Over the weekend I got involved in a project that Sustainable Didcot (one of the local Community Action Groups) is putting together under the banner ‘Incredible Edible Didcot‘. The aim of the Incredible Edible movement is to encourage edible planting in public/communal areas, so that local people have access to food they can pick, but also so that people can come together with a sense of community. Sustainable Didcot have a community allotment, with a polytunnel, on the site where I used to have my allotment (our tenures didn’t coincide!), but this will be their first public planting.
In Didcot town centre, nestled between Wilkos, the cinema and the Cornerstones art centre, is a set of stairs with a sloping zig-zag path for wheelchair/pushchair access and brick planters with seats. I’ve never given it much thought, but it’s quite a nice public space. The current planting is distinctly low maintenance – all tough and hardy shrubs – that have received little care. With lavender and rosemary it’s still a bee magnet.
The planters are in tiers up the stairs, and the current plan is to tackle the lowest level first. Although some of the top tiers have been a bit abused in terms of litter, the lower levels (nearer security cameras and plenty of people) seem to have escaped the worst of that – although they do have to contend with the occasional cigarette butt.
Sustainable Didcot’s Facebook post on the topic gathered more than 5000 views in a few days, accompanied with offers of practical help and donations of plants – various mints and lemon balm, oregano and marjoram and alpine strawberries. I have at least one clump of garlic chives I can contribute (I’m sure there are two; one of them is hiding!), wild strawberries and some cultivated strawberries that haven’t found a home in my front garden planting. A local business also stepped forward as a possible sponsor.
The project isn’t without its challenges. The soil is very hard and looks poor; the existing shrubs that need to come out are large and mature and will take some removing! We will need fresh compost and (possibly) bark chips for mulching and to carry water in with us as there’s none on tap.
It will be a new experience for Didcot, and we’re hoping to engage with the public as much as possible to get them on board and to explain the project, and we’ll need labels for the plants and signs to encourage (or discourage!) people from picking the different herbs at various times in the year. In dry weather the plants will need people passing through to bring them some water.
So…it’s a challenge and an exciting project, and we’re already planning things we could plant in the higher tiers if it all goes well 🙂
The first planting day is pencilled in for 21st August, and if you’d like to get involved (Digging and planting?
Making some signs? Herb donations?) then either say hello on the Sustainable Didcot Facebook page, or send an email.