Spring was beginning to work its magic on the day of my second visit to the hidden gem of Leeds, Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden.
Tucked up between the houses of Hyde Park and the City Academy, Bedford Fields is around an acre of City Council owned woodland which they have given permission to be transformed into a ‘open to all’ forest garden. Maintained by volunteers under the supervision of the ‘Bedford Gnomes’, the garden has been there for 6 years and is starting to take shape as a forest patch. Forest gardening is about cultivating a garden using largely perennial and woody plants so as to produce a forest-like environment – trees, good ground cover, life in the soil – and producing a varied yield of produce for the benefit people and wildlife. Pretty much a cultivated foraging space!
Probably the best known exponent of forest gardening is a guy called Martin Crawford from the Agroforestry Trust and who has produced a semi-tropical feeling woodland on the Dartington estate in Devon. For more on forest gardening see The Agroforestry Trust website or for an overview see the Wikipaedia entry.
The Bedford Fields garden is only a mile from Leeds city centre. It has been designed and planted along permaculture principles and demonstrates a variety of forest gardening techniques so as to hold the attention of children to experienced gardeners alike. The garden is planted in ‘layers’, the exact opposite to conventional planting in straight 2D rows. Vines are thus encouraged to climb up trees and big narrow plants are partnered with small bushy plants to create swathes of unbroken, almost weed-free plantings. In this way the garden makes use of much more vertical space to get more yield, reduce maintenance time and build a more resilient and diverse garden.
The aim is that all the plants in the garden are either edible, medicinal or useful in some way. Some of the edible perennial vegetables are unfamiliar and often considered ‘weeds’, but flowers and shoots can be perfectly edible and delicious. Anyone can harvest any time there is a crop available.
The garden is an important social resource within Hyde park. The area has one of the lowest ratios of greenspace to grey built-up environment in the entire country. It is open to visit and enjoy by everyone – from far and wide – at all hours, every day. If on the other hand you want to lend a hand just contact the garden team to join work party or event. (Send us a message to the Gnomes here or call Ben on 07922513704. (Its rumoured Ben is one of the gnomes, not certain but if he’s not he knows them and can get you sorted!)
To be there on a glorious sunny day in spring was an inspiring experience. The birds were singing, the plants bursting into new life and the humans busy with maintenance and new development projects. The proximity to the city centre and the dense housing of Hyde Park and Woodhouse seemed another world – though glimpsed through the trees. I hope the pictures speak for themselves!
For more on Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden see the post from my first visit in February.
Group Meditation in Bedford Fields Community Forest Garden
Morning sessions, every Thursday 8:00 – 8:20am (sharp).
Evening session: Thursday 7pm – 8.30pm.
Start off your day with a short group meditation from 8:00am every Thursday for twenty minutes led by Sam Danzig.
Or, come and start to learn and practise even more with Harry Woolner every Thursday evening from 7-8:30pm, where Harry will lead a guided group meditation followed by an audio Dhamma talk that details different aspects of the practice and philosophy and mediation.
Please arrive on time or slightly early to ensure you do not disturb a meditation that may be in progress.
Bring your own cushions if you would like to sit on the floor. There are a number of chairs available for sitting as well.
Wear comfortable loose fitting clothing and please ensure you have extra layers or blankets if the weather is cold.
The sessions are free, but any donations for the sessions can be made in a donations box and will only go towards the costs of heating and power, tea and extra cushions/blankets.
[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!]