Communities go wild for new urban food growing initiative
The Tree Council is helping to reconnect town and city dwellers to the natural environment while introducing them to the joys of urban food forestry through an exciting new initiative called ‘Wild Hedges for Urban Edges’.
Supported by a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the environmental charity is planting and maintaining 20 ‘Wild Hedges’ in four different urban areas in Britain to demonstrate how fruit producing hedges can help to improve urban green spaces, for the benefit of both people and wildlife.
Natural, fruiting hedges can provide a source of free and sustainable food, boost wildlife biodiversity and enhance social cohesion by bringing communities together to plant, tend and harvest the produce from their wild hedges.
Since the two-year project launched in winter 2015, a total of 14 hedges have been created with communities in Portsmouth, Plymouth, London, and Coventry. This includes seven hedges in school grounds, planted with the help of 2,140 children and 35 volunteers, and seven hedges in parks and open spaces, engaging with 259 local residents, including people from mosque groups, church groups, transition town groups, scouts, brownies, schools and The Tree Council’s Tree Warden networks.
To ensure that the hedges reflect local conditions and needs, each one has been planted according to a planting plan drawn up with the local community or school. The hedge planters will take on responsibility for caring for their new wild hedges, which will become the focus of a series of events over the next year, from foraging walks to pruning workshops.
The Tree Council is also hoping that the scheme will inspire communities around the country to think about whether they could manage their existing hedges differently so as to boost their potential for fruit growing and biodiversity.
Tree Council Programme Director Margaret Lipscombe said: “We normally think of urban hedges as formal clipped green boxes, but if planted with fruiting trees and bushes and left to grow wild, with a minimum level of cutting, hedges can provide a fantastic source of local, free and healthy food – for both people and wildlife.
“Wild Hedges for Urban Edges takes inspiration from initiatives from around the world that are fighting food poverty through community fruit growing on urban brownfield and parkland space. It also ties in with the growing interest in wild food foraging and community orchards in the UK and builds on The Tree Council’s Hedgerow Harvest campaign, which aims to reconnect communities with their local trees and hedgerows.”