When Mary Clear met Prince Charles, he promised that when he became King, he would give her all the land he had to grow fruit and veg. That was music to the ears of the ‘lucky’ Baby Boomer from Todmorden, who told the Friends of Parkinson’s Park at their First Birthday Party, how she has enormous fun driving the development of Incredible Edible into areas she had never dreamed of.
Incredible Edible is a community group on a mission to make life better in Todmorden through growing food locally, helping businesses to stock local produce, and building up the ‘self-help’ skills of young and old. Mary wants to bring back the time when we made our own jam, baked our own bread, and darned our own socks with a ‘mushroom’.
After starting in 2008, Mary and a group of 7 other steering group volunteers, and 203 members of their ‘mucking group’, spend two Sundays every month, planting, growing and harvesting fruit and veg, in every conceivable nook and cranny of Todmorden . The aim: to inspire others to produce more food for themselves, and counter ‘supermarket’ culture; so making life happier, healthier and more community orientated.
“We are happy to blame the politicians, the council, and ‘Them’ – the EU are always good for blaming – for the declining state of our communities” said Mary, “but we never blame ourselves for not doing something about it”. Now, the group have got the local police to plant up allotment boxes outside their station (if you ask the local police to do a job, makes life ‘eaiser’ winked Mary), old people have strawberries planted in odd scraps of land near their retirement bungalows, and the group ripped out the ubiquitous thorny development plants from the grounds of a local health centre, and replaced them with fruit trees. No scrap of land is safe from the march of the veg, from the local railway station where commuters can breakfast on young peas, to a water board ‘dog toilet’ that is now a flourishing herb garden – and they haven’t missed it yet.
And, it seems as if the ‘growing’ spirit has struck a chord; Todmorden is fast becoming a hot spot for food tourism, with visitors from places such as France and Brazil beating a trail to the Calder Valley to see how it is done. The French don’t even mind if Mary calls them Bonkers, but then maybe they saw the first part of the word only !! So, if you suddenly see, an orchard appear on Guiseley gyratory, or runner beans and courgettes outside the Otley Road Library, you will know where the inspiration came from.
After Mary’s talk, she cut the (thankfully home-made) Birthday Cake. Then, Nicola Denson, ran a quiz, stumping many people with questions such as “in what time period did the study of botany start”, and “which songbird now sings at night”, whilst expecting them to know bands ranging from the Yardbirds to the Smashing Pumpkins. The first ever winners of the quiz trophy, with 27 points out of 40, were the Media Moguls (Alison and Andy Cheetham, and David Myers) who will return again next year to defend their title.
The Friends would like to thank Coopers of Guiseley for the party venue, their upstairs function room is a really good space for parties and events where the old community spirit still lingers – there is also good beer downstairs !!