Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Autumn Plot

Autumn is really underway now and most of my allotment is dug over and covered for the winter. Plastic, fleece or cardboard are all great to keep the soil weedfree, dry and crumbly. Some gardeners turn the soil and let it get well frosted, which kills bugs and diseases and helps to break down heavy soil. I may leave some of my beds uncovered and hope for frost too.

And a view of lots of cardboard!

Some plants look terrible, I hope they will recover. The strawberries still need some sorting out for next year

The pond is partly netted to catch leaves, I try to fish the rest out every now and then with a net.

Some things are growing though, and the garlic I planted a couple of weeks ago is already sprouting. It will be ready in July. You can plant it in February but I have found it does not grow so large when i do.

Last time I was on the plot I was watching the bank voles, coal tits, robins and dunnocks feeding from the bird feeders and ground. It was really peaceful and calm. The allotment in winter is a place for being close to nature and escaping the rat race just as much as in the summer. I am so lucky to have the allotment, and I know my fellow allotment holders feel the same. It is a shame that inspite of increased demand, and inspite of laws that encourage councils to increase the provision of allotments, the Central Lancashire Local Development Framework is concentrating almost entirely on building, commercial and economic development and not on green spaces or allotments.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Peoples Plots. 1.

It is lovely to feel part of a community on the allotments, and i have been visiting other peoples plots now that the autumn digging is well underway. A newcomer to the plots is Sue and her family. She wanted to get an allotment, after looking after mine for a couple of weeks, and after pressure from her kids to grow more veg. (pester power working to great effect!)

she has a lovely pond...

And some well established fruit trees, always an advantage when taking over someone elses plot...

crab apples too..

Sue has enjoyed gardening since she was a kid, and remembers growing vegetables with her dad,

She, like so many of us, values the space, a green space, traffic free, no houses, loads of birds and other wildlife, to escape to.

Fresh food, (if the slugs dont get it, or the rabbits!) Feeling better from being outside, the exercise and going out on days you would normally stay in, but feeling better for it, all are advantages of having an allotment. And then there is the chance to let your artistic side free...

Friday, 21 September 2007

Autumn Clearup

Well its that time of year again when the vegetables are nearly done and the beds need digging and weeding and covering ready for next year. I love this time of year, and feel especially close to the seasons and to the land when i am up on the plot in autumn.

The honeysuckle has grown so huge that it is pulling down the support frame and covering the apple tree nearby. I have pruned it hard back and hope it will recover. I have cuttings growing just in case!

Bonfires help to get rid of some of the trimmings, some can be composted and some have to go to the tip to be composted there.

Of course some crops are still doing well, autumn raspberries crop until the frost or December, whichever is first. Beans, courgettes, sweetcorn and cabbage are still there to be used. Leeks will be ready soon, as will my pumpkins, in time for halloween. The last apples can be used up in the next few weeks too.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, 12 September 2007


A bumper plum crop this year has resulted in much preserving and hunting down of receipes for plums. Of course fresh plums are lovely, as is plum crumble, plum tart, plum pie, plum cobbler and stewed plums. Eventually though with a freezer groaning with plums and friends refusing to take any more i made jam.

The receipe was very good...

Plum Jam
2.7 kg (6lbs) plums
2.7 kg (6lbs) sugar
knob of butter

Put all plums and 900ml water (1.5 pints) into a preserving pan and simmer until fruit is very soft and contents of pan are well reduced. (about 30-40 mins)

Take pan off heat, remove as many stones as possible.

Add sugar and stir, heat very gently until sugar dissolves. Add butter. Bring to boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached.

Pot and cover.

Jam was not enough though to work through my plums which filled a crate. I hunted through some old receipe books and made chutney.

Spiced Plum Chutney

3lb (1.35kg) Plums
3 largish onions
1lb (450g) Cooking apples
1lb (450g) Seedless raisins
1lb (450g) dark soft brown sugar
1lb (450g) demerara sugar
2 cloves
2 pints (1.25 litres) malt vinegar
3 cloves garlic
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons salt
2 small cinnamon sticks
1oz (25g) allspice berries - i didn't use these as i couldn't find any

Stone and halve the plums and put in large pan
Peel, core and chop apple and add
Crush garlic and add.
Add ginger, raisins, both sugars, vinegar
Sprinkle in salt and stir
Put cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in a bit of cloth, tie up and put into pan

Bring to boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir regularly to prevent sticking.

