Food Forest Management and Maintenance: Clearings and Thickets

One of our favourite things about food forests, and what makes them such good community resources is how low maintenance they are compared to allotment spaces, or community farms. However, before they become the self-regulating ecosystems we design them to be, a small amount of management and maintenance is required to see the vegetation through its first few years. Once established, they will yield a huge variety of different foods for people to forage for with very little effort. We are firm believers that Mother Nature knows best, and for too long now have we failed to listen, and the forests are falling silent… But not for long.  


It has been an exciting few weeks at the Food Forest Project. Hillier garden centre, in Bath, have kindly given us a battery operated brush cutter to help us cut the pathways through our community food forests, allowing them to stay wild for wildlife, but traversable for the community to forage in! In this way we can protect precious habitat whilst still using the land for ourselves. Thank you Hillier, we hope you’ll be able to make it to one of our sites to see how you’ve been able to help us.


In conjunction with this, we are pleased to say that we have taken on our first Food Forest Ranger! Sam Tetley is an experienced horticulturalist, and will help us to manage our food forest plots. The wonderful thing about food forests is that they are low maintenance, but high yield. However, after planting the forests, some care is required for the first few years to ensure a healthy and prosperous edible woodland landscape prevails. Sam’s role with us will be to ensure the pathways are cut through April to October, and to identify any issues with the plots should they arise. After five years, the plots become self-regulating ecosystems providing food and shelter for wildlife, and food for the local community.  

In the times to come, it may be that we will relearn to look to forests for our survival. Finding food, shelter and safety in the strength of their thickets, and health and wellbeing in the air of their clearings. Until that time comes, we will continue to plant edible woodlands all over the UK, and look to our friends for help along the way. 

A Day’s Toil for Tomorrow’s Soil: How a Community Came Together to Plant a Forest.

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Months of planning and hard graft culminated on the 30th of March with a hugely successful and wonderfully enjoyable community plant up day, and we are still buzzing with the excitement. The local community came out in full force, as did the sun, to help us plant the first three layers of the Shepton Mallet food forest. It was a day of fog and sunshine, of tea drinking and cake eating, of birds singing and the first signs of Spring playing on a light breeze, but most importantly, it was a day where we all came together as a community and helped plant a food forest that will benefit local people, and the planet for hundreds of years to come.


In total, we planted 114 trees and shrubs and raised £160 for the Education and Well Being Centre for the site, a huge success. The site is now open and the local community will be able to watch the seeds of their labour grow. That isn’t it for The Food Forest Project and the Shepton Mallet plot, though. Next Spring we shall have a second project on the site to plant further layers of the food forest, which we hope will be of equal success!

The food forests that we plant are for local communities on a deeper level than a free green space that produces food. They are about reconnecting people with the land in which we live; the air we breathe, and the soil in which we depend for food. One of the ways in which The Food Forest Project seeks to achieve this goal is by building Education and Well Being Centres as part of each project. The Centres will serve as a place for people to learn about permaculture, practice yoga and meditation, for school and community groups to use. The Centres play an active role in the systems we design for communities. They are the anthropogenic element of the sites and allow people to be in the forests, to study them, grow with them and learn from them in a space that doesn’t put too much pressure on the natural ecosystem. We hope to start work on the Centre in Shepton in the Autumn!

In Other News…


In other news, we’re proud to have received a very important endorsement from the First Chair of the Charities Commission, Geraldine Peacock CBE. Geraldine is a very special and interesting person. Geraldine was appointed Chief Charity Commissioner and the Charity Commission's first Chair-designate in 2004, with the remit of making the Commission 'fit for purpose' to implement the new Charities Act (which, among other things, replaced the role of Chief Charity Commissioner with those of Chair and Chief Executive). She left the Commission in July 2006, having laid firm foundations for the Charities Bill and with the Commission charged and invigorated to implement it.

Before joining the Charity Commission Geraldine was CEO of two major charities, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the National Autistic Society, and Chair of ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations), Futurebuilders and Groundbreakers.

Geraldine is on the Board of Social Finance, a Patron of Autism Speaks, the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity and the Community Development Finance Association (CDFA).

Geraldine sits on the Board for Social Enterprise at Harvard Business School, where she lectures on the MBA programme. She is an Associate Fellow at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, sits on the Said Business School Board at Oxford, and is also a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Charity Effectiveness, Cass Business School, London.

We are so proud to have her endorsement, which we hope will stand us in good stead as we transition from a Community Interest Company to a Charity.

We will be planning a host of events of the coming months - keep a look out on our website and social media for updates!

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Shepton Mallet Tree Plant Up Day ~ 30th March


On the 30th March we are hosting our very first tree plant up event for the Shepton Mallet Food Forest Plot and we are looking for volunteers!

As you may be aware the Woodland Trust and the Conservation Volunteers granted us a large amount of wild harvest trees. We have planted some of these but the rest are currently being heeled in waiting to be planted.


Tristan and Tobias have been working hard on the design and specification for the Shepton Mallet plot to ensure we are planting the best trees and vegetation for the space and where each tree should be located to work best for the food forest system. Many considerations have to be made, such as where the weather is coming from, historic issues with the land, drainage, soil variation, buffer zones, wild life corridors, pragmatism for end use by people and wild life and many other things which will effect how successful the food forest is.

If you would like to get involved with the event please contact us as we would love to hear from you.

All ages welcome, there will be a stall and refreshments available for donations.