A Community Food Forest On Council Land At Sidford. We Started With An Orchard & Have Moved Onto The Forest. See Our Plans & Progress Here..

The new Community Food Forest is a project run under the auspices off the Sid Valley Arboretum after I approached the local council, EDDC, and we agreed the use of a quarter acre of land at Sidford.

Apple blossom by Emma Dolphin
Apple blossom in the food forest

We started by thinking we needed to buy or rent land and managed to find a charitable trust that were keen to help fund the project. What we hadn’t thought about was the amount of land owned by district councils, that cost them money to manage and could be used for a food forest. This specific piece of land had previously been used by a preschool group as a play area. The group collapsed during Covid and the land was no longer being used.

Negotiations with the council have taken time as they wanted to see a project plan, insurance and risk assessments. But in reality it went faster than it might have. Thanks EDDC and especially Russell who has been very supportive.

The council have now cleared the land of dangerous detritus eg rotting equipment, and the first delivery of wood chip was recently made. This was quickly followed by a work party that made a lot of progress in a short time.

Our Plans

Early in the project planning process it became very obvious that we could spend hours working out on paper what we wanted do and then find circumstances change everything. So we decided to be pragmatic and produce very basic plans.

Sidford Food Forest Orchard Being Planted By Volunteers

Our overarching plan is to produce a demonstration foods forest for community use where food production went hand in hand with wildlife conservation. Forests are wild places with an abundance of wildlife and we wanted our plot to new wildlife friendly and reasonably productive. The two needed to go hand in hand.

But we also wanted it to be a community area as we understand how important it is to physical and mental health to have a green place where we can spend time to relax and enjoy the vegetation and wildlife.

Here’s our rationale and overall plan

Our initial plan is very basic and is on a shared drive so everyone involved can see changes, additions and amendments as we write them.

Our Planting List

The planting list is like the work plan. It’s live, shared online and subject to being updated (improved) on a very regular basis.

There are several thousand plants we could have added to it, but we only have a quarter an acre and we need to be pragmatic. We also need to start slow and build momentum and species range over time. So many of the plants we intend to plant at the outset are common and known by many of our group. It’s interesting that as I write this post my mind is whirling and I’m wondering why we didn’t add an edimental bed to the plan. It would benefit pollinators. Maybe we will after some discussion. There’s still time this year. Watch this space.

Our current plant list is at the bottom of this post.

The Food Forest Work Commences

Next to the food forest area there was a small corner of the playing field that looked ideal for a small community orchard.

In early February, just a few days ago, Sidmouth Arboretum pulled together a group of volunteers and less than an hour later 23 apple trees were in the ground. Voila. work on the food forest thad commenced.

More On Food Forests

In the above post I refer to the Seven Layers of Food Forests. There is an article on the Seven Food Forest Layers Here.

Sidford Food Forest Orchard
Sidford Food Forest Orchard

Food Forest Planting List By Layer

Phase 1 plantingPhase 2 planting
1Canopy (trees)
Horse chestnut*
2Sub-canopy (trees)
Quince (Cydonia)
Quince (Chaenomales)
Buddleae *
Cobnuts+Corylus avellana
Filberts +Corylus maxima purpurea
Hazel+.+ a term sometimes used to mean a cobnut or filbert
Leycestera formosa*
CurrantsBlack, red and white
Szechuan pepper
Perpetual kale
Sea kale
Geranium spp *
Various ornamental grasses*
Toadflax *
Sonchus spp*
6Root crops
Jérusalem Artichoke
Babbington leeks
Walking leeks
7Climbers (vines)
Climbing beans 
Actinidia chinensis deliciosa 
Hablitizia … Caucasian spinach. 
*existing planting 

Thanks to EDDC, Sidmouth Arboretum, Sid Valley Biodiversity Group and all the volunteers that have been involved to date.

Thanks also to Emma Dolphin for the apple blossom image.