Put into steralized puts and keep for 3 months before eating.

This looks fine, but doesnt use many plums. However i had plenty of apples and onions too!

I still had many plums and now even my own family were refusing to eat them and so i made plum ketchup. This is actually rather good although a faff to make,but it has the benefit of using a lot of plums!

Plum Ketchup

8lb (3kg 600g) plums
8oz (225g) currants
1lb (450g) onion chopped small
2oz (50g) salt
1ld (450g) demerara sugar
2 pints (1.25 litres) distilled white vinegar

tie the following up in a piece of gauze

6-8 dried chillies
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/2 oz (10g)root ginger crushed a bit first
1/2 oz (10g) allspice berries
2 garlic cloves peeled.

Stone plums and put in pan with currants, onions, and bag of spices.
Add 1 pint (570ml) of the vinegar
Bring to boil and simmer until soft

remove spices and liquidise the rest of the mixture until perfectly smooth. (You can sieve it too)
Rinse pan and return puree to it with bag of spices. Add rest of vinegar,salt and sugar.
Bring to simmering point and cook uncovered until reduced to about 3.5 pints, or 2 litres. (about 1.5-2 hours)

Prepare the ketchup bottles (old glass ones or preserving bottles) Boil them and their tops. Pour ketchup into bottles while they are still warm. Put the tops on but do not tighten them.
Put bottles in a pan, add warm water up to 4cm or 1.5 inches from the tops. Bring water to boil and boil for 10 mins.
Transfer bottles to a wooden surface and complete the sealing.

Now i just need to sort out my apples......

Friday, 3 August 2007

Other Plots

There are over 80 plots on my allotment site, and they are all different. Here are some of them.

The traditional plots usually consist of two long beds either side of a central path. These are then divided by the different crops that are grown.

A few years ago small beds became very popular, and many people converted their plots. Here is one that is just being done. These are supposed to cut down on digging as there is no need to walk over the earth, which does not become compacted. It is also easier to weed and maintain. It reduces the available space for growing vegetables as more paths are needed. I find that weeds grow up around the edges of the beds and they are hard to eliminate.

Some plots are rampant with growth. Even if there are weeds it is still possible to have crops of fruits and vegetables. It is surprising how quickly nature gets back control of an allotment!

Some plots are just beautiful. These dahlias are lovely.

and here is a bumper crop of beans inspite of the bad weather we have been having!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Allotment Diary July 2007

It has been raining for ever and I havn’t been to the allotment as often as I should. I have been visiting family and doing extra hours at work, and to be honest, my poor plot is looking neglected. We seem to have rabbits at work, and they have polished off my peas and my carrots.
Still I have been picking the blackcurrants and have dug up my garlic to dry.

I will need to get the onions soon

Other things are surviving, or even growing a bit, like the runner beans,

Sweet peas

Cabbages, although a little munched by caterpillers…

Courgettes are becoming marrows rather too quickly with all the rain. Any courgette receipes would be useful, but not marrow jam, its just too grim!

Of course my pond is still ok, a little covered in weed and in need of attention, but full of bugs and frogs and damselflies.

Today I saw bank voles making a nest in a deserted corner. I expect they will be munching all my peas and beans later, but I think I am ok with that, how hypocritical, it is because they are furry, i bet i wouldn't feel that way about a gang of slugs!

I tried tomatoes in grow bags this year as I get blight on the plot. It hasn’t worked – I think I haven’t watered them enough.

Happy Plotting!

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Penwortham Allotments protected from development

In spite of rumours to the contrary, all Penwortham allotment sites have the full protection of the law with regards to their development. They are all statutory sites and this means that they cannot be used for any purpose other than as allotments unless it can be proven that they are surplus to requirements. This means a substantial proportion of the plots must be vacant.

