If you really ‘dig’ allotments, you’re not alone.
Thousands of people all over the country lovingly tend their plots, enjoying fresh air, healthy exercise and the taste of home-grown food.
The “Grow Your Own” movement has been gaining ground in recent years, vigorously promoted by the National Allotment Society. This is the leading national organisation upholding the interests and rights of the allotment community across the UK. The association works with government at national and local levels, other organisations and landlords to provide, promote and preserve allotments for all.
It also offers support, guidance and advice to our members and those with an interest in allotment gardening, and every year holds National Allotments Week. This year’s is from 5th to 11th August, sponsored by Kelly’s of Cornwall ice cream and featuring ‘Party on the Plot’ in which allotment societies and associations across the country are dusting off their bunting and barbecues to enjoy a jolly good knees-up!
There will be old fashioned tea parties with fruit themed treats, fund-raising quizzes with fruity questions, barbecues and hog roasts with home-grown accompaniments, and talks and demonstrations of how to deal with your fruit harvest how to make jam, jellies and preserves.
This year the event has a ‘fruity’ feel in celebration of the variety of sweet and succulent crops you can grow on UK allotments. Too often allotments are thought of as places that only grow the humble potato or everyday carrot, but in truth they offer a cornucopia of delicious treats – from sumptuous strawberries, ravishing raspberries and glorious gooseberries through to beautiful blackberries, precious plums and appetising apples.
Television gardening personality Charlie Dimmock has joined the grow-along campaign to provide expert hints and tips to boost your patch. To be in with the chance of winning £500 of garden centre vouchers and discover growing tips from Charlie herself visit www.kellysofcornwall.co.uk/competition/grow-your-own There are plenty of serious reasons for National Allotments Week and ‘Party on the Plot.’
By opening up their allotment sites and inviting the local community to see what happens behind the gates, enthusiasts can help more people to see the benefits allotments bring, not only to those who garden the plots – from families and school children through to working couples and retired individuals – but also to the wildlife that inhabits them and the cities that breathe a little easier because of them.
The National Allotments Association’s origins date from 1901, as a members’ co-operative, and even today is still an Industrial and Provident Society, owned, managed and funded by its members. It serves more than 125,000 allotmenteers, helping them to acquire, maintain, manage and enjoy allotments across the country.
Allotment gardening is the only recreational activity enshrined in law, meaning that the association’s in-house lawyer will fight for the rights of allotment holders and advise in regards to tenancy agreements, land disputes, rent rises and misunderstandings. On a national level the association lobbies the Government, to ensure the provision of allotments is met and statutory allotment sites are not sold off or developed without consultation.
Allotments need protecting from development plans and budget cuts, so if you think your site is under threat then there are several things you can do. Find out if your land is statutory allotment land or temporary land. If it is statutory land then the council must apply to the Secretary of State in order to dispose of the allotments. This process means you have a chance of saving the land by putting together a strong case for its protection. The National Allotment Society plays a part in this process, so contact us for guidance.
Hold a ‘Party on the Plot’ to galvanise community support for the site. Show people why the allotments should be kept and ask them to support you.
Get your site listed under the Government’s ‘Right to Bid’ scheme, meaning if the land comes up for sale, you (or your association) have six months in which to buy it. There are also Government grants available to help you finance the sale. (http://mycommunityrights.org.uk)