FLOW community bench making project at Flowerpot Meadows Autumn 2018

This autumn we worked with Carving Communities (CC) and young people (aged 11 years and above) in Exwick to make a sculptural bench out of wood using hand tools. The project ran from September 16 and took place entirely on site, next to CC’s mobile tool box on Exwick Playing Fields at the end of Ennerdale Way.

We were delighted to be working with James because his sculpted benches are visual striking, expertly crafted and co-designed and made by and with people in the places that he works. James develops a sense of ownership of the bench through the process of working and making together and then gifting this to back the wider community. Come and enjoy the new bench and see if you can spot which animals, insects and birds are also visiting the FLOW route. Pictures of the bench launch event to follow.

James is speaking about his work at St Sidwell’s Centre on 13 November at 18.30 – follow the link to register your attendance.


See below for project images week by week:

23 September: Torrential start to the day but this didn’t put off 1 young man who was waiting for us on arrival! 2 young men worked with us throughout the day and as you can see from the pictures, they took the bark and sap wood off what will be the bench uprights. We and they had many conversations & visits over the course of the day with those passing by who were universally positive about the project. Good start.

30 September: We had a good atmosphere on site. Both young people returned with friends and  we had supportive adults working alongside. One young person stayed with the difficulty of mastering the drawknife all day, until around 3pm he found himself slicing through the oak wood like butter creating beautiful smooth lines. A good metaphor for life!

There were lots of conversations with passing public who are very positive about the project. One elderly man on a mobility scooter stopped to chat and pretty soon he & James realised they had met when the man (who was a carpenter in his working life) donated his tools to Men In Sheds. We invited him back for a cuppa next week & he is bringing his oil stone so that he can sit & sharpen the tools with us. He said it gives him ‘somewhere to go & something is to do’ Wonderfully naturally occurring intergenerational moment!

John, one of our 5 Director’s of Carving Community CIC came by to spot check Health & Safety (In his working life he is currently HSE Coordinator for the Rampion offshore wind farm off the UK South coast so great to have as part of the team.) He took one young person through the process & clearly he learnt something as he was directing us in safe practice by the end of the day! Brilliant!

One of our friends teaches A Level Art at Exeter College & is letting her students know about the opportunity to become involved. As you know we have contacted all the local schools & posted on Facebook but if you know of any other youth groups or useful contacts please let us know. A further 5 consent forms have gone out with young people. Hopefully we will see them returning this weekend, along with members from our Ludwell Valley project who have seen this project on Facebook & plan a visit.

A last thought. We have started discussing the design of the back board with the young people. So far they would like to include … apples, birds, the flow of the river and a chicken! We’ll be keeping all that in mind as we progress!

7 October: We spent the day shaping the seat & back board of the bench. Using draw knives, scorps & spike shaves we removed the last of the sap wood before following the flow of the chestnut wood sourced from a fallen tree near Bude.

Our team has swollen with 4 regular young people, 4 supportive adults plus lots of doggie friends, Exwick residents, cyclists & walkers who are enjoying seeing the bench progress.

Some great life stories were shared & housed in the bench as we worked & ‘gourmet’ soup (on what turned out to be a sunny day) & apple cake appeared from our mobile tool box to sustain the crew!

Looking forward to working on joints and back board designs next weekend.


21 October:

After a wash out with howling wind and rain the previous week, we had glorious blue skies on Sunday for Session 4 of the FLOW Bench making project.

With new young people & supportive adults joining, the team cracked on with making the mortice holes in the uprights, shaping the ‘Tree nails’ and working on the backboard river design.

Special mention goes to those with the spoke shaves, who spent hours lying down to smooth the underside of the seat. Make sure you run your hand along it when you take your first seat on the completed bench!

