Incredible journey of community project that’s flourished in just one year

A community project supported by Riverside has turned open spaces into plots where fruit, veg and flowers can grow. Now the project is in the running for an environmental award. Chair Richard Kelly reflects on 12 great months for Incredible Edible Valley…

Land next to bus stops, a primary school and even the grounds of a doctors’ surgery… they’ve all become community growing spaces thanks to Incredible Edible Valley.

The initiative in Belle Vale, Liverpool, is for the whole community to get involved in and benefit from. It is a volunteer based project for people to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs together on public green space, pick and eat it.

It all began after Riverside attended an Incredible Edible conference with the idea of residents growing free food locally – and as we have great community spirit in Belle Vale this was something that would benefit everyone. So early last year, Riverside started the process and set up an Incredible Edible group, and this drew support from residents across the estates. Our collective interest to grow our own fruit and vegetables, improve wildlife and educate children on the importance of fresh produce spurred us to make it a success.

Riverside donated £5,000 to purchase gardening equipment and plants. In addition, they helped us secure funding from Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services, and The Mayor’s Hope Fund, as well as 105 wild fruit trees from The Woodland Trust. The housing association has also provided us with a garden coordinator for two days a week to support us and oversee the initiative.

Incredible Edible Valley in Belle Vale shortlisted for environmental award

To inspire us, we visited an Incredible Edible scheme in Yorkshire to see what could be achieved in Belle Vale. The next step was to identify areas we could create vegetable patches and edible flowers for locals to pick and take home – looking at areas in parks, next to bus stops, a church, sheltered scheme, primary school and in the grounds of the local doctor’s surgery. Funding was also secured to purchase fruit trees to create orchards on waste ground. This was all done in just the first year!

Our main base for Incredible Edible Valley is at Widmore Gardens; an allotment site owned by Riverside with plots rented out to residents, Lee Valley Pensioners Group and Palmerston School. So far we have 13 planting sites across the area with a range of fruit, vegetables and herbs looked after by our dedicated group of volunteers.

Children from St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School are also involved and have created an allotment in the school grounds. Ripened produce is then used in school dinners and any produce left over is given to parents. Local organisations and gardeners of all ages are involved; including nursery children and residents of Riverside’s retirement living scheme. We liaise with them and give gardening advice on what will grow. This approach ensures that everyone is kept engaged, and supports our longer term sustainability of growing, picking and eating the produce.

In just one year we have achieved so much, and established ourselves as a strong community group of volunteers. We are continuing to strive to enhance the neighbourhood’s green spaces, and involve and empower locals to make the area a healthier place to live.

  • Incredible Edible Valley has been shortlisted for a Liverpool Echo Environmental Award 2017 in the Neighbourhood Improvement Project category. The ceremony takes place on Thursday 27 April.