Thursday, 19 April 2012
Give us an Allotment - please!- National Gardening Week Post 3
Some of the sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that although I have mentioned wanting to be an allotmenteer I have never really blogged about this. Truth is I was hoping that by this time we might have had the good news that we actually had an allotment. Unfortunately we are, I think some long way off it.
I have wanted to post about this for a while now so I thought that it being National Gardening Week this week it would be a good time to do so. More about that over here. Now to the lack of allotment.It is a long and somewhat complicated story but I will try to make it brief so please forgive me if some details are a bit sketchy.
It started about 18 months or so ago with a fantastic couple in our village who were actually motivated enough to post in the Parish mag and to drop leaflets through doors asking if anyone was interested in having allotments (there are none in the village.) They had, like me, asked in the neighbouring village and had been told that as we did not live in the parish we could not have one there.
We got together and formed a village allotment association and have been meeting every month since, first at the village hall and latterly in the pub. We have written formal letters to the Parish Council and as there were more than 6 households asking for allotments they have been legally obliged to look for land for allotments. We are members of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, we have a bank account and lots of eager people who want to grow their own food but no allotments. Why you may ask - well obviously it can be hard to find the right piece of land and a piece that someone is willing to give up.
However in our case there is the perfect piece of land in the village but all our efforts to get this going are frustratingly being stopped by a couple of small minded people who do not wish to see change in the village. Let me explain. Roughly in the middle of the village lies the village hall which also has attached to it several acres of land which run back towards farmland from the car park and road. A very small patch of this has the kids playground on it, behind that is a 'football field' - I use this term loosely as all it really is is a patch of roughly mown grass with a couple of goal posts and behind this is essentially a field which is mown a couple of times a year, used by the Caravan Association a couple of times a year and used for the village fun day and that is about that. (It does have great blackberries and wild damsons on it for foragers though!)
The village hall is run by a charitable trust whose registered aim is to run it for the good of the village (at least that is the idea.) We were aware that the Village Hall were possibly looking to doing something more constructive with this land and proposed that some of it should be used for allotments. This set off a questionnaire around the village asking what villagers would like to see on it, allotments being one of a number or ideas including a proper football pitch and a trim trail. There have been a couple of meetings on the subject and about a year ago they even revealed some amazing, official plans of what could be done with the land and this did include the allotments. All this was with a rider of finding the money to do these great things and for them to have enough support. All sounds great, the problem is they have gone precisely nowhere since then (except round in circles).
Of the projects proposed the allotments was and still is by far the most forward in planning. As I said we have an association and we have willing people and support. It is also the smallest and cheapest of the projects but unfortunately the powers that be on the Village Hall Committee seem intent on putting every obstacle possible in our way. The land is not particularly overlooked (there are a couple of houses around but as far as I know none of them have objected anyway) and to be honest all it is at the moment is rough grassland and yet they come up with excuse after excuse. We are happy to pay a rent at the average allotment rate, we are happy to sign legal papers, we are happy to fundraise and pay for any works needed. It is soo frustrating. The area proposed for us still leaves plenty of room for football pitches etc (which by the way has no club or association in the village to support it yet.) It really does make all their other grand plans look like mere pipe dreams (and the professional plans themselves a huge waste of charitable money.)
We keep hoping against hope that we will get our allotments but the truth is it is beginning to fade. I understand that they have actually voted to accept the allotments but this was now 3 or 4 months ago and we still have no decision on rent, legal agreements, exact area etc so we cannot get going and start to dig! The reason for this delay - well in truth I am not sure but mainly it seems to be a lack of support by some of the committee and the fact that they keep bringing up yet more obstacles for us to overcome. Quite honestly I think the committee needs a bit of a (muddy welly) boot up the arse so to speak!
What I cannot understand is the total lack of understanding of the importance of getting people to grow their own and have allotments. They foster a sense of community (there is a range of ages in the households involved from 1yr to over 70yrs), they are healthy in that people not only grow fresh, healthy food but they get exercise whilst doing it. The future is local food - not organic just local. The cost of fuel is ever rising, in a rural community where we really don't have a choice but to get in our cars to go to the shops surely it makes sense to encourage people to grow food. They will encourage children to learn about growing and gardening, giving them fresh air, exercise and access to good healthy food. It's like the objectors never read the newspapers or watch the news.
We have agreed to provide a plot with raised beds for disabled or disadvantaged people if we are allowed to go to ahead as well as access for the local school and nursery. We have all sorts of ideas as to how we could get involved in other village societies and events if we are only allowed to get going - selling excess produce in the village hall, open days or grow your own days. We could do so much.
I think it is rather appropriate that the theme today over on National Gardening Week is Gardening for the Environment as what could be better for the environment than growing your own veg on an allotment so come on Village Hall get your act together and show the village that all your grand plans are serious. Start with the allotments and I am sure that the other schemes will follow and we could end up with a fantastic area and facilities for our village. Something to make us proud to live here.
Anyway rant over - I am going to finish with a couple of pics of the most wonderful model which one of our members made of what our allotments could look like if we can only be given the chance.
More on National Gardening Week tomorrow!