Free Food Growing Courses!!

Pumpkins at Cultivation Place

We hope that got your attention!!

Pumpkins at Cultivation Place

With thanks to the National Lottery we are able to offer some free courses to people living in certain parts of Bristol. We have chosen the areas based on some work we undertook last year that focuses on things that stop people becoming involved in food growing and gardening, as we believe it is vital to the future of horticulture that gardening becomes accessible and a place everyone feels welcome.

And what do we mean by gardening? It’s not just pretty flowers. with that it’s likely that the word gardening in the uk is really one that is going to be relegated to the past, as when we look at the gardening media, programmes about gardening and gardening events, and see that gardening as a concept appears to be one that is white, middle class, and one that relies on access to land. We don’t think this is fair, or right, as we know that across our towns and cities there are people growing food, growing flowers and tending to spaces for nature, who are from our diverse and marginalised communities. We know that up and down the UK we see refugees and asylum seekers growing food and community on allotments and other community spaces. We also know that most allotment sites are microcosms of the community that surrounds them, and as well as being important for growing and for individuals to feel connected with our planet, they are also vital places for communities to meet and to begin to understand and integrate with each other. They are places where food cultures meet, where a diversity of seeds are exchanged and where generational skills are passed to new people to keep those skills alive.

So with that when we hear communities telling us that they don’t get involved because they don’t recognise themselves in what they see as gardening on TV, in the media and at events, we see that we need to take up the challenge and create a new world that comes from a garden, but a garden where we all feel at home. Where everyone is equal and where food and growing culture is celebrated whilst we work on the acts of food growing and healthy land management. Where gardening doesn’t mean owning land, but where the creation of a garden from lost, unloved space in a city is celebrated and seen as communities finding their their own responses to the huge global issues of the climate and biodiversity, as well as working towards food justice.

Of course there’s more to it than just enthusing and welcoming people. Access to land to grow is becoming more and more of an issue, and further and further from people’s reality. The most marginalised people in cities are always those with least access to land and to nature and when we think about Bristol and it’s high rises it’s not difficult to see that is as true here as anywhere else. Land is at such a premium that it’s nigh on impossible to access it without generational wealth, and again that most negatively affects marginal, or new communities in the city. But surely then that is an ask to our city council and others, to open up land, open up parks and public housing land, to communities wanting to grow. The huge tracts of land that surround our tower blocks, the marginal areas of the city, the railway sidings and space waiting to be developed, are all possibilities with the right policy in place and an understanding that as a species we need to connect with nature and with soil and where our food comes from.

Gardening has become a safe space according to the garden media. We are set to show that gardening and food growing is revolutionary and creates opportunities not just for people to connect, but to create jobs, through education and an understanding that if we are to decarbonise we need land based livelihoods and localised food systems. And this is our hope with these free courses. If people have not had the opportunity to have a go, to grow something, anything, how can they take the opportunities that gardening gives seriously? This is the opportunity to change that!

Eventually we hope this course will be available to all and that paying participants will subsidise free places, but for now check the list below of postcodes that qualify and we look forward to seeing you in the garden!

Courses are free for people from the following postcodes. BS2,BS3,BS4, BS5,BS7, BS11, BS13,BS14,BS16

Once signed up we will contact you and ask 2 questions-what is your postcode and most importantly what is it that makes you feel unwelcome in the gardening world?

Links to courses will be here and will be regularly updated

We Need To Talk About The Bearpit

In March of this year, just as we had received funding to continue our work in the Bearpit, (James Barton roundabout) we were asked by the head of green and blue places in the city, to cease working on the garden as they had come up with a plan that was all about creating a pollinator rich garden where the garden we had worked on since 2016 was.

Now, for sure the garden was, at that point, far from perfect. The ravages of 2017 when the space was inaccessible, mixed with a lack of funding for the garden and then Covid on top of that, when all volunteering in public spaces was stopped, rightly, but the Bristol Parks team, meant that there was a lot of work to do in the space, but having procured funding from an outside source, which would have meant a team in the garden for a day a week, we were excited to bring the garden back to a place where food and pollinator rich planting was abundant.

