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16 December 2017


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Bitterne Parker: Alan Gibson
Sunday, 31 August 2014 00:00

alan gibson tree
Alan Gibson has many strings to his bow. Not only is he well known in Southampton and beyond for his ‘Urbane Foraging’, but he's also been a coach of Wing Chun (Chinese kung fu) for over 25 years, with books and DVDs published on the subject. He’s currently writing a thriller for children.

The Qs & the As

What’s your link with Bitterne Park?

It is where we live!

What’s your earliest memory of the area?

Thinking the Cobden Bridge looked like it should be over the Thames. It is a marvellous structure and looks its best from on the water.

How could it be better?

Quieter planes, more bicycles/pedestrians, a good fruit and veg shop and someone paying off our mortgage.

Tell us something we probably didn’t know already about Bitterne Park.

I used to live on the other side of Cobden Bridge and always referred to my friends, who lived in Bitterne Park, as being on “the wrong side of the river” –my argument being that criminals were allegedly deported there in Southampton’s dim distant dark past. Botany Bay frequently featured in my “evidence”. Obviously there was not enough funding to send them to Australia, due to council cutbacks…

What’s good about the wider city?

I have always liked Southampton, it is a vibrant city; we have two rivers that run into the sea, plenty of green parks, a hot music scene, lots of creative arts and a top football team.

Southampton: points for improvement?

Less cars (driven more considerately) & more cycle paths!


‘A cosy rustic restaurant would be nice.
If I think of a really good idea, I'll do it myself’


What’s your passion in life?

Alan Gibson Wing Chun 200pxWing Chun (Chinese kung fu): I have been coaching this art for over 25 years and have several popular books and DVDs published on the system. I run regular classes in the pavilion at the Highfield (Portswood) Resident’s Gardens.

Fruit trees: I enjoy running the Urbane Forager project with my children; we pick loads of free fruit, last year we harvested 200 Kgs of apples. The blog is astonishingly popular, with readers from all over globe. I am currently working toward the production of an Urbane Forager book, which I aim to have ready in time for Xmas.

Writing: I love writing and I am working on a children’s novel, which is something new for me. The story is a thriller; I want to frighten children and meet Mariela Frostrop. This tale alludes to another interest of mine: Neolithic stone circles and megaliths.

How do you put bread on your table?

I normally use a plate but occasionally resort to the breadboard, when I’m feeling adventurous.

What has your career taught you?

Hobbies and passions are very important, stay in touch with friends, spend time with your family, and save some space for yourself.

What really gets your goat?


How do you relax?

Walking, rowing, writing.

What’s your favourite dish?

Fresh fish with rice and veg.

Which is your favourite pub?

The Butchers Hook (of course).

radioWhat do you listen to?

Radio 6 for music, Radio 4 for everything else.

Can you recommend a really good read?

The Medusa Frequency, Ridley Walker or anything else by Russell Hoban.

What’s a great day out?

A walk in the countryside, followed by a picnic on a hill fort or in a Neolithic stone circle.

Tell us a secret.

Secrets are for keeping, not telling.

Tell us a joke.

It’s raining cats and dogs out there!

Yes, I know, I just stepped in a poodle…

Finally, what would be another great question for other Bitterne Parkers?

What kind of business/shop would you like to see in the Triangle?

My answer would be anything – as long as they are open. A cosy rustic restaurant would be nice. If I think of a really good idea, I'll do it myself.

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions. But before then, do you know a Bitterne Parker we really should feature? If so, please nominate them by emailing us using the contact form, and we'll do our best. No promises, mind. 

Alan's Wing Chun website is here, and his Urbane Forager blog is here.

Listen to Alan Gibson chatting about the community orchard in Swaythling, and urbane foraging, in our audio interview from 2012.

Read about other Bitterne Parkers


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