Posted on 30 September 2016.
Last week, four of our Master Gardeners from North West Leicestershire joined representatives of NWL District Council, Coalville Heroes and Voluntary Action Leicestershire on a visit to the inspirational Incredible Edible Todmorden project in West Yorkshire. They have been meeting together over the past few months to explore ways in which they can develop community food growing in Coalville and Ashby in particular. Coalville Heroes are currently working with the support of the others on this trip, on a project to develop a community garden, which will serve as a learning and meeting point for Coalville residents who want to enjoy the social, physical and mental health benefits of growing together.
Veg Beds Outside the College Educate Everyone About Crop Rotation
In the past 12 months, similar expeditions have inspired our Master Gardeners and other community growing stakeholders in the Harborough District and in Oadby & Wigston Borough. In Harborough, Sustainable Harborough worked with the council to run a public consultation, which demonstrated a strong support for more community growing in Market Harborough. Master Gardener Judy Rowley has gone on to initiate Grow and Pick, a community group transforming neglected areas of the town with edible planting. She is also continuing to offer her support to new growers through the Master Gardeners programme.
In Oadby & Wigston, the Todmorden visit in March was followed by the establishment of Incredible Edible Oadby & Wigston, which has already initiated several new growing projects around the borough and secured funding for a new food garden at the Bassett Street Community Hub in Wigston. A food growing themed mural is planned for the Wigston Railway Bridge as part of a project to develop edible gardens around the station and its approaches.
Pictures from our NWL visit, with descriptive captions, can be seen on our Facebook page by clicking here or on the Garden Organic Flickr pages here
Deanna exploring the willow bee hive
Highlights of the trip included the willow bee hive, which is part of an area that was once full of the detritus of drink and drugs sessions, in the shelter of a canal tunnel in the centre of town. Now, Coalville Heroes Director, Deanna Wildgoose, can safely crawl through a willow representation of a bee hive on the same spot, that encourages local children to learn about the importance of bees for pollination of crops and honey production. Growing by this feature is a soap garden containing plants used by a local soap manufacturer, and a little further along, an apricot tree flourishes on a south facing wall, warmed by the ovens of the Take Away behind. This is a town bursting with herbs and salads, available for anyone to pick. In the late summer and autumn, the health centre, market, canal tow path, theatre, community college and parks offer a bounty of fruit which rapidly disappears as the locals descend to beat the birds to the pickings.
Kindness and Food, the Key to Successful Community Engagement
Less obvious to the day tripper, but of greater importance to the town, is the way in which all this community gardening has brought people together to enjoy growing and cooking, rather than viewing their activities as volunteering for others’ benefit. The key word is ‘Kindness’, written in large white letters in gardens around the town. This focus on food, and particularly sharing good locally sourced food, is a language understood by all classes, races and creeds. It has helped rejuvenate local food businesses and reduced antisocial behaviour as the townspeople now take a real pride in their surroundings. Todmorden is now the destination for tourists from across the world, looking to see how its lessons might be applied in their own towns and cities. ‘Veggie Tourism’ has even struck police services, who come to find out how growing sweetcorn outside the Police Station has helped improve the town’s community policing.
Fun But Educational. Keeping Everyone in the Know and Encouraging Participation
Throughout the day there was an excitement and inspiration around every corner and on the way home, the bus was buzzing with conversation and ideas. We wait with eager anticipation to see what this bus load of community growing advocates will inspire the people of North West Leicestershire to achieve in the coming years.