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Old North Stables – Story So Far

The story in photos.

In 2013, the Transition Worcester Food Group approached Worcester City Council to see if there might be a suitable piece of Council land that could be used for as an urban teaching and display garden. Several sites were looked at and this resulted in the Old North Stables, just off Pitchcroft Racecourse being identified as a suitable location for such an undertaking.

At that time this piece of land had become overgrown after the Pitchcroft Racecourse stables were moved to a new site some years previously. Despite it being in need of a great deal of hard work, we approached the Council and they agreed to lease the land at a peppercorn rent to us for six years, initially.

In August 2014, the lease was signed and work began immediately to clear the land of years of brambles and other growth. It was very quickly discovered that underneath all the undergrowth most of the site was covered in concrete. To be honest, at first, we were a bit dismayed. However we quickly realised that this presented us with the opportunity to demonstrate how even in such an urban environment it is possible to grow food extensively.

Advantages

  • Improves access for wheelchairs etc.
  • Can improve the microclimate with the concrete retaining the sun’s heat during the day and releasing it through the evening and night
  • Easier to clear up after the inevitable floods (it’s on a flood plain)

Disadvantages

  • Can’t plant directly into the soil
  • Reduces the greenery

We have responded to this by:

  • Building raised beds (materials supplied through the generous help of Sanctuary Housing)
  • Placing large surplus-to-requirement straw bales to grow food in
  • Purchased a second-hand polytunnel and build raised beds and filled grow-bags on raised platforms
  • Used discarded tree root guards and other surplus-to-requirement receptacles to grow vegetables in (first crop of broad beans in May 2015)

We have established an orchard of mostly cordon apple trees and some espaliers too. Fifty-four trees were planted initially. The trees were produced by Transition Worcester Orchard Workers in February of 2014. This involved scion wood grafted onto suitable rootstock. The scion wood was collected from local orchards and is largely heritage varieties.

We have also located an apiary with beehives placed on platforms on pontoons in readiness for future floods. The platform will float up and down and keep the bees dry when the area floods.

A greenhouse was kindly donated by a local allotmenteer and is presently being rebuilt.

In early 2015 The Old North Stables became a Community Interest Company and is affiliated with Transition Worcester.

In March 2015 Transition Worcester Food Group ran their fifth annual Seed Swap for the first time at Old North Stables and in fact was the first event to be held there. It was a great success with around fifty visitors enjoying lovely sunshine with lots of chatting and networking.