Cases of manure contamination are still cropping up see here so it's still important to take care when acquiring supplies. This is especially important in areas where Forefront weedkiller is available.

Garden Direct are offering a range of autumn plug plants

Harrod Horticultural are offering 10% discount 'til 31 August on Harrod Horticultural arches and pergolas quote ARC10 at the checkout. They also offer extra value saver packs of various types of netting

Monday, April 28

Allotments are real gardens.

I was listening to the Sky News press preview last Thursday night when the guest reviewers chose an article describing how the UK's allotment sites were under threat due to councils selling off the land for development. In spite of demand for allotments being high the temptation for cash strapped councils to sell off what is sometimes classed as prime building land is great. In the past it has been difficult for councils to sell off allotment land as the Secretary of State for Communities has to give permission for the sale and councils have had to support their request with strong evidence that the site is no longer needed.

The newspaper article being discussed stated that there was concern that the present Communities Secretary was too ready to grant permission for sales - the number of applications turned down it stated was just two with 59 sales being approved.  

Although this is of concern to me as a long standing allotment gardener what concerned me even more was the attitude of the guest reviewers who I presume only chose the article to ridicule it. One in particular said this was good news as it meant more building land would be available and that allotment were basically an eyesore with rickety old sheds and not real gardens. He said the only people who would care were people with allotments.
I found this attitude really condescending and insulting. He obviously had an old fashioned preconception of what an allotment was. 

I did wonder whether he would have been so glibly dismissive if the council were selling off, parks, football pitches, playing fields, libraries, art galleries etc.

Some houses are being built near us on what was once designated as green belt land. This in spite of brown field sites being available. The houses are close together with tiny gardens so one would think that the need for allotment land was becoming even more important as our gardening spaces shrink!

So why should the Secretary of State protect our allotment sites?
  • We grow and eat our five a day at a time when we at told that we are in danger of under producing the food that we need.
  • We lead a healthy, active, outdoor lifestyle – indeed our type of exercise continues well into retirement. Many sporting activities become inaccessible as one reaches a ‘certain age’. (One of our tenants is over 80). 
  • Gardening has been shown to improve mental as well a physical well-being
  • We garden with due consideration to our environment with many of us providing habitats on our plots for indigenous wildlife. On our site, part of our boundary is a natural hedgerow. On our individual plots we have small ponds, log piles, nectar rich flower beds and beetle banks etc.  Bees and frogs particular need our help with their food supplies and habitat under threat.
  • Our fruit and vegetables arrive in our kitchens with only their natural packaging and therefore, reduce the demand for resources and also for waste disposal. 
  • The trees and plants that we grow absorb carbon dioxide and our cultivated land produces soakaway which helps reduce flooding. Individual sites maybe do not make a huge difference but the cumulative effect across the country must. 
  • Allotments have been described as a green lung which improves our air quality.
  • We recycle, indeed as part of our fund raising on our site, we collected aluminium and steel cans. 
  • We promote social inclusion having tenants from all walks of life. We have tenants of all ages from very young children gardening with their parents to those well beyond retirement age. We have disabled tenants too. Whole families work together on their plots with a sense of purpose and achievement. If a child has experience of growing their own food from a young age that they are likely to continue for life. Young children who grow their own fruit and vegetables also are more likely to eat them! 
  • On our site families spend much time together 
  • Allotments provide a gardening space at a time when new housing is being built with very tiny garden patches.
  • Allotment sites often replicate the community spirit that is unfortunately lost in many of the areas that we live.
If you agree that our allotment sites should be better protected from being sold off then there is an epetition here which you can sign if you wish to make your views known to the government. You don't have to have an allotment to sign - just think of it as protected our green spaces from the onslaught of concrete. You could also help by sharing on Facebook, Twitter and whatever other social media you use too.

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NB: There are untended plots that we believe have been vacated on our site at Green Lane, Horbury, Wakefield. These don't appear to be being allocated. Some would need only a bit of work to get growing started but will soon become overgrown if left much longer. If you would like a plot get in touch with Wakefield council contact detail here and ask if a plot is available.

It's such a pity that out neighbouring plot has been allowed to go from the state shown on the left below to that shown on the right.

Let's hope it's given someone new to care for it soon!

37 comments:

  1. Well said. It's a shame that your neighbouring plot hasn't been allocated to someone. You can see that it's getting overrun already, but if someone took it on now, there wouldn't be much work to do to whip it in to shape.

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    1. We have a few on the site like this, Jo. I hope they are allocated soon.

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  2. I like this post. There are so many interesting reasons to keep on the allotment as a real garden.

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    1. Thank you , Endah. Do you have anything similar in your part of the world.

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  3. Reiterating Jo's comment, well said Sue. I think you've provided a very comprehensive list of the benefits of allotment gardening including the community spirit that is sometimes seen on allotments. It's such a shame that there are spare plots on your allotment site, they'd be snapped up in London, not least by me!! It looks so neat, just a little work and start sowing. I drive past allotments on my way back from college and also on the road up towards Hendon, the ones that are maintained look wonderful at this time of year; sadly, there are a few that need to be re-allocated if the users don't get their fingers out!

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    1. Maybe they would here too, Caro. It could be the council dragging their feet allocating them. I suppose they may have been allocated and new tenants are dragging their feet. The latter seems unlikely though.

