Towpath gardeners get a good thing going


A COMMUNITY ‘linear larder’ garden along the banks of the Rochdale Canal was a runner-up in a new BBC One daytime TV series, Let’s Get a Good Thing Going, broadcast on Friday, December 22.
Incredible Edible Todmorden was one of four community groups bidding for funds in an episode based around Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. The pitch was eventually won by an environmental group, Slow the Flow Calderdale, formed after the devastating floods of Boxing Day 2015 to create more natural flood defences in the area.
Jon Stopp, a volunteer waterway partner with the Canal & River Trust, (pictured above, second right, with TV presenter Kevin Duala, centre, and West Yorkshire community representatives),  led the quest for more funds to install public benches, bird boxes and fruit trees along the canal towpath.
The waterside gardens grew out of the trust’s wider community canal connections project in the Calder Valley, launched in 2012. Dozens of small patches of public land have now been cultivated as plots for growing herbs, fruit and vegetables, which people can then harvest for free.
And although not coming out top in the local community vote, all the projects were winners, with the experience resulting in a number of positive spin-offs.
For Incredible Edible, the Canal & River Trust donated some wood which Jon has cleverly recycled into a waterside bench, with the help of volunteers. A member of the public has also donated a bird box – hopefully the first of several along the canal.
Jon said: “The whole of the Calder Valley was devastated by the flooding and although much of the fractured infrastructure has been fixed, re-energising the community has not been quite so easy.
“There has been a huge increase in stress and anxiety-related mental issues which will take much longer to heal. The show allowed Incredible Edible to interact with other community groups and raise awareness of the wonderful healing qualities of being by water.
“It’s easy to get involved working with the trust on a whole range of projects, including creating fruit and vegetable plots on spare land along our canal towpaths. Incredible Edible Todmorden is a great model for improving well-being and can be replicated anywhere on the 
canal network.”

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