Edible Churchscapes launches this weekend!

16 Jun 2011

This exciting project at St Martin's Church, Preston Gubbals pilots a partnership involving a skilled local edible landscaper, Shropshire Council’s Natural Environment team and the Churches Conservation Trust. It will explore how redundant church buildings and their churchyards can provide an edible community hub that contributes towards biodiversity conservation. Its aim is to bring people together in the special historic environment of St Martin’s and learn techniques that will produce a local space for everyone to enjoy & eat!

This Sunday (19 June) we are launching the 1 year programme (funded by a grant award from the Big Lottery Awards for All scheme), that will enable communities to discover and conserve local biodiversity and undertake local food production that benefits them and their wildlife.

Not only a chance to meet like-minded individuals and create a really satisfying project for those involved, this could unlock huge potential in ancient churchscapes to be community spaces and biodiversity refuges, creating a lasting legacy for wildlife & people – could you be a part of this?

How to get involved

Opportunities are available throughout 2011/12 at St Martin's Church, Preston Gubbals for local people to have a free crash course in the biodiversity value of redundant churchyards, and take part in a seasonal syllabus of surveying, management and maintenance activities with an exciting edible twist - fruit grafting.

Participants will learn a combination of sustainable traditional countryside and ecological skills to restore neglected hedgerows and re-invigorate churchscapes for wildlife, food production and future longevity.

Activities and workshops throughout the year will include:

  • churchyard photography and mapping
  • creating genealogical registers
  • habitat survey and species recording
  • techniques to increase wildlife potential, which could include encouraging wildflower meadow, species specific habitat creation
  • grafting hedges with local heritage food producing trees such as apples, quince and bullace.

Many of these are ancient skills, fitting such a historical site, which we will bring to today’s 21st century audience.

Whether you already grow your own or have never considered the role of nature in your backyard, our fun free programme for the year provides an opportunity for you to take ownership & pleasure in your local environment, get training in techniques for historic site management, grow and pick your own fresh, organic and local varieties of fruit as part of increasing the biodiversity of this site and to have a real involvement in the way the environment of this special Grade II* listed building is managed for the future.

Robert Milton, Development Officer for the Churches Conservation Trust said: 'Preston Gubbals offers a wonderful opportunity to do something different and potentially wide-reaching with a historic churchyard that will sustain its long-term future. This is not just a marvellous management and maintenance project but it has an extraordinary edible element!'

Tom Adams, Countryside Craftsman said: 'This is a great way of combining a heritage site with heritage varieties of food and historic techniques for keeping the countryside alive. Looking at Preston Gubbals with the opportunity to introduce fruit grafting as a way of maintaining its boundaries also helps keep wildlife habitats alive and pass on traditional skills to a new generation who may never have had the chance to try these out before.'

Gareth Parry, Community Biodiversity Officer for Shropshire County Council said: 'Churchyards are often remnants of ancient meadows, but flora & fauna present in CCT churchyards is frequently unknown and unmapped. St Martin’s at Preston Gubbals has been churchyard since medieval times and there are records of local and national priority species in the surrounding landscape. We are looking forward to working with local people to help them find out more and manage this overlooked resource in a genuinely beneficial way.'

Rebecca Tate, Regeneration Officer at the Churches Conservation Trust said: 'Environmental management changes can unlock the wildlife potential of this site and demonstrate the wider possibilities for wildlife-friendly food production in forgotten spaces. We want to make these valuable community spaces more accessible and enjoyable through tailored management schemes, which will create a biodiversity rich, and edible churchscape alongside ancient buildings.'

Find out more

The launch event will take place from 12.00pm - 3.00pm on 19 June at St Martin's Church, Preston Gubbals, Shropshire.

Find out more about this event

Contacts for more information

Robert Milton - Development Officer, The Churches Conservation Trust, tel: 07912 388985
Tom Adams - Countryside Craftsman, tel: 01691 777512 / 07776 498936
Gareth Parry - Community Biodiversity Project Officer, Shropshire County Council tel: 01743 252543
Rebecca Tate - Regeneration Officer, The Churches Conservation Trust, tel: 020 7213 0680 / 07831 875161