Just a couple of miles from Leeds city centre, tucked away behind the houses of the Hyde Park/Woodhouse area and alongside Leeds City Academy, lies a small plot of enchanting forest. Its Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden.
The land is owned by Leeds City Council but some inspired people have negotiated the right to convert it into a forest garden for the benefit of the Hyde Park and Woodhouse community….and anyone else who is interested. The project is currently led by Joanna and Ben, and like many of these things it has some funding to support development but is largely a labour of love from them and an army of volunteers.
Forest gardening, for those who like me just 12 months ago thought it was a strange acronym, is about cultivating a garden to behave like a forest – trees, life in the soil, easy to maintain and producing a varied yield of produce for the benefit people and wildlife. Pretty much a cultivated foraging space!
Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden is about an acre of land in total, so relatively small but has over 80 species of edible plants and a mixed species hedge provides for a wildlife corridor radially leading out of Leeds and across neighbouring Woodhouse ridge. Its completely open access and in addition to its cultivated produce, aims to educate people on how forest gardening can be a viable alternative to food production, and resilient to climactic and social change.
I was there when two big hugelkultur beds were being dug and filled – 11 metres by 2 metres worth in total – along with the foundations being created for the ‘Bedford Shed’, a converted shipping container which would follow a few days later and destined to be site shelter, classroom and hub. I think it would be fair to that there was as much ‘digging deep’ mentally as there was physically. It was a hard day! With the odd squally shower thrown in it was volunteering at its most impressive.
This space was to become a regularly visited location for me as the year progressed. In its contradictions and its charm it is a mesmerising place, one of Leeds’ hidden gems.
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC!]