Fruit tree planting begins at Hackney's first 'edible park'
PUBLISHED: 16:27 23 March 2016 | UPDATED: 17:11 23 March 2016
Ambitious plans to create the nation's largest 'edible park' - where kids can wander in and have a picnic with the harvest - will soon come to fruition after volunteers planted the first batch of fruit trees.
Fifty green-fingered residents donned wellie boots and armed themselves with spades last Saturday to plant 30 fruit trees on the desolate playing field in Mabley Green.
The idea to transform the “vast, empty, boring space” off Homerton Road was given the green light at a planning meeting at the Town Hall two years ago, after a campaign from the Mabley Green Users’ Group (MGUG), who discovered a £100,000 grant had been bequeathed to the council for the parkland in 2008.
Former chair of the MGUG Damian Rafferty said “In a pretty short time, mums and their kids will be able to wander in and let their kids run around collecting delicious fresh fruit for free, sit in the shade of trees, have a picnic or just throw a blanket out on the grass and spend the afternoon with friends.
“Our hope is that by making Mabley Green the biggest edible park in Britain – and possibly the world – it will also encourage other communities across the UK to follow our lead.”
He continued: “What is really harming young people’s health here is a lack of fresh fruit and veg in their diets and what is hurting older people’s health is social isolation and we are confident we can make a big difference to both groups through the edible park.
“School kids and older people will be out there planting and looking after fruit and nut trees and during the week, local trainees will be getting invaluable skills in horticulture that they can turn into qualifications and, hopefully, really satisfying careers.”
Rubble from houses bombed during the Blitz was buried on the Marshes, which may have contaminated the soil with lead from paint used on houses and pipes in those days.
The site has been made safe for planting, by removing soil off site and installing trenches filled with healthy soil and covered in an impermeable membrane.
The edible park is being supported by Helping Britain Blossom, which is providing 500 trees and training the volunteers.
It is a partnership between beer maker Heineken, The Urban Orchard Project and sustainable development charity The Bulmer Foundation, whose aim is to create and restore over 100 community orchards across Britain by next year.