All over the UK, people are waiting to get an allotment. Some are prepared to wait for years. Whaley Bridge is attempting to solve its own local problem by extending the number of allotments from 17 to 19 or even 20; a small dent in the waiting list of 40!
On a warm, October day members of the Whaley Bridge Allotment and Gardening Society, along with local Town Councillors, started ripping out trees and weeds in a heavily overgrown, sodden corner of the present site. Just along from the neat avenue of allotments – now fading in the autumn weather – a bonfire burned all day, getting rid of the piles of debris.
Next year, if the team can solve the problem of drainage – one map shows the site as the original source of the River Goyt(!) – two or three new tenants of the town council run allotments could be growing their own vegetables, flowers and soft fruits.
Councillors John Swift, Jon Goldfinch and Martin Thomas broke sweat alongside the allotment holders in clearing the space that somebody said is known as Sunny Bank, but an older member remembered hearing was called Clay Bank in the 1950s.
It’s hoped that the water outlet can be channelled into a drainage pipe with either a number of stand pipes or a sort of well, with the surplus taken away into the river channels. Vegetables will always need a source of water.
Town council chair Anne Winter brought coffee and biscuits for the workers. Town Clerk, Stephanie Raybould, explained that the Council leases the allotment site from owners High Peak Borough Council. Allotment tenants pay £20 a year rent.
Many tenants join the Allotment and Gardeners’ Society, which has 180 members. The society organises trips to garden sites in the summer.
Secretary and treasurer Bob Kellock, 72, has had his own allotment for 13 years. This wet year, his runner beans have grown well, as have sweet peas. Onions have been reasonable and fruit ‘quite good’, but potatoes and cabbages have been disappointing.
Retired banker Bob says his 300 sq yds allotment grows ‘more than enough vegetables’ for his home, and he gives some away.
Dave Dusgate, 70, a retired special needs teacher originally from north Norfolk, got his allotment two years ago having been on the waiting list for seven years. He is growing wallflowers for his home garden next spring, as well as leeks, swedes, parsnips – ‘for Christmas, of course’ – turnips and potatoes.
Town Clerk, Stephanie Raybould Tel. 01663 733 068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob Kellock, secretary WB Allotment and Gardeners’ Society, Tel 01663 733 393 or www.wbags.co.uk