Benedicta Peters from the urban green spaces team in the Department of Communities and Local Government confirmed
"Consent is not given unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the local authority has done full investigation into whether the plot really is surplus; for example they've taken into account their waiting list and have advertised extensively"

The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners confirm this interpretation of the law and explain

In 1998, the Select Committee Enquiry into allotments resulted in the report The Future of Allotments in which the Select Committee expressed concern about the level of allotment site disposals and the implications this would have for the predicted increase in demand for allotments in the future.

Concern had been expressed by the Select Committee that the criteria for assessing disposals were too weak and too many disposals of allotment sites had been permitted. This did not sit comfortably with the Urban White Papers commitment to the protection of urban green spaces, including allotments.

In September 1999, the Government Offices were issued guidance by the Government on allotment policy and casework. This included a section on the procedure for dealing with applications to dispose to statutory allotment land under Section 8 of the 1925 Allotment Act.

Adequate provision will be made for displaced plot holders, or that such provision is not necessary or is impracticable;

The number of people on the waiting list has been effectively taken into account;

The authority has actively promoted and publicised the availability of allotment sites and has contacted The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners

In February 2002, the Planning Policy Guidance Note 17— Sport, Open Space and Recreation was strengthened and the criteria clarified by adding that

The allotment in question is not necessary and is surplus to requirements

The implications of disposal for other relevant policies, in particular development plan policies, have been taken into account.

It is clear from this that it is not sufficient to offer an alternative site to allotment holders and that as long as the allotments have 100% occupancy and a waiting list they cannot be disposed of under current legislation.

Rumour has it that Preston City Council wish to restrict the waiting lists for their two sites in Penwortham to Preston City residents only. This would reflect the increasing demand for plots, and if this goes ahead then there may be a case for more allotment sites in South Ribble to cope with current demand.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Grow Your Own – Allotments hit the silver screen!

A new film, Grow Your Own has been released which centres on the allotment and the part it can play in forming communities from individuals. It is based on a real project to give Balkan War refugees allotments in Liverpool. Gardening as therapy for those who have experienced real trauma is increasingly recognised as beneficial, as The Medical Foundation for the care of victims of torture has found in its work with torture survivors. Those involved in the charity’s natural growth project find it easier to talk about the past outside, on one of the projects allotments.

Grow Your Own follows the lives of the plotholders over a year, and focuses on the changes which ensue when two new tenants arrive: Diveen Henry’s widowed Zimbabwean √©migr√© Miriam (with son in tow) and broken, Chinese mute Kung Sang, who’s unable to care for his two kids. As the seasons pass, the elder tenants and their new neighbours begin to connect and, inevitably, grow along with their produce. The full review can be seen here

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Allotment diary May 2007

I cant believe I am doing my diary for may and it is the middle of June. I guess that I have been so busy planting and watering things that I have not had time to write about it! It has been really dry on the allotments during May. I tried to water as much as I could, but like many people did not make it up everyday. I am not sure whether I should just give up on my carrot seeds, but think I will give them another couple of weeks to appear. I have sown them 3 times now. I have seen a couple of tiny seedlings, which have disappeared. Slugs? Mice? Birds? Aliens? Who knows!

Other than this things are doing ok. My peas are a little yellow, and I think it is magnesium deficiency so I have put some epsom salts on them. I don’t get such a good crop as other plots. I need to go and ask what the trick is!

It looks like a bumper year for fruit.

Strawberries are just beginning to ripen

Plums are blooming

Currents are ripening

Apples are looking good.

Onions and garlic need some rain really to swell them up a bit but they are ok, courgettes are settling in.

We have dug up the first new potatoes, we used to wait until June, but by the time we get to the end of them they have become floury and are more prone to slug damage. We dig them up so early we need 3 plants for the family, but they do taste good!

The allotments are looking lovely, foxgloves and iris giving splashes of colour. Most people have a few flowers on the plots to encourage the bees and those butterflies!

