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How community and nature combine in Formby

PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 July 2018

Formby town centre

Formby town centre


From growing in the garden to fun at a festival, there’s a real buzz in this coastal town

Heather Davies, John Robottom, Sean Brady and Jamie Scorgie in the Formby Edible GardenHeather Davies, John Robottom, Sean Brady and Jamie Scorgie in the Formby Edible Garden

It may only be a small space, but what it represents is huge. Be that community, friendship, education or simply enjoying a spot of gardening. The Edible Formby plot at Formby Pool Trust means a lot to different people.

‘One young mum came along with her father and they were hovering at the gateway. We said to come and have a look,’ said Sean Brady, one of the volunteers who helped launch the project. ‘There were some peas growing, so we popped a pod to give one to her toddler. She asked could you eat them and her father worried they would be dirty – they had never seen peas growing before. There is this fearful innocence around growing. We want to reconnect people to their environment, to think consciously about food and also healthy eating.’

The Edible Garden began when Sean met Patrick Moores, grandson of the late Littlewoods founder, Sir John Moores. Patrick was one of the spearheads behind creating the Formby Pool Trust – the town’s first public swimming pool and leisure centre which opened in 2007 after decades of trying to get the plans off the ground.

‘The Trust is the civic heart, well being and social centre of the village. I met Patrick and said I was looking for an allotment in Formby, but there was a six year waiting list,’ said Sean, who then went back to him with the idea of a demonstration vegetable patch. In 2011, they were given a plot within the grounds and set to work creating their garden.

Formby Edible GardenFormby Edible Garden

One volunteer who has been part of the project since the beginning is John Robottom. ‘Locally grown food tastes better. Some food travels miles around the world before reaching its destination,’ said John. ‘Three things that people say when they visit it that they haven’t got a garden, the time or don’t know how to grow fruit and vegetables. What we say is you can create raised beds or use planters, you only have to dedicate one hour a week and that we can show you how to grow.’

The plot demonstrates how you can grow food in small spaces. Within a 4x4ft square plot split into 16, you can plant a mini farm. The Edible Garden has everything from spring onions, cabbage and potatoes to the recent addition of fruit trees, with three varieties of apples, plums and pears.

‘There is also a social element, I enjoy the company. There’s only one thing nicer than gardening and that’s gardening with friends,’ added John. ‘Here you can give back via volunteering, learn new skills and above all it encourages people to remain active, mentally and physically.’

Another Formby project encouraging people to get involved is Beehives and Bookworms; a Lottery funded beekeeping project linking the local community to the local environment.

Andrea Ku (right) of the Beehives and Bookworms project at Formby Library with staff members, Sue Crosbie and Sarah JonesAndrea Ku (right) of the Beehives and Bookworms project at Formby Library with staff members, Sue Crosbie and Sarah Jones

Managed by B 4 Biodiversity CIC, they believe that Formby Library is the only UK public library to have bees on site.

‘There were a number of library closures in Sefton, so we came up with an idea that would get people to use them in a different way; hands-on learning,’ said Andrea Ku, who runs the Bootle-based CIC. A landscape architect, she works on small scale projects alongside being involved in communities, schools and libraries to make them aware of their local environments. Andrea found that beekeeping was a successful way to do that. ‘Everyone got really excited when the bees arrived in last summer, the workshops and courses are now oversubscribed.’

Visitors to the library can go and see the bees, who live in the library garden where they can be viewed flying to and from their home out to the surrounding gardens, parks and beach landscape. Throughout the year there are also introduction to beekeeping courses and workshops that include balm and candle making.

‘We have also brought in some beekeeping books so people can see the bees and then return to the library and back up on their practical learning. The bees are just an extended learning facility at the libraries, and if any other libraries would want to get involved it would be great.’

Andrea Ku (right) of the Beehives and Bookworms project at Formby Library with staff members, Sue Crosbie and Sarah JonesAndrea Ku (right) of the Beehives and Bookworms project at Formby Library with staff members, Sue Crosbie and Sarah Jones

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