What is now known as Incredible Edible Porthmadog was founded in 2016 by Lizzie Wynn and Charissa Buhler. It came about when Lizzie spotted the slightly unkempt raised beds outside Porthmadog Leisure Centre and made enquiries as to whether a local group could take them over and tend them. Her enthusiasm for green infrastructure and the Incredible Edible movement made her want to experiment to see if the idea of public growing could start here and expand to other areas of the town. An initial verbal agreement was followed up by a more formal agreement in which the ‘group’ needed to constitute itself so that it could apply for funding, do some work and get materials etc. and so, Bwyd Bendigedig Port / Incredible Edible Porthmadog was born.
Early on, as the numbers of interested and curious volunteers began to increase, the plan was to create an edible corridor which stretched from the train station, past Ysgol Eifion Wyn, the leisure centre and on into the high street. The group’s first bid for funding was unsuccessful but they continued, and were successful via the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme which allowed the group to employ a part-time project manager, to create 2 buildings out of recycled and natural materials and to establish a community composting system in the grounds of Ysgol Eifion Wyn. Other local groups have been involved in the project too including the pupils of the school, the residents of the nearby assisted living accommodation, home schooled children and their families, local students undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh awards, along with public sector support in the shape of a workday planned from the Department of Work and Pensions’ local offices.
In 2018, the group approached Renew Wales as they needed support to decide on their organisational structure, which direction to move in and help with funding. Craig ab Iago, one of the Gwynedd Co-ordinators got involved and helped the group compile their action plan. Part of this process identified that specialist advice from Social Farms and Gardens would be useful, and so they were referred there for support.
Lizzie said, “When you talk out loud about your ideas with others, you often work out what you are going to do and how to do it quite quickly.”
A community survey was carried out in 2018 with a great response (from almost 50 people) and the group had overwhelming support and positive feedback about its work.
Local community events are a key part of the group’s activities, including ‘have a grow’ events, plant swaps, harvest festivals and various talks and presentations on gardening methods and so on. They are well-supported and bring in some new blood and interest each time. There are now more than 20 people who volunteer at the sites at various times, with a strong core of around 7.
The garden was awarded the Green Flag Community Garden Award in August 2019 (via the Keep Wales Tidy & Welsh Government supported scheme in Wales) which acknowledges the work that has been put in to improving a green space in the community.
Beautiful wooden signs are a noticeable feature across the site. These were crafted by members of the Incredible Edible group themselves at FFiws, a local pop-up makers space in Porthmadog, where they brought reclaimed wood and learnt the skills of laser burning and CNC cutting.
The benefits to the scheme are numerous, including the wealth of fresh fruit, veg and herbs available freely to local residents to pick and consume, the social aspect of meeting with new people who are drawn together while tending to plants, visually making the area more attractive and generally seeing more local people out and about in the community. But there is an educational side to it all too, (which their new charitable status is built upon) by demonstrating and teaching various growing processes, and the improvements to local biodiversity- offering pollinators and insects spaces to come and enjoy! The planting and tending has brought together a whole new group of people who are now becoming friends with a shared interest, and it pans the generations too with ages ranging from young children (with supervision) up to those in their 70s.
Financially, the group continue to benefit from several small grants and also local people who are willing to donate their time, skills and money in some cases, to their cause- this helps with purchasing smaller items such as hand tools, plants etc.
Keeping people up to date is key and social media has played a large part in the success of the group- photographs are a great way of demonstrating the development at site and letting locals know when to harvest etc. Lizzie has tried to be at the main site at the same times each week to allow for continuity and to be around for when new, interested people drop by for a nose at what is going on. They also recently featured on S4C’s Heno programme which again helped raise the profile of the scheme on a national basis and may help to inspire other towns.
Lizzie herself is now a mentor for Renew Wales and has supported two other groups within our programme in the north Wales area. The group is currently at a crossroads having just completed a visioning exercise where various options for short, medium and long-term development were floated… so watch this space to find out what happens next!
Craig ab Iago, Renew Wales Co-ordinator says;
“The whole project is a great example of grassroots community action lead by really committed volunteers. But it’s the edible corridor idea that is truly visionary. It’s been there sitting under everyone’s’ noses for years, but it took a certain type of person to actually see it. A wide pedestrian corridor linking two schools, food producers, a leisure centre, the police station, and an extra care housing facility, all right in the centre of a thriving rural town. That in itself is a game changer; showing us how all town centres should be planned.”