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  4. I've signed! And, can I just add that you don't have to live in the UK to sign, just be a British citizen, which I am although I live in France. Why sign if you live abroad? As a member of the worldwide gardening fraternity, I would hate my fellow gardening friends to lose their plots! Also, I might want to return to UK and I might want to rent an allotment to grow my own food - couldn't do that if all the land was built on!

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    1. Thank you VM you support from outside the UK is specially appreciated.

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  5. Here, here from me to Sue! We recently tried to have a small area in our village turned over to allotments with no success. Despite the plot being turned down on 3 occasions for planning permission, the land will probably be abandoned or sold on for little money - it's sad, especially as here in Edinburgh it's reported that there are thousands on waiting lists for allotments.
    I do hope those plots at Green Lane get tenants soon.

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    1. Can you raise some finding from a charity to buy the l;and and let plots? Probably too expensive but just a thought. Many allotment sites offer prime building land for cash strapped councils. The problem is that house nowadays have very tiny gardens so allotments are the only chance some have to do some gardening. Concreted gardens do nothing for water absorption or wildlife do they?

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  6. Here here Sue, totally agree with all that you have written. Its getting a bit worrying this loss of allotment sites. Do you have an allotment committee or site secretary who can liaise with the council to urge them to get going with letting the vacant sites. The annoying thing is that it would be much easier for the next person if its done as quickly as possible before the site gets overgrown again. Its so short sighted. I hope you get a new neighbour soon.

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    1. We do have a site secretary and she is but to no avail, Annie. I'm hoping now bills for rent have gone out something may happen.

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  7. What a bunch of idiots, you are so right about the many and various benefits of growing on an allotment Sue, which makes it all the more upsetting to see plots going to weeds like that. I don't understand it.

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    1. The trouble is that the people who make these decisions, Janet either have huge gardens tended by a gardener or no interest in gardening at all. Just read how much our council have spent of a swimming pool which probably came from the same budget pot. After all swimming is a real way to spend leisure time isn't it?

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  8. an extremely well put agument Sue for allotment plots your site looks ideal, and I hope those empty plots find new owners

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    1. So do I, David trouble is any argument will probably fall on deaf ears.

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  9. A really great post Sue, I hate the thought of allotment sites being built on. Once they're gone we'll never get them back.

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    1. That is very true, CJ. Instead of growing potatoes we will become couch potatoes.

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  10. I couldn't agree more - a well written and thought provoking post Sue.

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  11. If it is any consolation comments about allotments are the same everywhere. Here in Croatia allotments are a new thing and for now town councils give them only to the people that have no jobs and need help. But still there is a lot of nasty comments about allotments being ugly and unnecessary and if someone wants to garden he should move and garden in village. People that say that have probably never held a dibble in their hand and think potatoes they eat magically appear on their plates.

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    1. I is amazing that some people see growing food as an unworthy think to do Leanan. It would be interesting to find out what the overall impact on food production there would be if everyone stopped growing their own.

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  12. Yes I have signed the e-petition, for all the reasons you describe, Sue.

    And it is a bit sinister that with a waiting list plots are going to waste!

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    1. It is, Mal I have written to my MP and a local councillor asking if Wakefield have any plans to sell any sites

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  13. That is so true. I don't have an allotment but I agree with every word you said!

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  14. A compelling post Sue. We are lucky at the moment to have a council that is sympathetic but I'm very mindful that this may not always be the case. For our part as a self managed site we work hard as group to maintain a good standard of 'tidiness' and cultivation mindful of the fact that it's hard to argue that something is so valuable in the community if it's not treated as such.

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    1. A few years ago we were in discussion with the council re becoming self managed, Victoria. At that point we had an association and were almost self managed as it was. We kept our own waiting list, allocated plots and fund raised for improvements. We had already funded on piece of new fencing and two gates and were part way to funding another stretch of fencing. Unfortunately we had a small group of individuals that decided to stir things up and cause a lot of unpleasantness. The council were at best unsupportive and this resulted in no association, no more improvements and definitely no self management.

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    2. It seems to be such a variable relationship with councils around the country and I'm guessing that this is a lot to do with the time and resource they have or are prepared to have in place. We still rely heavily on that relationship and I'm not sure what the route is if it doesn't exist.

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  15. Allotments are a vital part of our culture and the benefits are too many to list. We should be promoting gardening and offering more allotments rather than facing the loss of some existing ones.Critics are clearly not gardeners otherwise they would understand the benefits and the pleasures, rage and small.

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    1. The people who are responsible for allotments are not all gardeners either, Jane which means they also lack understanding.

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  16. There a lot of benefit to have allotment! I agree with you! Very good harvest and like love your flowers

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    1. And having an allotment get you out in the fresh air, Malar.

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  17. I can't write what I really think - you'd have to delete it :{

    Decisions like this are being taken by idiots. When they are incredibly hungry because the country can no longer (for whatever reason) import nearly half of our food it will be too late to realise how wrong this is.

    http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/issue/uk.html

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    1. I can guess what it would be, Jayne. I was only saying the other day that it would be interesting to fnd out what the impact on food production allotments have - and then combine that with garden production which due to tiny gardens with new builds is being stifled. Wakefield state that they have 1800 plots so that is 1800 families - maybe extended families and friends being provided with fresh fruit and/ot vegetables.

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  18. Well said Sue!!! I couldn't agree more and I've signed of course.xxx

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