If you can remember any of the New Year’s resolutions you made this year and if any of them involved exercise, get more fresh air, eating more fruit and vegetables and less meat, teaching the kids where their food is grown, meeting new people and reducing your carbon footprint …
Then, to achieve this, an allotment might be the thing for you!
Right now the Westfield Allotment Association has three half plots available to rent at for the very reasonable sum of just £15.50 for the year.
I met up with plot secretary Rhona and chairman, Eric, at the allotments at the top of Ashgate Road, as you approach town, to look for myself.
“The half plots we have available now, typically need about 4 to 5 hours a week to make effective use of the plot” says Rhona. Keeping on top of an allotment can take a lot of time and commitment, we estimate a full plot can take as much as ten hours a week to maintain so the half plots make it more enjoyable and achievable for many people.
“The half plots are particularly suitable for people who work and can manage the plot around family life. Some people come down for an hour before work, others involve the children who learn about the life of a plant from seed to harvesting them and cooking the results.
“To further encourage the kids to get involved this year we’re holding a sunflower growing and biggest pumpkin competition.”
“And it’s definitely not just for young people, our oldest plot holder is a chap called Brian, he’s 81 and is here most days. It’s a great way to keep active, for both the mind and the body.”
There have been allotments on the Ashgate Road site for maybe 100 years or more and they are run by a new committee which has been in place for about six months. Ten years ago one third of the 31 plots were unused.
Eric explained a bit more about how the allotments work. “There are a few rules and regulations at the allotments to ensure safety but we are full of new ideas and want to encourage people to take pride in their plot. Many people think councils run allotment sites, but they hand the site over to an association who run and manage the plots, all the council do is collect the rents.”
As I wandered around the site I was told of badgers on the site and a ready supply of pallets to construct compost bins! “The site is next door to the Inspire Community Garden” Eric explained, “and we lean on each other for support. We harvest as much water as possible so plots have a supply and typical produce includes runner beans, potatoes, broccoli, cabbages, squashes, pumpkins, fruit bushes and much more.”
“I raise a few pounds for Ashgate Hospice” explains Eric, “I keep the paths clear for people in return for a donation. I also enjoy the social side of the site, there’s always someone around to chat to in the summer and we have a team at the Fairplay Quiz night coming up soon.
“My father had an allotment and loved to grow his own produce, this love has passed down to me and I too like nothing more than a good harvest from my plot.”
Rhona added that “similarly to Eric, it was my grandfather who had an allotment in Sheffield behind the steelworks by the canal in the Carbrook area. I remember as a child going so it’s lovely to have my own plot today.”
With the gardens of new houses getting smaller and smaller many simply don’t have the space for growing vegetables so if you’re interested in taking a plot at the Ashgate Allotments get in touch with Rhona on 07771 529669.
The Pocket History of Allotments:
Allotments have existed since the early 18th century, with Birmingham encircled by allotments, some of which still exist to this day. The oldest allotment site is thought to be Great Somerford Free Gardens in Wiltshire, created in 1809 following a letter to King George III asking the king to spare six acres from the Inclosure Acts for the benefit of the poor of the parish.
Local authorities are required to maintain an “adequate provision” of land for allotment gardens for individual residents at a low rent.
Total plot numbers across the UK have varied, 1,400,000 plots are thought to have existed during World War II. Today it’s estimated that 350,000 plots exist with many people on waiting lists for vacant plots.
Allotments are increasingly important as people look for food security, greater levels of self-sufficiency, and a drive to reduce food miles, as well as simply a great hobby.