The secret gardens of Hutchison Chesser

Local councillor, Gavin Corbett, asks if the secret gardens of Hutchison Chesser reveal a wider appetite for food-growing in the neighbourhood.

One of the many attractions about being a councillor is that it gives me an excuse to be nosy.  Knocking on doors and delivering information through letter-boxes takes me up garden paths and into stairways into which I would never otherwise go.  The different ways in which people have adapted their homes and immediate surroundings is genuinely fascinating.

The Hutchison-Chesser area of the ward I represent is quite different from the tenements which dominate from Shandon through to Tollcross or the bungalows and detached houses which feature in Craiglockhart.  Large parts of Hutchison are inter-war council housing, much of it popular through Right to Buy, and so contains some parcels of green space which, to be frank, the City Council struggles to maintain with any real purpose.

But within this area there are some real gems, tucked away from obvious view, where previously under-used space has been transformed into lovingly-tended allotments and gardens.  I am not talking about the large allotment site at the other side of Saughton cemetry which is a well-known location to anyone walking or cycling between the Water of Leith visitor centre and Saughton Park.  The micro-sites are tucked away behind houses or over slopes where no-one would otherwise go.

There’s obviously an appetite for this kind of project in the area.  So I was very interested in the Edible Estates proposal which has been developed for the “Calders” area and others, further west in the city.  As the name suggests, it seeks to identify small parcels of land for community growing projects, at a time when there is growing demand for just such space with which the city cannot keep pace.  Developed well, it can be part of a process that seeks to diversify some of our more neglected spaces – keeping the central purpose of green spaces as locations to walk, run, play or just gaze upon but also, here and there, turning small pockets over to more natural habitat on the one hand and to growing projects on the other.  It’s a much more attractive alternative to the fencing-off or tarring-over of green space that has been happening on occasion.

I’m very interested in hearing from residents in the Hutchison-Chesser area who want to explore this further.