We were fortunate to have the company of a 99 year old lady for tea, who was a cabinet maker all her life and thrilled to see the tools in the hands of young people. Another man came by and left us this quote from his father.. ‘ hands are the best tools ever made’

Apple & Ginger cake to share arrived by bicycle, along with an enormous squash for next week’s soup, provided by a local allotment holder who cycles past each week.

We will be back again next Sunday 28th October for our penultimate session, when we will be choosing the footprints of other beings who inhabit the river bank to represent ourselves in the backboard design.

Our final session will now take place on Sunday November 4th with the reveal of the finished bench and celebration of the team’s contributions from 3 til 4pm. Come and join us!

28 October:


The wind blew, the sun shone and the hidden creatures of the Exe left their tracks on the backboard of the FLOW bench (with a little help from the young people and supportive adults in the team!)
We asked each person to choose the tracks of an animal, bird or insect to represent themselves which may be found along the river but rarely seen without deep looking.
Each person then added their tracks to the backboard, below the river and orchard images already in place, using a variety of punches and hammers.
The young people chose to place their marks close to where they live along the river. Another chose a heron whose tracks carefully ended together by the river as he imagined the heron pausing for a drink.
Jenny, a local photographer joined us to add gull tracks. She has a project on gulls (http://www.iloveseagulls.com/) and was just reading about the significance of gulls when 2 literally flew down and landed briefly on the end of the backboard where she planned to make her tracks! Wow!
The man who gave us a huge squash from his nearby allotment last week, came by with his brother. He chose to leave badger tracks as he has regularly seen them crossing the allotment.
His brother chose to add ‘rosy red’ apples to the trees, observing and including wind falls which are found at this time of year.
This led to the inclusion of several birds feasting on the windfalls and the delicate marks of a crane.
Look out for the grasshopper & newt tracks close to the riverbank, a duck who just popped in and out of the water and the tracks of a rarely seen ancient bear!
Several young people cracked on with chiselling out the mortice joints, shaping the tree nails and completing the smoothing of the seat in preparation for the installation of the bench this weekend. Fantastic perseverance!
If you are passing on Saturday morning, you will see folk digging a metre down to fix the uprights in place, before assembling, oiling, polishing and ‘closing the eyes of the completed bench’ on Sunday ready for the grand opening from 3pm until 4pm.
Come along to celebrate the brilliant community who turned up to make this lovely sculptural gathering place on the Exe. Join us for hot spicy Apple juice and cake before the season turns in. We look forward to seeing you there.

Final Making and Installing Weekend



Launch event – smiles, laughter, perpetual rain and warm apple juice. Thanks to all who came along despite ongoing rain. We were delighted to be joined by Councillors Phillip Bialyk and Rachel Sutton. Certificates were handed to all the people involved in making over the weeks and young people involved in the event unveiled the bench from beneath spruce, birch and flowers and gifted it to the rest of the community. Thank you James and Niki for being, making and sharing so generously through this project and working with people to make such a beautiful bench and to Jenny for yet again brilliant pics. A fantastic addition to the FLOW route and community.



UPRIVER – walking the route, 29 April 2018


Thanks to Jenny Steer (www.jennysteer.co.uk) for photos of the day and to Cain Hegarty for the close ups


It was chilly for the end of April, twenty or so of us wrapped up in hats and some scarves and gloves set off from the Double Locks to visit the FLOW planting sites all the way up to Exwick. Mary-Rose Lane introduced the context of the Environment Agency and we walked upriver, referencing maps for the new trees and noticing blossom on existing fruit trees and hedgerows. Unfortunately Nigel was unable to join us for the walk this time, but we hope that he come on the walk another time and share his extensive knowledge of the habitat.

There was an endless easy stream of shifting conversations and discussions as we walked along and lots of questions and observations as we stopped to look at the trees and Anne-Marie explained which variety they were and why they had been planted in each location.