Unfortunately what seems to have happened since is absolutely nothing. The plants are all overgrown, it’s covered in litter and filth, and it feels immensely disrespectful that a space that had been worked on entirely voluntarily, and which over the years had only cost Bristol Council ¬£7,500 in funding in the first year, has been left to rack and ruin.

What also is of concern is that there was no consultation from the council on this decision, whereas before our garden was designed and planted we had spent days engaging with people in the Bearpit and those who used it regularly. Every single person we spoke to wanted to see nature and food as a part of the garden, which is why the garden was designed as a food forest.

We are really both sad and angry that this has happened. We have sat back and said nothing as we expected the council teams to respect the work that had been done and continue it in some way. But instead we see hugely expensive containers and baskets full of flowers that might be bright but which speak nothing to the climate or biodiversity crisis we have acknowledged.

As COP26 is happening we would like to call on the council to recognise the failure of this space, and a need to do better in public spaces, and especially in spaces that they have removed from community organisations with no consultation at all. The city centre ought to be a place of richness and abundance in spaces where planting takes place, and instead off which looks sad and neglected. From the Bearpit to the area around the Cenotaph and the fountains, the planting is unimaginative and where there could be rain gardens, vertical planting and food, there is nothing more interesting than you might see in a supermarket car park. We have acknowledged climate and biodiversity crises, and yet the city is not seeming to respond.

We would like to add that this is nothing against Bristol Parks department who’s support we have always been grateful for.

But this is a call to return the Bearpit to us, and fund us to do the work to recreate a garden that had international acclaim, brought in visitors from far and wide, and added to the culture in the city centre. And as a reminder here is what it looked like in it’s hey day……

Response to the Declaration Of An Ecological Emergency in Bristol

Firstly we applaud the bravery of this declaration. It’s never going to be the right time, the appropriate time, to call an emergency, and there will always be what can be seen as hypocrisies, but the declaration itself shows a will for change and an understanding that that change is vital and needs to happen today.

Over the 6 years that Incredible Edible Bristol has been working, across the 50 sites we have supported there has always been conversation around growing food with nature and providing food for pollinators, birds and other creatures who are an important part of the city’s ecosystem. Sometimes this looks like leaving certain weeds in place, knowing that they are important for a certain individual at that point in the year, sometimes it’s about leaving crops to flower and go to seed, and sometimes this looks like using ornamental plants and herbs as important parts of the planting scheme and acknowledging that they are as important as the crops we are growing.

Planting fruit trees which flower over a long period, utilising perennial crops that offer food and habitat, creating habitats within the gardens and having an ongoing conversation around the importance of looking after wildlife have always been key to our work, along with sharing the skills so that individuals and communities can create their own spaces for food and wildlife.

However, it also means looking at how we grow and ensuring that we are not harming nature in order to create these spaces. Ensuring all our spaces are peat free and pesticide free is a vital part of what we do, and we would call on gardeners and growers across the city to go peat free and stop any pesticide use. We would also call for all organisations that manage land to do the same, to utilise biological controls where there is a need, but also to concentrate on creating and supporting ecosystems that support themselves, as we do. After all, once aphids appear so will the ladybirds and other natural predators!

We also think it’s an important point to say that whilst the ecological and climate emergencies are very similar they are also different and whilst there appears to be an emphasis on carbon, and planting trees, these emergencies are far more complex than just that. Of course we need to address carbon and carbon capture but we also need to create safe spaces for wildlife that are pesticide free and understand that as humans we have created these crises and it is up to us to make reparations for wildlife. Bringing ecology and good horticultural practice together to achieve this is vital.

We look forward to working towards a future where all of Bristol’s populations are healthy and thriving and to supporting these changes in the city.

