Training centre’s an incredible milestone

Pond dipping at the official opening of Incredible Edible Todmorden's learning and growing space at Gordon Rigg's, Walsden, June 2011, are, from the left, Rosie Hetherington, 7, Freddie Plant, 7, both from Colden, Ben Wheeler, 10, and Gerard Whitehead with three-year-old Gabriel
Pond dipping at the official opening of Incredible Edible Todmorden's learning and growing space at Gordon Rigg's, Walsden, June 2011, are, from the left, Rosie Hetherington, 7, Freddie Plant, 7, both from Colden, Ben Wheeler, 10, and Gerard Whitehead with three-year-old Gabriel

THE opening of a market garden training centre at Walsden in June marked another milestone for Incredible Edible Todmorden.

Mayor of Todmorden Coun Richard White, flanked by Peter Rigg who donated the land for the project at the Gordon Rigg Garden Centre, and project manager Nick Green cut the “ribbon” - a giant green stalk - and declared the centre open. Children Lucy and George Cole held the ribbon in place.

About 100 people came and enjoyed a banquet of fresh local produce including salad, eggs and duck, reared on the site and potatoes grown in the town centre, cheese from pextenament farm, burgers and bangers from Staups Lee Farm, Bread from Saker, IET cider and delicious quiches from Long Causeway Farm. All were served in the polytunnel accompanied by live music.

The centre will train apprentices in growing skills equipping them to start their own new food growing businesses.

Construction started last November with the majority of the work being done by volunteers with help from an excellent Future Jobs Fund team from Pennine 2000 and Groundworks. Financially support came through grants from the Community Foundation for Calderdale and the Land Settlement Association, Yorkshire Bank and Calderdale Council, whon also supplied 120 tons of compost.

On site is a purpose built 150 foot polytunnel, 18 outdoor growing beds and eight raised beds for community growing, along with ponds and wild areas for biodiversity. Visitors enjoyed seeing day old baby ducklings, four-month old Aylesbury duck chicks, and bee hives with honey bees. Children explored the wildlife pond dipping for froglets and the long-forgotten Todmorden sport of snail racing was re-introduced. All the racing molluscs were of course locally bred and trained!

Site tours were led by Nick Green and wildlife expert Mike Smith while a team of Permaculture design students spent the day carrying out a wild plant survey and preparing suggestions to enhance the site.

Visitors grinned at a giant stuffed mutant carrot, while ducks quacked, bees buzzed, fruit trees grew, Todmorden cider was sipped, songs were composed and the sun shone and the work hut was painted with pastoral scenes.

IET has also thanked Hall’s Pallets for use of their car park for the event.

Estelle Brown of IET said: “I got that back of the neck tingly thing, it was all so magical, the growing, the place itself, the planting, the ponds already full of wild things, all perfect.”

Mary Clear added: “It was so lovely to see so many local business supporting the venture - Cupcakes, Long Causeway, Mr Rigg, Todmorden Industrial Supplies with hand soaps dispensers and others. Their help makes all the difference.”