The Trews Weir orchard looked great, many trees in blossom including Almond which had already shot up. There was lots of nettles and ground cover that will need keeping at bay to let the trees get away without too much competition. We stopped for a chilly picnic at the canal crossing just before the Quay then carried on up to Exwick where we ended at the Exwick Sunflower and Blossom Day in the Parish Hall. It was mobbed! The Orchard Box and FLOW map were on display for people to see. We managed to squeeze in for a welcome cuppa and cream tea and then those of us who stayed till the end were rewarded with a song writing session with Hugh Nankevil where we collectively composed our very own blossom song. Well done Exwick on such a fantastic and popular event!

Most of the trees are doing well. One (a cherry) has been damaged and removed so needs replacing and a few may need replanting as they have been planted too close together. The Flood Defence Scheme landscaping is running a bit behind but I’m hoping that the remaining trees will be planted in Winter 2018. Quite a few of the walkers were keen to get involved with caring for the trees ‘FLOW rangers’ and helping in other ways  so our next event will be an evening gathering late in June to discuss how best to go forward as a group. All are welcome. Date and location coming soon.



Come and seek out the newly planted FLOW orchard trees and explore the Valley Park together from Double Locks Pub (meet outside front entrance) to Exwick Mill Field sharing observations, stories and inspiration along the way.

Setting off from Double Locks at 11.30am.

Arrival at Exwick approximately 3.00pm

We will stop to eat packed lunch together on the way.

The walk will include contributions from: 

Nigel Pinhorn, local ecologist

Mary-Rose Lane, environment agency ecologist 

& FLOW artist Anne-Marie Culhane 

This is an opportunity to come and find out more about FLOW, a new orchard of over 190 varied fruit and nut and foraging trees along the river exe, to discover some other non-human inhabitants and residents of this wonderful green space and to start to think about how we care for FLOW as it passes in the hands of the local community.  At Exwick we will arrive for a cream tea, music and song as part of the Exwick Blossom Day celebrations organized by the Exwick Community.

Exwick Blossom Day + Launch of Sunflower Competition, Sunday 29 April:   collect free seeds at Station Road Playground from 2pm. From 3pm, music, craft, seeds to swap and Cream Tea at Exwick Parish Hall, Station Road, Exwick. (please note no car access in Station Road at this time due to Flood Prevention Works) Contact Emma Welton emma.welton@phonecoop.coop for more details

Flow orchard exe on Facebook & @floworchardexe on Twitter

Please let us know you are coming via:  floworchardexe@gmail.com

Planting & welcoming the Trees, January 2018

A great couple of days – words by Jenny Steer & Anne-Marie Culhane

Over 130 people turned up to plant trees and over 250 people over two days to wassail!!

The trees are a mix of fruit, nut and foraging trees for insects, animals and humans to encourage movement and FLOW through the Riverside Valley Park.  There are just under 200 trees to be planted in 2018 which include local and heritage varieties + more unusual such as apricot, almond, loquat to adapt for a changing climate. The idea is that anyone can pick them and that you take a fair share and leave some for other people and wildlife. The route also compliments new wildflower planting that is happening in the river valley park to encourage a B-line for pollinators as part of Exeter Wild City Project and the flood defence scheme landscaping.

Anne-Marie collaborated with Emma Welton, a composer from Exwick to create the Exeter Wassail for 2018 with new lyrics for the project. Exwick Community Singers opened up two well attended rehearsals to members of the public to come and learn the song. The wassail was sung at dusk to welcome the new trees.

Artist, Amy Sheldon facilitated lantern making and showed people the Orchard Box. Devon Wildlife Trust showed people how to make bird feeders with apples studded with seeds and fat balls. Paul Conneally had made a giant wordsearch using all the tree variety names on the route and Anne-Marie asked people the question : How do we welcome the trees into the community of this place? With cards for people to add their experiences, stories and memories to the map of the route. Emma Welton worked with small groups of participants to teach them the Exeter Wassail. In Exwick soup and cake was provided by the local community and in Trews Weir by Emma at Boatyard Bakery and a troop of volunteers.  We had an amazing storyteller,

Heather Jane who told a beautiful story related to local trees and wassailing. Heather had heard the Robin call to her when she created the story. Follow this link to hear the story.