On the pond the lily leaves are up, but no flowers yet. The tadpoles are getting fatter. We have seen damselflies on the pond, two types, the blue ringtail and the emerald rubyspot. It is such a peaceful and relaxing place to be, and there is nothing more stress busting than an hour by the pond with a good book! Why not put a pond on your allotment or in your garden? The . BBC website tells you how.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Excellent reasons to preserve allotments

What is the value of allotments to a community? Recently a survey of London’s allotments has been completed which identifies 5 main areas of benefit. The survey was commissioned by the Environment Committee and the London Assembly.Londons disapearing allotments (Link to london assembly pages, scroll down for A lot to lose)

Social benefits.

Allotments are found within often densely populated urban areas. Living in cities can create a sense of isolation because the size of the city makes social networks difficult to establish. In Greenwich one association told the London Assembly

“Many firm friendships have orgininated here – the first question to any new allotment neighbour is not ‘what do you do?’ but ‘what are you planning to grow?’”

The mix of people with a common interest makes for interesting friendships which break age, religious and ethnic divides.

In his book Allotment Folk, Chris Opperman interviews many different allotment enthusiasts and their take on allotmenting is as diverse as they are. Stan, who is 26 and had just taken a plot says “if I hadn’t had people around me to show me what to do and encourage me I think I might have given up. Those people have become friends, good ones.”

This mirrors my own experience when, 6 months pregnant, I first looked at the grassy area which was my allotment. Two old timers, George and Jim provided advice, encouragement and lots of practical help. In my first growing season most of my produce was gifts from other plotholders as I struggled to tame the weeds and clay soil that I had inherited.

The allotment is social but it is also a place of solitude and peace.

Health benefits.

One of the most frequently cited benefits of allotment gardening is health improvement and the impact of ‘green exercise’ on physical and mental health is of increasing interest to the medical professionals.

Research such as the Cultivating Health project illustrate the advantages to older people of allotment gardening.

The health benefits were also recognised by the Government in its response to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committees report The Future of Allotments (September 1998)

In which the government recognises the health benefits of allotment gardening and agrees that “allotments will often form a component part of healthy neighbourhoods”

The health argument is more compelling when you add Government predictions that over 12 million people will be obese by 2010. (Forecasting Obesity to 2010, Department of health August 2006).

The health values of gardening are not disputed, and in a period of extensive house building where new homes are often built with very little outside space, the demand for allotments can be expected to rise.

The London Assembly report A Lot To Lose cites an association in Barnet

“At any one time here there are up to a dozen plotholders who are chronically ill, often with cancer, for whom the allotments are a positive lifeline, a source of physical and spiritual refreshment that keeps them going from day to day.”

My husband was made redundant 9 months after our daughter was born. I think that working the plot, producing our own food, helped us through that very low point. It was 18 months before he found another job.

The Medical Foundation for the care of victims of torture has found gardening effective in its work with torture survivors. Those involved in the charities natural growth project find it easier to talk about the past outside, on one of the projects allotments.

Healthy Eating

There are long term health benefits from eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables. I grow fruits that we all love but that are too expensive to buy in large quantities, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb, those sweet peas in the pod and plums.

In May 2006 The Majors Food Strategy Healthy and Sustainable food for London identified as a priority action the expansion of individual and community growing, for example in allotments.

Allotments have been used by many councils to help to educate children and young people about food production.


Allotments have a special status as green areas within often heavily built up urban centres and they can make a valuable contribution to biodiversity.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, London, says

“House sparrows and starlings are among birds disappearing from our streets but its noticeable from our annual Big Garden/Big Schools birdwatch campaigns that areas around allotments fare much better…. To some an untended plot may be an eyesore but these wild areas are home to a wide range of birds and insects. Bramble and ivy provide both food and shelter all year round and are favoured by wrens, robins, blackbirds and song thrushes.” (p.11 A lot to lose, Londons disappearing allotments)

These arguments are supported by many plotholders. See my previous blog on biodiversity

Allotments also greatly reduce the transport costs of food. They have the shortest distance from field to plate. A government report The Validity of Food Miles as an indicator of sustainable development in July 2005 put the environmental, social and economic cost of food transport at £9 billion annually. 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted in the UK in 2002 as a result of food transportation.

