Helen Yates, a lead member of the group, believes their work is not something you do in seclusion but is something which should in harmony with the wider community.
She said: “We see Incredible Edible as part of people's daily lives, not something to be hidden away. We work with both volunteers and businesses, and have links to education such as class tours, seeds sowing events,
"We also visit schools on request and support the Waste Reduction Volunteers who do assemblies and compost classes.”
Incredible Edible Wilmslow began in November 2011, after Helen saw the movement on a gardening programme. The group now has 218 members on its monthly mailing list, although a much smaller fraction turns up at the gardening sessions.
The number and type of plots are plentiful, from stations with bespoke sculptures, to a small orchard at a local car park, an edible bus stop & cross roads, and a community garden that is currently being developed alongside Transition Town Wilmslow.
A new plot for 2013 is going to be a garden at the local Health Centre for which the group has permission and funding.
Encouraging participation, is at the centre of its work. Helen said: “We chose not to rotate or have themes for our plots so people would be able to simply pop their spare stuff in without feeling they were ruining any master plan. It is really important for inclusion beyond monthly sessions.”
The group’s plot at the local leisure centre is specifically carried out by a group of adults with learning difficulties who are based there. They also help with the other plots, especially watering in summer.
Links to business
Links with the town’s businesses are encouraged by locating key sites in the hub of local commerce such as outside Waitrose, Sainsburys, Costa coffee and along the pedestrianised high street.
Last year, 21 individual businesses supported the group by gardening their own premises as part in the town's In Bloom entry which had an edible slant. Helen hopes to have even more entries this year, with bigger and better offerings from the veterans.
Helen believes that having such positive visibility in the town is key to gaining an enthusiastic response. She advises: “Go for an unloved spot so people see an improvement straight away. To create places of beauty show off by planting runner beans, nasturtiums, colourful chard and sunflowers.
But she adds: “Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't look amazing all the time, that's all part of the learning.”
The prominence of Incredible Edible Wilmlow has helped foster a symbiotic relationship with the council and, as well as partnering on projects, the group has received funding benefits.
Helen said: “We've found that once people heard about us, we've been invited to apply for grants so a positive image from the outset is imperative.”
Another tip to raising support is to use your natural resources. Helen said: “I have lots friends with young children so I can pull a big crowd together, for example, we've done welly walks with wild plant hunt/ quiz, seed sowing, plant pot decorations etc.”
The same applies to other more unusual contributions, she added: “We have an alpaca farm and animal rescue centre down the road who donate manure. Find out what farms, shelters etc are on your doorstep as often they pay to have it removed so you're helping them too.”
In respect of volunteers, Helen feels its quality not quantity that’s important. She said: “You never have enough volunteers for all you want to achieve, but remember that a few tenacious spirits can get an awful lot done, so keep going!
“It helps to split the load - some volunteers working on plots, some in schools, others handing out flyers, others on a project….
“Overall keep it manageable so it is not all the same people doing it all, though don't be surprised if you have a small group doing most of it with a few peripherals. This is fine, people will do what they are prepared to.”
Give it a try!
Helen’s optimism seems to be a recurrent theme in the success of Incredible Edibles. Even when asked what to avoid, she said: “ In retrospect, there are so many things we may not have not done, but even these have led to something good in the end, so unless its immoral, hurtful or irresponsible, give it a try!!
The only real problem we've had is with bay trees being stolen - people know they're expensive! Oh and one hanging basket but otherwise people have been very respectful. Its more about the surprise when a potato shoot appears and you don't know who put it there which is very nice.