The hedgerows and verges of Hilperton and Paxcroft Mead in Wiltshire have been transformed into a 70 acre ‘suburban farm’ where local foragers can find a ready supply of free food – growing as part of a recently completed public art work and community project.
hEdges began life in 2013 when lead artist Alex Murdin of rural public art group rural recreation produced the first in a series of community events for the residents of a new housing estate. These events aimed to engage people’s interest in the biodiversity of the area around their homes, while also raising awareness of the ancient, but now lost, hedgerows that had formerly marked out what was once fields and farmland.
Events included a 90-minute guided walk where residents learned how to forage for plants and herbs that are safe to eat. The walk was followed by a cocktails and cordials making session, with classic British hedgerow preparations and libations discussed and tasted. For the Over the hEdge Photo competition, residents were asked to take a photo of anything growing in, on, or around their homes and streets.
The project culminated in early 2016 with One day all this will be fields, the installation of a number of public art works in the form of 1/3 scale farm gates and stiles. These mark the places where newly planted fruiting trees and shrubs now grow for the benefit of current and future residents. A series of signs – featuring images sourced as part of the earlier photo competition – guide residents to the places where food can be foraged around the estate.
Murdin says he hopes the project points to a more sustainable future where the need to feed an ever-growing population will lead to the development of a new hybrid urban-countryside. “We’ve made the rural and the urban over thousands of years. And whilst the 20th century saw the rise of the sub-urban, perhaps now we need to create the sub-rural.”
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1. Field notes, sign marking a site where food can be foraged as part of hEdges: One day all this will be fields.
2. hEdge and Field Edge Foraging, a guided 90 minute walk.
3. Preparing hedgerow libations during hEdge Cocktails and Cordials session.
4. Field notes, sign marking a site where food can be foraged as part of hEdges: One day all this will be fields.
5. 1/3 scale farm stile as part of hEdges: One day all this will be fields.