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Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3: Ford Lane Community Garden
2nd May 2017 Paul Riley

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3: Ford Lane Community Garden

Posted in Reasons to be Cheerful, Sustainability
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A Ford Lane hive in action…

From sunny Seaforth to a canalside garden oasis, we’re out and about enjoying the weather.

We like the whole Reasons to be Cheerful thing, so we’re running with it. We’re constantly discovering new initiatives, and it’s making us more and more optimistic about things. So from now on, when we hear about something, we’ll write about it.

Last week we were graced with a few stunning days of sunshine, and so we decided on a little field trip. While Seaforth Train Station may not be the first place that springs to mind to begin such an adventure, appearances can be deceiving. A few minutes’ walk found us on the canal towpath. As we walked north, with the beautiful Rimrose Valley Park to one side of us, we saw herons, swans and other birds swimming through the reeds or basking on the canalside. We got very jealous of some of the wonderful gardens on the opposite side of the waterway.

A canal boat garden fence

A gentle 30 minutes of this found us in a quiet estate in Litherland, where, hidden away behind a housing block, lies Ford Lane Garden. This little gem has been a community food growing space for over six years. It is a peaceful, idyllic setting with so much potential to work with and for the local community.

‘Many local residents have told us that there is nothing to do in the area, people are depressed and just need something to do, somewhere to go to get out of their homes’, noted Andrea Ku, Managing Director of B 4 Biodiversity CIC, ‘The garden is not only a food growing space but also a resource where local people can learn about horticulture, beekeeping, poultry farming, woodwork and joinery.’

The group are running accredited courses in beekeeping and joinery, where students can learn how to manage honeybees and their hives, plant for pollinators and harvest honey. They will also learn how to use hand tools and machinery to make garden furniture, homes for wildlife and also canoes which will be used on the canal.

So far, spring 2017 has seen Ford Lane Garden plant hundreds of seeds. Fruit and vegetables include asparagus, garlic, peppers, strawberries, melons and grapes. They also have an extensive range of herbs on the land. When not focusing on food growth, the group grow a variety of plants for wildlife as well as cut flowers for local floristry students including cornflowers, chrysanthemums, freesia, lillies, foxgloves, verbena and poppies.

As the garden has changed lease recently, it has spent winter and early spring not being tended to. Therefore, hard work and effort has been put in place to get it back to its glory. The group are building up a workforce of local and not-so-local people to come and help with maintenance, harvesting crop and learning to look after the bees. Happily, they have recently secured a grant of £12k to complete the garden, so things are looking rosy.

Unfortunately, they have also had some tribulations of late, as one of their polytunnels had been vandalised. It was infuriating to see the mindless destruction, with the walls sliced open by knives and the remainder of a fire in the middle of the floor. Sad, that people feel the need to do such things, particularly to a project that is designed to improve the quality of life for all. We hope to see that as the project grows, it is taken to the heart of the local community; once people take ownership over these type of things, they become something to protect and be proud of rather than something that can be trashed with impunity.

This garden is for everyone…

Ford Lane Garden have recently been in talks with The Canal and Rivers Trust and Sustrans to work together to build a network of healthy living projects which will play a part with development of the garden. One such project is the development of the landing site on the river, to encourage canoeists and canal boats to stop as they pass, take a look around the site and stock up on eggs, honey and fresh produce.

With other local food growing projects in Sefton, B 4 Biodiversity are also setting up a local food growing network. Residents and businesses can find out about what is happening in their local area and how local community projects can provide food security, improve health and wellbeing, enhance nature and all at the same time create positive and aesthetically beautiful places.

We left Andrea and her team, taking away a few peppermint cuttings and a head full of ideas for collaborations and conversations. As we walked back to Seaforth, this time through Rimrose Valley itself, we were reminded again of the wealth of natural beauty and wonderful initiatives that are all over the place. This will be the first field trip of many.

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