Food packaging is also a major issue facing todays government. It is estimated that UK households produce the equivalent of 245 jumbo jets worth a week of packaging waste.statistics from waste online

The actions of individuals have been increasingly highlighted by government as vital to reducing landfill and to becoming ‘carbon neutral’. One way for local communities to help to achieve this is by providing allotments for all those who with to cultivate them – friends and neighbours benefit too- and to promote this lifestyle as vigorously as possible.

Financial Benefits

The original purpose of allotments in the General Inclosure Act of 1845 was to provide a source of fresh food for the landless poor. Some plots are productive enough to reap real savings for individuals. My own plot means I am self sufficient in fruit and veg for two months of the year, and do have some crops all year round.

In the past allotments were a vital part of a families income – John Stuart Mill claimed that allotments were a contrivance to compensate the labourer for the insufficiency of his wages by giving him something else as a supplement to them. (J.S Mill Principles of Political Economy Volume 2 1848)

Having a plot though, means you always have something to give, always part of allotment life. This is a market where you can give and take – share – with pleasure.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Friday, 11 May 2007

Allotment Diary April 2007

The weather was so beautiful at the beginning of the month, but the ground became very hard to dig, probably because my soil is quite heavy and tends towards clay! However, although slugs have eaten my spinach, and my carrot seeds have not yet appeared, (or have appeared and disappeared overnight)…things are not looking too bad on the plot.

The broad beans and peas are growing well, and another row of peas has been planted out. The gooseberries and blackcurrants are setting fruit, as is the plum tree. That looks like it will be a bumper crop. Strawberries are flowering too, and doing very well in the hot april weather.

I have finished cropping the purple sprouting broccoli and have also had some rhubarb, which I had forced, under a bucket. It made a very good crumble. Encouraged by the hot weather I planted some courgettes and cucumbers under the plastic cloche, and put tomatoes in grow bags surrounded by a plastic windshield. I have to put the tomatoes in grow bags as I have tomato blight in the soil.

Of course the weeds are doing well and weeding is a constant job to do. I am trying to mulch out the sticky weed that is taking over!

As for nature we have released frogs near to the pond from tadpoles that we had in a tank at home. On the evening that we did this we also saw larger frogs in the pond. Pond skaters have been seen as well.

A pair of blue tits is using my nest box, inspite of the fact that the clematis covering it died this year. Once they have finished nesting I will be able to dig out and replace the clematis.

It is good to see so many people on the plots at this time of year. It is a very social place to garden, and there is always someone around to ask for advice or help. Allotments certainly seem to be growing in popularity now, and we have a waiting list for our plots.

People experience so many benefits in having an allotment that are much more than the more obvious exercise, social contact, fresh air and good food. They are a fantastic stress buster. Redundancy, bereavement, illness, depression, all have been helped by a few hours down on the plot, as plotters will testify.

Saturday, 21 April 2007


Biodiversity can be defined as “all living things, from the tiny garden ant to the giant redwood tree. You will find Biodiversity everywhere, window boxes and wild woods, roadsides and rain forests, snow fields and sea shore” (The UK Steering Group Report Great Britain Biodiversity Action Plan Website)

Biodiversity is important because it gives us many of the essentials of life, the network of ecosystems, habitats and species provide the support systems that sustain human existence. The value of biodiversity ranges from the spiritual benefits to be gained from contact with nature, to the economic value of crops and livestock. The potential of wild species to provide us with new sources of food, or medicines is vast. However the world is losing its biodiversity at an ever-increasing rate as a result of human activity. In the UK we have lost over 100 species this century, with other species and habitats in danger of disappearing (Lancashire County council biodiversity action plan We must take action or pass on to future generations a planet that is markedly poorer than the one we were privileged to inherit.

A biodiversity action plan has recently been produced for Lancashire recognising the importance that wildlife can make to the quality of life in both rural and urban areas. Allotments are identified as important to this plan. Lancashire County Council aim to promote sustainability/lifestyle choices that can have a beneficial effect on allotment habitats and/ or associated species by ensuring that sustainable community plans at district level recognise the importance of allotments to the quality of life. ( Lancashire County Council Bap template for habitat action plans )

Lancashire County Council hope to develop some of the allotments in Penwortham to encourage young people to get involved through partnerships with schools, and they would like the Penwortham allotments run by Preston City Council to be a recognised Biodiversity Action Plan habitat. They aim to secure a 20% increase in the number of allotment holders’ committees integrating biodiversity action into the management of their holdings.

