It's incredible, edible and in Wrexham town centre


Rhian Waller

THERE are spring onions, radishes and sprigs of mint and parsley at the ready, and more things growing under the ground.

But this isn’t a walled vegetable patch or the fresh produce aisle at the supermarket, it’s on Mount Street in Wrexham and set within grabbing-distance of the pavement.

It might seem an invitation to thievery but being able to grab free food is the whole point of the Incredible Edible Wrecsam project.

Katie Sexby, one of the co-ordinators of Incredible Edible Wrecsam, said: “We took this patch over from another team.

“They started it up, painted the mural and cleared the ground but unfortunately they didn’t have time to carry on.”

By the time Incredible Edible Wrecsam got to the patch of ground, time had taken its toll.

Hassen Mzali, another volunteer, said: “Nobody had been able to work on it, so all of the plants died off. It was pretty much a wasteland when we got here.”

Nature moves quickly. They are aware of this, which is why everything in both the conventional garden which has raised beds and the forest garden are organic and planted ‘sympathetically’.

Hassen added: “We haven’t had much of a problem with pests yet because the plants tend to provide protection for each other.

“Pests tend to be a bigger problem when you monocrop (grow plants of all the same type) because once one works out they can eat the plant then they’ve cracked the code for the whole field.

“It’s better to plant things in a mixed way. One plant will give off a scent certain insects don’t like, so they won’t approach. The whole garden is layered, so you have the trees that were already here (sycamore and rowan), the forest garden which is mulched and the raised beds.”

The plot measures about eight metres by three, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but there’s plenty packed in there. Katie said: “We have strawberry plants, salad leaves, carrots, celery, onions, beetroot, potatoes, cabbages, chard, courgettes, rhubarb, sweetcorn and black eye peas.

“There are also herbs and fruit bushes including blackcurrants and red currants. They’re great, because you just put them in and off they go.”

It’s a better range than many one-stop shops, although, of course, it’s seasonal.

There are no guarantees you’ll be able to pick up strawberries and sweetcorn at the same time.

Nor should anyone go picking if they don’t know what they are looking for.

Katie knelt beside a spiral of mushrooms. “They aren’t edible,” she said. “But the mycelium will be good for the soil so we’ll leave them here. People should only eat the things they are sure about.”

Self-seeding plants, if they can be eaten or are useful for the soil, are allowed to stay. Young nettle leaves go down a treat in a stew.

Katie said: “We came across the idea through Incredible Edible Todmorden. They take over bits of unused land and use them to grow food and their project has captured the public imagination.

Schools, businesses and the local authority have got on board, and Katie and her friends hope something similar will happen here. Katie said: “We wanted to grow food in the community and Todmorden gave us the push.

“We feel food should be accessible to everyone. I have my own garden, but not everyone is lucky enough to have that. This is more for other people.

“We’re at a time when people need good food more than ever. Foodbanks are giving out canned and dried foods but people also need fresh food. A lot of the time, fresh food can be the dearest. This is free.”

Not only is it free; it’s fresher than anything you will find in the shop, as most vegetables are freighted for miles before they reach their destination.

People living around Mount Street can eat food grown a matter of metres away.

Hassen added: “A lot of the time, you don’t know where food comes from when you buy it at the supermarket. We know exactly where this comes from because we planted the seeds.

“Growing your own food is something that should be happening more. It’s like printing money. It really does grow on trees  among other things.”

The patch does not take much to maintain. Katie said: “We’ll come here for a few hours a week because we’re still planting. Once it’s established, it should be even less work. It’s not formal. People wander by and help out.

“We get people asking what we’re doing as well, so just by being here people are finding out more.”

There is a certain amount of risk involved in planting so publically.

Katie said: “We did consider the amount of traffic, but actually it’s not too bad here, so the pollution won’t affect the plants too much.

“We’re also aware that the garden is vulnerable to vandalism, but nothing has happened so far. We did have someone uproot one of the herb plants and carry it away.

“Obviously we don’t want that to happen. We’re fine if people want to take some cuttings, but we want the plants to keep producing too.

“We hope people will realise that it’s here for them.”

So far, the project looks as though it is going to spread. Katie said: “We’ve had support from Wrexham Council. They’ve put forward several sites as possible gardens. We chose Madiera Hill, as it’s the most accessible.

“We’d love for people to get involved in other parts of the county or in Flintshire or Cheshire. All they need to do is keep their eyes open for any land that’s going to waste, whether they are bits of scrap land behind a building or abandoned fields.

“Then they can get in touch with us or contact the Community Advisory Land Service, they can tell you if it’s available.”

The Mount Street project is still open to anyone who wants to help out. It has become a bit of a family affair, with Katie’s son Calon, 10, digging in, and Hassen’s mother Christie Mzali joining the crew.

Christie said: “I’m a complete beginner so this whole thing is an experiment for me. If we can do it, anyone can.”

Find Incredible Edible Wrecsam by searching for them on Facebook.

See full story in the Leader

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