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Transition Thoughts From Distant Shores

Grow Chichester volunteer Ray Stewart writes on the links local initiatives have across the globe....

The short days of winter when spent in the garden, find one’s mind wandering to the coming preparations and thoughts of longer days and the advent of spring.

“Oh, To be in England now that April’s here “… Not wanting to steal the title of Robert Browning’s poem ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’, hence my title.

Why you may ask?

Well I found my mind wandering backwards and thoughts of season’s past. Now retired, my professional life led me to forge many friendships during my working life within China. I had always and still have a penchant for Chinese horticulture, having admired the epic plant and seed hunting expeditions of the likes of Wilson, Hooker and the rest of the band of collectors who bought to our shores many, many plants from Szechuan, Yunnan and the foothills of the Himalayas.

Frank Kingdom Ward’s expedition to the Tsangpo Gorges amongst others. I could only dream and imagine the discovery of some of our most loved plantings, waiting in pristine beauty amidst the seldom seen Chinese forests.

A veritable ‘Shangri La’, a fictional place, but indeed a place as real as you or I and enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains, whose eastern end is in Qinghai Province, in what is now known as The People’s Republic of China.

Well you may be asking what is the connection with Transition growing initiatives?

Much of my professional connections were with the coastal cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen. Many of my colleagues and friendships I formed there, were with people whom had connections with rural communities within the provinces.

There was quite an interest in our ‘Grow Chichester’ initiatives when I discussed with them my interests and told them about our dedicated website. Many had come from communities that produced small crops as a collective, growing and harvesting in very much a similar manner.Indeed one such community at Hezhou, Guangxi Province, I found very inspirational, their methods and the manner in which they managed their small communal growing spaces. Harvesting vegetables, fruit and nuts from the fields and adjoining wooded areas. Not isolated communities, but part of a matrix of similar small groups of people, growing in an entirely sustainable system. Indeed the absence of mechanical methods dependent upon fossil fuel (oil) based technology, reflects the manner in which they maintain a livelihood from the land.

Working in harmony with nature as it were.Many have brought into the more urban centres and cities, their knowledge ofgrowing in this manner. Forming groups similar to those of ourselves. Mainly roof top gardening, keeping bees, or as I was told making ‘houses for bees’, vertical or balcony growing and larger initiatives, under the ‘ Community Supported Agriculture’ program or CSA.

It is estimated that by 2050, 80% of the planets population will be living within cities.

Which makes urban growing initiatives such as ours even more important for the community.