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Greenway goes edible

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Greenway goes edible


The Great Western Greenway may soon be edible – at least many of the plants growing alongside it will be. That’s the hope of the Edible Landscape Project (ELP), which is planting fruit trees and edible plants along the amenity.  
The idea of creating an edible landscape consisting of fruit and nut trees and shrubs, root and leaf vegetables and wild herbs and mushrooms along the Greenway took shape at a local community enterprise event, SHeDD Talks, in September 2012. The theme of the evening was food security and community resilience.
SHeDD members Paula Halpin, a landscape designer and Westport architect David Le Masney, along with Caithriona McCarthy, a horticulture and business tutor joined forces, and the ELP Group was formed.
Edible landscapes are not a new concept. South West Mayo LEADER group have recently planted fruit trees near Mulranny, and in 2010 the Westport Sustainability Group led by Andy Wilson planted a linear orchard along the Westport Town Greenway.
Where the ELP differs however is in the type of planting favoured – perennial planting which has its roots in the ancient forest gardening school. It is very suitable to the marginal land typical of the Western seaboard with strong winds, high rain fall and soil pH varing from acidic to alkaline within a short distance.
Perennial plants by their very nature are better for the environment as soil is not disturbed annually for cultivation, help protect against climate change as carbon is stored in the undisturbed soil, help build soil organic matter with some varieties fixing nitrogen, survive for a minimum of three years and require little maintenance.
Westport Town Council gave the ELP permission to begin planting on three small pilot projects on the Westport Town Greenway at the Skatepark, and allocated the resources for materials.
Planting began at the Skatepark at the end of March 2013 where a group workshop including GIY members, the Civic Trust, SHeDD, Westport VEC and LEADER came together to create the live willow archway, specifically designed for smaller children visiting the skatepark to enjoy.
Apple and damson trees were being planted against the Leenane Bridge wall last week, and next year these will be trained against the bridge, with an understorey of thornless gooseberries and raspberries and a ground cover of alpine strawberries planted beneath.
A bird-friendly hedge has also been planted against the perimeter fencing at the skatepark. The LEADER Group and Westport VEC were instrumental in this planting.
ELP members have been working on a voluntary basis to get the project off the ground, planning the design and co-ordinating the planting. With the success of planting along the Westport Town Greenway however, the ELP hope that resources will become available to pay for further design and planting schemes all along the Great Western Greenway, and more importantly that local landowners will give permission for this planting to take place.
The ELP’s hopes that as well as providing an opportunity for the local community to come together to create a beautiful edible landscape, the project will help increase local food security through horticultural education.
Other positive spin-offs from the project envisaged by the ELP include introducing the concept of ‘horticulture tourism’ to the west of Ireland. Tourists both national and international in years to come may well enjoy fruit and nut tree pruning and grafting workshops, or mushroom foraging afternoons on the Greenway.
The group also hopes to provide signage and recipes related to the planting at each planting site. They also envisage local hotels and restaurants featuring food foraged from the Greenway on their menus, as well as involving local schools in planting projects along the route.
The launch of the Greenway Edible Landscape will be featured on RTÉ’s Mooney Show this week. For more information, contact ELP members on caithrionamcc@eircom.net or ceresdesign@hotmail.com.