Traditionally, the Robin is the guardian of the orchard and that is why toast is usually hung in the tree as an offering to the Robin. For this wassail however, we plaited and pinned the toast on a coat and hat and we created The Toastmaster standing by a roaring fire who welcomed us to the orchards, each tree lit by a lantern. Crispin’s mulled cider and apple juice went down a treat as people passed round the Wassail bowl (made from Exeter cherry) and made toasts to bless the place and the trees.

It was amazing when I arrived to photograph at Trews Weir and the first thing I heard was the entrancing song of the little Robin as he perched so close to us and surveyed our tree planting, darting all around us!

What next? Some funding has been secured by East Devon District Council to support interpretation of the route, some materials for the project and some events. Join us for a walk and a picnic on the route on Sunday 29 April and a conversation about FLOW and the community going forward.

Thank you to everyone involved. So many people! In particular St Andrews Church and Andy’s Cafe and Exwick Community Singers for hosting FLOW in Exwick and Boatyard Bakery for hosting us at the Quay. Also many thanks to Mary-Rose Lane without which none of this would have happened.

Some things people said about FLOW:

Thank you for inviting Devon Wildlife Trust to be a part of the FLOW orchard planting event. It is not often that an event brings together a community in such a holistic, inspiring, and empowering way. The combination of tree planting, craft, storytelling and song clearly resonated with participants and the depth of engagement was striking. The tree planting gave local people a sense of ownership and a desire for ‘their’ trees to thrive. I think this will be an event which will make a lasting impact on the people who took part as well as the land that now holds the ribbon orchard – Jasmine Atkinson, Devon Wildlife Trust

 I think it was a fab weekend and really successful on lots of levels. The variety of activities that you brought together was amazing, but it was coherent and well organised as well! – Stuart Lockton, participant in the weekend

Wow what an amazing and uplifting weekend. It is one of the most inspiring ways of working and projects I’ve been involved with and it has culminated in a way of working I thought I could only dream of – Mary-Rose Lane, Environment Agency



Dates for planting events in January

The two community planting events will take place on:

20 January in Exwick at Exwick Mill Field & Andy’s Cafe

21 January in Trews Weir Relief (next to the allotments) and Boatyard Bakery at Exeter Quay

Planting and refreshments to keep up all warm and nourished will be followed by a celebration at dusk to mark the planting of the trees.  There may also be other opportunities to plant other parts of the route in February and March. Please get in touch if you want to get involved in food, drink, music or creative elements for the planting celebration.  More details to follow soon.

Out + About in Exwick & St Thomas

We have been sharing conversations with lots of people including visitors to the St Thomas Festival, Exwick Harvest Lunch & Trews Weir Allotments social gathering. This has involved taking the map, the orchard box, apple pressing and the Orchard Pollinator game out and about. Lots of people have asked how they can get involved in finding out more & planting with their families. People have also fed in ideas and local knowledge about the site and what should be planting including some snippets of local history esp. in Exwick where people are keen to see orchard planting re-introduced to Exwick Mill Field in line with a long history of orchards in the area. Here are some pictures of events. Thanks to all the people who helped out with running the stall. There were no images from Exwick Harvest Lunch but a comment from local organiser Emma Welton: Flow added a wonderful element to our very local community event. It was brilliant to see your beautiful map, see people talking with you and getting excited.

Running with Trees 13 September

Join me for a run through the park to see what we can learn about trees, each other, our breathing and the climate. Riverside Valley Park on Wednesday 13 September at 6.00pm, meeting in front of The Malt House, Harvester pub EX2 8BP. The run is especially suitable for people with some experience of running/improvers. The run is 3.5km along the Exe Riverside Valley Park and includes three short stops. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear.

