The Plot Thickens

Allotments are hip and trendy at the moment, but for how
long? Well, a little longer than it would take to eat £15 worth of food from
your local grocery store I hope. I am reliably informed that this is one year’s
rent for an allotment in a particular area of South Oxfordshire.
So, if you’re not into status symbols or looking for an apt place to flaunt
your Birkenstocks®, allotments
are also a great way of honing your green fingers when you haven’t got a patch
attached to your home. Or, for those of you trying to avoid pests in your own
gardens, spreading your Savoy cabbages over several plots!

Recently, I read an article about allotments on the BBC
website, documenting the peak of their popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. At
these times there was a serious need for allotment space, enabling families in
towns to be fed cheaply and healthily while farmers left their crops, to fight
for king and country. After reading a fellow blogger’s article, ‘Have you
noticed an increase in your supermarket bill
?’, it would seem that we too have at
least one good reason for considering the positives of allotment ownership.

The BBC article was posted in 2000, and documented a bleak
future for allotments. The development of new homes threatens the mere existence
of them, and as outside space surrounding new homes decreases, the demand for
alternative space, including allotments, increases (1).

Delving into the CAB abstracts database, I came across an
article published a year later describing, in part, a promising future for
allotments (2). Benefits of owning an allotment were listed as recreational,
social, health, and environmental. And here we are 7 years later, being led up
the garden path, so to speak, by the media and television programmes such as Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘River Cottage’, which play their part in highlighting
the growing trend and benefits of allotment owning and growing-your-own. Can it really be true that
waiting lists for allotments in the north, are for up to 10 years?

So for those of you who own an allotment, and have done for some
time, what’s been the incentive to keep you going? And what do you think has
sparked off this ‘new’ interest? I am lucky enough to have spoken to a new
owner and a seasoned traveller in the world of allotments. And while my ‘survey’
is small, it is perfectly formed and interesting non-the-less.

It will be no surprise to hear that an experienced and
successful grower sees the major benefits as providing their family with cheap,
chemical-free food, that’s in season. The social aspect is definitely up there in
the top ten pros. A glass of wine with your fellow growers, at the end of a
hard day’s work, while sitting back and admiring the neat rows of seasonal
vegetables certainly has an appeal. You may be armed with the number one bestseller
about growing your own, but there’s also great pleasure to be found in swapping
plants and gardening tips with your neighbour. Rocketing supermarket prices
were enough of an incentive to entice the new allotment owner, along with a
keen interest in encouraging local wildlife (but not pests, presumably?!).

My interest in allotments has been noted and as I don’t
currently tend my own vegetable patch, I have been asked if my interest
stretches to actually helping friends out on theirs. Sure, I’ll put my spade
where my mouth is!

For those of you who, like me, are tentatively starting to
get involved and want to find out more, you may be interested to know that it
is National Allotments Week from 11 to 17 August. The idea behind this week is
to ‘promote awareness and availability of allotments’. You may also like to
visit the Guardian’s Observer Magazine organic allotment blog, for tips,
recipes, questions, and more.

 

(1) Vladimir M, 2000. Allotments. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A241949.

(2) Jones G, Greatorex P, 2001. Losing the plot. Leisure
Manager 19 (7), 8-10.


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