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Science & Technology»Pick your own vegetables in the High Street

»Tuesday, January 12,2010

Pick-your-own vegetables to replace flowers in high street. Climate change and food shortage issues prompt Lancashire town to consider growing edible crops in public.

A Lancashire town is experimenting with using traditional floral displays, including hanging baskets and herbaceous borders, to grow slightly less colourful but more practical greens.

The idea taking shape in Clitheroe is to replace flowers with edible vegetables and offer a modest "pick-your-own" service of plantings to anyone passing by.

The most striking feature will be three-tiered flower/vegetable structures in the centre of the town, if a motion put forward by councillors gets the go-ahead later this month.

Exponents say the idea is symbolic of the local determination to highlight the risk of food shortages and climate change.

The plan is also being promoted in neighbouring Rossendale, which includes the towns of Haslingden, Rawtenstall and Bacup, and could see them adorned with red-flowered runner beans or purple-sprouting broccoli. The area has a strong tradition of allotments, recently bolstered by fruit and nut tree planting in public places by green enthusiasts.

Rose Connor, a councillor who will propose the Clitheroe motion, said the aim was to encourage people to think about sourcing food nearby. "We need to move towards that sort of economy, taking responsibility as individuals for our own food production," she said.

The initiative follows successful pioneering in another Pennine town, Todmorden, where the Yorkshire-Lancashire boundary bisects the town hall and cricket pitch.

Vegetable beds, herb gardens and orchards have sprung up on sites as varied – and previously urban – as the railway station forecourt and an elderly people's home, under the aegis of the Incredible Edible Todmorden campaign.

Volunteers have replaced "inedible" planting outside the town's health centre with apple and pear trees, made watercress beds in a local park and given free vegetable seeds to social housing tenants. Schools use local produce and the long-term aim is complete self-reliance for food by 2018.

Clitheroe's plan was first suggested by the local Transition Town group, part of a national network encouraging similar sustainable, locally grown food production. The group's secretary, Chris Gathercole, said: "Rather than waiting until the last minute, we need to prepare ourselves for a future without cheap oil and gas."





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