2019-An Incredible Year in Bristol

As we head into 2020 we thought it might be good to look back at our achievements in 2019 and look at plans coming in 2020. In many ways 2019 was a difficult year so before we go onto achievements we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone across the city who helped and supported us through last year.

Last year saw our work with Severnside Community Rail Partnership increase as we supported the creation of the Secret Garden at Avonmouth station, working with community payback groups and corporate volunteers. The garden, under the supervision of our facilitator Luke, has gone from strength to strength, and is supporting lunch clubs at Avonmouth Community Centre with vegetables. This year will see us continue to work with the local community to grow more food and the garden continue to support outdoor learning and experiences in the Avonmouth area.

The work across the Urban Food Trail continued and the gardens are now becoming well established. The trees in Millennium Square saw their first good crop of fruit and many of the perennial plants really began to crop well. As we move forwards the Millennium Square gardens will be seeing a redesign over the next months, but we will ensure they remain as productive as possible.

Work in the Bearpit was put on hold for most of last year as we felt it was an unsafe space for our volunteers but once Bristol City Council had cleaned the space and it became safer we spent a few work parties down there, beginning a big tidy up and bringing the garden back to where it ought to be. Again as we step into 2020 we will be continuing this work, bringing food and nature to the city centre and working to create an urban harvest that is available to the whole city.

Another project we were thrilled to be a part of was the city centre’s Business Improvement District’s Greener Bristol campaign, which saw 36 individual raised beds installed a cross the city, all growing fresh herbs, fruit, salads and vegetables for people to help themselves to. This has been a fantastically successful project and we look forward to working on the beds as the year continues. We will be adding both nature friendly plants that support pollinators in the city and more vegetables and edible flowers to the beds over the coming months and invite everyone to help themselves to the crops.

We also engaged with our first team of core volunteers who are all committed to joining us at least once per month and to whom we offer some more structured learning about all things food growing and Incredible. We will be taking in new core volunteers every six months or so, with the next team being advertised for later in January and it has been fantastic to meet and work with such a great bunch of people and support them to learn more.

Finally this year will be the year we open our Learning Zone at Speedwell Allotments, where we will offer courses and workshops as we were doing previously. We have achieved a massive amount of progress at the site, and will continue to do so in the first few months of 2020, and we are excited to officially open the site and begin to support more people to grow in spaces across the city, and grow well and successfully!!

So as we move into 2020, Happy New Year to you all and here’s to a great year of growing both food and community!!

On Being Given A Garden

Plants are always one of our biggest challenges and we are very fortunate to have some local nurseries and garden centres who regularly donate to us, either stock they can no longer use or plants that we have cheekily asked for. However, gardens such as the Bearpit and the Quakers Burial Ground, our Edible Park, are large and often what appears to be a large number of plants actually really don’t go very far.

The other challenge with the Quakers Burial Ground is it’s shade. A magnificent plane stands in it’s midst which throws shade across most of the garden and although that is of course welcome on a hot day, it’s a challenge to find plants that will be happy to live under and around it.

So imagine our absolute joy when we were offered an entire show garden of plants from RHS Tatton, by garden designer and friend of Incredible Edible Bristol, Giulio Passarelli. I met Giulio in Sheffield on my trip to meet Ron Finley in 2014 and we have remained in touch and when he found out that he had been given the opportunity of making a show garden this year, Giulio was determined that we have the plants.

 

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Now some people have assumed that what this means is that we will be recreating the garden, but that could not be further from the truth. there will be no putting down of an unwanted, and unconsulted about garden in a space where it is assumed local volunteers will look after it. That has been done far too many times and sadly often ends up with a sad looking garden in an even sadder looking space. What we will be receiving is the plants to do with as we will. To spread out amongst our gardens and to make change in the spaces that we are already working in.

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The plants are not edible so will not be appropriate for many of our gardens but for spaces such as the Quakers Burial Ground and The Bearpit Garden, where beauty jostles with productivity , they will add an extra dimension to what we already do. And they will continue to help us not just to create beautiful and productive gardens in lost and unloved spaces, but they will support us to continue to challenge and question the ways in which public space is used in our cities.

