Remembering David Browning 1939-2022

David’s 80th birthday, June 2019

I had the great fortune to meet David when he moved to the Newsome area and joined our community forum. He brought all his learning and decades of food growing experience with him. Always keen to help others and generous with his time and expertise, David quickly embarked on a tour of allotment sites, keen to investigate why local people were struggling to find an allotment, despite there being plots available “on paper”. His belief in seeing things for yourself and taking the time to understand how things really are for people is something that helped to shape Growing Newsome.

We first started working together through our shared interest in local land for food growing and wildlife. Through David’s contacts, we were able to work with Steve and Kate’s wonderful research company, who supported us to go out and ask hundreds of local people whether they wanted to grow their own food, and what might help them. The results were overwhelmingly positive – and three weeks after hearing those results, we held our first Growing Newsome event.

David at our first ever Growing Newsome event, May 2009

This was the beginning of a decade of working with David. In that time, we learned that we were growing far more than food – we were growing friendships and a shared sense of belonging. And David was a real friend throughout it all. Despite having worked on so many other projects, we knew that he really valued the work we were doing in our local neighbourhood and he encouraged us to share our learning with other groups and organisations. He was always looking ahead and was a great strategic thinker. But he also had a huge amount of practical knowledge and skills, which he was generous in sharing. He helped us to build growing frames at our community allotment and helped lots of others to build raised beds for growing food.

David helping to set up our Community Allotment, 2010

Each October he would run the garlic stall at our Autumn event in Newsome Scout Hall, using his encyclopaedic understanding of the different varieties and growing techniques to help people choose well. When discussing the health benefits of Growing Newsome in a workshop one day, he joked that he was sure we’d collectively lowered the blood pressure of half of Newsome by the sheer amount of garlic that we’d given out and encouraged people to grow over the years.

David with my mum and Cherry on our stall at Stirley Farm, 2011

The crops that David grew at his own allotment were as abundant as his knowledge. Once a year, we’d get a message saying that he was overrun with fruit and please could we come and pick some to help him out (though of course, he was really helping us). We were amazed by the huge crop of loganberries, the unfeasibly enormous blackcurrants, and the seemingly never-ending supply of berries from what came to be known as “David’s infinite gooseberry bush”.

We started Growing Newsome together in the belief that we all have something to share – that between us, we have everything we need to grow our own food. David was a great example of that. He shared so much with us over the years, and with me personally. More than once I would come home to find a little packet on my doormat which contained a wonderful book that I had not ordered, only later to discover that David had thoughtfully sent me a copy because he thought I might find it useful. I suspect that he quietly helped lots of people in similar ways, building people’s confidence and making sure that we knew how to do things ourselves, so that we could support other people in future.

David with me & a visitor at our Community Allotment, July 2015

This summer, we had a particularly good crop of loganberries and gooseberries at our community allotment. It made me think of David and remember the happy afternoons spent picking masses of fruit at his immaculately kept allotment, harvesting the fruits of his labour for people in our community to enjoy.

Diane, Growing Newsome

You might also like to read this tribute from David’s friend Ali Stopher:

Celebrating the Life of David Browning

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