Individual allotments are managed in many different ways and there has always been some conflict between those who use chemicals that can harm wildlife and clear every inch of land and those who encourage wildlife by making ponds, not using harmful chemicals and leaving areas of land untouched. Untended plots and the areas around and bordering the allotment site are important. Allotments break up the urban landscape, provide urban green lungs that help to keep cities alive, and provide havens for urban wildlife.

Eric Simms in Birds of Town and Suburb (Collins 1975) also points to the importance of allotments, calling them valuable wildlife habitats, where birds such as the wren, jay, tawny owl, kestrel, bullfinch and tree sparrow among many others can be found.
On edges and paths and on uncultivated plots plant species abound. “ In the few years that an allotment was left uncultivated…twenty-three flower species were recorded, among them field rose, black bryony, and teasel: there were larger skipper butterflies and meadow browns were abundant” (The Allotment its Landscape and Culture, David Crouch, 1988 p.185)

On my own allotment I have hedgehogs, bank voles, frogs, toads, nesting dunnocks and robins, great tits, blue tits, long tailed tits, bullfinches, chaffinches, greenfinches, wrens, tree sparrows, house sparrows, a kestrel, many butterflies, ground beetles, ladybirds, lacewings and many other insects.


Peacock Butterfly

When I am working on the plot the sound of birdsong can almost drown out the sound of the cars on the bypass just the other side of the trees.

The Lancashire Biodiversity Action plan concludes, “Increasingly, local authorities are being required to demonstrate that the services they provide are not only cost effective but also represent ‘best value’ when they are measured against other criteria such as sustainability. The conservation of biodiversity is a key element of sustainable development and as such should be regarded as an important indicator of council performance with regard to ‘best value’. If a local council’s actions lead to a significant decrease in local biodiversity, it could be argued that the authority is failing to provide ‘best value’. ( Lancashire County Council Biodiversity Action Plan)

Sunday, 8 April 2007

The ‘vision’ for allotments in penwortham

The Preston Economic Regeneration Strategy and Prioritised Action Plan shows Preston City councils vision for the future of the city of preston. "key project proposals include the development ...of a new 'central park' with associated residential development" p.7 Preston economic regeneration strategy and prioritised action plan. The composite master plan produced by Taylor Young architects is reproduced below. It clearly shows the massive extent of the housing and business development planned for the area south of the river.

The new area of development on the left of the composite master plan covers all allotments in penwortham, those run by Preston city council, south ribble borough council and penwortham town council.

At a time when allotments are becoming increasingly popular and are being seen as so beneficial to communities the proposal to build wholesale over the penwortham allotments is even at odds with other departments within lancashire county council and preston city council.

Veronica Alfrin the executive member for Regeneration community and leisure is quoted on Preston City Councils own website as saying

"Allotments are a superb way to keep fit and sharpen up your gardening skills and the funding's a great boost to our improvement plans. Things like training courses for school children are really important for encouraging young people to grow and eat their own fruit and vegetables and who knows, they may become the Alan Titchmarches of the future” after Preston was awarded £10,000 to help improve its allotment sites with new training gardens for schools and improved access for people with disabilities.

Please let your councillors know now that any vision to develop penworthams allotments will be opposed by those that love and use them now.

Monday, 2 April 2007

March Allotment Diary

A month of diverse weather has left us unsure if spring has arrived or not! Seeds planted at the end of February are growing well and should be ready for planting out by the middle of next month. Seed new potatoes – the early variety Pentland Javelin have gone in this week. Tradition has it that new potatoes should be planted on Good Friday. I have no idea why, and hope that around Good Friday will suffice. Rhubarb is growing well and purple sprouting broccoli is looking like it will be ready soon too.

