While there are many green spaces in Manchester, it’s hard to ever feel like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city or truly immerse yourself in nature. City life can feel isolating and is so far removed from the small communities that define country living. However, Platt Fields Market Garden remedies these struggles, transporting you from central Fallowfield to a charming community-run garden that genuinely makes you feel like you’ve taken a step into the country.
Platt Fields Market Garden was a community project set up by Manchester Urban Diggers (MUD). As a non-profit, MUD advocates for food sovereignty by providing, “educational services and growing fruit, vegetables and herbs to make available to the local community.”
This is clear throughout the green space, with an endless array of activities, opportunities, and goods on offer. So, what exactly does Platt Fields have to offer? And how can it provide a therapeutic pause from chaotic city life?
First off, there are many social areas. The workshop and events area (The Frog House) boasts “a sheltered indoor workshop space with workbenches, an outdoor sheltered awning with tables and seating, an outdoor sink area and power.” Events such as whittling workshops, craft fairs, pottery, and endless more activities take place here.
Each Saturday the market opens up, offering fresh produce which is mostly grown within the garden, and bee hives. There are several greenhouses and vegetable beds, spilling over with everything from tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, and brightly coloured chard.
For those wanting to get involved, there are open volunteer sessions on Fridays from 10am to 4pm. There is no need to sign up, just turn up. Home-cooked meals with seasonal veg from the garden are served up to volunteers for free at 1pm, with a suggested £3 donation for those who do not volunteer.
There is also the opportunity to join in on gleaning, which is when volunteers head to farms with excess, unwanted fresh produce and take it off their hands so it is not wasted. Just last Monday (19th September) there were boxes of free kale on offer, from a gleaning the week before.
If you’re a student looking for some freebies, but don’t have time to volunteer, Platt Fields garden market is an organic goldmine for that. ‘Free Meal Mondays’, a new initiative, provides free vegetarian takeaway meals from 2pm – 4pm every Monday up until Christmas. On Saturdays, you can pop in for a free brew 9am – 3pm.
Their commitment to feeding for free or at little cost does not stop there. They also offer seasonal veg box subscriptions. As much as possible is supplied from their own garden, occasionally supplemented by local growers. All organic, you couldn’t get more environmentally friendly than that.
MUD are all excellent examples of how public urban spaces can be transformed into cultivable land that provides environmentally friendly food sources, community support, and help to those in need. A study by the University of Manchester found the project to be an invaluable way to “alleviate food security issues as well as a way to ease stress, engage with the environment and develop a sense of community.”
MUD also runs several other projects around Manchester. Pankhurst Plot in Chorlton is a particularly lovely initiative, using the yield from the garden to support the local women’s food bank, Emmeline’s Pantry. It’s open to volunteers on Mondays from 10am – 4pm
In addition to this, Pankhurst Plot also runs Companion Planting for people who struggle with their mental health. They run on Thursdays, 1pm – 3pm.
Being outdoors can improve mental health to no end, and working as part of a community outdoors even more so. Whether it is just to have a look around at the gorgeous greenhouses, or get your hands MUDdy, Platt Fields Market Garden is a fantastic opportunity to connect with the outdoors, and other like-minded people.