We breath between 20-50,000 times every day. Over a 4km stretch of ground Running with Trees explores the intimate relationship between breath, trees, carbon dioxide & climate change starting with our own breath.

The first run in June took place in a torrential downpour and despite this 9 people turned up and stayed the course. I dont think I have ever been so drenched!   This time the rain only spotted and we found ourselves running in bright late sunshine and under the arc of a rainbow.  Here are some images from the run.

With thanks to Matt Rowett run leader.

Documentary photographer photojournalist, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset, Exeter, UK, abroad

Documentary photographer photojournalist, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset, Exeter, UK, abroad

Documentary photographer photojournalist, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset, Exeter, UK, abroad


Orchard Lab 21 June

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Ideas Lab on 21 June, a day with people from local communities of Exwick & St Thomas & the Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency & Exeter City Council considering the possibilities of the project and feeding in local knowledge and ideas.

A scorching hot day for our Orchard Ideas Lab which involved walking the route with sun hats, multiple water bottles and sun-umbrellas. People shared all sorts of ideas, wisdom and observations. Our trip included the siting of a red kite, the viewing of a sea lamprey spawning site and a deer tick tucking into Nigel’s red blood cells while we all enjoyed a pint at the Double Locks. We started at Exwick Community Hall and stopped half way through the day at the Quay House to share a lunch provided by Boatyard Bakery and have some reflection time.  Ideas shared have been drawn into the planting plan which I have created for the Environment Agency Landscape Architect who is reconfiguring the designs to include multiple varieties of edible trees and hedgerow fruits and nuts.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

The plan includes local heritage varieties as well as more unusual varieties from further afield and overseas. This includes Loquats, which I recently found growing and fruiting successfully at Exeter University’s Streatham Campus.  The route is looking into a changing climate and considering what might be growing here in 50+ years time given climate change predictions. The route is designed with insects, birds and humans in mind and with certain trees acting as markers through the route as well as different planting emphasis in different areas. If you would like to see the plans for the route please get in touch.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

The Orchard Ideas Lab also gave people the opportunity to have some time to consider what might be planted on the route, to create their own visions for the route and to gather inspiration. This came from the past (for example Samuel Hartlib’s Designe For Plentie (1600s) on the Plantation & Culture of Orchards a treatise ‘to turne the most hopelesse Willdernes, on a suddaine, into a rich & beautifull paradyse‘ or Henry Thoreau on cherries from The Succession of Forest Trees; conversations with each other and the work of artists.  As part of the day we were able to display Amy Shelton’s new artwork  for this project, a collaboration for the Orchard Box consisting of mounted slides of pressed blossom samples, collected in Exeter and surroundings from many of the plants that are being chosen to form part of the route.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

We ended the day at the Double Locks pub where we had a short discussion around how the project might develop and what we might each want to share and gain from it. This is Emily (Wildlife Trust) examining the tick that is attached to Nigel’s leg through bionoculars!

A couple of comment from participants reflecting on the day:

wanted to thank you for such a great event yesterday. Some brilliant people from the community on board, and it really is exciting to think about how this project will evolve

thanks for a really interesting day at the ideas Lab. It is a really exciting project and it will be a wonderful legacy


Running with Trees 28 June

Join me for a run through the park to see what we can learn about trees, each other, our breathing and the climate.

Riverside Valley Park on Wednesday 28th June at 6.30pm, meeting in front of The Malt House, Harvester pub EX2 8BP.

The run is especially suitable for beginners/improvers. The run is 3.5km along the Exe Riverside Valley Park and includes three short stops. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear. The event is free but numbers are limited so please let me know if you are coming: mail@amculhane.co.uk

Running with Trees is part of a bigger project to create a community orchard and foraging route along the River Exe. There will be a number of activities in and around St Thomas & Exwick leading to a community planting event in January 2018.

I look forward to running with you.



