Didsbury orchards, allotments and community gardens

1365656_26294722If you’ve mastered the art of growing on a windowsill – or just fancy some company while you plant – Didsbury is a great place to stretch those green fingers. All of the organisations listed here also supply produce to the public. You can’t get much lower-carbon than that!

Didsbury Greening and Growing Group

Didsbury Greening and Growing Group is an initiative started and with the support of Didsbury Civic Society. It aims to make a practical and tangible difference to our local landscape. One of its plans is to grow more local food, with more allotments and orchards. In April 2011 it began work on a new community orchard in Didsbury – establishing 40 native fruit trees, plus blackberries and raspberries to be enjoyed by anyone! Plus there are tremendous plans to construct a water turbine at Northenden Weir which will generate enough electricity for more than 50 homes.

For more information or to get involved in these projects, or to suggest others which interest you, contact John or Judy by email.

Bradley Fold Allotments

Bradley Fold is a thriving allotments society on Ford Lane. It currently has around 130 plot holders with many more on the waiting list.

Every July and September, people can buy produce from the allotments, with the sales proceeds going to charity. These fresh produce sales started in 2007, after growing awareness that much of the food grown on the allotments wasn’t harvested during summer gluts, and was thus being wasted.

Over the years, the produce sales have raised money to support small, local gardening projects, working with community groups. The sales proceeds currently support Abundance, to which Bradley Fold also donates any spare produce that people wish to give between sales.

The Thyme Out Delicatessen/Didsbury Life Community Garden

The concept of the community garden came about in 2010. Ben Hayes, owner of Thyme Out Delicatessen on Nell Lane, asked Didsbury Life to advertise his ‘secret garden’ – a series of allotment plots to the rear of the shop. With the growing popularity of the deli, he didn’t have time to maintain them and so was happy to let them to people who’d take over responsibility for their upkeep.

Says Helen Corr of Didsbury Life:

“When I was putting information on Didsbury Life I suddenly thought – why don’t we get a group of friends together and do it ourselves? It made perfect sense. So, with three sets of friends, and their nine children between them, we began digging, weeding and planting the raised beds. The borders around the garden were also handed over to us – and this was when the community garden idea started to form.

“On investigating the borders we found blackberry bushes and rhubarb plants, apple, fig and pear trees – all groaning with fruit. And far too much for us! We decided to approach local, independent restaurants to see if they could use the surplus.

“Oli from Rhubarb Restaurant was soon cutting the rhubarb – which he deemed “the best ever” – and creating rhubarb-based cocktails. Being a cocktailmaker extraordinaire, he also whipped up a divine fig-based cocktail! Folk Café Bar used the blackberries to create the most amazing blackberry tarts and Silver Apples made – guess what? – juicy and succulent apple pies.

“We’re looking forward to more bumper crops of fruit and vegetables, and to supplying more local independent restaurants with our surplus produce.”

For further information, contact Helen on 0161 445 7759.

Parrs Wood Rural Studies Centre

Parrs Wood Rural Studies Centre is a four-acre oasis tucked away next to the Parrs Wood leisure complex beside the busy A34. Within its grounds are two orchards, fruit and herb gardens, a mixed woodland, meadow and pond, a greenhouse with tropical plants and more. The orchards provide an abundance of fruit in the harvest season, which is preserved by expert jam makers from the Friends of Parrs Wood Rural Studies Centre. Jams and preserves are sold at fundraising open days.

The Study Centre opened back in 1947 to teach city children the ways of rural life. They came on a weekly or fortnightly basis and created their own garden of fruit, vegetables and flowers. Approximately 900 children visited a week and the Centre received up to 10,000 annual visits from both children and adults.

Says Penny Skerrett, artist in residence at the Centre:

“The Centre faced closure two decades ago, but was saved by a highly spirited and heartfelt campaign involving many local people. A small but dedicated group of volunteers has worked tirelessly aiming to restore the Centre to its former glory. They now work in association with the adjacent Parrs Wood High School. They have done a tremendous job and with the ongoing support from the local community at the regular fundraising events, have managed to keep it ticking over financially. But there is still plenty to do and they remain ambitious in their intentions.

“Working the land is hard work but it is also deeply gratifying and great fun when it is done communally. If you would like to help out and have a look around then you will be made very welcome at a volunteer day.”

For more information about The Friends of Parrs Wood Rural Studies Centre or for volunteering visit www.parrswoodruralstudies.org.uk or call Kit on 0161 431 9903.

Abundance Manchester

Every year hundreds of fruit trees in Manchester go unpicked. This is because people either don’t notice them, can’t physically harvest them or there is just too much fruit at one time.

Abundance is a team of volunteers who help harvest city fruit. They redistribute the surplus fruit to the local community on a non-profit basis. Recipients include destitute asylum seekers and a community café.

Abundance Manchester also juices the fruit and make jams, chutneys and crumbles, which are given away, too.

Says Nicola Scott, a co-coordinator for Abundance Manchester:

“Work continues through the seasonal cycle with pruning workshops at Kenworthy Community orchard near Chorlton Water Park supported by the city’s Growing Manchester programme. These workshops enable local people to learn how to look after their fruit trees to produce future harvests. Please see the Kenworthy Orchard pages of our website for more details.

“Manchester Abundance has created a community allotment plot in a West Didsbury car park to grow and distribute produce. It also collects vegetables from Bradley Fold allotments to redistribute nearby. Each year, Didsbury brings us an abundant harvest of apples, grapes and figs!

“Abundance is a practical solution to the problems of food waste and food security. It shows the potential there is for feeding ourselves in urban areas, and links us to what’s literally growing on our doorsteps!

“Abundance Manchester shares, rather than profits from our local harvest, and reconnects us with nature, our food, and each other.”

For further details or to get involved, visit www.abundancemanchester.wordpress.com


© Amanda Woodvine for Didsbury Dinners, 2o11. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the copyright owner.

Food photography: © Chava Eichner