Supporting local people to grow fruit and vegetables in the heart of the city of Manchester.
We are Old Moat Greenies (OMG) – residents and families who live on a low-income, inner-city Manchester estate who are coming together to grow our own food, encourage wildlife and reduce our carbon footprint.
At gatherings on our green spaces, or in each others’ gardens, we will share conversation, ideas, skills, produce, fun, games, music and laughter as well as planting seeds, trees and discussing designs for our communal areas. Such is our enthusiasm, this process has already begun andrecently, 50 of us came together and made plans – and enjoyed some (rare) Manchester sunshine!
Working alongside our social landlord and with links to other local groups such as the local primary school and children’s centre, we aim to ignite and nurture a culture of environmental consciousness. For every family that can be inspired to tend a vegetable plot in their back garden, our children are learning that carrots don’t need to fly over from Spain, can be successfully grown without pesticides and totally taste delicious!
Our estate was built in the 1920s and we are lucky that it was thoughtfully designed to be a green and spacious place for people on lower incomes to live. Sadly, recent estate ‘improvements‘ (such as hedges being replaced by fences) have greatly damaged local wildlife habitats. We got together and let the landlord know our views on this and now, with their support, we are planning planting schemes and landscaping that promotes biodiversity such as hedgehog tunnels and wild flower meadows for bees.
APE funding will greatly aid our project. Over the next year, we will transform many gardens from barren yards or lawns to lush and colourful havens for wildlife and with edible yields for residents. This will be a crucial step forward as many of us find it impossible to make budgets stretch from one week to the next when buying in fresh fruit and veg. Growing our own will be life enhancing in a city with ever rising obesity levels, increasing ill health and one of the lowest life expectancies for men, and the actual lowest for women, in the whole of the UK. Skill-sharing features greatly in our plans with ‘experience’ being exchanged for ‘produce’ in gardening partner schemes such as nearby Community Allotments offering a free workshop in exchange for our homegrown strawberries. Collaboration is at our core and residents say that joining OMG has made them feel part of something vibrant and useful rather than isolated and alone. It is our aim that Old Moat Greenies becomes able to offer transformative advice, support and inspiration to other low income estates in Manchester and beyond.
UPDATE APRIL 2014
We began as a small grouping of neighbours in a couple of streets and we are now a small network that stretches across our estate and growing all the time. Our activities and achievements currently include :
- Raised beds for veggies, herbs and flowers have been erected in 19 gardens that were previously just fences and grass.
- Spring flowers now blossom in these and other gardens across the estate and wild flowers have also been planted.
- Fruit trees and bushes are thriving and promise juicy summer fruits – if not this year, then next.
- Native trees – Rowan, Ash, Dogwood, Dog Rose, Holly, Willow, Wild Cherry and Birch have been planted in these and other gardens across the estate – including the fruit trees, about 100 in all in what were empty barren spaces.
- Bird feeding stations and bird boxes and the beginnings of bug hotels are amongst our actions for nature.
- Composting is taking place in nearly all of our gardens and plans for a larger scale community compost are underway.
- Meetings and gatherings of our members regularly take place in our local Children’s centre and our own houses and gardens where experiences, difficulties and successes are shared.
- Other local projects have freely shared knowledge and skills with us and we are passing this on to others. Our housing landlord has collaborated with some special horticultural training which is ongoing and much needed as new challenges we have not previously encountered arise.
- Along with local group Climate Survivors, we have discussed how it all our work relates to and mitigates climate change. Many neighbours said they had never properly understood the issue before and so just avoided it. We will soon experience a days certificated Carbon Literacy Training in what we believe will be the first intergenerational course in the region, and perhaps beyond!
- We have several gatherings coming up including a public ‘Planting Day’ on Sunday May 25th in a communal area on the estate that will offer ‘trash to treasure’ activities and composting tips; ‘growing’ advice and free plants; a stall with information on all we are doing and why we are doing it; a coconut shy, music, dancing and other fun and informative activities.
- On June 1st we are going to celebrate in line with the national initiative ‘The Big Lunch’ (an annual get-together for neighbours http://www.thebiglunch.com). Our project has grown so fast that not everybody knows everybody and we hope to get EVERYONE together, Greenies and non-Greenies, for food sharing and chat. This will take place on one of our communal areas under the Old Moat blue skies and sun (we hope though we have marquees lined up just in case) and will also be the launch of our Intergenerational initiative which aims to make it easy and welcoming for any of our neighbours, from one year olds to octogenarians, to get involved in our activities.
The greatest thing that has come from our work is that people report feeling inspired and excited at the changes around them as their plants, trees, bushes and flowers grow and blossom. Might sound corny, but they have a sense of being more grounded and connected to the earth – and people who never expected to say that are saying it. They feel less isolated where previously they had felt depressed and alone – in short, we all feel happier. 🙂 Of course, in addition, we will soon have our fresh organic fruit and veg – tasty rewards that save carbon and money £s.
Each of our group members – a core of 19 households, including involvement by all members and ages in the family – reports finding themselves spontaneously and enthusiastically talking to more neighbours and passing on help, advice and encouragement. A typical example: One of our members, Janice, was helping in the garden of a disabled senior citizen who lives nearby in a bungalow. That person feels too shy at this stage to join the bigger group but is happy for Janice to come round and offer support. She was finding it hard to stay stood up when gardening but Janice showed her how to sit on a stool and use a long pole onto which a variety of tools can be attached with which she can weed, hoe and even dig.
We have built a network of collaborators who we gratefully thank for offering us wildlife advice, tree planting guidance and food growing strategies. We have been supported in buying cheap but sturdy tools, building a shed to house them from reclaimed wood, obtaining compost and soil for free or at very low prices and even obtained a donation of large plant pots from the police!
In terms of any challenges and/or disappointments – we would have liked to have reached even more people but feel that that is to come, that our project is unfolding as we dreamed and hoped and we are moving forward at the pace that is right for our work to be solid and sustainable. We thank you wholeheartedly for your support.