The frogspawn has hatched and tadpoles fill our pond. One bed is remaining covered as a toad has taken up residence in it, hopefully he will move on when the weather is warmer. The birds are busy nesting, dunnocks in the honeysuckle and great tits in one nest box.

The weeds are also growing well, and this week I think a good weeding is necessary. Happy gardening!

Friday, 30 March 2007

Older people and Cultivating for health

All of those who enjoy gardening are convinced of its health benefits and anecdotal evidence is easily found to back up claims of improved physical and mental wellbeing. “ it (gardening) is a life expanding experience for all. In a garden we can find a cure for boredom, and chronic fatigue, a remedy for unhappiness, and an escape from feelings of tension, anxiety, alienation and futility. If prevention is better than cure, why is the application of horticultural therapy restricted to the sick, when it could be employed for the health promotion of every man, woman and child.” (Donald Norfolk 2000 The Therapeutic Garden Bantam Press p.8)

A project has been completed which has attempted to show this link between well being and gardening, particularly community gardening. It is called The Cultivating for Health Project. The premise of the project was that communal gardening on allotment sites created inclusionary spaces in which older people could benefit from gardening activity in a mutually supportive environment that helped to combat social isolation and contribute to the development of their social networks. The project was completed in 2002, and explored the concept of a therapeutic landscape which enhanced quality of life and emotional well being.

In summary it found that

For older people the natural landscape was seen to contribute positively in both active and passive ways on their mental well being. The experience of built landscape in which the participants were resident reflected findings of other geographical studies pointing to heightened fear of crime amongst older people (Pain, R 1994 Old age and ageism in urban research: The case of fear of crime. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 21 1 pp. 117-128). The domestic garden was a site of relaxation and security.

Allotments as sites for communal gardening were seen to contribute to the social inclusion of older people and offering a means of combating social isolation.

A deeper meaning to communal gardening activity that operated at an emotional level was also experienced. A sense of achievement, satisfaction and aesthetic pleasure from engagement with nature was expressed. Less able members of the group benefited from a nurturing and mutually supportive environment.

In conclusion “Allotments are widespread across the UK and where available are relatively inexpensive. Sensitively developed they have the potential to make a significant contribution to the health aging agenda through communal gardening. Milligan, C; Gatrell, A and Bingley, A ‘Cultivating Health’: therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England. Social Science and Medicine 58 9 pp.1781-1793)

Evidence again of the potential of allotments and another reason to increase their provision rather than earmark them for development!

Monday, 19 March 2007

Shortage of allotments hitting the headlines

A Radio 4 news report on PM this week has highlighted the rising level of demand for allotments (March 15 2007)

At Spar Hill Allotments near Crystal Palace, a large site with just over 300 plots Jack Dudley Swale gave his insight into the growing popularity of allotment gardening.

“20 years ago you rarely got women applying for plots. Now I would say probably about 6 out of every 10 people on the waiting list are ladies”

This has led to an unprecedented growth in the demand for allotments in recent years, a demand, which cannot be satisfied. At Spar Hill applicants have to live within 1km of the allotment site in order to be placed on the waiting list. Across London about 4500 people are waiting for allotments. In Camden, Hilary Burden the allotments officer, confirmed that she had 580 people on a waiting list for 194 plots. Those at the top of the list had been waiting since 1998, and it was typical to have 3 new requests a day.

Not only in London but in every major city waiting lists are increasing. In Edinburgh the list has increased by 1/3 in the last year. In Bradford people can expect to wait over 5 years before they can get an allotment.

With this huge demand comes a shrinking supply. Since the last survey 10 years ago allotment plots have been lost at a rate of 9400 per year. A survey in London completed by London Assembly Member Peter Hume-Cross recently concluded that 1500 plots had been lost to developers since 1997. This is despite these plots being designated as statutory, being in demand, and supposedly offered the maximum legal protection. In 2004 5 sites in London were referred to the secretary of state for disposal and all were lost to development.

One wish was expressed by all those interviewed, for greater legal protection for allotment sites. Statutory protection is not as good as many think. Although Preston City Council confirmed that the Penwortham allotments have statutory status they also confirmed that they do appear to be highlighted for development under Riverworks

Friday, 16 March 2007

Allotment Diary February 2007

The Internet is full of sites dedicated to allotments and to gardening communally, testament to its growing popularity. For information on gardening why not try some of the links in the side bar – Gardening Advice, these include the Royal Horticultural Society and the BBC Gardening pages.

