At the beginning of the year Gus Hoyt, Ashley Green Councillor and foodie, introduced us to Heather Cullimore of the Severnside Community Rail Partnership, who, amongst other things, work on the railway that runs from Temple Meads to Severn Beach. We quickly decided we wanted to bring food to the Severn Beach line in the form of a growing project that would see us working with schools that are local to the railway stations and community groups to plant up and maintain beds on the platforms of each of the nine stations on the line. We discussed what the beds might look like, with the first thought being that thy would be made of railway sleepers, but we then found planters made by John Packer, which meant that they would be designed a fabricated in Bristol, making it a truly local project. The other bonus to this is that the planters double up as cycle stands, meaning that there are now an extra 4 bicycle spaces at each station as well as fresh food available to anyone using the stations.
The project has also included an arts project with two local artists, Karen Hayes who works with words and Barbara Disney, who works with visuals, that has seen schools along the line make a piece of artwork that talks about their food experiences and preferences. These will be hung nearby to the planters as pieces of permanent artwork that are on enamel plaques as a nod to the traditional enamel plaques that we see on traditional railway stations.
The project has also included adding a water butt and a recycling bin to each station along the line, seeing Severnside Community Rail Partnership really embracing the idea of turning the line green for 2015. This now means that each station can sustain the watering for the beds without any concern about having to use tap water, accessing water that would otherwise be wasted.
Last week, over 2 days, the planters were planted with a huge variety of edible plants from fruit to herbs and vegetables. In some places we had been asked by community groups or local people to include certain plants and this has lead our decisions on what to plant so Redland Station has a herb garden in its planters and Shirehampton has tomatoes, beans and basil in one of it’s planters. Soon there will be a recipe card on each of the stations community noticeboards too, giving inspiration as to what to cook when the produce is ready.
This has been an amazing project to work on and we hope that it will end up spreading to all of the station platforms that are looked after by Severnside Community Rail Partnership. What it has proved to us is that working collaboratively with so many different people creates a project that is both exciting, inspirational and can involve communities that are otherwise hard to meet. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved.