I’m very excited! Even the miserable weather outside can do very little to dampen my spirits.
After what’s seemed like an epic wait I got a phonecall out of the blue at the beginning of the month which got me all giddy and restless; I daredn’t tell anyone for fear of things going pear-shaped! On Saturday I got the follow-up call that I’d been waiting for to confirm a meeting the following day to finally collect something that I’ve wanted for years………..
A small bunch of keys! ‘But keys to what?’ I hear you ask………….
Well!!!! The sun shone, the wind blew, we had a shower or two and then a rainbow appeared as the keys were handed over to my very first allotment plot; I am one rather happy bunny!!!!!
So now I’m officially an allotmenteer! And even better, a friend and fellow blogger got a neighbouring plot at the same time – So now we’re two newbies that can take it in turns to put the kettle on for a cuppa whilst we’re working our respective plots, having a general natter and putting the world to rights, swapping plants, ideas etc. Perfect!
But what is an allotment? How do you go about getting one and what do you do once you’ve got it? And why would you want one in the first place?
Allotments have a long history. Their origins can be dated back to the Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries where basically a significant amount of the English countryside was rendered ‘out of bounds’ as land was portioned up and enclosed by hedges and walls, and the ‘common land’, the land that the ordinary folk had always used for growing crops, grazing animals etc, was drastically reduced, if not almost taken away completely. This resulted in a great deal of tension; English people generally aren’t good at handling tension! Rebellions followed…….. the Government responded. In 1845, the General Enclosure Act was passed stipulating that land should be set aside as ‘field gardens’ for the labouring population (the nation’s poorest yet most hardworking) ; These field gardens soon became known as allotments. By 1906, it became statutory law for all local authorities to provide allotment space for the poor.
Allotments really came into their own during the first and second world wars, spearheaded mainly by the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign, but in subsequent decades their popularity decreased as rationing was phased out and food became plentiful and cheap again. Demand for allotment plots dwindled; plots were left untended; sites were closed down. Sadly, lots of allotment sites no longer exist due to the land being taken up for residential and commercial developments.
However, the 1990’s began to see a welcome change for the movement with gardening officially declared as Britain’s favourite pastime and happily, allotmenteering has been steadily gaining in popularity as rising food prices and scares about what we eat keep hitting the headlines on an almost daily basis and the demand for safe, organic food grown in British soil intensifies.
But getting an allotment can be a tricky business and often a lengthy waiting game. Waiting lists are long and it can take many years before a plot finally becomes vacant. Want one yourself? The best thing to do is find out where the nearest allotments are to you – This can be done by running a search on your local authorities’ website in either the public amenities or leisure sections – Or you can visit the local library which should also hold the necessary information. Once you’ve got the contact details, make a phone call to the general secretary and introduce yourself, explaining your interest in holding a plot. Do this as soon as possible and be prepared to be told that nothing is available and the current waiting time is equivalent to eternity! Don’t be put off – Assure them that you’re definitely interested and ask that your name can be added to the list. Then wait, wait, wait……………………………………………………………………………………
One day you’ll get the phonecall that heralds the start of a great big adventure! There may be rules and regulations that you have to follow which differ from one site to another. There’ll be things you’re allowed to grow and things that’ll get you chucked off your plot in the blink of an eye; You might have to seek permission to build a fence or put up a shed only to be told you’re not allowed. There’ll probably be days when you feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead – But your reward will be a little piece of heaven that allows you to grow your own fresh produce, a place where you can escape and unwind, partake of a little gentle exercise and mix with a great bunch of like-minded people. And allotments boast lively, thriving, multicultural communities that know how to live life to the full 😉
Want to see mine? I’ve named her ‘Lottie’ – She’s a quarter sized plot of approximately 150 square metres that needs a lot of tlc; Quite enough to be getting on with for the moment!
Not much to go on at the moment – In fact it looks like a bit of a bombsite! But she will be beautiful one day – I have the patience and tenacity needed for the job of transforming her…….. I think that’s obvious from the wait I had before finally getting my grubby little mitts on that set of keys!!!!
To the majority of people I guess it doesn’t look like much to get excited about – But to someone who has wanted an allotment for a very long time I’m finding it hard to contain my enthusiasm! So there we have it – I’m itching to get started but the bad weather has set in with other plans. Might just sit and thumb through the seed catalogues for an hour or so and dream of future adventures………….. 😉
But one last thing to note before I drift off completely ……….. Local authorities are bound by law to find provision If there are no allotments close to you yet the demand for them is deemed sufficient from enough people. It’s all to do with a clause in the Smallholding & Allotment Act of 1908 which is still relevant today. You need to put this in writing and be persistent. – Then maybe we’ll see new sites opening up to add to the 300,000 (approximately) currently in existence and even more people taking control over the quality of the food they eat!
Can’t be a bad thing can it?