Sketching out the route

Documentary photographer photojournalist, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset, Exeter, UK, abroad

Designing and sketching out the first drafts of the route have involved a series of meetings with staff from Environment Agency, contractor CH2M, Exeter City Council, Exeter College and the Wildlife Trust and have included input from local residents who I met during the research phase of the residency earlier in the year. I’ve been making site visits, researching rootstocks and varieties and going through details site plans. I’m taking into account the different uses of the site, different landownership, historical links, creating flow and linkage through the site, orientation and shade, proximity to routes and roadways (potential pollution levels), likely user groups. I’d like to consider the social aspects of the more concentrated areas of orchard planting when considering layout and design of these.

On 21 June there was an Orchard Lab day attended by 16 members of the local community. These included representatives from St Thomas in Bloom, members of Exwick community, Exwick’s Community Builder, Active Devon, Exeter City Council rangers, Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon & Cornwall House, Patient Participation Representative for St Thomas, St Thomas Community Association, Exeter Green Partnership, local ecologists, Environment Agency, local allotment holders and environmental artists. See the Orchard Lab post for more info.

Background to FLOW

My name is Anne-Marie Culhane, I live in Exmouth and work as a socially engaged eco-artist. This means that much of my creative practice happens with people in real places and involves projects that invite people into an active and enquiring relationship with each other and the land using a range of different tools, artforms and methods.

These including events, performances and long term projects and can involve drawings, photography, installation but also involves developing new ideas and projects with sustained legacy in collaboration with people and organisations.  This work is a response to the urgency of our times which calls for a radical re-alignment of our relationship to the wider world and exploratation of different ways of working together.


AM with wassail bowl created for a new Exeter wassail for 2016 at Exeter Community Garden, Streatham campus, Exeter University, part of a Soil Cultures residency with CCANW (Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World)

FLOW – Project Info.

I am working with Gingko Projects & East Devon Council, Exeter City Council and Devon Wildlife Trust on an Arts Council residency in Exeter along the River Exe in the Riverside Valley Park. This is a site of significant upheaval through the recent and ongoing flood prevention works by the Environment Agency. My brief is to draw people into the park, celebrate biodiversity and work in particular with the residents of St Thomas and Exwick. I had a busy research period from January to March investigating diatoms in the lab, walking the park with local residents with different perspectives on the site, learning more about Devon’s orchard heritage, deepening my understanding of the  carbon cycle and deciduous trees including the breating of fruit trees, meeting landscape architects and environment agency staff and connecting with the wider arts and environmental community in Exeter.

This work develops and extends themes I have explored in my work such as Abundance (urban fruit harvesting – winner Observer Ethical Award grassroots category); Fruit Routes & Orchard City Manifesto.


The resulting work is that I am reconfiguring part of the Environment Agency’s planting scheme to create a ribbon orchard and foraging route along the site (around 4 km) to enhance the habitat for pollinators and foragers of all descriptions. This is a complex partnership between different communities, landowners and government agencies and there are some great people involved.

The project includes an Orchard Ideas Lab on 21 June, a day with people from local communities of Exwick & St Thomas, Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency & Exeter City Council considering the possibilities of the project and feeding in local knowledge and ideas. I’ve also created a new performance piece Running With Trees taking groups running in the site to explore the relationship between trees, breath and carbon dioxide. Dr Tom Powell, earth systems scientist has been advising on scientific aspects & I’m collaborating with Amy Shelton (Honeyscribe) to make an Orchard Box to collect and share thoughts, ideas, visions, perspectives on the project with people.

Amy and myself have visited local orchards and collected blossoms from plants that are likely to be included in the scheme. These have been pressed and made into small slides which can be viewed and illuminated in the Orchard Box. The Orchard Box is visiting the St Thomas Festival on 2 & 3 September and Exwick Harvest lunch on 24 September. The planting of the trees for FLOW will happen at a public event & celebration in January 2018.  Please contact me if you would like to find out more or get involved in any aspect.