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National Allotments Week

Keeping fit on an allotment can save on health and social care budgets

Allotments under threat – what you can do

Father-in-law Ronnie’s allotment in Consett

National Allotments Week, run by the National Allotment Society, from August 8-16 has the theme of Growing Together to emphasise its inclusive nature for all levels of society and ability – and the dangers it faces in this era of council cutbacks.

Local authorities realise there’s more profit to be made in selling the land for housing, ignoring the erosion of green space.

A report in May, commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme from the King’s Fund called Gardens and Health, wants more joined-up strategic thinking between government departments responsible for health, the environment, planning and local government in order to exploit the potential of all forms of gardening.

National Allotment Association display at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show
National Allotment Association display at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show

The NAS aims to protect, promote and preserve allotments and has called for everyone to do their part in preserving land:

  • Allotment associations – protect your site, register as a community asset.
  • Allotment Federations – keep allotments in the public eye, make sure they are mentioned in the Local Plan and lobby your councillors and MPs.
  • Councils – preserve and value your allotment service, as it has the potential to deliver some of your public health targets.
  • Plot-holders – join the NAS and support your regional allotment network to promote the allotment movement.
  • Aspiring plot-holders – do not be put off by a long wait – sign up for a plot now; without waiting lists, allotment authorities cannot assess demand.

    How leeks should look – Beamish leek show. Picture supplied by Beamish Museum

NAS President Karen Kenny said: “We are proud of the Allotment Movement in Britain and its continued success in offering opportunities for families to provide for themselves, whilst also being a valuable resource to diverse groups of people.

“Social inclusion is an important part of allotment life and there are many projects for those with both physical and mental disabilities, as well as projects which target the socially disadvantaged.

“We also see whole families from toddlers right up to and including Granny and Granddad enjoying working together on their plots.”

For further information, visit www.nsalg.org.uk.

Allotment spurred my love of gardening

Mandy back yard
Me circa 1970, in the back yard I would eventually grow an apple tree from a pip and other such wonders

I don’t have an allotment but my gardening was inspired as a child by my Uncle George, who had a double allotment near Gateshead’s Saltwell Park. To me, there was no greater treat than visiting with my dad.

As a joiner, Uncle George had made his own complex of greenhouses salvaged from building sites he worked on (old window frames, etc, but the effect was terrific.

That smell of tomato foliage and peppery geranium leaves stays with me to this day, with my own vast collection of geraniums and a conservatory full of tomatoes.

His was a traditional North East allotment, with the focus on leek growing for the autumn shows. Trenches were built out of corrugated iron (old doors in some cases) and a fortnight’s holiday in the summer was out of the question.

Raised beds in father-in-law Ronnie’s allotment

These were the days when leek growing could be profitable and a decent placing at a show was not only prestigious but offered prizes, usually in vouchers (in our case, for Shepherd’s in Gateshead – awful memories of a hideous bottle green corduroy Dannimac coat bought for me).

Sadly, the days of the shows are waning, but allotments are no longer the preserve of the working-class man. Most councils can’t keep up with demand from couples and families.

Back to the present, and my sister-in-law and father-in-law have a half plot in Consett, which provides ample produce.

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