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The New Diggers

Alice Roberts travels across Britain to meet the new breed of growers, guerilla gardeners and part-time farmers determined to make Britain's wasteland fertile once more.

In 1649 the chaos of the English Civil War inspired a group that declared our land to be a common treasury and began to plant fruit and vegetables on common land in southern and central England. It was a response to a shortage of food and what the Diggers saw as the misuse of productive land by the large landowners.

Alice Roberts meets the new Diggers - groups and individuals across the country determined to tackle the looming food crisis by making the wasteland grow.

In Todmorden in West Yorkshire locals began by secretly planting up the gardens of their derelict heath centre. Today the whole town seems to throb with fertility; new allotments fill the retirement home gardens and feed the residents, an aquaponics growing system is being built behind the secondary school and pak choi self-seeds through the cracks in the town centre pavements.

Near Gateshead a National Trust-owned stately home has cleared its enormous Georgian walled garden and invited local people in to create their own allotments. Meanwhile, a farming estate in Oxfordshire has decided that a reliance on arable farming leaves it vulnerable to world markets. New farmers and growers are being invited to rent small plots of land to try their hand at making the tricky transition from amateur grower to real farmer.

Alice Roberts asks if this grassroots revolution will produce enough food to feed Britain. Will it transform the shape of our countryside and the look of our towns?

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30 minutes


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