Imagine using a small part of Sheffield’s abandoned ski village to create an edible park, filling the grassy space with fruit-bearing trees, bushes and perennial plants for the community.

The park would be a place for people to come and learn how to grow and process foods they can take home and eat. Once the soil was tested and cultivated, we could begin planting, with the aim of running workshops, inviting people to come to the park and learn how to process the food – for example, learning about using fruit to produce jams and jellies. The idea is founded on a vision for shared skills and knowledge, and a respect for promoting local, organic, fresh food. We want to teach people who want to learn how to grow it, sell it, utilise it and re-plant it.

I became interested in the idea after one day going up to the damaged site out of curiosity. I wondered what the actual state of the place was, since the view from the road didn’t seem to indicate signs of revival for the slopes. The thought of this space lying dormant and wasted stunned me into sadness, then inspiration.

I had recently found out about US-based project which brought life back to an abandoned industrial space in the form of an edible park. Rather than being left to decay, the land was re-cultivated for growth and debris recycled or upcycled for artistic use, forming a community garden where the soil served as an open, accessible and promising canvas for people to come together and share ideas and skills in sustainable, green and rehabilitative efforts to grow food. It was all focussed around this central idea: build a welcoming, scenic community park for the use and enjoyment of all.

Sheffield boasts many worthy peaks, yet it is the steep and striking Ski Village slopes which arguably command most of the eye’s attention from the city centre, with their aptly curved heights and strangely alluring drops. Ensuring that the character living within the landscape is preserved and utilised, to maximise the benefits and preserve character, is crucial to its success and collective enjoyment.

I want to inspire more people to begin looking at a single brick and seeing much more. If only more people could see the potential that plant pots, coffee tables, pop-up buildings, sculptures and artwork offer beyond the lone brick. The public mood has never been more promising, with movements towards un-cycling, growing our own food, commitment to ecology and preserving nature.

One of the first suggested rejuvenation projects to attract my attention concerns the pre-existing motorcross track, which is part of neighbouring facility Parkwood Springs. The Friends of Parkwood Springs have expressed hopes to begin reviving the leisure landscape which have gained considerable public support, including aspirations to extend their tracks onto the presently derelict ski slopes. This offers a likeable resolution to the predicament of shaping the direction of the slopes’ revival. Further leisure hub-style plans are also in place with Snowsport Sheffield’s vision for restoring the Ski Village.

In light of historic fires on the site, we could make the park as fireproof as possible by using methods like building walls and structures from capped plastic bottles filled with sand. Stacking bottles into layers and bonding them together with mud and cement, with an intricate network of strings holding each bottle by its neck, has already proven a huge success in Africa, after a group of activists came up with the idea as a means of tackling housing problems in a safe and sustainable way. Those behind the project claim the sand-filled bottles are stronger than ordinary cinder blocks. More information available here.

Including plans to incorporate sustainable green developments, like an edible park, into any regeneration agenda for the Ski Village has the potential to expand and inspire a green infrastructure movement for Sheffield, boosting its credentials as a city which adapts to its circumstances in a way which is up to date, well informed and responsive. The example we can set in Sheffield paints a picture of success in harbouring a strong, competitive, sporting community which promotes a sustainable future, with abundant evidence of the economic, political and social benefits gained through supporting ecology.

The idea was launched using my Facebook page, Dig for Victory, and you can find out more about the project there. You can also ask to join the discussion board for Sheffield’s Edible Park on Facebook.

Photo by Ismar Badzic

Ellie Neves