Urban Futures Salford Manchester. Research in the City

Didsbury Greening and Growing Group

The Didsbury Greening and Growing Group (DGGG) was established with the help of the Didsbury Civic Society which has in turn received support from the Northenden Civic Society. The DGGG  initially involved people from both groups.

DGGG's focus is on improving the local landscape and much of its work has involved efforts to grow food locally through developing orchards and allotments. There is a vibrant local food growing scene in the Didsbury area. The Didsbury Dinners community food growing programme, for example, is a well-developed community and volunteer food growing initiative based in the area. Indeed, Didsbury Dinners has part financed the work of the DGGG.

As part of its commitment to growing more local food, in April 2011 DGGG developed a community orchard with 40 native fruit trees including apple, pear, plum and damson, and   blackberry and raspberry bushes.

Often groups formed to develop gardens and grow food focus solely or largely on these activities. Yet a few, like DGGG, not only cultivate community gardens but embrace community engagement and ownership of other assets, including energy generation. 


An Alternative?


In 2011 DGGG announced plans to develop a hydro power scheme on the River Mersey at Northenden Weir and the adjacent Northenden Mill. The plan was to install an Archimedean screw and generate electricity to power around 50 homes. In addition to generating energy for these homes, the plan was to feed surplus electricity back into the grid through a nearby sub-station in order to generate income via the government’s Feed-in-Tariff (FiT).

Though the mill building was demolished in 1966, a significant part of the story surrounding the proposed project was that hydro power had been trialled at the beginning of the 20th Century on the same site, in what was thought to be the first commercial hydroelectric scheme in Britain. 

Plans for the scheme were developed by the DGGG and its costs were estimated at around £500,000. The hope was that this sum would be generated equally between private investment and local people. Feasibility studies were undertaken by the Environment Agency and the local authority gave approval in principle to the plans. It is unclear, at the time of writing, what the current status of the scheme is.

This example provides many lessons but there are three in particluar that stand out: 

1. The ways in which different community groups interconnect – here DGGG and its relationships with the Civic Society and Didsbury Dinners – is important to their ability to operate.

2. The ways in which community groups develop and extend their interests – here from community growing to community energy generation – means it is important to understand the biographies of community groups and their changing modes and focus of operation.

3. An important element of community initiatives is that they experiment - whether or not they achieve their stated ends.


Update - July 2014


The hydroelectric scheme proved unviable in view of the long period of time that it would take to generate any return for investors.

The Stenner Lane Community Orchard, however, is thriving due to the efforts of a small group of volunteers who continue to maintain it. In Autumn 2013, the orchard won Silver Gilt in the "It's Your Neighbourhood" category of the North-West in Bloom awards, improving from Level 1 to  Level 4 in just one year! The next steps are to create a picnic area and to label each of the 42 fruit trees.



This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

Many thanks to Judy Robinson from the DGGG for her support in writing this article.

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