Starting from scratch in June 2018, Winchburgh is now a fresh food destination. Winchburgh Community Growing Group are growing food for the whole community all over the village – and they don’t even have a site yet!
Just 12 miles west of Edinburgh, the historic village of Winchburgh is growing rapidly. In the words of the developers working on the project, Winchburgh’s development is “one of the largest and most exciting placemaking projects currently underway in the UK...when complete, the masterplan will bring at least 3,450 new homes, improved transport links, employment opportunities, state-of-the-art schools and stunning new outdoor spaces to this historic village.”
In Spring 2018, inspired by the Incredible Edible movement and his own life-long passion for gardening and food growing, John West and Vivian Maeda responded to the developer’s community consultation by requesting a community food growing space be included in the plans for the area. He wasn’t the only one. As a result, the largest new district park to be created in Scotland this century will include a 1.5 acre community growing site, polytunnels, an orchard, housing for chickens, a tool library and a community meeting space for learning about food growing.
The dedicated community food growing area will be part of the Auldcathie Park but the site won’t be ready before 2021. There is contaminated land to deal with and lots of other work to complete before local people can start to use the site to grow food. However, Winchburgh Community Growing Group haven’t let this delay hold them back – quite the opposite in fact. They came up with an innovative ‘meanwhile’ solution to the lack of growing space and have created planters from wood donated initially by the developer and other local businesses. The first one was installed in June 2018. There are now 52 in total at locations all around the village – at churches, the pub,and other local businesses. Anyone interested can find out where any of the planters are by using the locator on the group’s website: https://www.winchburghcgg.co.uk/planter-locations
John, who works in IT in his day job, has also developed an App which allows local people to locate their nearest planter, tells them what it contains, when it can be harvested, and displays a diary of tasks that needs to be carried out to care for the crops. Users can then record what they’ve done so that others can see what needs doing next time they visit.
Some of the planters are sponsored by local businesses. For an annual fee, the group will install an embossed and engraved sign on the planter with the business name and logo. A sign is also added with a QR code, information about what’s growing and when to pick it which is even illuminated at night using solar power. The contents grown in the planter are also tied in with the sponsor and location – for example, the planter outside the bistro includes lots of chives that the chefs use in their dishes.
John explained how, in a rapidly growing and changing village, growing, harvesting and sharing food in this way has been really successful as a means of bringing the community together. Local people of all ages have got involved. Long-standing residents come out to meet their new neighbours, and everyone gets to try new food, learn new skills and play a part in improving their local area.
“We’ve recorded over 8,000 volunteer hours already. We have lots of different events and activities and vary these according to the season: we have autumn and spring plant-outs, Easter Egg hunts, Halloween and Burns Night trails – hunt the haggis anyone? This helps to keep everyone engaged and maintain the momentum. We’ll soon be planting 420 trees for future generations to enjoy and we have so many other projects in the pipeline, ” relects John. “It’s really rewarding to see so many people engaged and involved. It’s hard work but never a chore. I really believe in our motto – nature, nurture, naturally making our community thrive.”
If the group have managed to achieve this much in such a short time without a permenant growing space, we can’t wait to see how they get on when they finally get to move into the new space in 2021!
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