Allotments like gold dust as thousands join the queue

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Aug 2 18:41:46 BST 2011

Allotments are like gold dust as thousands join the queue

Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - Western Daily Press

Thousands of frustrated grow-your-own food enthusiasts are 
languishing on allotment waiting lists across the West.
But a modern version of the wartime Dig For Victory campaign is 
starting to free the log-jam and proving a valuable cash crop for farmers.
Organisations supporting self-help groups across the West want more 
landowners to offer sites for leasing.
As National Allotment Week blossomed yesterday latest figures show 
there are more than 86,000 people waiting for allotment plots across England.
A survey of major authorities showed that 57 people are waiting for 
every 100 existing plots, and that does not take into account parish 
and town council allotments.
The West is the worst affected as Allan Cavill, regional director of 
the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd explained.
He said: "The West Country just does not have the industrial legacy 
that they have in the North where many more allotments were created. 
They don't have waiting lists up there, but it's totally different down here."
There may be fewer plots in the West but enthusiasm for grow-your-own 
could hardly be higher.
Michael Ridgway, 71, is typical of many. As he worked the productive 
plot in Newton, Yeovil, Somerset, he shares with Diane Mather he 
said: "It's a good site but we have had terrible trouble with 
badgers. They love the sweetcorn and we've had to fence them out."
Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide allotments, but 
where keeping up with the demand is proving impossible, there are 
other solutions. Mr Cavill said: "We have been very successful with 
self-help groups in the West of England in the last three years and 
they now number 50. I initially developed the model I now use for 
them with the National Trust. I go along and talk to the people who 
want to form a group, they then find a farmer who is willing to rent 
them land. We do all the legal side and with the grants that are 
available it is at zero cost to the community."
Mr Cavill believes that in practice leased sites can have a firm 
future because landowners find the deals worthwhile.
Alan Rees, chairman of the NSALG, welcomes community food groups but 
is frustrated that local authority allotments, which are far more 
secure, do not qualify for grant aid.
In Gloucester, the city council has 500 plots, some shared, plus 25 
nursery sites. It has just brought another 55 half sites into use but 
has a waiting list of 272.
The charity, Somerset Community Food, has developed the Food Mapper 
website for the county to host a 
digital directory of all the places, events and opportunities to 
learn, connected with locally grown food in Somerset.

+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which 
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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