South Court Environmental (SCE) Northampton: Wildlife, Food and Community

This is a very interesting project which shows what people can do if they have access to land. This article was written by Peter Nalder of the SCE.

SOUTH COURT ENVIRONMENTAL was set up as a Northampton-based Co-operative in 1993 by a handful of people who met on a post-graduate ecology course. We wanted to practice what we had learnt.

Gradually across the years since then we found sites throughout the town for doing that. Most were found by walking and cycling and could not have been discovered by car. Old maps and personal contacts were also useful.

Of those sites, we own only two but we work or have worked on a total of ten. They are of varying sizes, types and statuses. The latter include peppercorn renting or managing under contract for owners. Sizes vary from ‘garden-sized’ to sites of several acres. Types include community allotments, an ancient orchard, grasslands and woodlands. We also assist other groups and sites when asked.

Whatever the formal description of ownership, SCE also uses the concept of ‘vernacular ownership’: We are happy that local people regard sites as ‘their’ grassland, ‘their orchard’ etc. What the sites have in common is our management goals. SCE has three main aims: Managing sites for: Wildlife diversity, Community involvement and benefit, and Production of decent local food.

‘Local food’ is crops of fruit and veg, plus honey. Fruit and veg come from formal plantings (e,g, apples and pears) and directly from wildlife (e.g. blackberries and stinging nettles) The crops are consumed by community – ‘raw’ in most cases though some become cakes, chutneys, jams and juices. For that ‘community’ augments our central workforce: For instance, turning the handles on the juicers. Stinging nettles become soup for one of our events.

The ‘Community’ aim is already mentioned. But it takes other forms too. People use our / ‘their’ sites for healthful and social benefits such as walking, playing and meeting up. SCE itself ‘provokes’ some of the meeting up by our annual calendar of events – e.g. ‘Nettle-Nosh Night’ – details of which are sent to our members. Though attendance in most cases is open to all.

Members are those who wish to support us and/or regularly volunteer(ed) with us e.g. on sites and/or help to run SCE. But ‘community benefit’ is wider than that. It includes visiting groups – for instance to our ‘reminiscence museum’ designed for those with memory problems. And others we never get to know, e.g. those benefitting from the crops donated to food banks.

Assembled by Peter Nalder for SCE Nov 22. SCE Northampton.docx

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