We spoke to volunteers Gemma and Joy, who were inspired to join Incredible Edible after hearing about an area of unloved land with potential. Here they tell us how they transformed the space into a community and wildlife haven, Garforth Community Wildlife Area.
Our involvement with Garforth Community Wildlife Area started when we went to the supermarket one day and ended up talking to Incredible Edible, as they were doing a seed giveaway. We expressed our interest in supporting them and they told us about a plot of land belonging to the council, an overgrown gated area behind some houses. The area was unused by anyone but a beekeeper and the occasional dog walker however Dan, from Incredible Edible Garforth, believed the urban green space had potential to become a community asset and haven for wildlife.
We believed the urban green space had potential to become a community asset and haven for wildlife
Hearing Incredible Edible’s plan to build box planters on a grassy area of the plot, Joy volunteered to help, even though she had never grown anything before. Because it's not a competitive project people feel okay saying ‘I've never done this’; it's been a really nice way for people to come together.
Starting from nothing we’ve since established a huge box for growing vegetables and local people have been encouraged to help themselves to produce such as potatoes and herbs. We shared our growing progress on social media to get a bigger reach.
A friend who lives opposite has contributed with watering; she's absolutely mesmerized by the planter. We even involved a new neighbour, who has done an amazing job digging up brambles. It's brilliant how the project makes people talk to each other. That's the idea of Incredible Edible, encouraging people to make connections.
It's brilliant how the project makes people talk to each other. That's the idea of Incredible Edible, encouraging people to make connections.
Garforth Community Wildlife Area has two sections. The grassy area planters were built on is now a more formal growing space. The other section is a gated wildlife area, where we have focused the work supported by Grow Wild.
In the gated wildlife area, we created a path which goes all around the space, using bark chips from a local tree surgeon and rubble we removed when digging. We planted naturalised spring bulbs along the path edges such as blue bells, wood anemones and aconites in addition to sowing a UK native wildflower area, including varieties recommended by a Kew expert at a Grow Wild training session. The kids loved wildflower sowing. We planted a 10-metre hedgerow with UK-natives such as hazel, dogwood, hawthorn, and crab apple saplings but it’s also nice to be linked with Incredible Edible through fruit so we included blackcurrants, gooseberries and jostaberries.
We planted a 10-metre hedgerow with UK-natives such as hazel, dogwood, hawthorn, and crab apple saplings
A local group are looking to introduce rescued hedgehogs to the site, so we have built hedgehog houses and found out what plants attract the bugs that hedgehogs like. Although it's early days, we already know that foxes, hedgehogs and birds like woodpeckers and robins are visiting.
Amongst the pathways are large social spaces that are clear enough for people to gather, containing seating and hopefully a fire pit in the future. We have also developed a den building area, compost zone, hedgehog zone and we have a pond underway. We had to clear a route to some apple trees on the site because they weren't very accessible. There were also brambles covering the site, but a volunteer offered to help remove these. We don't like to plan too much because we don't know what we're going to discover.
Unexpectedly, children have often been the instigators of supporting the project and brought their parents along. Since the space is fully enclosed, it's wild, but safe and exciting, meaning parents can let their children run off and be adventurous.
It's wild, but safe and exciting, meaning parents can let their children run off and be adventurous
In addition to regular volunteers, we have had corporate volunteers visit. It was their idea to use the rubble to make path edging. We have found you have to be open and not too prescriptive with community projects as it invites more ideas from people. It's brilliant that this land, which sat having dogs messing on it, is now a usable space. It feels onerous sometimes because it's such a big area to clear and you can get overwhelmed, but you must focus on one section at a time.
The Grow Wild funding has meant that rather than just talking about the project, we have been able to get on with it. In addition to the community workshop and the pond, the funding has paid for water flasks, tea, coffee, a table, an event shelter for when the weather's bad - things that make community events appealing to people. We are also hoping that in the future we might put a container in the space to use as both storage and a meeting place for activities.
We're going to need more funding to complete our other ideas such as planting a community orchard and a big field of sunflowers and working with schools to build houses for birds and bugs. We have really felt supported by Grow Wild, it’s a motivator and the training sessions really spurred people on.
We have really felt supported by Grow Wild, it’s a motivator and the training sessions really spurred people on.
Grow Wild Community Grants
The project led by Incredible Edible was one of seven projects supported by a Grow Wild Community Grant in 2022. If you're interested in applying for a grant or finding out more about the other groups funded, explore the resources below.