to support a healthy heart
  • to fight diabetes

Upcoming Events

21st April – Grand Indoor Upmarket Boot Sale – this is a fund-raising event for ACE Activities at Theydon Bois Village Hall, 2-6pm. Anyone wanting to have a stall please contact Debbie for details on 07973 836216. Everyone else, please come along and support us!

3rd May – Sunflower Group Climate Change Art Exhibition with art work by ACE Arts, and entertainment from ACE Hands up to Music. Grange Farm Centre, 10am-3pm. Stalls and refreshments.

11th May – Swaines Green May Fayre – ACE Upcycling will be selling a range of handcrafted wooden goods, including planters and insect hotels, all made from recycled timber.

3rd June – Sports Day for ACE Sports (weather permitting). Grange Farm Centre 11am-1pm, parents and carers warmly invited.

30th June – Chigwell Riding Trust‘s 60th Anniversary Open Day. ACE Upcycling will have a stall in the field next to the Trust in Grange Farm Lane.

19th July – Charity Ball at Blakes Golf Club Epping Road, North Weald Bassett from 7:30pm, with proceeds in support of VAEF and Marie Curie UK

For more details on all of these events, see the Events page






2 responses to “Ace Activities Newsletter – April 2024”

  1. John Price avatar
    John Price

    Great newsletter Sally! Well done.

  2. marc balkham avatar
    marc balkham

    What a marvellous newsletter.

    Well done Sally.

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