Regenerating urban spaces in Luton
CPRE Bedfordshire first met the Edible High Town team back in 2018 when they entered our Living Countryside Awards.
The Greening Urban Spaces category was a new initiative, we wanted to celebrate the local groups working hard to transform often unpromising spaces into places for the whole community. They received a Highly Commended award and our judges were impressed by the creative use of unused spaces and their vision for a regenerated High Town.
At the end of last year we invited them to tell us a little bit about what’s been happening over the last couple of years:
In the Summer of 2016, a plan was hatched to fund a community gardener for a handful of hours each week. The gardener’s role was to organise volunteer sessions and community gardening days to help transform some of our public green space. Initially, we were just tidying up and planting flowers and bulbs but after a few months we decided to focus our efforts on growing edibles and wildlife-friendly plants.
In the urban environment of a town like Luton, walking past a raised bed at the edge of a high street car park and helping yourself to a strawberry or two, picking some fennel or thyme or even digging up a handful of potatoes is a moment of delight at nature’s ingenious provision. The produce has always been free to pick for anyone who so desires.
Now, Edible High Town is a small rabble of local residents who communicate mostly via WhatsApp and help maintain seven sites across the ward (including a community orchard). Perhaps because of the dramatic circumstances, this year we have seen a real increase in the sense of ownership from the community. Children have been watering bean shoots on a site adjoining their house, an elderly couple, uninvited, have been growing some more exotic veg in a raised bed, and prize-size pumpkins have been disappearing into unknown local homes.
Luton Council have been supportive, picking up our waste and providing free mulch in winter. Noah, a local homeless charity, have started running gardening and ESOL courses, using gardening as a way of teaching people English, whilst helping transform our high street with herbs and soft fruits.
As our signs invite, if ever you find yourself in High Town Luton, do stop at one of our plots (all mapped on the edibleluton.org website) and please help yourself. If you’d like to know more drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out about the categories for the 2021 Living Countryside Awards and if you are involved with, or know of, any similarly inspiring projects happening anywhere in Bedfordshire please encourage them to apply.
A version of this article first appeared in the winter 2020/21 edition of our magazine for members, Bedfordshire Matters.