Mooring on the Abundant Shores of Incredible Edible

Posted: 23.06.17 by

I arrived in Todmorden three months after embarking on my canal boat journey around England and Wales. Summer had finally arrived after a week of torrential rain that had soaked me through whilst making my way over the summit of the Pennines along the Rochdale canal. I passed by derelict mill buildings that had once been the area’s industrial heart and cruised between steep-sided hills that ran with little streams.

After navigating twenty-six locks I was happy to moor up in Todmorden town centre with plans to stay for a couple of weeks. As soon as I cruised into town I noticed the raised beds at the sides of the towpath where a vibrant array of edible plants were growing. As I walked along I picked chives, mint and rosemary to add to my dinner. The world was brightened by all that green and the sweet smell of the elderflowers that overhung the towpath. I rubbed a little bit of each herb between my fingers and, with the sun shining, felt suddenly quite Mediterranean in a West Yorkshire market town.

The beautiful Incredible Edible display boards brightened up the grey stone of the towing path. I stopped to read information about plants, pollinators and nocturnal wildlife.

Walking through the narrow tunnel at the centre of town, which was once for the horses that towed the old working boats along the canal, I found more beds where plum trees, angelica, fennel and globe artichoke were amongst the myriad of offerings. All this lightened the heart of this weary boater and I stopped to snaffle a few raspberries.

I had seen the wonderful Ted Talk about Incredible Edible and, with the aim to visit inspiring projects on my canal journey, got in touch to find out if I could volunteer. When I spoke to Estelle on the phone in the early morning she was answering emails in bed, which she tells me is part of her daily practice as a full time Incredible who lives and breathes the project. We arranged to meet up later that day to water some very thirsty plants after a scorcher of a weekend.

sophie watering

With the hosepipe connected up to the back of a local business, I began to realise how much a part of the community Incredible Edible is. Everyone who passed stopped to chat. A lady from the local café was picking flowers to decorate the café tables and I found out that the boaters moored need me were also volunteers. A little triangle of purple caught my eye on one of the plant leaves.

‘A mint moth,’ Estelle informed me. We watered and chatted and chewed on wispy fennel fronds whilst getting intermittently nibbled by horse flies. ‘Smother yourself in garlic,’ Estelle advised. ‘And lemon. That will put them off.’

Mint moth on sage

Feeling the heat, we retreated to The Little Bird café for a sparkling elderflower and a chocolate brownie. I chatted to Estelle about the project and about her life. As she talked about her younger years, motor biking and adventuring, I could easily imagine her in her early twenties and it was wonderful to connect with a stranger in a new place and feel a part of it.

All in all it was a wonderful experience and introduction to Todmorden, which seems to have a community spirit stronger than anywhere else I have stopped by on my travels. I’m sure Incredible Edible, spreading colour and food and knowledge and kindness, has a lot to do with that.

Article by Sophie McGovern

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