Chelsea Green Publishing

The Blogging Community at Chelsea Green

What it looks like when food grows everywhere

Today I’d like to share a map with you (click on it and it will magically fill your screen), and I’m hugely grateful to Geri Smyth for giving me this.  It is a map of the town of Guildford (or Guldeford as it was then) in 1793.  Regular readers will know I love a good map, and I have spent a fair while poring over this one.  There are a couple of things I love about it.  Firstly, it is the most amazing piece of draughtsmanship.  It is a thing of extraordinary beauty in a way that Googlemaps can only dream of.  The way its laid out, the calligraphy, the attention to detail, are beautiful in a way very few people could recreate today.  But what is so extraordinary, upon closer inspection, is how it captures what it looks like when food grows everywhere. Think of it, if you like, as Incredible Edible Guildford, circa. 1739. This is a Guildford before the car, before before shopping malls, before tarmac.  It is also clearly a Guildford with a much lower population than today, with far far lower living standards, and with a lot more mud on the soles of its shoes.  My reason for posting this beautiful artifact isn’t to romanticise times that were very different, and in many ways much harder, rather it is to marvel at what a really local food culture looks like in reality for those of us who have no living memory of such a thing. We see, for example, that the hospital has its own vegetable garden.  The Free School has its own orchard.  While many of the houses have their own gardens, others appear to have allotments out the back, large pieces of land divided into plots.  In the centre of the map is a cluster of coaching inns, each of which have yards full of vegetable gardens.  Behind every house, on every piece of ground, food is being grown.  It is an extraordinary snapshot of a time when food production was the principal form of urban land use after roads and buildings.  I won’t say more about it, just take some time to let your eye wander over its surface.  You can download a hi resolution pdf of it here (caution, it’s a big file). Makes me think how the maps of the future of our settlements will look.  Peeling back the tarmac as our priorities change, as the economics of globalisation begin to go into reverse, as our cultural perceptions of the usefulness and attractiveness of lawns start to change, and as the need to create meaningful and fulfilling work grows, will transform our urban terrain.  Adding in rooftop growing, vertical growing and other more recent innovations, and we’ll see the places we live transformed. I walked this morning through the frost, and past my local allotments in the early morning sun, sparkling with frost and with a low mist hanging above it, catching the first rays of the morning sun as it emerged.  How much more life-affirming, exhilarating and nurturing such a thing is to experience in everyday life than carparks and lockup garages.  Perhaps it’s just me, but a walk of the imagination around the landscape captured in this map is not just a look back into our past, but also, in many ways, a look forward into our future. Reposted from Transition Culture.

tc Rob Hopkins is the author of The Transition Companion.

A write-up of the 2012 Transition Network conference. The best yet.

Transition folks from around the world gathered last weekend at Battersea Arts Centre for the 6th annual Transition Network conference.  In a week when the Arctic ice reached its smallest ever extent, scientists warned that the world’s weather could be on the verge of running amok and it was suggested that Saudi Arabia, always meant […] Read More..

Off to the Transition Network conference 2012

So, it’s bag-packing time as I get ready to set off to Battersea for the Transition Network conference.  There probably won’t be much activity on these web pages over the duration of the conference as it tends to be hectic bonkers from start to finish and little time to sit and blog.  However, there will […] Read More..

A July/August Round-up of What’s Happening out in the World of Transition

This month’s round up covers two months, because this time last month half of the team that lovingly create these round ups was away when they should have been producing this.  As a result it’s a bit of a whopper.  The latest Transition Bristol newsletter begins “In this issue…. The Bristol Pound is coming, the Bristol Pound is coming, […] Read More..

An interview with Charles Eisenstein: “Something in your heart knows that this is what life is supposed to be about”

About 4 weeks ago, I had the honour of interviewing Charles Eisenstein, author of ‘Sacred Economics’ while he was in the UK visiting Schumacher College to teach a course there for a week.  I had to admit before we began the interview that I have yet to read his book, in spite of the number […] Read More..

Costa Coffee and the Market of Hope

I was recently in Santander, a major port city on the northern Spanish coast.  While my kids were waking up in the hotel, my wife and youngest son went out in search of breakfast.  Bereft of a map, we wandered in search of some fruit, and some pastries perhaps?  Eventually, glancing round a street corner, […] Read More..