Todmorden, or Toddy as it is affectionately called, had the mad but brilliant idea to replace under-utilised local land with land used to grow food. Corn is grown on the grass verges of the police station. Pensioners are planting. Publicans are pickling (but they always did.) Doctors are digging. Walkers are weeding, and fireman fruit is abundant amidst the gleaming red engines of the Toddy Fire Brigade. The latter brings to mind the gleaming red fire engine of the children’s TV show Trumpton and its famous firemen’s song. So for Trumpton substitute Todmorden, and for “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, and Grub”, substitute “Grew, Grew, Toddy did Grew; custard, rhubarb and grub!” Well that’s my take. The food is free; like all the best ideas are free.
Ideas like this motivate me, so too notions of free food. So starting with the latter, January 2011 saw a list of events advertised in the local Wirral press related to park ranger activities. I wondered if it included food foraging, so I asked the question by emailing all of the ranger teams referred to in the press. There was no such foraging activity, but my emails led to a personal link with West Kirby Transition Town; and from this evolved one memorable evening on the sands of the Mersey foraging for razor clams.
On a more structured level it also led to a relationship with a Wirral Councillor and an invitation to an event on 23 March called “Wirral Enviro Champs.” Guests of honour at the event were two of the Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) team, namely Alan McDonald and Debby McCaul.
The lunch was excellently provided by local catering firm Alley Cats. I’d never met them before so this is a genuine plug. After lunch IET were up and at it. It was the usual brilliant presentation, filled with wit and humility, albeit with some technology challenges.
Wirral were hosting this event as they too have a cunning plan; this being Incredible Edible Wirral. It's a good plan, but as yet it is still evolving. I can report that a trip is planned to Toddy, on an as yet undecided date and I can add that another meeting is planned on 10 July.
I can also report that a very senior Wirral councillor got very excited and invited IET to give a presentation to the full council. I don’t know if this has happened, or if it ever will, but I can email Nick Green to ask if others are interested. It's a nice gesture. I hope it comes off. In the last closing comment of the event, I made my one and only point. First that I admired Wirral initiatives to support local food; but second how did this complement other local policies that have seen several massive supermarkets built on Wirral in recent times, the latest being a huge ASDA, under construction, smack in the middle of Birkenhead, next to the market. The silence of the lambs was only equalled by the applause of the crowd.
by Colin Dyas