Calder Valley community group that can't stop growing

Incredible Edible celebrating their 10th anniversary
Incredible Edible celebrating their 10th anniversary

What connects a town in Calderdale with Australia, France and Canada? A group that puts the community it serves at the heart of everything it does, Incredible Edible.

Celebrating its tenth birthday this year members of the group look back on what they have achieved over the decade and when the movement that was created in the Calder Valley became something that has spread across the globe.

Mary Clear with Prince Charles on his visit to Todmorden

Mary Clear with Prince Charles on his visit to Todmorden

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The banking crisis back in 2008 prompted a like-minded group of individuals in Todmorden to start a movement to help their community.

“It was a really tough time,” said Mary Clear, Chair of Incredible Edible Todmorden. “The two biggest organisations in the town, Todmorden Together and the Acorn Centre closed.

“A group of us thought we have to do something so our town was safer.

“The one thing we thought we could do, as we were worried about climate change, was to grow food in public places and share it with anybody.”

Starting with small herb gardens and community plots, the group set out to support the local community, help businesses in the town and educate people.

Things were going well locally for the group, but when Prince Charles visited the scheme back in 2010, everything changed.

“Prince Charles coming was the icing on the cake, it was a huge visit,” said Mary.

“He came by train, a train that was run on chip fat from a chip shop, and we had such good weather. It was a fantastic visit that really kick started people thinking there must be something in it.”

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People from all corners of the country began to visit Todmorden to see what the group had done and from then it kept growing and growing.

Mary said: “Never in a million years did I expect it to be this big. I look at it this way, if we thought ten years down the line it was going to get this big we wouldn’t have made our email address Incredible Edible Todmorden, it’s a bit of a mouthful!

“When I go for a walk round town and see someone picking gooseberries or sniffing fennel or sitting on one of our loneliness benches I just think it has all been worth it.”

There are over 100 groups across the UK and around 700 worldwide in countries including Australia, USA, France and more.

Estelle Brown is the master of the Incredible Edible website and shares the group’s good work with the rest of the world.

She’s been involved with the group from the beginning to sort out the website and set up the Incredible Edible social media. “The first time I realised other people were seeing what we were doing was when we had just made our butterfly hotels,” said Estelle.

“I got an email from mainland China asking for a picture of the hotels to use in their Butterfly Festival.

“It’s crazy to think my work on the website is being seen all around the world.”

Estelle has lived in Todmorden for the past 13 years and as well as running the website, she also takes tours of people from all over the world around the town. “I’m still surprised, I get emails everyday from the other side of the world,” she said.

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“We are a lesson in a Japanese textbook and information about the work of Incredible Edible is being used to teach children at 220 schools in Japan about sustainable living.”

With 1,000 visitors a year to the site of the original Incredible Edible and more groups popping up all over the world, it seems there’s no stopping the growing phenomenon.