With an estimated 1 in 8 of the UK population having no access to a garden, allotments provide a wonderful way to connect with nature and grow fruit, flowers and vegetables in a community space shared with others. So valued are they, that they have been awarded their own time to shine in the sun. This year, National Allotments Week runs from 8-14 August (this week), with the theme for 2022 being Bugs, Bees and Broccoli, in acknowledgement of the importance of gardening with nature in mind.
Allotments as we know and love them in the UK have been in existence for hundreds of years, with evidence pointing back to Anglo-Saxon times. They were conceptualised as a way to alleviate the distress of poor, rural countrymen, where landowners bequeathed plots to be cultivated.
An allotment is a plot of land that’s divided up in sections which are rented, either from a private or local authority landlord, to individuals or families for gardening purposes. Allotments are measured in ‘rods’ or ‘poles’ in the UK, an old-fashioned measurement derived from Anglo-Saxon farming practice. An allotment is usually 10 poles, the equivalent of 250 square metres. The emphasis is on food-growing, but you’ll often spot flowers or other plants growing in abundance.
By 1873, there were 244,268 allotments in Britain, by 1918, 1.5 million. There are an estimated 330,000 allotment plots in England – the vast majority of which are the responsibility of local councils. Interest in allotments has grown dramatically recently, with applications for council-run allotments in England soaring during the coronavirus pandemic – despite lengthy waiting lists.
The appeal of the allotment is wide, with fewer than half of all plot-holders retired. The proportion of women plot-holders has also increased significantly. Birmingham has 113 allotment sites and nearly 7,000 plots, which is believed to be more than any other local authority in the UK.
Whether you are interested in growing, gardening or cooking, tending to an allotment is a great way to connect with nature and boost your mood whilst nurturing wholesome food to enjoy. Many varieties of plant thrive on allotments, which contributes to the biodiversity of the area and provides vital habitats for many species, including bugs and bees.
To find out about National Allotments Week visit the National Allotment Society