One of the many pleasures of gardening has to be the connection with the rhythm of the seasons.

On Allotments4all an online chatroom for keen allotment growers one lady puts this very well

“What we have all tried to tell you, each in our own way, is how much of a need there is for inner peace, tranquillity, and an overwhelming desire to remove ourselves, be it only temporarily, from the everyday pressure that the 21st century life imposes.

Many on this site have young children, I have two in their early 20’s. What saddens me is they are growing up surrounded by the expectation of immediacy. They are growing up in a society where everything in their lives is available at ‘the touch of a button’”
Edit October 29 2005.

In February the first signs of spring begin to appear, and seed planting can begin, always with an eye to the possibility of a late frost. Garlic cloves can be planted if you didn’t get around to it last autumn, onion and shallot sets can also go in. Seeds can be planted under glass or on windowsills, herbs, tomatoes, sweetpeas, peas, lettuce, cucumber and sweetcorn. Keener, or maybe just more organised gardeners have their broad beans well on the way for planting out in March.

At the end of the month the first frogspawn appeared on the pond. A small amount has been carried home in a jam jar to be kept in a tank until the froglets can be returned to the allotment. I’m not sure why we are all so fascinated by tadpoles!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Allotments and the Law

Allotment law is quite complicated, but the following short guide should give an overview of those elements concerned with the protection of allotment sites against disposal by local government.
Responsibility for policy and legislation on allotments used to rest with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, but during 2002 this department was split and Allotments now fall within the remit of the Department for Communities and Local Government

1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act

Consolidates all previous legislation and laid down basis for subsequent legislation. Duty placed with Local Authorities to provide sufficient allotments according to demand.

1919 Land Settlement Facilities Act

Opened allotments to all, not just the "labouring population"

1922 Allotments Act

Provided allotment tenants with some security of tenure, also limited size and use of allotment plots.

1925 Allotments Act

Established STATUTORY ALLOTMENTS which a local authority could not sell or convert to other purposes without ministerial consent.

1950 Allotments Act.

Included various changes to allotment agreements including, compensation paid to tenants if tenancy terminated, extension of period of notice to quit to 12 months.

Other Legislation

Local Government Act 1972
Town and Country Planning Act 1990
Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980
Acquisition of Land Act 1981
All made some changes to allotment law.

But what happens if the local authority want to dispose of the land?
This depends on whether the allotments are designated statutory or temporary.
In Penwortham there are four main allotment sites;
On Liverpool road just before the River Ribble and Fishergate hill. These are owned and managed by Preston City Council
On Leyland road next to Penwortham Holme playing fields and the river. These are owned and run by Preston City Council
On Leyland road behind the Bridge Inn and the Methodist Church, These are owned and run by Penwortham Town Council
On Valley Road behind the Church allotments, these were formed to compensate allotment holders for the loss of plots from the main Liverpool Road site when the Penwortham by pass was built, and they are owned by South Ribble Borough Council
On contacting all the councils involved it is clear that all the allotments are statutory, and so have maximum protection under the law

Effectively this means
In order for the land to be disposed of there must be consent from the relevent member of parliament, at present this is the secretary of state for communities and local government. The Secretary of State will want to be satisfied of certain conditions
The allotment is not necessary or is surplus to requirements. (The issue of vacant and neglected plots)
The council will give displaced plot holders adequate alternative sites, unless this is not necessary or not practicable
The council has taken the number of people on the waiting list into account.
The council has actively promoted and publicised the availability of allotment sites and has consulted the NSALG (the national society for allotments and leisure gardeners)
The council is also expected to consult with plotholders before disposal.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Allotments for Life!

We are fortunate in preston to have several excellent allotment sites clustered mainly in Penwortham near to the river. Recently there have been ideas within Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and the Preston Vision Board to utilise these sites for a large housing development on the south side of the river. This blog exists to promote our allotments and to ensure their continued success.