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Volunteers help plant community forest garden with edible plants at Babraham Research Campus



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A community forest garden full of edible plants is being created within the estate of Babraham Research Campus, thanks to council funding and the work of volunteers.

Some 580 trees were planted by members of the community between February 20 and 27 on a two-acre plot to a design by professional horticulturist Simon Miles.

Project manager Hannah Thomas, front left, with parish council chairman Stuart Laurie and some of the volunteers who joined one of the planting sessions. Picture: Keith Heppell
Project manager Hannah Thomas, front left, with parish council chairman Stuart Laurie and some of the volunteers who joined one of the planting sessions. Picture: Keith Heppell

Project manager and Babraham resident Hannah Thomas said: “We need to plant trees to address climate change and increase biodiversity, but a beautiful forest that’s full of edible plants can offer more benefits for people too.

“The collaboration, support and enthusiasm this initiative has generated – from all ages and across different parts of the community – just shows how much we all value nature and want to be part of something collective.”

Grant funding was awarded by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Zero Carbon Communities Fund in spring 2021 to Babraham Parish Council for the development of the community forest garden. It is designed to mitigate climate change impacts, create a shared space for growing edible plants and inspire local children about nature.

The grant paid for the project set-up design, management, outreach and fencing, while matched funds from Babraham Parish Council helped buy the trees and will support the project’s second year of planting shrubs at the campus, which gave permission for the use of the land.

Mr Miles, who has his own 12-year-old forest garden in Falmouth, ensured the right plants for the conditions were selected and they have been located longside natural companion plants that help control pests, while making sure they have enough light and space in the site to flourish.

An unusual variety of edible plants are planted, such as medlar, Chinese quince, chokeberry, autumn olive, Szechuan pepper, Asian pear, edible hibiscus, Chilean guava and bronze fennel.

Several varieties of eating apple, crab apple and gage trees are also included, such as the ‘Cambridge Gage’, from the Norfolk-based East of England Apples and Orchards Project charity, which promotes and preserves local heritage varieties.

Forest gardens are designed to resemble open, natural woodland, but with trees, shrubs and perennials that are edible or with ecological benefits like attracting pollinators or improving the soil. They are intended as attractive, low maintenance areas.

The campus said it was pleased to support the project, which fits in with its sustainability vision to deliver a biodiversity net gain as it plans for future growth.

The Cambridge Independent is continuing to highlight such projects as part of our ongoing Plant a Tree campaign, launched in recognition of the fact that Cambridgeshire is one of the least wooded areas in Europe.

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