Peterborough allotments: Best Forks Forward!
Peterborough allotments: Best Forks Forward! 1 2
[cont] …each other,’ adds Mick, who is also the allotment representative for Welland’s Wesleyan Road Allotment Gardens. ‘I’m always telling new allotment holders ‘don’t be afraid to ask’. If you’ve got a problem or want to know how to do something there’s always someone who will help you. If another allotment holder offers you some cabbage plants, take them. Or if if anyone wants it.
Allotment holders are a friendly bunch. In fact, sometimes you can go down to your plot with the best intentions only to realise by the end of a shift you haven’t got nearly as much done as you’d hoped because you’ve been chatting away!’ Many of the city’s allotment sites have a thriving social scene, with communal barbeques especially popular over the summer months. ‘One of the sites held a children’s Easter egg hunt over the entire allotment field. While others hold bring and buy sales – anything to promote the social side,’ says Mick. Friendly competitions are part and parcel of allotment life, with competitions for the best plot, tallest sunflower, biggest pumpkin, to name but a few. ‘It’s a great way to get the whole family involved.’
Support for newcomers
The Peterborough Allotment Representatives Consortium was set up in 2011 to ensure the city’s allotments are taken more seriously. Representatives from each allotment site regularly meet representatives from the council, the police and Amey, the council’s agent responsible for their day-to-day management. The consortium has worked hard to improve allotment security by establishing an Allotment Watch scheme. It has streamlined processes for allotment tenants and taken steps to encourage and support new tenants.
‘Anyone starting a new allotment receives a lot of encouragement,’ explains Mick. ‘There’s really no need for anyone thinking about taking one on to worry about how they’ll get started because the support on offer is all there. Your allotment representative will show you around and explain the site’s ins and outs. He can offer advice on what grows best and will make sure you settle in and enjoy your new plot from the off. We can even have your plot rotovated so you can start growing your own food straight away. Many sites, including ours, have also produced a leaflet specifically for new tenants.’
All tenants sign a tenancy agreement which covers the few rules that guarantee a trouble-free experience for everyone. Allotment holders can erect a shed and a greenhouse on their plot, are welcome to keep hens for their own supply of free-range eggs and can plant fruit trees – something that isn’t possible on many allotment fields. ‘We want to make it as easy as possible for people to enjoy their plots,’ says Mick.
Plot holder perks
Allotment holders enjoy several perks that come with their territory. Seeds, fertilisers and tools are often available at a substantial discount, while there are regular free-touse drops of manure, compost and wood chippings. ‘For example on our site we have three enormous compost squares.
One of these is opened up every year and plot holders are then welcome to barrow it away to improve their soil. ‘We can also set people up with tools. Our site collects and stores donated tools which we then sell on for a pound. Everything’s done to try and encourage anyone new to the site.’ And on the subject of tools, Mick has one must-follow piece of advice for any aspiring allotment holder: ‘Make sure you get a proper spade and fork. A lot of people don’t realise there are different-shaped handles, materials and lengths. It’s important to get one that’s comfortable because a digging tool with a shaft that’s too long or too short will guarantee a bad back.’ Wise words indeed!
So what’s available for would-be allotment holders? A full-sized plot is around 250 square metres, which is enough land to grow fruits and vegetables to support a family. For those who don’t have the time to tend such a large area, or who want something more manageable, the council also offers a range of part plots. One site even has raised beds, which are ideal for the less mobile. ‘If there is a choice of plots within an allotment field then prospective tenants can pick the plot that he or she likes the best. And again, the allotment representative can advise on which one might be the most productive or easiest to manage,’ says Mick.
Rental costs are reasonable; a full-sized plot rents out at a little over £50 per year and part plots are much less. There concessions for the unemployed and retired. ‘Of course, the cost of renting is paid back several times over by the food that’s grown.’ A recent report from the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners found that the average allotment plot grows fruits and vegetables that would sell for £1,564 in the supermarkets. But for Mick and his fellow allotment holders growing your own is about so much more than simply saving money. ‘The whole idea is to use Peterborough’s allotments to build a community.’ Together these parcels of productivity, tucked away within the fabric of the city, offer the chance to grow healthy food, to indulge our love of the outdoors and nurture our sense of connection to the land and each other.
Plots become available on an ongoing basis and renting one couldn’t be easier. Simply email to express your interest or call 01733 425343.
For more details on Peterborough’s allotment sites, including a map of their location, visit https://www.enterprisepeterborough.com/StreetCare/Allotments
Peterborough allotments: Best Forks Forward! 1 2