Rich rewards if you follow the plot

March 03 2017

City Gardener columnist Tim Barton offers readers a glimpse of life at Thingwall Park Allotments and says renting a plot can be both rewarding and cost effective, with plenty of support on offer from fellow allotmenteers

City Gardener columnist Tim Barton offers readers a glimpse of life at Thingwall Park Allotments and says renting a plot can be both rewarding and cost effective, with plenty of support on offer from fellow allotmenteers

 JUST off the north side of Thingwall Park and just a little distance from the River Frome sits the 10 acre site of Thingwall Park allotments. 

It’s hard to find information about the history of the site but allotments themselves have been around for hundreds of years. With many legislations passed and changes made after the Second World War, the fate of the allotments was finally sealed with the 1925 Allotments Act that prevented local authorities from selling off or converting the land without ministerial consent, and most recently with the Localism Act 2011. 

Between 2007 to 2014 however, 194 out of 198 applications to close allotments were granted by the Secretary of State. This is partly decided upon by the popularity of a specific site, and with land at a premium in our cities there is all the more reason to support your local ones. 

With 293 plots at Thingwall Park, there’s a huge diversion in the choices that people make in what they do with the piece of land that they have. From growing hops and vines, keeping bees and chickens or just growing the usual vegetables, the industrious residents keep it a constantly interesting and changing environment. 

The allotment association also maintains a shop that is open to all on Saturday mornings 10am-noon between February and November and on Sundays from 10am-noon all year round. If you need to acquire anything such as seeds, netting or compost then this would be an ideal place to get it as the money goes towards supporting the local community.

Traditionally an allotment plot would be measured in perches or poles with a typical site being 10 poles or about 250 square metres. This is plenty to grow most of what you’d want, especially if you grow with the seasons and follow one crop with another. Most plots these days are subdivided to make them more manageable, which makes for a better starting point if you’re unsure about the commitment you’re wanting to make. 

Recently a community plot was started on site so that potential and new plot holders or simply those that are struggling to get off the ground can share ideas, resources and get a bit of help in what to do. There is the thought that renting some land on an allotment is an onerous obligation, and it can be if you choose, but it can just as easily be simple and hugely rewarding. If you only have only a few hours a week, that can be enough to provide yourself with a good crop of vegetables, some of which, the prices in the shops are hard to believe, when you are giving yours away during the harvest. 

This year two plot holders, Peter Beacham and Michael Wood, achieved the fantastic milestone of 50 years' continuous residency on the site. For this they’re rewarded with free rent for as long as they require, something that I would say they soundly deserve. I’m sure that there will be many more to come over the years, but if you’re simply wanting to make a change and join the thousands of people that want to provide their own locally grown produce, consider taking up a plot this year.

Finally, one of the plot holders gained celebrity status with an appearance on the BBC2 show Big Dreams, Small Spaces with Monty Don. You can catch it on BBC iPlayer as it aired on February 24.

To apply for an allotment you can do it on line at www.bristol.gov.uk/apply-for-an-allotment or phone the council's allotments department on 0117 922 3719.