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We Are Off To RHS Malvern

We were really thrilled recently to be approached by the RHS Malvern edible team and asked to plant up 2 small raised bed gardens at the RHS Malvern Spring Show, which runs from 11th to 14th May. You can find more information about the show here.

The gardens will really talk of what we do, with one focussing on our food growing and speaking of our ethos and methodology, and one focussing on edible flowers, whilst speaking of the importance of supporting local growers and producers. They will be both beautiful and productive, show the importance of good horticultural knowledge and understanding when working in the public realm and show what that space could look like if  good horticulture was embedded in policy in towns and cities across the UK.

Our founder, Sara Venn, will also be talking at the show and taking part in a couple of conversations about food and growing. We will release the timetable of talks once it has been verified and officially announced.

Our wonderful pals at Almondsbury Garden Centre have already helped us with the plants that we need and we have had a beautiful centre piece created by KWMC-The Factory, so plans are well underway. The gardens will be manned, as it were, by members of our team and by our Incredible Community Gardeners, without whom we would achieve nothing, so if you are at the show please do pop along and have a chat with us and find out how you can get involved with us if you are in Bristol, or how you can get involved with the wider Incredible edible Movement if you live farther afield!!

See you there…….IMG_4647

 

Diversity in Millennium Square

Once again we need your support!!

We have once again been successful in getting through to the vote on a Bags of Help grant from Tesco and we need you to help us by voting for us when you are in store!! The money will go towards creating a bed at Millennium Square that will speak of the diversity of our city, its amazing multiculturalism and some of the extraordinary cuisines that we have across Bristol.

Chillies, okra, beans, amaranth, pumpkins and squash, lablab beans, long beans and locust beans will jostle together along with crops of greens rarely seen in the UK. As usual the bed will be both beautiful and productive and we will be consulting with our friends at 91 Ways about the project!!

if we get the full amount we will also be producing a free cookbook which we will make available to all libraries, school and community groups across the city that offer recipes both from the bed in Millennium Square and all our other beds across the city. The recipes will be a mixture from chefs that we know and trust to recipes we make all the time in our own homes.

So can we please ask that if you shop in the below branches of Tesco, you ask for a token and pop it into our box?

BRISTOL METRO Metro BS1 3DW
BRISTOL EAST EXTRA Extra BS5 6XU
BRISTOL EAST EXTRA Extra BS5 6XU
WINE ST BRISTOL EXP Express BS1 2PH
BLENHEIM CT BRSTL EXP Express BS1 3LA
BRISTOL CLARE ST EXP Express BS1 1XR
COLLEGE BRISTOL EXP Express BS1 5SP
BRISTOL CANONS EXP Express BS1 5TY
CHELTNHM RD BRSTL EXP Express BS6 5RL
BRISTOL PARAGON EXP Express BS1 2HJ

Thank you all!!img_2643

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Legacy!

This morning our Project Lead, Sara Venn was interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol and we were horrified that there was a question as to whether Incredible Edible Bristol would continue post European Green Capital year. With that in mind we would like to ensure you all are aware that Incredible Edible Bristol, as with all Incredible Edible projects worldwide is permanent and ongoing and we are all completely committed to all the projects we are working on.

Next year will see us continue to work on our Urban Food Trail, support more communities to create food growing spaces in areas that are a little unloved and lost, sign up more schools to our schools programme and continue to work with Food Route Local to ensure more food goes to people that can use it, as well as working on phase 2 of the project on the Severn Beach Line with Severnside Community Rail Partnership. Alongside this we will be working on Food Connections, leading the Land and Growing theme for the festival.

We will, of course, keep you all up to date with all that is going on.

In the meantime keep up to date with us at Facebook, on Twitter (@ediblebristol) and here to find out how you can get involved!!

And remember, if you eat, you’re in!!IMG_4647