5 May 2011

Whiteshill and Ruscombe Allotments Official opening!

Tuesday 3rd May Twenty allotment holders gathered with Parish Council representatives and other local residents for the official opening of the new allotments at Humphreys End. Below are bits taken from stuff sent to the press...

Photos: Me with Greg and Sue Dance officially opening the allotment then allotment opening party and finally me with landowner Julia Currie planting a honeysuckle to commemorate the day - photos by Maggie Booth Photography - no relation!

The project began in 2006 when Philip Booth sought to get an allotment site for the area. The Parish Council were very supportive and set up a working group to look at options. There was no suitable public land available so the group turned to local landowners. When landowner Julia Currie was approached she was very supportive but it took until January last year to get the legal and other matters sorted.

Philip Booth, the local District councillor who officially opened the allotments and was part of the working group, said: "Huge thanks must go to all those who made this project possible, especially the Parish Council, the landowner, Julia Currie and also Sue Dance for helping make it happen. This project has been an extraordinary coming together of community and the transformation over the last year is an astonishing achievement. It has taken some years to get the allotment site but then since last year it has burst into life and industry. There have been many work parties converting the bramble-covered site to the current 20 small wood-edged plots."

The allotment holders have also planted a new native hedge, wood-chip paths, installed a new gate and more. A Lottery grant of £2,150 was gained last year to help establish the project.

Sue Dance, Chair of the new Allotment Association commented on the opening: "It was great to see all the allotment plot holders together at the same time - a first - the afternoon/evening sun shine helped and it was wonderfull to see our youngest member 9 month old Isabelle, Artie & Alfie charming us all.  It seems a long time ago that we first had our idea that we wanted to grow a few more potatoes...that was September 2007, many meetings later our first potatoes are beginning to show on our plot.  We have now made many friends through the Allotments Association and it has been a real community effort to transform an overgrown corner plot with forty years growth of Ash trees and brambles into a beautiful Allotments site."

Project is different

Philip Booth, who is also an allotment holder, added: "This project is different from many as it involved the Parish Council renting land from a local landowner. I hope that now we have sorted the paperwork on this it might make it easier for similar projects to happen in other places. I would love to see a similar project with Randwick Parish Council. However before acting they need to have at least 6 residents who have registered their interest with the Parish Council."

National campaign launched

Philip Booth in his opening speech noted: "On a disturbing note the Government seems to be paving the way for sale of 300,000 allotments. Eric Pickles is examining plans to free local authorities from a 103-year-old obligation to provide plots of public land for cultivation by gardeners. On Sunday, The Independent on Sunday along with leading gardeners and chefs, launched a campaign, Dig for Victory, to force ministers to safeguard the public right to allotments. Hugh Fernley Whittingstall said: 'Allotments are absolutely vital for social development, health and well-being. It's about more than just putting two veg on the family table; they're about community spirit.'" See The Independent's campaign here.

Ian Cutler, Secretary of the Allotments Association said: "Having been involved for the last 15 months with the association it is great to see what a group of like minded individuals can do with a bit of support from a local land owner and the Parish council. The allotment has grown from an great idea to a fully functioning site in just a  few years. It took a few people to start the process but then the community has come together and invested their time and effort to develop what is now a functioning allotment with a waiting list. It was great to see so many people enjoying the site today at the opening and a sign of great things to come on the growing front with all plots successfully planted and showing signs of greenery."

A Youtube film is in production to tell the story of the allotments and you can click on the 'allotment' label to see more.

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