Living Walls – our community growing project

This year we celebrate 350 years of continuous congregational activity by updating the ancient idea of the ‘Apothecary garden’ or ‘Physic garden’. Gardens growing healing herbs were always part of abbeys, convents and monasteries, and often of Cathedrals and larger churches too, in fact these gardens can be seen as the first fore runners of the hospital. For us they speak of a commitment to spiritual wellbeing and community cohesion. We will grow medicinal and aromatic herbs to share and to use in chapel, and food plants to share and contribute to foodbanks.

We’re installing a ‘germination station’ in the chapel gallery, a vertical farm on the chapel walls, and conventional planters on the outer fences with wild flowers and pollinators to improve the aspect from City Square. Passers-by will be encouraged to harvest food for free, and the crops will form a nutritious, delicious addition to the non-perishable food which is distributed via partner organisations.

There is even talk of beehives on the roof!

Hydroponic techniques were chosen because the crops grow without soil in recirculated water, which reduces inputs and waste. We’re attempting rainwater harvesting too. The scheme will produce up to 3,000 plants per month for local food banks and organisations like Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

Ecologically speaking there is a real advantage in produce being grown close to consumers, to reduce food miles, preserve nutritional value and taste, and help strengthen local economies. And if people are empowered to work together to grow food, there are massive community and personal well-being benefits too. The concept of ‘companion planting’ taken from the growing technique called perma-culture is helpful to our thinking, plants seem to work better by co-operation and collaboration, just as we do.