Aaaah! The fragrant aromas of approaching summer waft gently over on the breeze. Sweet Pea, Roses, Lilac….and horse manure! A steaming pile of it, freshly delivered to nearby allotments where its arrival is welcomed enthusiastically by tenants; and their benefactor, a local stable owner, is given produce in return for his generosity.
According to The National Allotment Society, trends show that in times of recession people turn back to the land, desiring to reconnect with something tangible – a sense of satisfaction is felt from producing home-grown food which is both cheaper and healthier. In the 1970s with the 3 day week and trade union unrest, the BBC broadcast ‘The Good Life’. Today, with economic uncertainty on a global scale, the desire for more space to grow food locally and experience life’s simple pleasures has reignited the call for more allotments.
Our borough has 24 sites (6 within Reigate), some with waiting lists and others without. There are plots available immediately at the Weldon Way site in Merstham, and also at the Riding School site in Woodhatch. Half plots (125sq metres) cost £41 per year, and in certain circumstances full plots (250sq metres) are available at £82.[tie_slideshow] [tie_slide] [/tie_slide] [tie_slide] [/tie_slide] [tie_slide] [/tie_slide] [tie_slide] [/tie_slide] [tie_slide] [/tie_slide] [tie_slide] [/tie_slide] [tie_slide][/tie_slide] [/tie_slideshow]
Allotment folk are a friendly bunch, and along with their love of fertiliser they share a passion for better tasting, abundant fruit and vegetables – flowers too, of course; and although tenants take different approaches to the cultivation of their own plot, there is mutual respect and a great community spirit. Tips and produce are swapped and shared, interest is taken in neighbouring projects, and barbeques, picnics and regular cuppas are a perfect way to take a break with friends old and new. One seasoned couple, Jo and Kate, say they chat more to their neighbours as they pass them on site than at home where a high fence separates their gardens.
It’s not all roses though (excuse the pun), tenants do have their ‘bug’ bears (and that one). Insect, rodent and bird pests can make the work difficult and frustrating; and there is a more sinister pest at work too – theft is a common problem. The Police call allotments ‘soft sites’ as they are easy to access, deserted and unlit at night, and victims rarely report their losses thinking that a missing
watering can is hardly the stuff of Crime Watch. However, Eddie, steward on the Park Lane site and himself a victim, stresses the importance of reporting every theft however ‘minor’.
Yet even these things cannot deter the really dedicated ‘allotmenteer’. There is a deeply satisfying, timeless quality – a connection with our horticultural heritage – when cultivating one’s own plot of land, using tools not so different from those of our ancestors. In this technological age there are great rewards for those who put down their phones and pick up a fork!