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One town and 26 public gardens = free food

Public gardens take root in parking lots and even a huge Victorian cemetery in Todmorden, England.

Mary Clear started planting seeds in public spaces such as parking lots and cemeteries in Todmorden, England, a town about 200 miles northwest of London. Her project, Incredible Edible Todmorden, is part of a movement to encourage sustainability in her community.

Karla Adam/Special to The Washington Post

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Gardening has long been something of a national sport in Britain. But while Britons are spending as much time as ever digging and weeding, many have been choosing lately to plant food — turnips instead of tulips — with a gusto not seen since their country's World War II Dig for Victory campaign.

The trend is unusually visible in Todmorden, a market town about 200 miles northwest of London, where residents have planted crops in dozens of public places. Young cherry trees adorn the police station. The entrance to the health center is decorated with raspberry bushes and apple trees. And the local train station's platform is green with mint and rosemary.

"It takes a leap of faith to grow in a graveyard, to be corny," said resident Mary Clear, as she bent over and pinched a weed sprouting between an onion and a strawberry plant in Todmorden's vast Victorian cemetery.

The community-wide effort began about 18 months ago when Ms. Clear, an energetic woman who works for the town government, sneakily started planting seeds in her spare time with a few friends. Any nook, cranny, and postage-stamp-size bit of land was up for grabs.

The campaign blossomed with the plants, and now the movement operates under the name Incredible Edible Todmorden and receives funding and support from the local council and businesses.

"It makes people interact with their town," said Estelle Brown. a local Web designer, as she snapped a pea from a vine growing next to the town's canal and ate it.


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